FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks move lower on fears of US-China confrontation

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are headed lower on Wall Street as traders worry that the U.S. and China could be headed for another confrontation, this time over the autonomy of the former British colony of Hong Kong.

The S&P 500 was down 0.7% in afternoon trading Friday, but it's still on track to close out May with its second monthly gain in a row and its third weekly gain out of the last four.

Friday's losses were widespread, with banks, industrial stocks and health care companies accounting for a big slice of the selling. Bond yields fell and gold prices rose, signs that investors remain cautious. Oil prices also headed lower.

CONSUMER SPENDING

US consumer spending sinks by record 13.6% in face of virus

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer spending plunged by a record-shattering 13.6% in April as the viral pandemic shuttered businesses, forced millions of layoffs and sent the economy into a deep recession.

Last month’s spending decline was far worse than the revised 6.9% drop in March, which itself had set a record for the steepest one-month fall in records dating to 1959.

The figures reinforced evidence that the economy is gripped by the worst downturn in decades, with consumers unable or too anxious to spend much. Even with employers cutting millions of jobs, though, incomes soared 10.5% in April, reflecting billions of dollars in government payments in the form of unemployment aid and stimulus checks.

FEDERAL RESERVE-POWELL

Powell: Fed to soon begin 'challenging' Main Street lending

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged that the Fed faces a major challenge with the launch in the coming days of a program through which the Fed will lend directly to private companies for the first time since the Great Depression.

The Fed’s Main Street Lending is geared toward medium-sized companies that are too large for the government’s small business lending program and too small to sell bonds or stock to the public.

The loans will technically be made by banks, but the Fed will buy 85% to 95% of each loan, thereby reducing the risk to banks and freeing them to do more lending.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-BIG LOTS

Big Lots’ sales rise amid pandemic

UNDATED (AP) — Big Lots' first-quarter sales rose 11%, with same-store sales climbing 10.3%.

The discount retailer's stores have remained open during the pandemic, with many consumers shopping for essentials.

While sales are up strongly for the second quarter to date, Big Lots Inc. said today that it anticipates those sales moderating due to factors including rivals reopening stores, the planned cancellation of its July Friends and Family promotion and weakening stimulus-driven demand.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

Debate over $600 in jobless aid to intensify as claims rise

WASHINGTON (AP) — A debate in Congress over whether to extend $600 a week in federally provided benefits to the unemployed is likely to intensify with the number of people receiving the aid now topping 30 million — one in five workers.

The money, included in a government relief package enacted in March, is set to expire July 31. Yet with the unemployment rate widely expected to still be in the mid-teens by then, members of both parties will face pressure to compromise on some form of renewed benefits for the jobless.

Democrats have proposed keeping the $600-a-week payments through January in a $3 trillion relief package that the House approved this month along party lines.

TRUMP-TWITTER

Twitter adds 'glorifying violence' warning to Trump tweet

WASHINGTON (AP) — Twitter has added a warning to one of President Donald Trump’s tweets about protests in Minneapolis. The company says the tweet violated the platform’s rules about glorifying violence.

Trump has been at war with Twitter since earlier this week, when it applied fact checks to two of his tweets about mail-in ballots.

The third tweet to be flagged is about violent protests over the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white police officer kneeled on his neck. T

rump tweeted, “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” 

CANCER-DRUGS

New drugs make headway against lung, prostate, colon cancers

UNDATED (AP) — Doctors are reporting success with newer drugs that control certain types of cancer better, reduce the risk it will come back and make treatment simpler and easier to bear.

One study found that a daily pill of a gene-targeting drug greatly improved how long people with one form of lung cancer lived without their disease returning after surgery and chemotherapy. Other studies found benefit from a hormone-blocking pill for men with advanced prostate cancer, and from an immune system-boosting drug for a type of colon cancer.

The studies will be discussed this weekend at a cancer conference being held online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

CONTAMINATED DRUGS

FDA finds contamination in several brands of diabetes drug

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. health regulators are telling five drugmakers to recall versions of a popular diabetes drug due to contamination with an ingredient linked to cancer.

The Food and Drug Administration said several batches of the drug metformin tested positive for a chemical that likely contributes to cancer.

The announcement late Thursday follows dozens of heartburn drug recalls in the last year linked to the same contaminant. One drugmaker, Apotex Corp., announced earlier this week it had recalled all of its extended-release versions of the drug.

Millions of patients with Type 2 diabetes take metformin to help control their blood sugar levels.