Canadian Envoy Says She Is ‘Encouraged’ by NAFTA Talks

Canada’s top trade negotiator says she’s “encouraged” by ongoing talks aimed at overhauling the North American Free Trade Agreement. Leaving a Thursday morning session with U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters, “”We continue to be encouraged by the constructive atmosphere that I think both countries are bringing to the table.”

Microsoft to Contractors: Give New Parents Paid Leave

Microsoft says it’s requiring its contractors to offer their U.S. employees at least 12 weeks paid leave to care for a new child. It affects businesses that supply Microsoft with everything from janitorial and landscaping services to software consulting. It’s common for tech firms to offer generous family leave benefits for their own engineers, but experts say it’s rare to require similar benefits for janitors, landscapers and other contract workers.

US Consumer Spending up a Solid 0.4 Percent in July

Consumer spending, bolstered by strong job growth and tax cuts, rose a solid 0.4 percent in July, the sixth straight month of healthy gains, while a key measure of inflation posted the largest annual increase in more than six years. The Commerce Department says the July spending gain followed a similar 0.4 percent rise in June.

China Says It Will Move at Own Pace Despite Us Pressure

China says it will make economic changes at its own pace regardless of U.S. pressure and that their spiraling dispute over technology can only be settled through talks as equals. A Commerce Ministry spokesman gave no indication of possible plans for more negotiations after talks last week in Washington ended without progress. The two sides have raised tariffs on $50 billion of each other’s products. The Trump administration is poised to add penalties on another $200 billion of Chinese goods.

Mexico-US Trade Deal Unlikely to Boost Low Mexican Wages

Many in the U.S. government, and even some in Mexico, say the new trade agreement between the two countries will help increase the extremely low wages in Mexico’s auto industry. But activists say the trade agreement won’t do that until Mexico changes its labor laws and eliminates pro-company “protection contracts” that effectively leave workers helpless.

Campbell Soup Plans to Sell International, Fresh Units

Campbell Soup plans to put up international and fresh units for sale and focus on its domestic business. The company plans to use proceeds to reduce debt.

Average 30-Year Mortgage Rate Inches up to 4.52 Percent

Long-term U.S. mortgage rates ticked up this week as borrowing costs are meaningfully higher than a year ago. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages rose slightly to 4.52 percent from 4.51 percent last week. The rate averaged 3.82 percent a year ago.

Abercrombie & Fitch’s 2q Sales Fall Short; Shares Drop

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. reported that sales in the second-quarter fell short of Wall Street estimates, as its Hollister division sold out of its summer clothing too soon in an unusually hot summer in Europe. Shares fell more than 17 percent Thursday, even as the teen retailer’s adjusted profit beat Wall Street expectations.

Canada Court Halts Pacific Pipeline in Blow to Trudeau

Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal has halted the contentious Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that would nearly triple the flow of oil from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific Coast. It’s a setback that comes just as the government is buying the project. The court is ordering the country’s National Energy Board to redo its review of the pipeline, saying the original study was flawed and lacked adequate consultations with First Nations peoples.

Keeping Score

Stocks fell on Wall Street after Bloomberg News reported that the Trump administration could put tariffs on $200 billion in imports from China as soon as next week. Industrial and materials companies fell and a dip in interest rates sent banks lower.

The S&P 500 index lost 12.91 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,901.13. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 137.65 points, or 0.5 percent, to 25,986.92. The Nasdaq composite slid 21.32 points, or 0.3 percent, to 8,088.36. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks dipped 2.40 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,732.35.

Benchmark U.S. crude gained 1.4 percent to $70.25 a barrel in New York, while Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 0.8 percent to $77.77 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 1.8 percent to $2.14 a gallon. Heating oil inched up 0.3 percent to $2.25 a gallon. Natural gas added 0.4 percent to $2.87 per 1,000 cubic feet.