Business Highlights

December 22, 2017


Trump signs, lauds tax overhaul, off to Florida for holidays

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has signed into law a $1.5 trillion bill that provides generous tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans, plus smaller cuts for middle- and low-income families. It is the first major overhaul of the nation’s tax laws since 1986. The tax cuts are expected to add $1.5 trillion to the national debt.


Expanded child tax credit may not be as generous as it seems

The Republican tax overhaul includes an expanded child tax credit at the insistence of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. But the benefit for poor families will vary. Experts say the expanded credit will provide little relief for some of the lowest-income families. An analyst with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities expects about 10 million children among the lowest-income working families to receive a token increase or none at all.


Tax overhaul leads to end-of-year rush to pay property bills

CHERRY HILL, N.J. (AP) — The federal tax overhaul has sparked a rush in some local tax offices as people try to prepay 2018 property taxes. After this year, there will be a $10,000 cap on federal tax deductions for state and local taxes. Officials in some communities are making it easier to prepay property taxes while others are telling residents they can’t do it.


Former tobacco barns repurposed for anti-smoking message

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A state with one of the highest smoking rates in the country is paying farmers to paint anti-smoking messages on old tobacco barns. The program in Kentucky pays farmers to paint a message advertising a phone number people can call for help quitting smoking. It echoes the advertising campaigns of some tobacco companies, who for decades would pay farmers to paint ads on their barns.


Bitcoin goes on wild ride and it may only get crazier

NEW YORK (AP) — What’s a bitcoin worth? Lately nobody knows for sure, but after a wild ride on Friday, it’s worth a good deal less than it was Thursday. After losses over the last few days, the digital currency fell as much as 30 percent overnight in Asia, and the action became so frenzied that the website Coinbase suspended trading. Experts are warning that bitcoin is a bubble about to burst, but things might get crazier before it does: A lot of people have heard of bitcoin by now, but very few people own it.


Legal pot in California brings host of environmental rules

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California pot growers choosing to go legal in the New Year will face a host of new environmental rules. State agencies dealing with environmental issues are adding hundreds of staffers to deal with the marijuana industry, when recreational pot becomes legal after Jan. 1. A study published this year found illegal marijuana cultivation does more damage than commercial logging in remote forests of Northern California, the hub for the U.S. cannabis industry.


AP finds climate change risk for 327 toxic Superfund sites

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. (AP) — This year’s historic hurricane season exposed a little-known public health threat: Highly-polluted Superfund sites can be inundated by floodwaters, potentially spreading toxic contamination. In Houston, more than a dozen Superfund sites were flooded by Hurricane Harvey, with breaches reported at two. In the Southeast and Puerto Rico, Superfund sites were battered by driving rains and winds from Irma and Maria.


Tech firm: Holiday spending up 9.2 percent so far

NEW YORK (AP) — A payment technology firm says that holiday spending is surging just days before Christmas. First Data says overall spending excluding gas, rose 9.2 percent from Nov. 1 through Monday, outpacing the 3.7 percent pace for the year-ago period. The company analyzes online and in-store payments across different forms of cards from 1.3 million merchants. Cooler weather, higher confidence and low unemployment are enticing shoppers to spend.


Fiat Chrysler recalls nearly 1.8M trucks for shifter problem

DETROIT (AP) — Fiat Chrysler is recalling nearly 1.8 million Ram trucks because they can be shifted out of park without the driver’s foot on the brake or even without a key in the ignition. The recall is mainly in North America and covers trucks with steering-column shifters. Owners will be notified when service is available.


Health care and bank stocks pull US indexes slightly lower

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks finish lower as health care companies and banks fall. Nike dropped after reporting weakness in its North American business. High-dividend stocks like utilities and household goods makers moved higher, even as bond yields remained near recent highs. The price of bitcoin fell sharply after making huge gains throughout the year.


The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 1.23 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 2,683.34. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 28.23 points, or 0.1 percent, to 24,754.06. The Nasdaq composite fell 5.40 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,959.96. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks dipped 4.18 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,542.93.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 11 cents to $58.47 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, rose 35 cents to $65.25 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline picked up 1 cent to $1.76 a gallon. Heating oil rose 2 cents to $1.97 a gallon. Natural gas jumped 7 cents to $2.67 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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