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Business Highlights

December 21, 2017

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Tax pros are suddenly very popular, if a little confused

WASHINGTON (AP) — Don’t feel bad if you don’t understand how the new tax bill will affect you. Chances are, your accountant doesn’t yet either. From New York to Kentucky to Florida, accountants and tax lawyers are rapidly scanning the 1,000 page measure, fielding a swirl of questions from clients and swapping tips via email in their efforts to fully grasp the bill’s far-reaching changes.

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Congress rushes to avoid shutdown, punts issues to January

WASHINGTON (AP) — Conflict-weary lawmakers are eyeing the U.S. Capitol exits as the Republican-led Congress rushes to clear a temporary spending bill to avoid a government shutdown this weekend. The wrap-up measure would allow Republicans controlling Washington to savor their win on the $1.5 trillion tax package — even as they punt a full lineup of leftover work into the new year and head home for the holidays.

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Despite age and doubters, bull market looks to keep running

NEW YORK (AP) — Much of Wall Street is forecasting another year of gains in 2018, even as warning signals rise that the end may be nearing for one of the greatest bull markets in history. The key reason is that few economists see a recession on the way, at least not in 2018. If stocks do end up climbing more in 2018, it would be the latest step forward for a market that’s been maligned and doubted ever since it climbed from the rubble of the global financial crisis in 2009.

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US economy grew at solid 3.2 percent rate in third quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy grew at a 3.2 percent annual rate from July through September, slightly slower than previously estimated but still enough to give the country the best back-to-back quarterly growth rates in three years. The Commerce Department says the third quarter growth was revised down slightly from last month’s estimate of 3.3 percent. That change reflects slightly less spending by consumers, which was offset somewhat by increased spending by state and local governments.

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AT&T $1,000 tax bonus came after exchange with union head

WASHINGTON (AP) — After an exchange between AT&T’s CEO and a union representing its workers, the company says it took steps to pay workers a $1,000 bonus in response to President Donald Trump’s tax cuts. The Communications Workers of America had pushed AT&T in last month to guarantee that workers would receive the $4,000 raise that White House economists said would be the result of the corporate tax cuts. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said was considering a $1,000 bonus instead.

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Papa John’s founder out as CEO weeks after NFL comments

NEW YORK (AP) — Papa John’s says its founder John Schnatter will step down as CEO next month, weeks after he publicly criticized the NFL leadership over national anthem protests by football players. Schnatter will stay on as chairman but be replaced as chief executive by Chief Operating Officer Steve Ritchie on Jan. 1.

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‘Obamacare’ surprise: Strong showing as nearly 9M sign up

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government says about 8.8 million people have signed up for coverage next year under the Affordable Care Act, a surprisingly strong showing lifted by a deadline surge last week. A day after President Donald Trump proclaimed that the GOP tax bill “essentially repealed Obamacare,” the program seemed very much alive. Thursday’s update from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is for 39 states served by HealthCare.gov. Total nationwide sign-ups may not be known for weeks.

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Got a toy that can spy? Here’s how to know and what to do

NEW YORK (AP) — The toys your kids unwrap this Christmas could invite hackers into your home. That Grinch-like warning comes from the FBI, which said earlier this year that toys connected to the internet could be a target for crooks seeking information. Security experts say the only way to prevent a hack is to not keep the toy. But if you want to keep it, research for past problems, know the company’s privacy policy and use only secure Wi-Fi. Report any breaches to authorities.

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Trump administration halts study of offshore oil inspections

The Trump administration is halting an independent scientific study of offshore oil inspections by a federal safety agency created after the 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine says it was told to cease review of the inspection program conducted by the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

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Banks, energy companies lead rebound in US stocks

NEW YORK (AP) — Banks and energy companies led U.S. stocks higher Thursday, erasing modest losses from the day before. Retailers and makers of consumer products also posted solid gains. Technology stocks lagged the most. The latest gains came on a day of mostly subdued trading as investors looked ahead to the long holiday weekend.

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The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 5.32 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,684.57. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 55.64 points, or 0.2 percent, to 24,782.29. The Nasdaq composite added 4.40 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,965.36. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 7.03 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,547.11.

Benchmark U.S. crude added 27 cents to settle at $58.36 a barrel. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, gained 34 cents to close at $64.90 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline rose a penny to $1.75 a gallon. Heating oil added 1 cent to $1.95 a gallon. Natural gas fell 4 cents or 1.5 percent, to $2.60 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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