US Banks Made More Than $60B in Profits Last Quarter

Federal regulators are saying that U.S. banks set a record by making more than $60 billion in profits in the second quarter, up more than 25 percent from a year earlier.

Banks have been able to charge more interest on loans in recent months, and received a substantial boost from the tax law enacted last year that lowered corporate income tax rates.

There are more than 5,500 insured banks in the U.S. but the lion’s share of the profits were earned by the nation’s largest banks, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said Thursday.

Nine banks that have more than $250 billion in assets earned roughly half of all profits, while banks with assets between $10 billion and $250 billion earned $21.7 billion in profits collectively.

US New-Home Sales Fell 1.75% in July

Sales of new U.S. homes slumped 1.7 percent in July, the second straight monthly decline as the broader housing market appears to have lost some of its momentum despite an otherwise solid economy.

The Commerce Department says newly built homes sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 627,000 last month, down from 638,000 in June and 654,000 in May. Despite the slowdown, new-home sales have risen 7.2 percent year-to-date.

Steady hiring gains and signs of stronger economic growth have boosted demand for housing. But higher mortgage rates and a tight inventory of homes on the market has made affordability a challenge for many would-be buyers.

The average sales price has risen 5.8 percent from a year ago to $394,300.

Sears to Close another 46 unprofitable stores in November

Sears Holdings Corp. is closing another 13 Kmart stores and 33 Sears stores as sales shrink and losses grow.

The ailing company said liquidation sales at the 46 unprofitable stores marked for closure will start Aug. 30, according to the company website. They’ll close in November.

The company said Thursday it informed its workers.

In January, Sears said it was closing 100 stores. It announced in May that it was closing another 100.

The move comes as Sears is considering a bid from CEO Eddie Lampert’s hedge fund ESL Investments to acquire its jewel Kenmore appliances from the company for $400 million.

As of May, the retailer had about 800 stores, down from about 1,000 at the end of last year and far below the 2012 peak of 4,000 stores.

Russian Ruble at Lowest Since 2016 on US sanctions fears

The Russian ruble briefly fell Thursday to its lowest level against the dollar since April 2016 amid fears of new economic sanctions by the United States.

Earlier, the ruble had fallen by around 2 percent to trade at nearly 69 to the dollar, but later recovered part of its losses to trade at 68.3 after the Russian Central Bank said it would suspend foreign-currency purchases.

The Central Bank said it wouldn’t buy foreign currency until the end of September “to reduce the volatility on financial markets.” An earlier foreign-currency buy announced this week by the Central Bank had increased downward pressure on the ruble.

The latest drop in the value of the Russian currency came amid talk that the U.S. was readying further sanctions. On Tuesday, the U.S. slapped sanctions on two Russian shipping companies over alleged oil trading with North Korea.

It could also impose much broader sanctions as a consequence of the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal in Britain in March.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called sanctions against Russia “counterproductive and senseless” following talks Wednesday with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto.

The last time the ruble reached similar lows was in early 2016 when oil prices fell sharply. Russia is heavily-dependent on revenues from its oil exports.

JOANN Fabric Creates Online Petition Over Tariffs

The national chain JOANN Fabric and Craft has created an online petition asking customers to support the privately held company’s efforts to obtain exemptions for tariffs on products imported from China.

A spokeswoman for the Hudson, Ohio-based chain said Thursday more than 20,000 people have signed the petition since Monday.

JOANN’s Amanda Hayes says the 25 percent tariffs target hundreds of imported products from China and sold to U.S. customers, with the biggest “hit” on fabrics, fleece and yarn.

Hayes says about 20 percent of JOANN’s customers are small businesses and charitable organizations that buy material from the company to create handmade products for sale.

Hayes says no U.S. companies can provide JOANN with the quantity and quality of material it sells online and at its 870 retail stores.

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