ECONOMY

In U.S., core inflation hits a six-month high

A key measure of U.S. consumer prices unexpectedly accelerated in July in a broad-based advance, signaling that inflation may be firming as the Federal Reserve debates whether to lower interest rates further.

The core consumer price index (CPI), which excludes food and energy, rose 0.3 percent from June and 2.2 percent from a year earlier, according to a Labor Department report Tuesday. Both gains exceeded the median estimate of economists, while the broader CPI advanced 0.3 percent on the month and 1.8 percent annually.

Faster inflation may strengthen the hand of policymakers who are reluctant to keep lowering borrowing costs following last month’s quarter-point reduction, as employment and consumer spending remain solid. At the same time, the latest ratcheting-up of U.S.-China trade tensions and a deepening global economic slowdown are weighing on the outlook, with investors pricing in two to three more moves this year.

The 2.2 percent annual gain in the core CPI followed 2.1 percent in June and marked the fastest increase since January.

— Bloomberg News

RETAIL

H&M backs businesses that promote causes

H&M said Tuesday that it had become the latest retail giant to back businesses with a mission to do good.

The world’s second-biggest fashion retailer said it will sell homewares made by two social enterprises — businesses that aim to do good as well as make a profit — in H&M Home and Arket stores in five European countries from late August.

“By offering products made by social entrepreneurs, we want to make it possible for our customers to be change makers,” said Cecilia Tiblad Berntsson, social sustainability manager for H&M Group.

H&M has selected businesses that create jobs for marginalized people who might otherwise struggle with employment. Employee-owned Bangalore Greenkraft in India makes lampshades from banana leaves, and All Across Africa hires artisans in Rwanda and Uganda to make baskets and trays, which will be sold in Britain, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Sweden.

The retailer said profits will go to the social enterprises.

— Reuters

ALSO IN BUSINESS

United Airlines is setting an earlier cutoff time when pilots must stop drinking alcohol before flights. The airline is telling pilots they must abstain from alcohol for 12 hours before flights, up from a previous ban lasting eight hours. The change in the "bottle-to-throttle" rule comes after two United pilots were arrested in Scotland and charged with suspicion of being under the influence before a flight to the United States. The eight-hour limit complied with Federal Aviation Administration rules.

CIT Group is buying Mutual of Omaha Bank for $1 billion to expand its commercial banking operations. The deal would mean the end to Mutual of Omaha's foray into the banking sector, initiated in 2007. About $4.5 billion of Mutual's $6.8 billion in deposits come from homeowner associations and other community groups. Chief executive James T. Blackledge said the deal will allow Mutual to focus more on its core insurance businesses.

Environmental groups that promote renewable energy want North Carolina regulators to cancel a key state water quality permit issued to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Leaders of the North Carolina Climate Solutions Coalition and Friends of the Earth announced Tuesday their petition with the state Department of Environmental Quality asking that the January 2018 permit be revoked. Construction of the 600-mile pipeline — designed to carry natural gas from West Virginia into Virginia and North Carolina — is already delayed because of legal challenges. Dominion Energy, Duke Energy and Southern Co. are building the pipeline.

Airbus is stretching
its lead over Boeing in aircraft deliveries as Boeing continues to be held back by the grounding of its 737 Max. Chicago-based Boeing said Tuesday it delivered 19 planes in July, down from 39 in July 2018. It also reported that it received no new orders for the Max in July — the fourth straight month without an order. European rival Airbus reported 69 deliveries last month, including 52 A320neo and A321neo jets that compete with the Max. This year through July, Boeing has delivered 258 airliners. That's down 38 percent from a year earlier and far behind Airbus's 458 deliveries.

— From news services