The Associated Press
Last drugs standing: Key Alzheimer results coming
We're about to find out if there will be a way anytime soon to slow the course of Alzheimer's disease. Results are due within a month or so from key studies of two drugs that aim to clear the sticky plaque gumming up patients' brains.
A pivotal study of a third drug will end later this year, and results from a small, early test of it will be reported next week at an Alzheimer's conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.
These three treatments are practically the "last men standing" in late-stage trials, after more than a decade of failed efforts to develop a drug to halt the mind-robbing disease. Current medicines such as Aricept and Namenda just temporarily ease symptoms. There is no known cure.
Experts say that if these fail, drug companies may pull out of the field in frustration, leaving little hope for the millions of people with the disease.
Electric rates not falling along with fuel costs
NEW YORK (AP) - A plunge in the price of natural gas has made it cheaper for utilities to produce electricity. But the savings aren't translating to lower rates for customers. Instead, U.S. electricity prices are going up.
Electricity prices are forecast to rise slightly this summer. But any increase is noteworthy because natural gas, which is used to produce nearly a third of the country's power, is 43 percent cheaper than a year ago. A long-term downward trend in power prices could be starting to reverse, analysts say.
Some corn farmers mow fields as drought worsens
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Some cornstalks in fields around the farm where David Kellerman works stand tall, but appearances can be deceiving. When the husks are pulled back, the cobs are empty. No kernels developed as the plants struggled with heat and drought.
The soil in Kellerman's part of southern Illinois is like dust after less than an inch of rain since mid-April. This week, he and the farmer he works with packed it in. They cut and baled the withered plants to use as hay for their cattle.
As the worst drought in nearly 25 years spreads across the nation, farmers in Illinois and Indiana are finding themselves among the hardest hit. But they are not alone, and conditions are likely to get worse throughout the middle of the country with an unusually hot summer in the forecast.
Fed was split over policy action at June meeting
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Federal Reserve is open to taking further action to support the struggling U.S. economy. But minutes of the Fed's June meeting show policymakers at odds over whether the economy needs more help now.
A few members said the economy may already require additional support. But several others noted that further action "could be warranted" if the recovery lost momentum, if risks became more pronounced or inflation seemed likely to run below the committee's target.
Investors appeared disappointed by the division within the Fed. Stock prices sank after the Fed expressed concerns about the economy.
US trade deficit fell to $48.7 billion in May
WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in May from April, helped by cheaper oil that lowered imports and an increase in American exports to Europe and China.
But economists cautioned that the global economy has weakened since then. And they noted that the decline in the deficit wasn't enough to alter their growth forecasts for the April-June quarter.
The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the trade deficit fell 3.8 percent to $48.7 billion in May, down from $50.6 billion in April.
US wholesale stockpiles grew in May but sales fell
WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. wholesale companies added modestly to their stockpiles in May. But sales at the wholesale level dropped by the largest amount in three years, a troubling sign for future growth.
The Commerce Department said Wednesday that wholesale stockpiles rose 0.3 percent in May. That followed a 0.5 percent increase in April, which was revised lower from an initially reported 1.1 percent gain.
But sales at the wholesale level fell 0.8 percent in May, the biggest decline since March 2009.
Another California city opts for bankruptcy
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) - In this sweltering Southern California city, officials tried to keep the budget in check by selling assets, cutting spending and asking public employees to take a hit as tax revenues dwindled.
But San Bernardino officials found themselves staring at a bleak prospect Tuesday night: Vendors hadn't been paid and cash was running out to make payroll, threatening to shut down the city altogether.
That prompted elected officials in the city of 210,000 people to take the bold and sudden move of authorizing the city attorney to seek federal bankruptcy protection, becoming the third California city poised to do so in less than two weeks.
Higher bookings, rates increase Marriott 2Q net income
NEW YORK (AP) - Marriott International Inc. said Wednesday that its second-quarter net income rose 6 percent on higher bookings and rates, despite a revenue decline due to the spin-off of its timeshare business.
The Bethesda, Md., hotel company also raised its earnings expectations for the full year but predicts lower revenue from fees and weaker-than-expected growth in Europe and Asia, where the economy has slowed. Shares fell about 4 percent after the results were released.
Marriott, which also operates Ritz-Carlton hotels, Fairfield Inn & Suites and other lodging brands, earned $143 million, or 42 cents per share, in the 12 weeks that ended June 15, compared with $135 million, or 37 cents per share, a year earlier.
S&P lowers rating on J.C. Penney again
NEW YORK (AP) - Standard & Poor's Ratings Services is lowering its credit rating on J.C. Penney Co. further into junk status, saying the department store chain's performance remains weak.
The ratings agency said late Wednesday it lowered its corporate credit rating on the Plano, Texas, company to "B+" from "BB-." The junk rating is four notches below investment grade. The move marks the second downgrade from S&P since mid-May.
Under a new CEO, former Apple Inc. executive Ron Johnson, J.C. Penney is overhauling every aspect of its business from its pricing to the brands it carries. But concerns are growing about the company's ability to turn its business around.
By The Associated Press(equals)
The Dow Jones Industrial average closed at 12,604.53, down 48.59 points. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 0.02 of a point to 1,341.45. The technology-focused Nasdaq composite index lost 14.35 points to 2,887.98.
Benchmark U.S. crude rose by $1.90 to end the day at $85.81 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which helps set the price of imported oil, increased by $2.26 to finish at $100.23 per barrel in London.
In other futures trading, heating oil added 4.23 cents to finish at $2.7618 per gallon while gasoline futures rose by 2.2 cents to end at $2.7689 per gallon. Natural gas increased by 11.6 cents to finish at $2.853 per 1,000 cubic feet.