Business Briefs – August 5, 2018

U.S. Businesses Cast Wider Net As Jobless Rate Hits 3.9 Pct.

WASHINGTON (AP) – The unemployment rate ticked down to 3.9 percent from 4 percent. It’s near a five-decade low, and companies are looking harder for workers. In some cases they’re finding them right at their own workplaces. Businesses are adding more hours for part-timers and converting contractors to full-time workers. Americans with fewer skills are also benefiting from hiring managers’ desperation: The unemployment rate for those without a high-school degree fell to a record low in July.

Earnings Roundup: 2Q Profit Growth Even Better Than Expected

NEW YORK (AP) – Investors came into this earnings season with high expectations. They weren’t high enough. Companies in the S&P 500 are on track to deliver earnings-per-share growth of 24 percent for the second quarter. When the quarter started in April, Wall Street was expecting a 19 percent jump, according to FactSet. One concern for investors: Could this be as good as it gets?

U.S. Services Firms Saw Growth Slowdown in July

WASHINGTON& (AP) – U.S. services companies grew at a slower pace in July as business activity and new orders slipped.

The Institute for Supply Management said Friday that its services index fell to 55.7 last month compared to 59.1 in June. Readings greater than 50 signal an expanding economy. The services sector, in which most Americans are employed, has now grown for 102 straight months, or more than eight years.

U.S. Trade Deficit Widens By $46.3 Billion in June

WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. trade deficit widened in June for the first time in four months as exports fell and imports grew. Politically sensitive trade gaps with China, Mexico and Canada all increased. The Commerce Department said Friday that the deficit in goods and services — the gap between what the US sells and what it buys from other countries — rose 7.3 percent to $46.3 billion in June from $43.2 billion in May.

SEC Drops Investigation Into Exxon Climate Change Response

NEW YORK (AP) – The government has dropped a two-year investigation into how Exxon Mobil Corp. factors climate-change regulations into its calculations of the value of its assets. The Securities and Exchange Commission informed the energy giant in a letter that it would not recommend an enforcement action against the company at this time. Exxon faces separate investigations in New York and Massachusetts into whether it misled investors about climate change issues.

Feds Probing Firm Tied to Risky Online Commerce

NEW YORK (AP) – Federal authorities are probing the business practices of a payment processor whose CEO is a prominent political donor. A person with direct knowledge of the case tells The Associated Press that criminal investigators from the Federal Drug Administration are examining records related to Allied Wallet. In a statement, Allied Wallet CEO Ahmad “Andy” Khawaja denied his company was under investigation or had processed transactions for online pharmacies.

Will Economic Boom Complicate Curbing Immigration?

WASHINGTON (AP) – One of President Donald Trump’s priorities, low unemployment, is complicating another: curbing immigration. The number of job openings is exceeding the number of Americans seeking jobs, leaving some employers looking beyond the border to fill openings. Tens of thousands of people cross the border illegally each month and some economists say part of the reason for the stream is the lure of a lucrative job. They say that when the economy is booming, people want to come to work.