Among the stories for Thursday from The Associated Press:
DETROIT — General Motors' second-quarter profit tops expectations as solid earnings in North America, driven by rebounding pickup truck sales, offset declining profit in some international markets and more losses in Europe. Earnings drop 16 percent to $1.26 billion. By Tom Krisher.
CHEVROLET IMPALA-CONSUMER REPORTS
DETROIT — The Chevrolet Impala, long the standard-bearer for mediocre cars from Detroit, has made an amazing turnaround. A completely reworked version of the full-size car has taken Consumer Reports magazine's top spot for all sedans, deposing German and Japanese cars for the first time in at least 20 years. By Tom Krisher.
HEDGE FUND CHARGED
NEW YORK — A huge Connecticut-based hedge fund owned by an embattled billionaire is facing insider-trading charges. Federal authorities in New York City announce the criminal charges of wire fraud and four counts of securities fraud against SAC Capital Advisors, but owner Steven Cohen is not charged. Cohen last week was accused of wrongdoing in a civil case brought by the SEC, which alleged he failed to stop insider trading at his firm.
LOS GATOS, Calif. — Netflix's Internet video subscription service works around the clock, but it's unusual for more than two dozen of the company's engineers and top managers to be huddled on a midsummer Wednesday evening. This is a special occasion. It's near the end of a grueling day that will culminate in the premiere of "Orange Is The New Black," the fourth exclusive Netflix series to be released in five months. Netflix Inc. invited The Associated Press for an unprecedented glimpse at the technical preparations that go into the release of its original programming. The shows have become the foundation of Netflix's push to build an Internet counterpart to HBO's premium cable channel. By Technology Writer Michael Liedtke.
MARKETS & ECONOMY
WASHINGTON — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose by 7,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 343,000. The increase follows a drop of 22,000 the previous week. But the broader trend is consistent with an improving job market. The Labor Department says the four-week average, which smooths out weekly fluctuations, fell 1,250 to 345,250. By Paul Wiseman.
WASHINGTON — Orders for long-lasting U.S. factory goods rose in June, bolstered by higher aircraft demand and more spending that signals businesses' growing confidence in the economy. The increase suggests manufacturing could help the economy in the second half of the year. The Commerce Department says orders for durable goods increased 4.2 percent last month. That followed a 5.2 percent gain in May. By Christopher S. Rugaber.
— MORTGAGE RATES — Average rates on U.S. fixed mortgages fell for the second straight week, a welcome sign for homebuyers hoping to lock in lower rates that had spiked earlier this month. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average on the 30-year loan fell to 4.31 percent. That's down from 4.37 percent last week but nearly a full percentage point higher than in early May. The rate reached a two-year high of 4.51 percent two weeks ago.
NEW YORK — Stocks are little changed on Wall Street after several companies reported disappointing earnings.
— OIL PRICES — The price of oil falls to near $104 a barrel, extending a big drop sparked by weakness in China's economy.
WASHINGTON — It's hard to find anyone who thinks President Barack Obama's series of heavily promoted economic speeches will be the flash point that unclogs the system in Washington — including the president. A day after he kicked off the tour in Illinois and Missouri, Obama is traveling to a seaport in Jacksonville, Fla., to yet again decry the wide gulf between his vision for a new American prosperity driven by a burgeoning middle class and the intense gridlock snarling up Congress. By Josh Lederman.
— STUDENT LOANS — House expected to iron out small differences with Senate-approved deal on student loan rates.
— EARNS-UNITED CONTINENTAL — The parent of United Airlines says its profit rose 38 percent even though it flew less in the second quarter, as passengers paid more to fly. The airline's fuel bill also dropped 10 percent. By Josh Freed.
— EARNS-SOUTHWEST AIRLINES — Southwest Airlines is getting a small break at the fuel pump, and that's helping it beat Wall Street expectations for profit. Earnings drop 2 percent to $224 million. Travel demand is suffering from the effect of automatic government spending cuts and higher taxes, but the CEO says third-quarter trends are "encouraging." By Dave Koenig.
MINNEAPOLIS — 3M, which makes Scotch tape, coatings for signs, and roofing shingles, says its net income rose 3 percent as revenue grew across most of its businesses. By Josh Freed.
— NETHERLANDS-EARNS-UNILEVER — Unilever, the maker of products including Lipton tea, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and Axe deodorants, says its first-half profit rose 13 percent to $3.58 billion, despite tough market conditions.
— SWITZERLAND-EARNS-ROCHE — Swiss drugmaker Roche's first-half profit rises 11 on strong sales of its blockbuster cancer drugs.
— SWITZERLAND-EARNS-CREDIT-SUISSE — Credit Suisse's second-quarter profit rises 33 percent, driven by solid returns from its investment banking division as well as cost-cutting.
— GERMANY-EARNS-BASF — Chemicals and oil company BASF warns that it will find it more difficult to achieve its profit target this year as second-quarter earnings drop 4 percent.
GAS WELL LEAK
NEW ORLEANS — The owner of a natural gas drilling rig aflame off of Louisiana's coast said preparations are under way for the possible drilling of a relief well to divert gas from the site and bring the well under control. Experts say such an effort is a complicated task that could take weeks to complete. Federal inspectors said a light sheen was spotted around the rig in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday evening, though authorities said it quickly dissipated and the fire aboard the rig continued to be fed by natural gas. By Kevin McGill and Janet McConnaughey.
AP photos, video.
SEOUL, South Korea — The tight grip of Hyundai over the South Korean auto market is being loosened by a rise in foreign competition and labor strife that dented car production. Hyundai's April-June profit fell 1 percent to $2.2 billion even as sales rose 6 percent to $20.8 billion. By Youkyung Lee.
— EARNS-MICHELIN — Tire maker Michelin says its first-half profit slumped 45 percent as restructuring costs weighed on earnings amid flat demand in key markets.
— JAPAN-EARNS-NISSAN — Nissan's April-June profit jumps 14 percent to $820 million as a weaker yen gives a big boost.
TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA
NEWARK, N.J. — Four Russian nationals and a Ukrainian have been charged with running a sophisticated hacking organization that over seven years penetrated computer networks of more than a dozen major American and international corporations. The U.S. attorney says it's the largest hacking and data breach scheme ever prosecuted in the United States.
— GERMANY-NEWSPAPER SALE — Axel Springer, one of Germany's most prominent publishers, is selling two regional newspapers as well as its television and women's magazines in a $1.2 billion deal.
— CHINA-EARNS-BAIDU — China's biggest search engine operator reports a rare drop in profit on higher costs as it expands into mobile services.
— CHINA-IMAX — Imax and a Chinese partner plan to open up to 120 giant-screen cinemas in China's fast-growing film market.
— NETHERLANDS-EARNS-TOMTOM — TomTom, Europe's largest maker of navigation devices, says its second-quarter profit fell 14 percent to $10.6 million on weaker sales to car makers.
BEIJING — China will spend $275 billion to tackle air pollution over the next five years, a state newspaper reported, highlighting how the issue has become a priority for the leadership.
— GERMANY-ECONOMY — German business optimism rises slightly more than expected in July, the latest in a series of signals indicating moderate growth ahead for Europe's biggest economy.
— SPAIN-FINANCIAL CRISIS — Spain's jobless rate drops by 0.9 percentage point to 26.26 percent in the second quarter, sorely needed good news for an economy mired in recession for most of the past four years.
— BRITAIN-ECONOMY — The British economy grows 0.6 percent in the second quarter, the latest sign that Europe's third-largest economy is on a firmer footing.
— SKOREA-ECONOMY — South Korea's economy expands at the fastest pace in a year in the second quarter as government stimulus helps offset cash hoarding by companies.