MARKETS

Strong profit reports keep driving stocks

U.S. stock indexes inched further into record territory Wednesday after AT&T, Boeing and others joined the parade of big companies reporting stronger profits than analysts expected. Stocks that pay big dividends were particularly strong after the Federal Reserve took a pause in its slow-moving campaign to lift interest rates, as Treasury yields sank lower. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index edged up by 0.70 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 2,477.83 and added a whisper to its record high set a day earlier. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 97.58 points, or 0.5 percent, to 21,711.01, and the Nasdaq composite rose 10.57 points, or 0.2 percent, to 6,422.75. Both are at record highs.

RETAILING

Acquisition pending, Whole Foods sales drop

Amazon is set to have a fixer-upper on its hands, with Whole Foods reporting that a key sales figure declined again. The grocery chain said Wednesday that sales fell 1.9 percent at established locations for the three months that ended July 2. That marks the eighth straight quarter the figure has dropped as Whole Foods sees more competition from traditional grocers, big box retailers and others offering more organic choices. Facing pressure from investors to improve, Whole Foods agreed to be acquired by Amazon in a $13.7 billion deal announced last month. The companies have not said what might change for customers, but the announcement rattled the supermarket industry.

MANUFACTURING

Sales slow, but Ford 2Q income, profits up

Ford Motor Co. had a better-than-expected second quarter despite lower sales and upheaval in its executive ranks. Net income rose 4 percent to $2 billion, thanks to a change in the company’s tax rate and a strong performance from its credit arm. Ford’s new CEO Jim Hackett called it “a solid performance” but said the company still needs to get much more fit and nimble. “We know we’re going to be quicker and more purposeful in our decisions about where to play and how to win,” Hackett told analysts and media in his first earnings call since he became Ford’s CEO. Ford’s automotive revenue of $37 billion was in line with Wall Street’s expectations. Total revenue rose 1 percent to $39.85 billion.

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