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Morning Market Roundup: China Profits Plunge, Most News Homes Since '08, BofA Profits up

Business

Here’s what’s important in the business world this morning:

China Profits: Some of China's biggest companies, from tech giants to airlines and retailers, are warning of unexpectedly sharp drops in profit of up to 80 percent, adding to pressure on Beijing to reverse a painful economic slump.

On Wednesday, Air China Ltd., one of three main government-owned airlines, warned first-half profit will fall by at least half from a year earlier. State-owned ZTE Corp., one of the world's biggest producers of telecommunications equipment, is projecting a decline of up to 80 percent.

In this photo taken on Saturday, June 30, 2012, passengers disembark from an Air China airplane parked at the airport tarmac in Zhanjiang, China's Guangdong province. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

The woes facing even politically favored companies that benefit from monopolies, low-cost bank loans and other government aid highlight the challenges for the authoritarian country's leaders who are trying to pull China out of its deepest slowdown since the 2008 crisis.

Forecasters say the slowdown might have bottomed out after growth fell to a three-year low of 7.6 percent in the second quarter but the timing and strength of a rebound are uncertain. Premier Wen Jiabao warned last weekend a recovery was not yet stable. On Tuesday, he said the employment outlook "will become more complex and severe."

U.S. Homes: U.S. builders broke ground on the most new homes and apartments in nearly four years last month.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that housing starts rose 6.9 percent in June from May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 760,000. That's the highest since October 2008.

Single-family housing starts, which account for more than 70 percent of new residential construction, rose for the fourth straight month to a two-year high. Apartment starts, which can be volatile, increased after falling in May.

The number of permits to build homes, a sign of future construction, fell 3.7 percent to 755,000. But that's down from May's level, which was the highest since Sept. 2008.

And permits to build single-family homes edged up to the highest level since March 2010. Permits to build apartments declined.

Single-family housing starts rose in every region of the country last month. Total starts, which include apartments, jumped 37 percent in the West and 22 percent in the Northeast, while falling in the Midwest and South.

Still, the level of housing starts and permits are roughly half what economists consider healthy.

Bank of America: Bank of America swung to a profit from April through June and beat Wall Street expectations. It set aside the least money to cover bad loans since 2007, well before the financial crisis.

The bank said Wednesday that it made $2.1 billion in the second quarter, or 19 cents per share. Analysts polled by FactSet, a provider of financial data, had expected 16 cents.

Bank of America stock climbed 11 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $8.03 in premarket trading.

The bank set aside $1.8 billion in the quarter to cover bad loans, down 46 percent from a year earlier and a sign that the bank expects more customers to repay loans on time. It was the lowest figure since the first quarter of 2007.

Revenue was $22.2 billion, lower than analysts' expectation of $22.8 billion. Revenue last year was $26.5 billion after excluding mortgage-related charges.

U.S. Futures: U.S. stock futures fell Wednesday ahead of a second day of testimony from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke on Capitol Hill as the global slowdown manifested itself in a number of quarterly earnings reports from corporations.

Dow Jones industrial average futures gave up 41 points to 12,696. Standard & Poor's 500 futures fell 5.1 points to 1,353.10 and Nasdaq futures declined 9.5 points to 2,577.50.

Bank of America's earnings topped most Wall Street expectations for the second quarter although revenue fell short. Profits declined for both PNC Financial Services Group and investment manager BlackRock.

Except for Bank of America, financial stocks mostly fell in premarket trading.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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