Business Highlights: Falling home sales, Russian coffee

August 18, 2022 GMT

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US home sales fell in July; some buyers see silver lining

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The housing market’s comedown from its high-flying days early this year is deepening, with home sales in July falling for the sixth straight month. Sharply higher mortgage rates, surging inflation and prices that remain near all-time highs are making homes less affordable. The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that sales fell 20.2% from July last year, reaching the slowest pace since May 2020, near the start of the pandemic. But the slowdown has begun to tip the homebuying equation, if ever so slightly, in favor of house hunters who can afford to stay in the market and away from sellers.

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Fewer Americans file for jobless benefits last week

WASHINGTON (AP) — Slightly fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as the labor market continues to be the strongest segment of the U.S. economy. Applications for jobless aid for the week ending August 13 fell by 2,000 to 250,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Last week’s number, which raised some eyebrows, was revised down by 10,000. The four-week average for claims, which evens out some of the week-to-week volatility, fell by 2,750 to 246,750. Unemployment applications generally reflect layoffs and are often seen as an early indicator of where the job market is headed.

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Disqualified for disabilities, railroad workers fight back

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Union Pacific has already lost three lawsuits over the way it removes employees with health conditions because of safety concerns, and the prospect of hundreds more lawsuits looms over the railroad. The lawsuits were originally going to be part of a class-action case before a federal appeals court decided the cases must be pursued individually. The first few lawsuits have now been tried with verdicts over $1 million coming in all three cases, but more than 200 more discrimination complaints are still pending with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that are likely to turn into lawsuits. Union Pacific has vigorously defended its policy in court, and the railroad says it is designed to protect its workers and the public from significant injury risks.

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Stars Coffee, anyone? Starbucks successor opening in Russia

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russian fans of Starbucks coffee shops are getting the chance to see if a homegrown successor can measure up. After the U.S. company left Russia in the wake of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, entrepreneurs who bought the assets are opening shops in former Starbucks locations this week. They have the nearly identical name of Stars Coffee and a logo almost indistinguishable from its predecessor’s. The venture follows the strategy of reviving closed McDonald’s outlets under a new name but with fundamentally the same menu. Russian entrepreneurs saw opportunity in suddenly unoccupied stores after Western companies exited the country.

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Unions push airlines to promise they’ll avoid stock buybacks

DALLAS (AP) — Labor unions are pushing U.S. airlines not to buy back their own stock. The unions want the airlines to spend money instead on hiring more workers and fixing problems that are causing widespread flight delays and cancellations. The unions said Thursday that the four largest U.S. airlines spent more than $39 billion on stock buybacks from 2014 through 2019 rather than making investments to help employees and passengers. American, United and Southwest say they have no plans to buy back stock when a prohibition against buybacks ends Sept. 30.

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Kohl’s cuts 2022 outlook, closing mixed week for retailers

NEW YORK (AP) — Kohl’s has slashed its sales and profit expectations for the year as a result of the department store chain stepping up discounts to get rid of unwanted merchandise. Looking ahead, Kohl’s said it was reducing merchandise orders for the critical holiday period. The announcement Thursday sent Wisconsin-based Kohl’s shares down almost 8% and capped a mixed week for retailers. Kohl’s disappointing forecast is the latest indication shoppers are cutting back on clothing and other discretionary items in the face of high inflation. They’re also shifting spending priorities as they emerge from the pandemic.

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Stocks end higher on Wall Street after more choppy trading

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks ended modestly higher on Wall Street after another day of choppy trading. The S&P 500 rose 0.2% Thursday, putting it just barely back into the green for the week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended a touch higher. The Nasdaq also rose as technology companies gained ground. Cisco Systems rose after turning in stronger-than-expected quarterly results. Energy companies also climbed along with rising crude oil prices. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.87%. The U.S. government reported that slightly fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as the labor market remains strong.

Starbucks must reinstate fired workers, federal judge rules

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A federal judge is ordering Starbucks to reinstate seven employees in Memphis, Tennessee, who were fired earlier this year after leading an effort to unionize their store. In a decision issued Thursday, U.S. District Judge Sheryl Lipman agreed with the National Labor Relations Board, which had asked the court to intervene in May. Lipman’s decision requires Starbucks to offer reinstatement to the employees within five days. The case has been among the most closely watched in the unionization effort at Starbucks. More than 220 U.S. Starbucks stores, including the Memphis store, have voted to unionize. Starbucks opposes the unionization effort.

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Climate bill’s unlikely beneficiary: US oil and gas industry

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Renewable energy incentives in the climate bill signed by President Joe Biden are expected to drastically reduce overall U.S. emissions. But some analysts say the legislation will also boost oil and gas companies, offsetting at least some of the emissions reductions. The legislation mandates several oil and gas lease sales. It also locks renewables and fossil fuel together for 10 years. So if the Biden administration wants solar and wind, it must first offer new oil and gas leases. Economists project the measure could result in more planet-warming carbon dioxide from U.S.-produced oil and gas by 2030, even as more of that fuel gets exported.

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The S&P 500 gained 9.70 points, or 0.2%, to 4,283.74. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 18.72 points, or 0.1%, to 33,999.04. The Nasdaq added 27.22 points, or 0.2%, to 12,965.34. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies ended up 13.41 points, or 0.7%, to 2,000.73.