Whiff of new tariffs hits stocks

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks skidded late Thursday following a report that the Trump administration could put tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods as early as next week.

After a weak start, stocks fell further after Bloomberg News said the U.S. government was getting ready to ramp up its trade dispute with China. It has been threatening to tax $200 billion in Chinese imports for several months, which would represent a major escalation in the trade fight.

Major exporters including chemical companies and machinery makers took sharp losses. Technology companies also fell, while banks dropped along with interest rates and some weak second-quarter results hurt retailers.

According to Bloomberg, the administration could impose the 25 percent tariffs as soon as a public review period ends next week, but it could simply announce the tariffs and say they will take effect later.

China has threatened to retaliate with tariffs on $60 billion in goods from the U.S. and could take other measures as well.

Ohio utility closing its coal plants

AKRON, Ohio — An Ohio-based energy company is closing its last coal-fired power plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

FirstEnergy Solutions said Wednesday it plans to shut down its remaining four coal plants by 2022. The three Ohio plants are on the Ohio River in Stratton. Its last Pennsylvania coal plant is in Shippingport.

The company says it can't compete in the regional wholesale markets that are managed by PJM Interconnection.

FES Generation Companies and Chief Nuclear Officer Donald Moul said in a statement the decision was difficult. Moul added that coal and nuclear power plants are losing out to cheaper energy sources such as natural gas.

FirstEnergy announced earlier this year it would shut down its three nuclear plants.

Consumer spending up 0.4% in July

WASHINGTON — Consumer spending, bolstered by strong job growth and tax cuts, rose a solid 0.4 percent in July, the sixth straight month of healthy gains, while a key measure of inflation posted its largest annual gain in more than six years.

The Commerce Department says the July spending gain followed a similar 0.4 percent rise in June. Inflation, as measured by a gauge closely watched by the Federal Reserve, rose 2.3 percent for the 12 months ending in July, the fastest annual increases since March 2012.

While the inflation increase was higher than the Fed's 2 percent target, central bank officials have said they are willing to tolerate slightly higher inflation for a time given the six-year period when inflation fell short of the 2 percent goal.

Buffett says stocks remain attractive

OMAHA, Neb. — Billionaire Warren Buffett says stocks remain attractive investments even at today's high prices when compared to bonds or real estate. Buffett reiterated his view that stocks are the best long-term investment during an interview on CNBC Thursday.

Buffett said his Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate added a few more Apple shares to the 252 million it held at the end of June. He also said Berkshire had also repurchased some of its own stock in the past month since it relaxed its own rules on buybacks.

Buffett was in New York Thursday on his 88th birthday to dine with the person who paid $3.3 million in a charity auction for a private lunch with the investor. The lunch auction raises money for the Glide Foundation, which helps the homeless in San Francisco.

Rates on long-term mortgages edge up

WASHINGTON — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates ticked up this week as borrowing costs are meaningfully higher than a year ago.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages rose slightly to 4.52 percent from 4.51 percent last week. The rate averaged 3.82 percent a year ago. Average rates began to climb after the tax cuts signed into law last year by President Donald Trump increased the federal budget deficit, as home loans generally move in sync with interest on 10-year Treasury notes.

The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans fell to 3.97 percent this week from 3.98 percent last week.

Because of rising home prices and borrowing costs, affordability has become a challenge for many would-be buyers and depressed sales of existing homes for the past four months.

Waldorf Astoria to debut in Vegas

LAS VEGAS — Hilton is set to begin rebranding the Mandarin Oriental hotel on the Las Vegas Strip as a Waldorf Astoria.

The transition that will start Friday at the 389-room, casino-less property will lead to renovations and mark the debut of another luxury brand on the Strip.

The changes will come after a company with ties to a California-based commercial real estate developer and the founders of Panda Express restaurants finishes the purchase of the property for about $214 million from a subsidiary of MGM Resorts International.

The property that will be known as the Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas also has 225 residential units, restaurants, bar, tea lounge and a massive spa.

Waldorf's Dino Michael says the brand has been trying to enter the Las Vegas market for some time.

Vacuum maker Dyson eyes electric cars

LONDON — Dyson, the British company best known for its ground-breaking vacuum cleaners, said Thursday that it has submitted a planning application to expand facilities at a former British military airfield to develop electric vehicles.

The company said Thursday it plans to build more than 10 miles of test tracks at the former Hullavington Airfield in southern England. The cars are expected to launch in 2021.

It also plans new office buildings for more than 2,000 staff that will eventually be employed at the site.

Billionaire founder James Dyson is one of Britain's most successful entrepreneurs. The company said it will invest $2.6 billion overall in its electric car program.

Wire report