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Posted: Monday, August 25, 2014 1:06 pm

FINANCIAL MARKETS

S&P 500 trades above 2,000 points for first time

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. financial markets moved higher in midday trading, edging the Standard & Poor's 500 index past 2,000 points for the first time.

Investors shrugged off lackluster data on new home sales and focused instead on the latest round of corporate deals.

Burger King soared on news it was in talks to buy Tim Hortons of Canada. The deal could cut Burger King's tax bill if the company moves its headquarters up north.

BURGER KING-TIM HORTONS

Burger King in talks to buy Tim Hortons

MIAMI (AP) — Burger King is in talks to buy doughnut chain Tim Hortons and create a new holding company headquartered in Canada, a move that could shave its tax bill.

Such an overseas shift, called a tax inversion, has become increasingly popular among U.S. companies and a hot political issue.

In a tax inversion, a U.S. company reorganizes in a country with a lower tax rate by acquiring or merging with a company there. Inversions also allow companies to transfer money earned overseas to the parent company without paying additional U.S. taxes. That money can be used to reinvest in the business or to fund dividends and buybacks, among other things.

Shares of Burger King and Tim Hortons both jumped 17 percent before the opening bell, headed toward all-time highs.

NEW-HOME SALES

Sales of US new homes fall in July

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer Americans bought new homes in July, evidence that the housing sector is struggling to gain traction more than five years into the economic recovery.

The Commerce Department says new-home sales fell 2.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 412,000. The report also revised up the June sales rate to 422,000 from 406,000.

New-home sales plunged 30.8 percent in the Northeast, followed by smaller drop-offs in the Midwest and West. Purchases were up 8.1 percent in the South, a region that usually accounts for more than half of all new-home sales.

JAPAN-SONY

Sony network hacked, exec's flight diverted

DALLAS (AP) — Hackers infiltrated Sony's PlayStation Network and disrupted the travel plans of a top company executive by going on Twitter to suggest that there was a bomb on his plane.

Sony Corp. says American Airlines cut short the executive's flight on Sunday and made an unplanned landing in Phoenix.

A Twitter account called Lizard Squad had tweeted to American Airlines that there might be explosives on the plane carrying John Smedley, the president of Sony Online Entertainment, which makes video games.

Sony says the PlayStation Network's online services were unavailable from Sunday through Monday afternoon Tokyo time. While Lizard Squad tweeted that it was responsible for the hack that caused the system outage, Sony says it remains unclear who compromised.

GERMANY-ECONOMY

Talk of ECB action grows as European economy fades

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Worries about the economy are rippling through Europe.

Downbeat data have pushed the European Central Bank closer to more drastic action to keep the hesitant recovery from stalling completely.

Meanwhile, open feuding in the French government about how to break out of economic stagnation saw President Francois Hollande dissolve the cabinet and order Prime Minister Manuel Valls to form a new team.

Concerns had grown so strong that by Monday investors were willing to bet that the Central Bank will intervene with new stimulus measures. Stocks in Europe rallied.

CHINA-ZIMBABWE

Zimbabwe seeks China's aid as Mugabe meets Xi

BEIJING (AP) — Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on a visit to China. Mugabe is hoping the long-time ally and economic giant can help the African nation's ailing economy.

Mugabe, criticized in the West nations for human rights violations, was welcomed with a 21-gun salute at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

The leaders oversaw the signing of a number of agreements, including on economic, trade and tourism cooperation and emergency food donations and concessional loans from China to the southern African nation. No details were immediately released.

INDIA-COAL SCANDAL

Top India court says coal allocations were illegal

NEW DELHI (AP) — India's Supreme Court said today that all government allocations of coal reserves to private companies from 1993 to 2010 were conducted illegally. The court will hold a hearing to decide whether to cancel them.

More than 200 coal blocks, or areas of unmined reserves, were allocated during that period to companies for their use in power plants or steel or cement factories. The companies were allowed to sell excess coal on the open market, but the court said commercial sales from the reserves must be suspended until it makes its decision at a hearing on Sept. 1.

The scandal, along with other high-profile cases of alleged corruption, were seen as a key reason for the Congress party's loss in this year's elections.

MEAT RECALL-CRIMINAL CHARGES

Guilty plea in California meat recall case

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A co-owner of a Northern California slaughterhouse accused of processing cows with cancer has pleaded guilty to a criminal charge.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Robert Singleton, co-owner of Petaluma-based Rancho Feeding Corp., entered the plea on Friday to aiding and abetting in the distribution of adulterated, misbranded and uninspected meat. He has agreed to work with prosecutors who have filed charges against the company's other owner and two employees.

They have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors say the company slaughtered dozens of cows with skin cancer of the eye, and plant workers swapped the heads of diseased cattle with those of healthy cows.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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