FINANCIAL MARKETS

Banks lead US stocks higher in midday trading; IBM surges

NEW YORK (AP) — Financial companies led U.S. stocks higher in midday trading, putting the major indexes on track to set new records. Investors were weighing the latest batch of company earnings and deal news. IBM surged on strong quarterly results, lifting technology sector stocks. Energy companies declined as early gains in crude oil prices faded.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 3 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,562 as of 12:38 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average picked up 149 points, or 0.7 percent, to 23,146, lifted by a big gain in IBM. The Nasdaq composite added 8 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,632. The S&P 500 and Dow set records on Monday and Tuesday.

TRUMP-TAXES

Trump: US faces 'once in a lifetime opportunity' on taxes

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says the nation faces a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to overhaul the tax system.

Trump spoke during a White House meeting with a group of senators. The president is convening Republicans and Democrats from the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee to build support for his plan. Trump says it will provide the largest tax cuts in the country's history and is outlining details of the plan.

It calls for a large cut to the corporate tax rate, reducing it from 35 percent to 20 percent, and an end to the estate tax. The president was seated next to Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican, and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat.

Trump says, "a lot of people are liking" his plan, which still lacks specific legislation.

CONGRESS-HEALTH CARE

States suing to force insurance subsidy payments

WASHINGTON (AP) — State attorneys general say they'll immediately seek a court order to force the administration to keep paying health insurance subsidies that President Donald Trump has ordered stopped.

The office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said he and 18 counterparts will seek a temporary restraining order against the administration Wednesday in federal court in California. The administration would have 24 hours to respond to the demand from the state attorneys general, allowing for a speedy decision by the court.

The so-called "cost sharing subsidies" reimburse health insurers for reducing copays and deductibles for consumers with modest incomes. They're under a legal cloud because of a suit previously filed by Republican foes of the Obama health care law.

A bipartisan effort in Congress to restore the payments has run into opposition.

HEALTH OVERHAUL-TAX PENALTY

IRS still enforcing Obama-era insurance mandate

WASHINGTON (AP) — Contrary to widespread perceptions, the IRS still appears to be enforcing the unpopular Obama-era requirement that most people carry health insurance or risk a fine.

The agency says on its website that it will automatically reject electronic returns for tax year 2017 that don't specify if the taxpayer had health insurance.

Taxpayers are supposed to say whether they had coverage, or they were eligible for an exemption, or if they will pay the fine. But several million skip that question and file "silent" returns.

This year the IRS continued to process such returns. However, taxpayers who skipped the health care question took a chance that they might get a letter from the tax agency later.

Now the health care question will have to be resolved up front.

HOME CONSTRUCTION

US home construction tumbled 4.7 percent in September

WASHINGTON (AP) — Construction of new homes fell 4.7 percent in September, the biggest decline in six months, reflecting weakness in both single-family activity and apartment building.

The Commerce Department reports the September result left construction at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.13 million units. It was the sharpest decline since a 7.7 percent fall in March.

Homebuilding has been sliding this year, but economists remain optimistic that the low level of unemployment will soon spark a rebound in sales and construction. Even though construction activity has fallen in recent months, home building is 6.1 percent higher than a year ago.

Single-family building contracted 4.6 percent in September, while apartment construction was down 5.1 percent.

LENDING TO WOMEN

Women who own businesses find bank loans harder to get

NEW YORK (AP) — Getting a bank loan is still a struggle for many women who own businesses.

A survey released today found that 30 percent of such companies were able to get bank loans during the previous three months, compared to half of all the owners surveyed. The survey conducted by researchers at Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business and Management and Dun & Bradstreet Corp. questioned owners of companies with up to $100 million in annual revenue.

Kirsten Curry has had three rejections in the past six months. Her 8-year-old retirement advisory firm has no debt and has seen revenue rise consistently. But it lost money last year as it invested in technology to help it expand, a possible red flag to lenders. She's waiting to hear from a fourth bank.

FARM RULES

US agency withdraws rule aimed at protecting animal farmers

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has killed a rule designed to protect the legal rights of farmers who raise chickens and hogs for the nation's largest meat processors.

The rule would have made it easier for farmers to sue companies they contract with over unfair or deceptive practices.

It was rolled out in the final days of Barack Obama's administration. But the USDA delayed it after President Donald Trump took office. On Tuesday, the agency withdrew it for good.

Farmers who have waited years for the rule are expressing disappointment. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa farmer, accuses the Trump administration of "pandering to big corporations."

Poultry and pork industry trade groups say the rule would have reduced competition and driven meat prices higher.

ANTHEM-PHARMACY BENEFITS PARTNER

Anthem will turn to CVS after troubled Express Scripts deal

UNDATED (AP) — Anthem has found a new partner to help run prescription drug coverage after the Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurer's rocky relationship with Express Scripts ends.

The nation's second-largest insurer says it will create a pharmacy benefits manager called IngenioRx starting in 2020 and will work with CVS Health Corp. to manage the business. Terms of the deal were not disclosed in Wednesday morning statements from the companies.

Pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, run prescription drug plans for employers, government agencies and insurers, among other clients. They use their large purchasing power to negotiate prices.

Anthem Inc. sold its PBM business to Express Scripts Holding Co. in 2009 for about $4.7 billion, and the companies starting working together. They've squabbled publicly over prices, and Anthem sued Express Scripts last year.

FORD-RECALL

Ford recalling about 1.3M vehicles for possible door issue

DETROIT (AP) — Ford is recalling about 1.3 million 2015-17 F-150 and 2017 Super Duty vehicles in North America because of potential door problems.

The company said that in some vehicles a frozen door latch or bent or kinked actuation cable may cause a door to not open or close. If consumers are able to open and close such doors, the door may appear closed, but the latch may not fully engage, increasing the risk for a possible injury.

Ford said it's not aware of any accidents or injuries related to the issue.

The company's dealers will install water shields over door latches and inspect and repair door latch actuation cables if necessary free of charge to customers.