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Stocks look to end year on up note...Democrats ready funding bill...Chinese, European growth slows

December 31, 2018

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are higher on Wall Street this afternoon with traders holding out hope for progress in U.S.-China trade frictions. Over the weekend, President Trump tweeted he had a “long and very good call” with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Even so, the benchmark S&P 500 index is on track to end the year with its worst showing in a decade.

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats are unveiling legislation to reopen the government without money for President Donald Trump’s border wall. The House is preparing to vote on the package Thursday when the new Congress convenes. This is according to an aide who was not authorized to discuss the plan publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. It will include one bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security at current levels through Feb. 8, with $1.3 billion for border security.

BEIJING (AP) — China’s factory activity shrank in December for the first time in more than two years. The purchasing managers’ index of the National Bureau of Statistics and an industry group, the China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing, fell to 49.4 from November’s 50.0 on a 100-point scale. Any reading below 50 shows that activity is contracting.

LONDON (AP) — The U.S. ambassador to Britain is casting doubt on whether a major bilateral trade deal can be reached if Parliament approves the Brexit proposal from Prime Minister Theresa May. Robert “Woody” Johnson tells BBC radio that negotiating a “quick” and “massive” trade deal “doesn’t look like it would be possible” under the terms May has reached with the European Union. Johnson used the live radio appearance to reiterate President Trump’s concerns about the proposed agreement. The U.S. ambassador says he finds a “defeatism” in the British attitude toward Brexit that overlooks the many positive developments leaving the EU could bring.

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — 2019 is set to be a year of major change for Europe. With Britain’s departure from the European Union looming without clarity on how it will happen, Europe’s economic upswing has already slowed. Growth in the 19 EU countries that use the euro slipped from a decade-high of 2.4 percent in 2017 to an estimated 2.1 percent this year. The EU’s executive Commission expects further easing to 1.9 percent next year.

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