Germany’s Bayer reports rise in number of Roundup lawsuits

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Bayer says Roundup lawsuits now total 18,400

Germany’s Bayer says the number of plaintiffs who have filed lawsuits against subsidiary Monsanto over its Roundup weed killer in the United States swelled by 5,000 in the second quarter to about 18,400. Bayer, which detailed the total number of plaintiffs as of July 11 in its quarterly report released Tuesday, said that ‘‘we continue to believe that we have meritorious defenses’’ and will ‘‘defend ourselves vigorously.’’ The company said that it also faces five Canadian lawsuits seeking class-action certification. Plaintiffs claim that Roundup caused cancer and rulings in three cases in the United States have gone against Monsanto. Bayer argues that studies have established that glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient, is safe. Bayer acquired Monsanto for $63 billion last year. — ASSOCIATED PRESS



Geico to track drivers via phone app

Warren Buffett’s Geico now wants to track drivers, just like some of its biggest competitors do. Geico has launched a telematics offering, called DriveEasy, in certain states, Credit Suisse Group analyst Mike Zaremski said in a research note Tuesday. A phone app tracks driving habits and gives individuals a score and tips, according to Geico’s website. While Geico has historically offered discounts to drivers for staying accident-free for five years, the app would be more interactive, using the phone to track trips. Rivals including Progressive Corp., which Buffett has called “well-run,” and Allstate Corp. have long used programs to track drivers and encourage better behavior. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Merck’s profit soars on sales of Keytruda and Januvia

Soaring sales of its cancer blockbuster and vaccines helped drive Merck’s second-quarter profit up a whopping 54 percent, blowing past Wall Street expectations. The maker of the cancer immunotherapy drug Keytruda and diabetes pill Januvia also benefited from slightly reduced spending on research and restructuring, even as it becomes a bigger player in advanced cancer medicines. The Kenilworth, N.J., company raised its revenue forecast for the year by more than $1 billion. — ASSOCIATED PRESS



Owner of Holiday Inn and InterContinental hotels to eliminate mini toiletries

The fight to save the seas from plastic waste may mean the end for mini bottles of shampoo and other toiletries that hotel guests love to stuff into their luggage. The owner of Holiday Inn and InterContinental Hotels said Tuesday that its nearly 843,000 guest rooms are switching to bulk-size bathroom amenities as part of an effort to cut waste. The transition is due to be completed in 2021. IHG, which uses an average of 200 million bathroom miniatures every year, said customers expect them to act responsibly. And there is little doubt that public awareness of the problem of plastic waste has been swelling amid alarming forecasts that there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050. — ASSOCIATED PRESS


Sears retireeswho lost insurance plan to get about $135 each

Workers who retired after years of folding shirts and selling refrigerators for Sears Holdings Corp. banded together earlier this year to complain when the retailer’s bankrupt shell terminated their life insurance plan. Those benefits were potentially worth thousands of dollars to heirs of the former employees. Now the Sears estate has responded with a proposal that would pay them about $135 each. The retiree plan provided policies to about 29,000 former workers with death benefits between $5,000 and $14,500, according to a new court filing that lays out the estate’s proposal. A smaller group of a dozen retired senior executives had policies with death benefits between about $356,000 and $2.7 million.


Home prices slow in May

US home prices rose at a slower pace in May, a sign that many would-be buyers are finding properties unaffordable. The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index increased 2.4 percent in May from a year earlier, according to a Tuesday report. Price growth decelerated slightly from the 2.5 percent year-over-year gain in April. The sluggish price growth stems largely from the most expensive markets, where years of price growth have undermined affordability. Home prices rose less than 2 percent in Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, and San Francisco. Prices in the typically hot market of Seattle fell 1.2 percent from a year ago, a sharp reversal from an annualized gain of 13.6 percent in May 2018. The strongest price gains were in Las Vegas at 6.4 percent, Phoenix at 5.7 percent, and Tampa at 5.1 percent. — ASSOCIATED PRESS



Diamond industry continues to struggle

The crisis squeezing the diamond industry is gaining momentum. De Beers reported another sharp drop in its latest sales to the lowest since 2015, after the world’s biggest producer allowed its struggling customers to defer more purchases to later this year. The mostly family-run businesses that cut, polish, and trade the world’s diamonds are battling to make a profit as demand slumps because of a surplus of polished stones and as demand for high-end jewelry stagnates. It has also become harder for these companies to access financing. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Nintendo profit drops despite higher sales

Nintendo Co.’s fiscal first quarter profit dipped to about half of what it was a year earlier despite improved sales as an unfavorable exchange rate eroded earnings, the Japanese video game maker said Tuesday. Nintendo’s April-June quarter profit totaled 16.6 billion yen ($153 million), down from 30.6 billion yen the year before. Quarterly sales rose 2 percent to 172 billion yen ($1.6 billion). Kyoto-based Nintendo sold 2.13 million Nintendo Switch machines for the period, up from 1.88 million in the same period of the previous year. The Switch is a hybrid game machine that works both as a console and a tablet. More than 36.87 million consoles have been sold since sales began about two years ago. — ASSOCIATED PRESS



Founder of India’s largest coffee chain disappears

The founder of India’s biggest coffee chain has gone missing after allegedly signing a letter that apologizes for his failures and accuses tax officers of harassment. V.G. Siddhartha, chairman and managing director of Coffee Day Enterprises, has not been reachable since Monday evening, the company said in a news release. The Bengaluru-based business is the parent company of Café Coffee Day chain. — WASHINGTON POST


Spending up 0.3 percent in June

Consumer spending rose a healthy 0.3 percent in June, slightly below the strong gains of the past three months, while incomes turned in a solid 0.4 percent gain for the fourth straight month. The Commerce Department said Tuesday that the spending increase followed strong gains of 1 percent in March, 0.6 percent in April and 0.5 percent in May as the consumer rebounded following a lackluster start to the year. An inflation gauge favored by the Federal Reserve showed prices rising 1.4 percent over the past year, well below the Fed’s 2 percent inflation target. Fed officials are widely expected to reduce their benchmark interest rate for the first time in a decade at this week’s meeting, in part because of the continued short-fall in inflation despite strong economic growth and unemployment at near a 50-year low. — ASSOCIATED PRESS