FINANCIAL MARKETS

Energy companies and banks lead stocks higher on Wall Street

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are moving moderately higher on Wall Street as energy companies and banks post solid gains.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 12 points to 2,691 as of 1:05 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow gained 112 points, or 0.4 percent, to 24,839. The Nasdaq composite rose 26 points to 6,987.

U.S. market indexes have risen over the past few weeks as Washington moved closer to passing its tax overhaul, but they haven't done much over the last several days as Congress voted on the bill.

ECONOMY-GDP

US economy grew at 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. The change reflects slightly less spending by consumers, which was offset somewhat by increased spending by state and local governments.

Still, the 3.2 percent growth followed a 3.1 percent gain in the second quarter, the first consecutive quarters that growth has topped 3 percent since 2014.

President Donald Trump has pointed to these gains as evidence his economic program is producing results. Many economists believe GDP growth this quarter could hit 3 percent or better.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

Applications for US jobless aid rise to still-low 245,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid rose last week for the first time in five weeks, but remained at a low level that points to a healthy job market.

The Labor Department says applications for unemployment aid increased 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 245,000. The rise comes a week after applications fell to nearly a four-decade low. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, climbed 1,250 to 234,750.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, and any reading below 300,000 is low by historical standards. Many employers say it is difficult to find people to fill their open jobs, and so are holding tightly onto their existing staffs.

Steady economic growth is encouraging more hiring. The unemployment rate is at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent.

MORTGAGE RATES

Long-term US mortgage rates blip higher this week

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose this week but remain lower than they were a year ago.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac says the rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose to 3.94 percent, up from 3.93 percent last week. They stood at 4.30 percent a year ago. The rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, popular among homeowners who are refinancing, rose to an average 3.38 percent, highest since March and up from 3.36 percent last week. But it still down from 3.52 percent a year ago.

The Freddie Mac survey was taken before Congress passed a sweeping tax-cut bill, sending other long-term rates higher.

NUCLEAR POWER-GEORGIA

Troubled $25 billion nuclear project gets OK to continue

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's utility regulators are allowing construction to continue on two new nuclear reactors, despite massive cost overruns for the multi-billion-dollar project.

Today's unanimous decision by the state's Public Service Commission will shape the future of the nation's nuclear industry, partly because the reactors were the first new ones to be licensed and to begin construction in the U.S. since 1978.

The project has been plagued by delays and spiraling costs, compounded when the main contractor filed for bankruptcy. Westinghouse Electric Co., the U.S. nuclear unit of Japan's Toshiba Corp., filed for bankruptcy in March.

HOME DEPOT-ACQUISITION

Home Depot's online push continues with Company Store buy

ATLANTA (AP) — Home Depot is buying online retailer The Company Store, moving forward with aggressive plans to protect itself from competitors like Amazon.com.

The Atlanta company said this month that it would more closely link its stores with online services and home delivery.

Home Depot has escaped the decimation other retailers have been subjected to with Amazon disrupting sales everywhere, but CEO Craig Menear has vowed to meet customers where they are.

Home Depot expects its website to surpass 1.8 billion visits this year.

The acquisition today, from online retailer Hanover Direct, will allow the company to expand its online decor business. The Company Store sells textiles and home decor.

Terms were not disclosed, but the deal does not include the five retail locations run by The Company Store.

TAKATA RECALL

Ford, Mazda recall pickups a 2nd time for air bag problem

DETROIT (AP) — Ford and Mazda are recalling more than 380,000 older small pickup trucks for a second time to replace Takata air bag inflators that can explode and hurl shrapnel.

The recalls cover driver and passenger inflators in certain 2004 to 2006 Ford Ranger and Mazda B-Series trucks made by Ford.

Takata uses ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion that inflates air bags. But the chemical can deteriorate over time and burn too fast, blowing apart a metal canister. At least 20 people have been killed worldwide.

The trucks were recalled in 2015 and 2016 to replace inflators with newer ones as a temporary fix. Under the latest recalls, inflators will be swapped for ones that don't use ammonium nitrate.

Owners will be notified starting later this month.

FACEBOOK-FAKE NEWS

Facebook changing how it identifies 'fake news' stories

NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook says it is changing how it identifies "fake news" stories on its platform to a more effective system.

The social-media network had put "disputed" labels on stories that fact-checkers found false. Instead, now it will bring up "related articles" next to the false stories that give context from fact-checkers on the stories' problems.

Facebook says that in its tests, fewer hoax articles were shared when they had fact-checkers' articles spooled up next to them than when they were labeled with "disputed" flags.

The new approach also may help speed up the fact-checking system, which sometimes worked too slowly . Now information from just one checker can be shown next to the false story. The labeling system required two fact-checkers.

SINCLAIR-FCC FINE

FCC proposes $13.4M fine for TV-station owner Sinclair

NEW YORK (AP) — The Federal Communications Commission is proposing a $13.4 million fine on TV-station owner Sinclair Broadcast for not identifying paid programming as advertising.

Sinclair owns TV stations across the country and pays networks ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox for the news, shows and sports it airs on those stations.

The FCC says Sinclair produced and broadcast news story-like programming during local news broadcasts and 30-minute TV programs for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation and didn't label them as ads. The FCC says the offending ads aired more than 1,700 times.

Sinclair has 30 days to contest the proposed fine or pay it.

TECH TOYS-SAFETY TIPS

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 said the only way to prevent a hack is to not keep the toy. But there are some ways to mitigate the risk.

Research any previous problems with the toy and find the toy maker's privacy policy. Use secure Wi-Fi only, and turn the toy off when you're not using it. Register to get security updates, but don't give away more information than you have to. Be vigilant about checking the toy, and if there's a breach report it to authorities.