Stocks drift lower
NEW YORK (AP) – Wall Street is drifting a bit lower after a report showed that sales for U.S retailers strengthened again last month, but by less than economists expected. The S&P 500 was down 0.1% in morning trading, as the market takes a pause after nearly erasing the last of the steep losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic. In each of the last two days, the index made a brief run above its record closing high, which was set in February, only to fade in the afternoon. It’s now 0.4% below the record. More stocks across Wall Street were rising than falling, but the moves were mostly modest.
WASHINGTON (AP) – Americans increased their retail purchases by 1.2% in July, with solid gains in appliances and clothing, restoring sales to their level before the viral pandemic erupted in March. Sales at retail stores and restaurants have now risen for three straight months, after enormous plunges in March and April, when the pandemic suddenly shuttered businesses and paralyzed the economy. Still, much of that spending has been fueled by government relief spending that had put more money in people’s pockets but has since expired. With Americans’ overall income likely shrinking, economists expect a potential drop in spending and a weakening of economic growth.
WASHINGTON (AP) – American industry continued to regain ground lost in the coronavirus recession last month but production remains well below where it was before the pandemic struck. The Federal Reserve reports that industrial production – including output at factories, mines and utilities – climbed 3% in July after surging 5.7% in June. Still, production remains 8.4% below its level in February before the outbreak began to spread rapidly in the United States. Factory output rose 3.4% last month, pulled higher by a 28.3% gain in production of cars, trucks and auto parts. Mining production blipped up 0.8%, snapping five straight months of decreases, Utility output climbed 3.3% as hot weather forced many Americans to turn on the air conditioner.
SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) – U.S. productivity rose at a 7.3% rate in the second quarter as the number of hours worked fell by nearly half, the biggest dropoff since the government started tracking the data. The Labor Department says output decreased 38.9%, also the biggest decline ever recorded. Hours worked fell 43% in the period, a direct result of the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The increase in productivity was the largest since 2009. Labor costs also jumped, rising 12.2%. Today’s report is the first estimate of second-quarter productivity and follows the first quarter’s 0.3% decline.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) – The University of Wisconsin-Madison has received less than 1% of the money that Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group pledged to it two years ago amid the electronics giant’s expansion plans in Wisconsin. Foxconn in August 2018 committed $100 million to the university to help fund an engineering building and for company-related research. It gave the school $700,000 in the first year of a 5-year agreement and records show the school has received no additional money over the past year. The school says it continues to maintain open lines of communication with Foxconn representatives.