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Last Update: Friday, July 25, 2014 3:26 AM EDT

WORLD MARKETS
Asian stocks bolstered by US economic data

Most major Asian stock markets rose today after U.S. unemployment claims fell to an eight-year low and tensions over the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet eased.

The generally positive sentiment was fueled by favorable U.S. jobs data indicating that the world's largest economy is continuing to recover. On Thursday, U.S. unemployment claims fell to an eight-year low, declining by 19,000 to 284,000.

Japan reports its inflation rate eased slightly in June as a sales tax stunted demand.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell below $102 a barrel.

The dollar inched down against the euro and was unchanged against the yen.



ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD
Major business and economic events scheduled for Friday:

The economic data and corporate financial results slow today, with just one government report on the schedule. The Commerce Department releases durable goods for June this morning.

Orders for durable goods fell 1 percent in May as demand for military equipment fell sharply. Excluding defense-related goods, orders actually rose, and orders for core capital goods, a category that signals business investment, also increased. Factories reported higher demand in May for steel and other metals, computers, and autos.



AVIATION MEETING
Aviation officials to meet on plane shot down

An aviation official says global aviation leaders will meet in Montreal next week to initiate discussions on a plan to address safety and security issues raised by the shoot-down of a Malaysia Airlines jet over eastern Ukraine, as well as two other air crashes.

The official said the International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. agency, will host the meeting on Tuesday. Other organizations scheduled to participate include the International Air Transport Association, which represents airlines; the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization; and the Airports Council International.

Another meeting is also planned for February. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak about the issue by name.

Besides the Malaysia plane, airliners also have crashed in Taiwan and Mali in bad weather over the past week.



FAST FOOD WORKERS-CONVENTION
Fast food workers prepare to escalate wage demands

Fast food workers from around the country will gather this weekend in Chicago to discuss how to escalate their campaign for higher wages and union representation.

About 1,300 workers are expected at a convention in suburban Chicago Friday and Saturday. They say they can't provide for their family on minimum wage and want paid sick days and other benefits.

Industry officials say a $15-an-hour wage would hurt jobs, and that the solution is more education and job training.

Kendall Fells is an organizing director of the national effort who works for the Service Employees International Union.

He says higher-profile protests are coming that may include civil disobedience. So far, most of the protests have included one-day strikes and a protest outside this year's McDonald's Corp. shareholder meeting.



HONG KONG-SUSPECT MEAT
Chicken off McDonald's HK menu after food scandal

McDonald's restaurants in Hong Kong have taken chicken nuggets and chicken burgers off the menu after a mainland Chinese supplier was accused of selling expired meat.

The fast food chain said late Thursday that it "suspended relevant food ingredients" at Hong Kong outlets in light of the scandal surrounding Shanghai Husi Food Co.

Chinese authorities detained five Husi employees after a TV station reported last weekend that the company repackaged and sold meat past its use-by date.

McDonald's in Hong Kong said it used chicken from a Husi factory, but it wasn't the Shanghai factory at the center of the initial allegations against the company.

The government of the semiautonomous Chinese territory said that imports of Husi products would be suspended as the investigation continued.



JAPAN-ECONOMY
Japan inflation eases in June under tax hike blow

Japan reports its inflation rate eased slightly in June as a sales tax stunted demand.

The government reported Friday that the core consumer price index, which does not include prices for fresh foods, rose 3.3 percent in June, down from the 3.4 percent in May.

But factoring out surging energy prices, such as a 10.6 percent rise in gas prices, the increase was 2.3 percent.

Excluding the direct effect of the April 1 increase in the sales tax to 8 percent from 5 percent, the inflation rate was 1.3 percent, the Bank of Japan says.

It has set a 2 percent inflation target, aiming to break Japan out of years of deflation, but forecasts that the rate will remain just above 1 percent for the foreseeable future.



CHINA-QUALCOMM
Report: China to declare Qualcomm a monopoly

A government newspaper says Chinese regulators have concluded Qualcomm Inc., one of the biggest makers of chips used in mobile devices, has a monopoly.

Citing a planning agency official, the China Daily on Friday said the results of an investigation into Qualcomm will be released soon. It cited the official as saying Qualcomm "has a monopoly" but gave no indication what possible penalties or orders to change its business practices the U.S. company might face.

Chinese regulators were investigating whether Qualcomm abused its dominant market position by charging excessive fees for technology.

China's government has complained about the high cost of licenses for foreign technology used by the country's manufacturers of mobile phones, personal computers and other electronics.



CHINA-EARNS-BAIDU
Baidu profit up 34 percent as mobile service grows

Baidu Inc., which operates China's most popular search engine, says its quarterly profit rose 34 percent over a year earlier as its mobile business grew.

Baidu said Friday it earned 3.5 billion yuan ($571.1 million) in the three months ended June 30. Revenue rose 58.5 percent to 11.9 billion yuan ($1.9 billion).

Baidu and other Internet companies are building mobile e-commerce and other services as Chinese users shift rapidly to going online using smartphones and tablet computers. Baidu dominates traditional Internet search but is a much smaller presence in mobile.

The contribution of mobile to Baidu's total revenue rose above 30 percent for the first time, chairman Robin Li said in a statement.

Li said, "We had a great quarter as we continued to build very strong mobile momentum."



EARNS-VISA
Visa posts higher 3Q profit, revenue

Visa says its profit climbed 11 percent in its fiscal third quarter versus a year earlier, aided by solid growth in payments volume, service revenue and transactions.

The results beat or matched Wall Street expectations, but the company reduced its earnings outlook for the year. CEO Charlie Scharf notes issues including a stronger U.S. dollar and slow growth in international transactions.

Visa is the world's largest processor of debit and credit card payments, and its results are closely watched because they can be a window into the buying habits and financial health of consumers.

Visa's transactions grew 6 percent in the April-June quarter, echoing data that show increased spending by consumers in recent months as unemployment declines.



EARNS-AMAZON
Amazon shares fall on 2Q loss

Amazon.com has reported a deeper-than-expected second quarter loss as expenses outpaced a surge in revenue.

Amazon has long focused on spending the money it makes to grow and expand into new areas. In one of its most high-profile moves, Amazon is introducing its own smartphone, the Fire, which starts selling Friday.

The company has been heavily investing in services for its loyalty program, Prime, which costs $99 a year, and includes free two-day shipping on many items. It has added a grocery delivery services and music streaming for Prime Members as well as offering original TV shows and apps. It's also expanded Sunday deliveries and recently began offering a set-top video streaming box.

Amazon doesn't disclose how many Prime members there are but says it added more Prime members in the second quarter than it did in the second quarter last year, despite increasing the cost by $20 earlier this year.

Investors have been accepting of Amazon's thin profit and focus on revenue growth in the past. But shares fell in aftermarket trading.



TAXES-HEALTH OVERHAUL
Feds cap fines for not buying health insurance

Federal officials have capped the amount of money scofflaws will be forced to pay if they don't buy insurance this year under the new health care law.

The caps are $2,448 per person and $12,240 for a family of five. The amount is equal to the national average annual premium for a bronze-level health plan.

The penalty for the first year starts at $95 per person and can rise to as much as 1 percent of annual income. The latest figure limits what the government can charge people using the personal income computation. The penalty is due when people file their 2014 taxes.

Conservative lawmakers and groups that are critical of the Affordable Care Act encouraged consumers to skip buying insurance, arguing it would be cheaper to pay the $95 penalty, but often failed to mention the 1 percent clause.



ANIMAL FEED-ANTIBIOTICS
Ruling on antibiotics in livestock reversed

A federal appeals court in New York has thrown out a decision ordering the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to hold public hearings on the widespread use of antibiotics in livestock.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the ruling Thursday.

It reversed a decision in 2012 by a district court that sided with several health and consumer organizations.

The health groups want the FDA to withdraw approval of using penicillin and tetracycline in animal feed. They say the practice can promote the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The appeals court found that the FDA isn't required to hold the hearings because it's made no official finding that the antibiotics pose a health risk.



NOVARTIS-BIOSIMILAR DRUG
FDA reviewing what could be first biosimilar drug

The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing research data on what could become the first U.S.-approved "biosimilar" drug, a cheaper, sort-of generic version of a biologic drug.

Five years after Congress passed a law allowing biosimilars, for the first time the FDA has accepted an application to sell a similar, but not identical, version of a biologic drug.

The FDA is evaluating Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG's application to sell a biosimilar version of Neupogen, a big seller made by Amgen Inc. Neupogen, known chemically as filgrastim, treats a dangerous decrease in infection-fighting white blood cells, common in cancer patients getting certain treatments.

Sandoz, the generic division of Novartis, already sells three biosimilar drugs, including filgrastim, in about 60 other countries. The FDA should make its decision in 10 months.










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