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    A Paris court rejected a compensation claim Friday related to the 1994 sinking of an Estonian ferry, which remains one of Europe's deadliest maritime disasters. The court ruled on the claim from more than 1,000 survivors and relatives of victims of the accident in which a car ferry connecting the Estonian capital of Tallinn with Stockholm sank on Sept. 28, 1994, killing 852 people. They sought 40.8 million euros ($46 million) from the French agency Bureau Veritas that deemed the ship seaworthy and the German shipbuilder Meyer-Werft. But the French court in the western suburb of Nanterre threw out the claim, citing a lack of 'intentional fault' attributable to either company in the case, the second-deadliest peacetime sinking of a European ship after the Titanic. Henning Witte, a German lawyer who represents relatives in the case, told that Swedish news agency TT that the ruling was, 'of course, a disappointment.' 'The circus continues. It is absolutely scandalous how the events around the Estonia disaster are being ignored, and especially the relatives,' Witte said. Raivo Hellerma, a spokesman for Memento Mare, a group that represents mainly Estonian victims of the disaster, was more stoic, saying 'we had no expectations' in the case. Hellerman lost his wife in the sinking. An investigation that concluded in 1997 found that the locks on the ferry's front, the prow door, had not held up to the strain of the waves, causing water to flood the car deck. The case has been making its way through French courts since 1996, and had been retried on appeal twice. ___ Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.
  • American Express posted a 9% gain in second-quarter profits on Friday, helped by more of its cardmembers carrying a credit card balance and increased spending on its namesake cards. The New York company said it earned a profit of $1.76 billion, or $2.07 a share. That's up from earnings of $1.62 billion, or $1.84 a share, in the same period a year earlier. Analysts were looking for AmEx to earn $2.03 a share, according to FactSet. The improving economy has convinced more U.S. consumers to spend, and take on increasing amounts of credit card debt, which benefits AmEx's bottom line. Its cardmembers spent $311.7 billion on its cards worldwide in the quarter, up from $296.5 billion a year earlier. Meanwhile individual U.S. cardmember spending rose to $5,445 in the quarter, up from $5,275 in 2018. American Express makes most of its money off of fees it charges merchants to accept their cards. The more money spent by consumers at these merchants, the more AmEx earns in processing fees. AmEx has also been encouraging its customers to carry a balance, even on its traditional cards that typically had to be paid off at the end of each month. The company had $72.6 billion in loans to customers at the end of the second quarter, up from $66.3 billion a year earlier. Other financial companies have been reporting similar gains in their consumer banking businesses. JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, two of American Express' biggest competitors, both reported higher credit card revenue and interest revenue. Total revenue for the company, net of interest expense, was $10.84 billion, up from $10.00 billion a year earlier.
  • Bulgaria's parliament has approved the purchase of eight new American fighter jets as part of a plan to replace the Balkan country's aging Soviet-built jets and to bring its air force in line with NATO standards. Lawmakers voted 123-78 on Friday in favor of a government motion to buy the eight F-16 Block 70 aircraft, which will be the biggest military procurement in post-Communist Bulgaria. Two legislators abstained from the vote. The $1.25 billion deal includes the jets, ammunition, equipment and pilot training. The six single-seat and two two-seat F-16s would be delivered by 2023. The defense minister will sign the contract with producer Lockheed Martin. Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004 and the European Union three years later.
  • American Express is reporting a profit hike of more than 8% from the second-quarter. The company on Friday posted net income of $1.76 billion, or $2.07. That's a 2-cent beat on Wall Street projections, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research. Revenue of $10.84 billion also edged out expectations. in the period, also beating Street forecasts. Eight analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $10.82 billion. Shares edged slightly lower, however, before the opening bell after the company stuck to per-share annual guidance of between $7.85 and $8.35. _____ Portions of this story were generated by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on AXP at https://www.zacks.com/ap/AXP
  • The Latest on Britain's impending departure from the European Union (all times local): 12:45 p.m. German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she trusts that Britain will 'find its way' on Brexit under a new prime minister, but isn't saying whether she advocates a further delay to its exit from the European Union or a new referendum. Merkel said at her annual summer news conference Friday in Berlin that a declaration on future relations between Britain and the EU could be refined. But she indicated no readiness to budge on the basic divorce deal that the British Parliament has rejected three times, saying 'the withdrawal agreement is the withdrawal agreement.' She also defended an arrangement intended to keep an open Irish border after Brexit, which both British leadership candidates want to ditch. Asked whether she favors another British referendum on its EU membership, Merkel said she won't interfere. She added: 'I trust very firmly that Britain will find its way. It is a proud, great nation and it will remain our partner even if Britain is no longer a member of the European Union.' ___ 10 a.m. British lawmakers were meeting with the European Union's chief Brexit negotiator, seeking an iron-clad guarantee that the 1.3 million U.K. citizens in the bloc won't have their rights removed and their lives disrupted if Britain leaves the EU without a deal. The rights of U.K. citizens living in the 27 other EU nations, and of the more than 3 million EU citizens in Britain, are one of the thorniest issues of the Brexit negotiations. Their rights to live, work and study are protected under an agreement struck between the two sides — but the divorce agreement has been rejected by Britain's Parliament, raising the prospect of a no-deal Brexit. The U.K. is due to leave the bloc on Oct. 31, and both men vying to take over as prime minister next week, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, say it's imperative that Brexit happens, with or without a deal. Conservative lawmaker Alberto Costa, who is leading the cross-party delegation meeting EU negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels, said 'If there's no agreement, there's no protection.' ___ Follow AP's full coverage of Brexit and the Conservative Party leadership race at: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit
  • AB Inbev, the world's biggest brewer with brands like Budweiser and Corona, said Friday it is selling its unit in Australia to reduce debt after it decided against listing shares in Asia. The company is selling Carlton & United Breweries for $16 billion AUD ($11.3 billion) to Japanese rival Asahi Group. AB Inbev, which is based in Belgium, said it will use almost all the money from the deal to pay down debt. The company has accrued a mountain of debt - about $100 billion - after going on an acquisition spree, including buying Anheuser-Busch in 2008 and its next closest rival, SABMiller, in 2015. The SABMiller deal, which was worth some $107 billion at the time, gave the company broader reach in fast-growing markets in Asia and Africa at a time when consumers were shifting toward smaller brands like microbrews. It gave it almost a third of the global beer market and put established brands that had formerly been rivals under the same roof - American icons Budweiser and Miller, for example. AB Inbev has sought to shed some brands to slim down its debt load and had planned to list some shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange to further bolster its finances. But it said this month that it no longer planned to list those shares due to tough market conditions.
  • British lawmakers met the European Union's chief Brexit negotiator on Friday, seeking an iron-clad guarantee that the 1.3 million U.K. citizens in the bloc won't have their rights removed and their lives disrupted if Britain leaves the EU without a deal. The rights of U.K. citizens living in the 27 other EU nations, and those of the more than 3 million EU citizens in Britain, are one of the thorniest issues of the Brexit negotiations. Their rights to live, work and study are protected under an agreement struck between the two sides — but the divorce agreement has been rejected by Britain's Parliament, raising the prospect of a no-deal Brexit. The U.K. is due to leave the bloc on Oct. 31, and both men vying to take over as prime minister next week, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, say it's imperative that Brexit happens, with or without a deal. Conservative lawmaker Alberto Costa, who led the cross-party delegation that met EU negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels, said 'if there's no agreement, there's no protection.' 'British nationals will potentially lose access to pension entitlement, lose access to health care entitlement, lose access to welfare entitlement and a whole gamut of other issues,' he said. Talks between the British government and the EU on guaranteeing citizens' rights if the U.K. crashes out of the bloc have failed to produce a breakthrough. EU leaders insist the withdrawal agreement can't be chopped into chunks — Britain must accept all of it or none. Some EU member states have said they will preserve Britons' rights, but only if the U.K. reciprocates. Britain says all EU citizens living in the country can stay, but has not enshrined that right in law. 'People assume it's fine, everything's dandy . citizens' rights, of course they're going to protect them, that goes without saying,' Costa said. 'But we have no extraterritorial powers to pass legislation to protect British citizens in the EU. That can only be done with an agreement with the EU.' The winner of the contest to become Britain's next prime minister — widely expected to be Johnson — is due to be announced Tuesday. Costa said whoever wins must ensure citizens' rights are upheld even if there is no Brexit deal. German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday reiterated the EU's long-held stance that it will not renegotiate the divorce agreement it struck with outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May. 'The withdrawal agreement is the withdrawal agreement,' she said. 'I trust very firmly that Britain will find its way,' May said in Berlin at her annual summer news conference. 'It is a proud, great nation and it will remain our partner even if Britain is no longer a member of the European Union.' ___ Jill Lawless in London and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this story. ___ Follow AP's full coverage of Brexit and the Conservative Party leadership race at: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit
  • The price of oil rose on Friday after the U.S. said it had destroyed an Iranian drone near the Persian Gulf, where a lot of the world's oil is shipped through. Stock markets were largely stable as investors monitor earnings and the ongoing trade talks between China and the U.S. Energy prices were ratcheted higher after U.S. President Donald said a U.S. warship had downed an Iranian drone that had been threatening. While Iran denied the incident, it's the latest incident to increase tensions and uncertainty in the region, where oil tankers have been attacked or threatened. About 20% of all oil traded worldwide passes through the Persian Gulf, so investors are aware of the potential for disruptions to ship traffic. The U.S. benchmark for crude oil advanced 71 cents, or 1.3%, to $56.01 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the international oil standard, picked up 98 cents, or 1.6%, to $62.91 per barrel. Stock markets were mixed, with Britain's FTSE 100 shedding 0.1% to 7,484 and the CAC 40 in Paris falling by the same rate to 5,543. In Germany, the DAX rose less than 0.1% to 12,236. Wall Street looked set for small gains, with the future for the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.2% and the future for the S&P 500 adding 0.1%. Reports that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spoke with their Chinese counterparts as planned, with more talks to come, helped ease some concerns over the deepening trade war between Washington and Beijing. The standoff over China's longstanding trade surpluses and its policies aimed at building up advanced high-tech industries has added to concerns over slowing demand and weaker Chinese growth. Expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will move quickly to cut interest rates have also helped buoy sentiment recently. Comments by the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, John Williams, suggesting central banks need to 'take swift action' when conditions turn adverse, have whetting investors' appetites for buying, analysts said. 'Investors are highly sensitive to dovish comments from Fed presidents these days, as they are trying to figure out whether the Fed would lower its interest rates by 50 basis points by the end of this month,' Ipek Ozkardeskaya of London Capital Group said in a report. 'Given that a 50-basis-point cut would trigger a further rally in global equities, any remark of dovish nature translates immediately into higher asset prices,' she said. In Asian trading, Japan's Nikkei 225 index jumped 2% to 21,466.99 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 1.1% to 28,765.40. The Shanghai Composite index rose 0.8% to 2,924.20, while in South Korea, the Kospi added 1.4% to 2,094.36. India's Sensex slipped 1.3% to 38,390.88. Shares rose in Taiwan and Southeast Asia. Investors are looking ahead to corporate earnings. So far, in the U.S. the results have been mixed, though only about 13% of S&P 500 companies have reported, according to FactSet. Analysts expect profits to fall 2.4% overall by the time all reports are tallied. In currencies, the dollar rose to 107.60 Japanese yen from 107.30 yen on Thursday. The euro weakened to $1.1239 from $1.1279.
  • President Donald Trump has selected lawyer Eugene Scalia, the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, to be his new labor secretary. Trump tweeted news of the planned nomination on Thursday evening, less than a week after his previous secretary, Alexander Acosta, resigned amid renewed criticism of his handling of a 2008 secret plea deal with wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein. The financier was indicted this month on charges of sexually abusing underage girls and pleaded not guilty. 'Gene has led a life of great success in the legal and labor field and is highly respected not only as a lawyer, but as a lawyer with great experience' working 'with labor and everyone else,' Trump wrote of Scalia, who is currently a partner in the Washington office of the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher firm. In private practice, Scalia has been known for his challenges to federal regulations on behalf of corporate clients. Scalia's law firm biography cites his 'success bringing legal challenges to federal agency actions.' If confirmed, Scalia will be returning to the department where he previously served as solicitor in President George W. Bush's administration, overseeing litigation and legal advice on rulemakings and administrative law. He has also worked for the U.S. Department of Justice. From 1992-93, Scalia served as a special assistant to Attorney General William Barr during his first stint as attorney general. Trump had previously announced that Acosta would be succeeded in an acting capacity by his deputy, Patrick Pizzella. Within hours of Trump's announcement, divisions surfaced between Republicans and Democrats about Scalia's nomination. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York tweeted that Trump was 'missing an opportunity to nominate a fighter for workers, like a union member, to be America's next Labor Secretary. Instead, he has again chosen someone who has proven to put corporate interests over those of worker rights.' Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas tweeted that Scalia was 'an outstanding lawyer who has vigorously defended the Constitution over a long career in government and private practice. I'm confident he'll be a champion for working Americans against red tape and burdensome regulation as Labor Secretary.' Scalia did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. Acosta's resignation extended the record turnover at the highest levels of Trump's administration, with acting secretaries at key departments, including Defense and Homeland Security. Roughly two-thirds of the Cabinet has turned over by the two-and-a-half-year mark of Trump's term.
  • A revised settlement for Motel 6 guests who say the national chain invaded their privacy by giving their information to immigration authorities is returning to court for a judge's review. A federal judge is to decide Friday on the proposal increasing to $10 million the total amount available for claims. Any remainder will go to non-profit migrant advocacy groups outlined in the settlement. The settlement also expands the class to include guests at Motel 6 between February 2015 and June 2019. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund sued Motel 6 in January 2018, saying that giving guests' information to immigration agents without a warrant violated privacy and civil rights laws. The chain's owner G6 Hospitality LLC in Carrollton, Texas, said it later issued a directive banning the practice.