Sales Boom in Walmart Stores and Surge Online

Walmart is raising its outlook for the year after beating all expectations for the second quarter and registering the strongest same-store sales growth in a decade.

Shares surged 7 percent before the opening bell Thursday.

The Bentonville, Arkansas, retailer had a loss of $861 million, or 29 cents because of some sizeable investments. Adjusted for those one-time costs, however, per-share earnings were earnings were $1.29 per share, easily topping Wall Street projections of $1.21 per share, according to Zacks Investment Research.

Walmart Inc. posted revenue of $128.03 billion, also beating projections.

Sales at existing stores jumped 4.5 percent and e-commerce sales grew 40 percent.

Elon Musk Proposes Los Angeles Tunnel to Dodger Stadium

Traffic-weary baseball fans could someday travel to and from Dodger Stadium on a public transportation system underneath Los Angeles — if Elon Musk’s latest bold plan comes to fruition.

The billionaire’s Boring Company tweeted Wednesday a proposal for autonomous, zero-emissions electric sleds that would run through a tunnel between the stadium and a location in the city’s Hollywood area.

The company says the so-called Dugout Loop system would be privately funded and not require tax money.

Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted that it’s exciting to see innovative ideas aimed at reducing traffic on LA roads.

A proposal to build a gondola from Union Station to Dodger Stadium was announced in April.

Musk, also the CEO of Tesla, is currently building a test tunnel from his SpaceX rocket plant to a point near Los Angeles International Airport.

Average US Mortgage Rates Fall; 30-year at 4.53%

Long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week for the second straight week, with relatively lower rates continuing to fail to spark home sales.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages dipped to 4.53 percent from 4.59 percent last week. Long-term loan rates have been running at their highest levels in seven years. The average benchmark 30-year rate reached a high this year of 4.66 percent on May 24. By contrast, the rate stood at 3.89 percent a year ago.

The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans fell to 4.01 percent this week from 4.05 percent last week.

Mortgage rates have remained mostly steady since late spring despite higher rates of inflation and unease in world financial markets. But the pause in borrowing rates “is not leading to increasing home sales,” said Freddie Mac chief economist Sam Khater.

Rising home prices, tight inventories of affordable homes and historically higher mortgage rates are to blame, Khater said.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week.

The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates.

The average fee on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages was unchanged from last week at 0.5 point. The fee on 15-year mortgages also remained at 0.5 point.

The average rate for five-year adjustable-rate mortgages fell to 3.87 percent from 3.90 percent last week. The fee increased to 0.4 point from 0.3 point.

US Housing Starts Rose Slight 0.9% in July

U.S. housing starts ticked up just 0.9 percent in July, a sign that higher construction costs might be weighing on homebuilders.

The Commerce Department says that housing starts last month rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.17 million, not nearly enough to reverse the steep 12.9 percent plunge seen in June as rising lumber, land and labor expenses appeared to constrain new construction.

Still, housing starts have risen 6.2 percent year-to-date. Solid job growth and a dearth of existing homes for sales have increased demand for new properties.

Ground breaking fell last month in the two priciest regional markets: the West and Northeast. But starts increased in the more affordable markets of the Midwest and South.

Building permits, an indicator of future construction, rose 1.5 percent in July.

Germany’s Bayer Says it Can Start Integrating Monsanto

German pharmaceutical company Bayer AG says it can now start integrating U.S. seed and weed-killer maker Monsanto Co. after completing the required sale of some of its crop science business.

Bayer became Monsanto’s sole owner in June but had to hold off on integrating Monsanto while it completed divestments demanded by regulators. Its acquisition of Monsanto cost some $63 billion including debt.

Bayer said in a statement Thursday that, now that it is no longer required to keep the businesses separate, it has gained the ability to “become actively involved in defense efforts” in legal disputes including those involving Monsanto’s popular Roundup weed-killer.

Last week, a jury in San Francisco awarded $289 million in damages to a dying man who claims Roundup gave him cancer.

Best Buy to Buy a Provider of Health Devices for the Aging

Consumer electronics retailer Best Buy is pushing more into the health field, acquiring a company that provides emergency response devices for the aging.

Best Buy said Wednesday it’s paying $800 million for GreatCall. The San Diego, California-based company, which has more than 900,000 paying subscribers, offers services like an easy connection to operators who can connect users to caregivers, answer questions, and more.

It’s the latest move by a retailer to deepen its presence in health care. Best Buy already sells health-and-wellness products, and offers an activity-monitoring service for aging adults in 21 markets.

Moody’s Lead Retail Analyst Charlie O’Shea says the deal lets the company “expand and broaden its services and deepen its customer relationships with a massive and growing segment of the U.S. population.”

Kroger Begins Testing Driverless Grocery Deliveries

Kroger will begin testing grocery deliveries using driverless cars outside of Phoenix.

The biggest U.S. grocery chain said the project will begin Thursday in Scottsdale at a Fry’s supermarket, which is owned by Kroger.

Same-day or next-day delivery orders can be made online or via a mobile app.

The Toyota Prius will be used for the deliveries, manned by a human to monitor its performance. During phase two in the fall, deliveries will be made by a completely autonomous vehicle, called an R1, with no human aboard.

Kroger Co., based in Cincinnati, is partnering with Nuro, a Silicon Valley startup founded by two engineers who worked on autonomous vehicles at Google.

That Google project is called Waymo, which started its own pilot program last month at Walmart stores in Phoenix.

Rare Nickel Sells for $4.5M at Auction

A rare nickel has sold for $4.5 million at a Philadelphia auction.

Stack’s Bowers Galleries sold the Eliasberg 1913 Liberty Head nickel Wednesday night during the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money at the Philadelphia Convention Center.

It is named for financier Louis E. Eliasberg, who bought the coin in 1948 and amassed one of the greatest coin collections in U.S. history. The Eliasberg 1913 Liberty Head nickel is one of only five ever produced and is considered the finest-graded example of its kind.

Stack’s Bowers Galleries president Brian Kendrella says the new owner “now possesses one of the rarest, most valuable United States coins” and one of only three examples in private hands.

The buyer’s name was not disclosed.

The fair continues through Saturday.

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