Economic Buzz: German Industrial Production Recovers In January

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NEW YORK — A slide in technology companies weighed on U.S. stocks Thursday, pulling the market lower for the first time this week and erasing modest gains from a day earlier.

Supermarket operators, beverage companies and other consumer-focused stocks also declined. Industrial companies and banks led the gainers. Crude oil prices rebounded from an early slide.

Trading was mostly subdued as investors sized up the latest company earnings and deal news.

The S&P 500 lost 7.64 to close at 2,500.60. The Dow Jones industrials fell 53.36 to 22,359.23. Both indexes posted record highs on Wednesday. The Nasdaq composite lost 33.35 to 6,422.69. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 1.24 to 1,444.18.

The stock market was coming off modest gains on Wednesday following the latest policy update from the Federal Reserve. The central bank indicated that it remains on course to raise interest rates on several occasions over the coming year.

Mercedes-Benz to invest $1 billion in Alabama, add 600 jobs

Mercedes expanding in Alabama. File/AP


Mercedes to invest $1B in Alabama plant

FRANKFURT, Germany — Germany's Daimler AG says its Mercedes-Benz luxury car division will invest $1 billion to set up electric vehicle production at its Tuscaloosa, Ala., plant.

The company says it will make future electric SUVs under Mercedes' EQ sub-brand there and will also build a new battery plant, adding 600 new jobs in the region.

Mercedes executive Markus Schaefer said "with the addition of electric SUVs to our future fleet, we will provide discerning drivers with a new, high-quality automotive option."

Stuttgart-based Daimler and other global automakers are investing in what they hope will be the automotive technology of the future, combining low-emissions electric propulsion with autonomous driving technology and new forms of getting around such as sharing cars ordered through a smartphone app.

Jobless aid requests fall as storm fallout eases

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped by 23,000 last week to 259,000 as the economic impact of Hurricane Harvey began to fade.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the less-volatile four-week average rose by 6,000 to 268,750. Overall, nearly 2 million Americans are collecting jobless aid, down almost 6 percent from a year ago.

In early September, jobless claims shot up by the most in five years as Harvey battered Texas. But last week claims in Texas fell 45 percent as more people returned to work. Hurricane Irma continued to have an impact on the job market in Florida, where claims more than doubled from the previous week.

Toys R Us revs up for holiday hiring

NEW YORK — Toys R Us may have filed for a bankruptcy reorganization this week, but the toy chain is revving up its holiday hiring.

The chain said Thursday it will be accepting job applications for part-time holiday positions at stores and distribution centers in the U.S. That includes a new position called a toy demonstrator, who will help kids test out toys.

Toys R Us plans to hire more than 12,500 for the top six markets, including Boston and New York. It hired more than 10,900 workers for the top five markets a year ago. It declined to offer actual overall hiring figures for the holiday season but in the past, overall holiday hiring was about 40,000.

So far, retailers have detailed mixed hiring plans for the holidays.

Benchmark mortgage rate rises to 3.83%

WASHINGTON — Long-term mortgage rates rose this week, lifting the 30-year fixed mortgage from the lowest levels of 2017.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 3.83 percent, up from 3.78 percent last week and above last year's average of 3.65 percent. The 15-year fixed rate, popular with homeowners who are refinancing their mortgages, rose to 3.13 percent from 3.08 percent last week.

CEO on notice after rant against comic

NEW YORK — One of the nation's biggest homebuilders is putting its top executive on notice after a vulgar rant against comedian Kathy Griffin was caught on tape and went viral.

KB Home CEO Jeffrey Mezger, a neighbor of Griffin's in California, was recorded by a security camera hurling slurs against Griffin while in a heated argument with her boyfriend. Mezger was angered after Griffin or her boyfriend complained to police over a family get together at Mezger's house.

KB Home said Thursday that while Mezger has been "a great leader," his behavior was unacceptable and that he would be fired for any similar incidents in the future. It also cut his annual bonus by 25 percent.

How much the incident will cost Mezger, who has been CEO since 2006, isn't clear. He was paid $9 million last year in salary and stock awards, but he hasn't received a bonus since 2014. In that year, Mezger received a bonus of $125,000.

WTO upgrades forecast for trade growth

GENEVA — The World Trade Organization has revised sharply upward its forecast for world trade growth this year to 3.6 percent, citing "resurgence in Asian trade flows" and a rebound in North American import demand.

WTO had previously forecast a growth of 2.4 percent. The upturn compares to what the Geneva-based trade body called a "lackluster" performance of 1.3 percent growth last year.

Director-General Roberto Azevedo hailed the "welcome news" Thursday, but warned the world economy still faces "substantial risks" that could undermine recovery.

He said risks included geopolitical tensions, economic fallout from natural disasters, and "protectionist rhetoric" that could translate into trade-restricting policies.

WTO's revision was partly due to an increase in the forecast for overall world economic growth to 2.8 percent this year, from 2.6 percent in 2016.

Toyota marks 5M cars made in Ind.

PRINCETON, Ind. — Toyota has marked the production of its 5 millionth vehicle from its southwestern Indiana factory that opened 19 years ago.

The factory about 25 miles north of Evansville has about 5,000 workers building Highlander and Sequoia SUVs and Sienna minivans. The Evansville Courier & Press reports Toyota estimates its presence has led to about 27,000 jobs among supplier companies.

Toyota announced in January a $600 million investment at the factory to boost Highlander production, possibly adding 400 jobs by late 2019.

Trix with artificial colors returning

NEW YORK — Trix is back to its old tricks: The colorful cereal will once again be made with artificial dyes and flavors, nearly two years after they were banished from the cereal.

Food maker General Mills said Thursday that Classic Trix will return to supermarket shelves in October. But it will also continue to sell the version without artificial colors and flavors.

"We heard from many Trix fans that they missed the bright vibrant colors and the nostalgic taste of the classic Trix cereal," a spokesman said, explaining the change.

General Mills said it is also working on bringing back another fan favorite: Trix made in shapes of fruits, which it stopped selling a decade ago to return to round pieces.

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