Bank earnings

From our wire services

Major U.S. banks have turned in big profit gains this season, but the news isn't all good. Much of the earnings increase is coming from

cutting costs, rather than growing their core lending businesses.

Fed reports growth

The U.S. economy grew from late May through

early July, bolstered by

the housing recovery,

consumers and more factory output. A Federal Reserve survey released Wednesday showed 11 of the 12 Fed

banking districts reported "modest to moderate" growth, while Dallas reported "strong" growth for the

second straight survey.

Dell privatization

Dell Inc. is making a late push to win shareholder support for founder Michael Dell's plan to take the slumping computer maker private. Supporters of the $24.4 billion buyout offer believe Dell Inc. stands a better chance of turning around if it can make long-term strategic decisions without worrying about meeting Wall Street's quarter-to-quarter expectations.

Oil up, again

The price of oil rose Wednesday as U.S. oil supplies fell for a third week and the chairman of the Federal Reserve signaled no impending change in the central bank's stimulus program. Benchmark crude for August delivery gained 48 cents to close at $106.48

per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

KFC goes upscale

KFC is tossing out the bones and the quaint image of founder Col. Harland Sanders as it gets ready to test a slightly more upmarket restaurant. The fried chicken chain says it's opening a location called "KFC eleven" early next month near its headquarters in Louisville, Ky., that will serve flatbreads with toppings, rice bowls, salads and only boneless pieces of its Original Recipe chicken.

Home starts down

U.S. builders started work on fewer homes in June, mostly because apartment construction fell sharply. But applications for permits to build single-family houses rose to the highest level in five years, suggesting the housing recovery will continue. Developers began construction at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 836,000 homes in June, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That was nearly 10 percent below May's total of 928,000, which was revised higher, and was the fewest since August 2012.

Stocks inch up

Some soothing words from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke pushed the stock market to slender gains on Wednesday. Higher earnings for several major companies also helped. The Standard & Poor's 500 index and Nasdaq composite climbed 0.3 percent while the Dow Jones industrial average rose or 0.1 percent to 15,470.52.

Pipeline planned

A Canadian company is nearing approval for an oil pipeline that will stretch for hundreds of miles through the Midwest. Enbridge Inc., of Calgary, Alberta, is hoping to begin construction early next month on a 600-mile-long pipeline that would carry tar sands from Illinois to the company's terminal in Cushing, Okla.

Sears issues recall

Sears issued a second recall notice for nearly 800,000 dehumidifiers because of a risk for fire after so few consumers responded to the first recall.