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All times EDT.
WASHINGTON — The perilous question that's awaiting Janet Yellen's Federal Reserve has put investors on nervous alert: Can it raise rates from record lows without weakening the U.S. economy or spooking markets? Or, conversely, will it wait too long to raise rates, causing inflation to surge? No one knows, which helps explain the anticipation surrounding Yellen's speech Friday at the annual economic conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. By Martin Crutsinger. SENT: 1,100 words.
— FED MINUTES— The Federal Reserve releases the minutes of its most recent meeting, July 29-30. After that meeting, the Fed offered a mixed message on the U.S. economy and suggested it wants to see further improvement before it starts raising its key short-term interest rate. It offered no clear hint of when it will raise that rate. By Martin Crutsinger. UPCOMING: 130 words after release of minutes at 2 p.m., 300 words by 3 p.m.
HONG KONG — Royal Caribbean's newest ship has attractions not usually seen on most cruise liners, including bumper cars, a skydiving simulator and a glass observation capsule on a mechanical arm that lifts visitors high into the air. What's also a surprise is the vessel's intended home port: Shanghai. Cruise operators have traditionally sent older vessels to developing countries while saving their most advanced ships for U.S. and European customers. But surging growth in China means it's a market operators can no longer ignore. By Kelvin Chan. SENT: 980 words, photos.
NEW YORK — Women are a growing force in the business world, but if they own a company, they may still struggle to get a loan from a bank. By Joyce Rosenberg. SENT: 900 words, photos.
NEW YORK — Target slashed its annual profit outlook as the retailer continues to reel from a massive data breach, a disappointing expansion in Canada and sluggish sales in the U.S. By Retail Writer Anne D'innocenzio. SENT: 880 words, photo.
SAN FRANCISCO — Apple's stock touches a new high, reflecting investors' renewed faith in CEO Tim Cook's ability to outwit the competition and expand the technological hit factory built by the late Steve Jobs. The milestone represents a dramatic turnaround in sentiment since Apple's shares reached its previous split-adjusted peak of $100.72 in September 2012. SENT: 800 words.
MARKETS & ECONOMY:
NEW YORK — U.S. stocks are little changed in afternoon trading as investors wait for minutes from the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting. Lowe's, the home improvement retail chain, falls after the company's outlook came in short of investors' expectations. By Ken Sweet. SENT: 360 words, photo. UPCOMING: 700 words by 5 p.m.
— DEPARTMENT STORE-DISCRIMINATION — Macy's has agreed to pay $650,000 to settle allegations of racial profiling at its flagship store in Manhattan's Herald Square. SENT: 430 words.
— CUTLERY MAKER-BANKRUPTCY — The nation's oldest cutlery manufacturer, Lamson & Goodnow Manufacturing Co., has filed for bankruptcy after 177 years of making knives and other kitchen tools. SENT: 145 words.
— GERMANY-AMAZON — Germany's top culture official has voiced support for hundreds of authors who claim they're being discriminated against by online retailer Amazon amid negotiations with their publisher. SENT: 140 words.
— BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY-SETTLEMENT — Warren Buffett's company has agreed to an $896,000 penalty for failing to tell regulators about a December 2013 investment in wallboard maker USG Corp. SENT: 140 words.
— GAS DRILLING-BIBLICAL BILLBOARD — An Ohio man who uses a biblical reference and a statement against "poisoned waters" on billboards opposing a local deep-injection gas well is fighting a legal threat from the Texas well owner on free-speech grounds. SENT: 510 words.
— NFL TEAM VALUES — The Dallas Cowboys are the first U.S. sports franchise to top $3 billion in value. For the eighth straight year, the Cowboys are worth the most of all 32 NFL franchises, according to Forbes. They're valued at $3.2 billion; only Real Madrid at $3.4 billion is worth more among global franchises. SENT: 300 words.
— OFFSHORE GULF SALE — The federal government has sold more than 400,000 acres in the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas coast for oil and gas exploration and development, an official with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said Wednesday. SENT: 330 words.
— EARNS-LOWE'S — Lowe's second-quarter net income increased 10 percent, bolstered by improving weather. SENT: 370 words, photo.
— SWITZERLAND-EARNS-GLENCORE — Glencore swings to 8 percent profit gain in first half, announces $1 billion buyback. SENT: 129 words.
— DENMARK-EARNS-CARLSBERG — Uncertainty in Russia, Eastern Europe causes beer sales drop for Carlsberg. SENT: 275 words.
— NETHERLANDS-HEINEKEN — Heineken reports sales and profit drop slightly in first half 2014; sees underlying strength. SENT: 140 words.
TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:
AMSTERDAM — Twitter and some other social media outlets are trying to block the spread of gruesome images of the beheading of journalist James Foley by Islamic State militants, while a movement to deny his killers publicity is also gaining momentum. By Toby Sterling. SENT: 250 words, photo.
LOS ANGELES — On these dating sites, a passion for pets will help you find more than just puppy love. Sites like PetsDating.com and YouMustLoveDogsDating.com have found a new niche as singles flock to computers and smartphones to find relationships, connecting dog owners to potential mates who enjoy long walks in the dog park and slobbery canine kisses as much as they do. Many of the sites encourage users to bring their dogs on first dates to break the ice or size up canine chemistry. By Sue Manning. SENT: 600 words, photos.
— BARNES & NOBLE-SAMSUNG — Barnes & Noble and Samsung on Wednesday unveiled a new co-branded tablet called the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook that will replace B&N's own Nook tablets. SENT: 500 words, photos.
— INFINEON-INTERNATIONAL RECTIFIER — German chip maker Infineon Technologies AG says it has agreed to pay $3 billion in cash for California-based International Rectifier, which produces power-management components used in everything from cars to satellites. SENT: 130 words.
HARARE, Zimbabwe — It is 4 a.m. and people are already lining up outside Zimbabwe's main passport office — four hours ahead of opening time — in hopes of securing a passport that will allow them to escape their country's dearth of opportunities and search for work abroad. A year after the re-election of longtime leader Robert Mugabe, the country is facing new financial hardships and with an unemployment rate of 80 percent, many Zimbabweans are seeking work in other countries. By Farai Mutsaka. UPCOMING: 600 words by 10 a.m., photos.
RIO DE JANEIRO — A new law fining employers who fail to register their domestic workers is the Brazilian government's latest effort to extend the country's generous labor laws to its around 6 million maids, nannies and other home-care providers. UPCOMING: 980 words by 3 a.m., photos.
— JAPAN-TRADE — Japan's trade deficit rose in July from the month before to a wider than expected 964 billion yen ($9.4 billion), though exports were higher for the first time in three months. SENT: 285 words, photos.
— BRITAIN-ECONOMY — The Bank of England's consensus on maintaining record-low interest rates has crumbled after more than three years, with two members of the central bank's monetary policy committee voting to increase borrowing costs this month. SENT: 420 words.
— EGYPT— Top officials in Egypt promise to end the rolling blackouts hitting the country in four months, blaming the outages on a fuel shortage, hot weather and poor maintenance of power plants. SENT: 560 words.
— ARGENTINA-DEFAULT — Argentina seeks to pay bondholders locally to end default triggered by US debt dispute. SENT: 520 words.
— DUBAI-FINANCIAL CRISIS — Dubai's state developer Nakheel to pay $2.1 billion in debt 4 years ahead of final due date. SENT: 280 words.
— VENEZUELA-AIRLINE CRISIS — Come to Venezuela and you might get a longer trip than you bargained for. That's what the U.S. government is warning. SENT: 140 words.
ON THE MONEY-HOME EQUITY LOANS
The rise in home prices over the past two years has helped spur more homeowners to tap the equity in their home with a home equity line of credit. Such loans, known as HELOCs, can give borrowers more financial elbow room typically at lower interest rates than credit cards. But they can also pose a financial risk should borrowers miss payments or home values decline. Here are some things to consider when weighing whether a HELOC is right for you. BY Alex Veiga. UPCOMING: 800 words by 5 p.m.
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Looming rate hike
The clock is ticking on super-low interest rates. It's something stock investors have been dreading for years, but it may not be something to fear quite yet. If economists' predictions are accurate, a rate hike is still about a year away. And the 12 months before the Fed begins to hike rates can be a profitable period for stockholders. Since 1990, the Fed has undertaken three long-term campaigns to raise interest rates, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose in the year preceding each of them. UPCOMING: Graphic expected by 6 p.m.
Smucker softens sales outlook
J.M. Smucker tempered its sales outlook for the year Wednesday. The company behind the Folgers, Jif and Pillsbury brands, said it expects net sales to increase at a rate "slightly less" than the 5 percent it stated at the beginning of the year. UPCOMING: Graphic expected by 6 p.m.