Small-firm stocks shine on dull day

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks hardly moved Friday as the market wrapped up a solid week. Smaller companies rose following signs of sustained economic growth and reports that more tariffs on Chinese goods could be on the way.

The combination of trade worries and positive economic news helped smaller firms, which do more business in the U.S. than larger companies do. That makes them less vulnerable to flare-ups in trade tensions.

Stocks rose in early trading after the Federal Reserve said production of cars and energy jumped in August.

"It's a reflection of stronger economic growth," said Kate Warne, an investment strategist for Edward Jones. "It continues to bode well for strength going into the fall and later in the year.

Warne said she expects the U.S. economy to grow about 3 percent this year, which is what most experts are forecasting. She said growth will be a bit weaker than in 2019, but that would still be better than most of the previous years since 2009.

Sears sales drop narrows in 2Q

NEW YORK — Sears Holdings Corp., the struggling department store operator, said it key sales figure improved and its stock soared in after-hours trading Thursday.

The company, which owns both Sears and Kmart, said sales fell 3.9 percent at established stores in its second quarter. That's an improvement from the same period a year ago, when it fell 11.5 percent.

Sears has been closing stores, cutting costings and selling brands as it burns through money and sees more customers abandon its often-neglected locations. It said Thursday that it is still evaluating offers to buy its Kenmore appliance brand. Last year, it sold its famous Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker Inc.

Its losses and revenue, however, did not improve.

Net losses in the quarter swelled to $508 million, or $4.68 per share, compared with a loss of $250 million, or $2.33, in the same quarter a year ago. Losses, adjusted for asset impairment costs, came to $4.12 per share. Revenue shrank 26 percent to $3.18 billion.

U.S. retail sales post weak gain

WASHINGTON — U.S. retail sales barely rose in August as shoppers spent less on cars, furniture and clothes.

The Commerce Department says the value of purchases ticked up just 0.1 percent, the smallest increase in six months, after a robust gain of 0.7 percent in July.

The sluggish increase may be a temporary blip, and it partly reflects falling prices for items like clothing. The retail sales figures aren't adjusted for inflation. Consumer confidence soared to the highest level in 18 years in August, as Americans reported a more optimistic outlook on future economic growth. That suggests that retail sales may rebound in September.

Still, auto sales fell 0.8 percent last month, and clothing stores sales plunged 1.7 percent, the steepest drop in 18 months.

Regional central bank has new leader

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco has appointed Mary Daly, a longtime Fed economist and a labor market specialist, as the next president of the regional Fed bank.

Daly replaces John Williams, who became president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank in April. When she begins Oct. 1, she will be among three women who lead one of the 12 Fed regional banks. The Fed has sought to diversify its leadership.

Daly, who joined the San Francisco Fed in 1996 as a research economist, was appointed director of research in 2017. She has studied wages and jobs and economic inequality and has written several books. As San Francisco Fed president, Daly will receive a vote on interest rate policy at the December meeting of the Fed's policymaking committee.

Fed member sees more rates hikes

JACKSON, Miss. — A central banker says he believes growth remains strong despite uncertainty over trade tensions, and he expects interest rates to continue to rise "over the next handful of quarters."

Speaking to the Mississippi Council on Economic Education on Thursday, Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Raphael Bostic discussed concern over President Donald Trump's protectionist trade policy.

Bostic says the economic stimulus from recent corporate tax cuts has taken longer to filter through the economy than he'd expected.

He says he thought the drag from trade fears and the push from lower taxes are roughly balanced, saying trade fears have had "only a small negative effect" on business investment.

Bostic is currently a voting member of the interest-rate setting Federal Open Market Committee.

Old-time luxury retailer to close doors

NEW YORK — The luxury retailer Henri Bendel, which opened its doors in New York's Greenwich Village at the end of the 19th century, is closing.

L Brands Inc., which acquired the brand in 1985, said that the 23 Bendel stores will turn out the lights in January. The Columbus, Ohio, company said it wants focus on larger brands with more growth potential.

Henry Bendel was a women's hat maker from Lafayette, La. He moved to New York in 1895 and began catering to the city's elite, making the stores' brown and white striped shopping and bags and hat boxes a coveted status symbol. In the 1960s, its in-house illustrator was a young artist named Andy Warhol.

The company's flagship store on New York's 5th Avenue, steps away from Trump Tower, is a landmark in Manhattan.

Industrial output rose a solid 0.4%

WASHINGTON — U.S. industrial production rose by a healthy 0.4 percent in August, boosted by gains in the production of autos, oil and natural gas.

The Federal Reserve said Friday that industrial production, which includes output at factories, mines and utilities, has climbed 4.9 percent over the past 12 months.

Factory production increased 0.2 percent last month, lifted by a 4 percent rise in the making of vehicles and parts. Automakers assembled vehicles at their strongest pace since April.

Mining output posted a 0.7 percent monthly gain. A sharp increase in the production of oil and natural gas has caused mining output to soar 14.1 percent over the past 12 months.

Production at utilizes advanced 1.2 percent in August, powered by a surge in electricity usage.

Wire reports