Business Highlights

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US homebuilder sentiment rises in August as sales improve

U.S. homebuilders are feeling more optimistic about the housing market this month, reflecting strong growth in new-home sales and prices.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Monday rose two points to 60 following a downwardly revised reading of 58 in July.

Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good rather than poor. The index has mostly held at 58 this year since rising to 61 in January.

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Foreign holdings of Treasury debt rose in June

WASHINGTON (AP) " Foreign holdings of U.S. Treasury securities rose in June after falling in the two previous months.

The Treasury Department reported Monday that total foreign holdings climbed 1.1 percent in June to $6.28 trillion after declining 0.5 percent in May and 0.8 percent in April.

Japan, the second-biggest foreign owner of Treasury securities, increased its holdings by 1.3 percent to $1.15 trillion.

That helped offset a reduction by China, the top foreign owner of Treasury debt, which trimmed its holdings in June by 0.3 percent to $1.24 trillion.

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US stocks again rebound as miners and machinery makers rise

NEW YORK (AP) " U.S. stocks closed at a record high Monday behind gains for chemical and machinery companies. Energy companies rose as the price of oil continued its recent recovery.

Makers of chemicals and mining companies made the biggest gains, and machinery companies and banks followed.

Stocks have seesawed between small gains and losses for more than a week as investors consider mixed reports on the health of the economy and a decline in corporate earnings. That hasn't stopped them from setting records, but it's kept investors wary.

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A $4B buy in the rental market: Mid-America, Post to join

Real estate investment trust Mid-America Apartment Communities will spend the equivalent of $3.9 billion in an all-stock deal to acquire its rival, Post Properties, bringing together two giants in the rental property market during an era of booming demand.

Both companies have benefited immensely from a significant housing shortage. Post booked its highest revenue since the housing bust last year and Mid-America's revenue pushed past $1 billion for the first time ever.

That trend has begun to slow this year as homebuilders catch up, making it a good time for Mid-America and Post to team up and lower costs.

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Swiss Lonza buys US diet supplement supplier InterHealth

BERLIN (AP) " Pharmaceutical supplier Lonza of Switzerland says it is buying InterHealth Nutraceuticals, Inc., a California-based company that makes ingredients for use in dietary supplements, in a deal worth up to $300 million.

InterHealth, a portfolio company of Kainos Capital, is based in Benicia, California. Lonza said Monday that the deal is expected to close in September and will have an immediate positive impact on its earnings.

Lonza says InterHealth has a range of over 15 branded ingredients and the acquisition will complement its own sports nutrition, weight-loss and pet health offerings among others.

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Hotels in 10 states and DC may have been hit by hackers

NEW YORK (AP) " An undisclosed number of people who used credit cards at 20 Hyatt, Sheraton, Marriott, Westin and other hotels in 10 states and the District of Columbia may have had their cards compromised as a result of hack of the hotels' payment system.

HEI Hotels & Resorts, which operates just under 60 hotels and resorts under a variety of brands, said that after being notified by its credit card processor of a potential breach, it conducted an internal investigation that found malware on its payment processing systems at the 20 properties.

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Tesla: Removal of 'Autopilot' from Chinese site a mistake

PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) " Tesla said Monday that the term "Autopilot" was mistakenly removed from the electric car maker's website for China, but it has been restored.

The company said it did revise some language on the site to make it clearer to drivers that Autopilot is a driver-assist system and not a self-driving system.

Tesla has been under pressure to stop using the term Autopilot in the U.S. following the death of driver in a Florida crash involving the system. Last week, a driver in Beijing relying on Autopilot mode sideswiped a car parked on the side of the road.

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Japan's economy slows to snail's pace as exports falter

TOKYO (AP) " Japan's economy barely grew in the April-June quarter, as weaker exports and business investment weighed on the faltering recovery.

Growth for the world's third-largest economy was flat on a quarterly basis, adding to pressure on the Bank of Japan to take further action to stimulate slack corporate spending.

The economy expanded at a 0.2 percent annual pace in the last quarter, compared with a revised 0.8 percent rate in January-March period. Economists had forecast that it would maintain or even slightly better that pace in April-June. But private demand, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of business activity, rose only 0.2 percent.

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German central bank suggests raising retirement age to 69

BERLIN (AP) " Germany's central bank is arguing that the country's retirement age should ultimately be lifted another two years to 69, a call that received a frosty response from the government.

The government decided a decade ago to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67. The increase is being introduced gradually and will apply to all retirees by 2029.

Since then, there have been periodic calls for people in Europe's biggest economy to work even longer.

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Buffett's company adds to stakes in Apple and Phillips 66

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) " Warren Buffett's company is taking an even bigger bite of Apple stock and adding to its sizeable stake in Phillips 66.

Berkshire Hathaway filed an update with regulators Monday on its roughly $130 billion U.S. stock portfolio.

Berkshire said it held 15.2 million Apple shares at the end of June, up from the 9.8 million share stake it first disclosed in the spring. Berkshire now owns 78.8 million shares in oil refiner Phillips 66, up from 75.6 million.

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Dakota Access pipeline owners sue North Dakota protesters

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) " Developers of a $3.8 billion, four-state oil pipeline sued in federal court Monday to stop protesters near an American Indian reservation in North Dakota from interfering with the project, alleging the safety of workers and law enforcement is at risk.

Dakota Access LLC filed a lawsuit against Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman David Archambault II and other protesters, seeking restraining orders and unspecified monetary damages.

The protesters "have created and will continue to create a risk of bodily injury and harm to Dakota Access employees and contractors, as well as to law enforcement personnel and other individuals at the construction site," the company wrote in court papers.

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The Dow Jones industrial average gained 59.58 points or 0.3 percent, to 18,636.05. The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 6.10 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,190.15. The Nasdaq composite picked up 29.12 points, or 0.6 percent, to 5,262.02.

U.S. crude jumped $1.25, or 2.8 percent, to $45.74 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark used to price international oils, rose $1.38, or 2.9 percent, to $48.35 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to $1.40 a gallon. Heating oil gained 4 cents to $1.45 a gallon. Natural gas held steady at $2.59 per 1,000 cubic feet.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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