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February 12, 2019

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A political ‘bomb’ over drug prices could threaten NAFTA 2.0

WASHINGTON (AP) — The clash over free trade in North America has long been fought over familiar issues: Low-paid Mexican workers. American factories that move jobs south of the border. Canada’s high taxes on imported milk and cheese. But as Democrats consider whether to back a revamped regional trade pact being pushed by President Donald Trump, they’re zeroing in a new point of conflict: Drug prices.

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IRS watchdog: Shutdown caused ‘shocking’ drop in phone help

WASHINGTON (AP) — Disruptions from last month’s partial government shutdown caused a “shocking” deterioration in the IRS’ telephone help for taxpayers in the first week of the filing season, the agency’s watchdog says. In the week of Jan. 28, the official start of the tax season, IRS staffers answered only 48 percent of calls seeking help on filing returns, the report from the office of the National Taxpayer Advocate said. That compares with 86 percent of calls answered at the same time last year.

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US job openings jump to record high of 7.3 million

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers posted the most open jobs in December in the nearly two decades that records have been kept, evidence that the job market is strong despite several challenges facing the economy. The Labor Department says job openings jumped 2.4 percent in December to 7.3 million.

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Fed Chairman Powell doesn’t see elevated recession risks

ITTA BENA, Miss. (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell does not feel the probability of a recession “is at all elevated,” and that the country is continuing to see solid economic growth. But in a visit to a historically black university in the Mississippi Delta, Powell says that many rural areas have not benefited from the national prosperity. He says those areas need special support, such as access to affordable credit to start small businesses and high-quality education to train workers.

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US expects record domestic oil production in 2019, 2020

The government says US oil production will rise this year and next year to new record highs, mostly due to increased drilling in Texas and New Mexico. The Energy Department also forecast Tuesday that both international and domestic oil prices will fall from 2018 levels. It’s forecasting that benchmark US crude will sell for less than $55 a barrel this year, down from $65 last year.

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Trump says he might not raise tariffs on China if deal close

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says if the United States and China are close to a trade deal, he might let slide a March 2 deadline to further boost tariffs on Chinese goods. Trump said Tuesday that he’s not inclined to do that, but that if the two countries are close to a deal, he might let the deadline “slide for a little while.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and trade representative Robert Lighthizer are in Beijing to continue talks aimed at resolving the costly trade war.

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Bill, Melinda Gates unfazed by criticism of wealthy giving

KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) — Bill and Melinda Gates are pushing back against a new wave of criticism about whether billionaire philanthropy is a force for good. The couple says they’re not fazed by recent blowback, including high-profile moments at the World Economic Forum and the shifting political conversation about taxes and socialism. The latest criticisms challenge whether their level of wealth is good for society and whether it’s functional to rely on the generosity of the very rich to fix its problems.

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New York Gov. Cuomo to urge Trump to rethink tax changes

WASHINGTON (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo traveled to the White House Tuesday to urge President Donald Trump to rethink a provision in the 2017 tax overhaul that Cuomo says is prompting a sharp decline in state revenues. The Democrat met with the Republican president to discuss the $10,000 cap on the federal deduction for state and local taxes. Cuomo says the cap is prompting wealthy residents to flee New York and contributing to a recent drop of more than $2 billion in tax receipts.

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US stocks surge on US-China trade deal optimism

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks finished broadly higher Tuesday as investors grew more optimistic about the prospects for a resolution to the costly trade dispute between the U.S. and China. Technology, financial and health care stocks powered much of the rally, which gave the benchmark S&P 500 index its biggest gain this month and a three-day winning streak. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he might let a March 2 deadline slide in trade talks with China if the two countries get close to a deal.

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US stocks surge on US-China trade deal optimism

SEATTLE (AP) — Officials say the president and CEO of outdoor retailer REI has resigned for failing to disclose a relationship he had with the head of another organization in the outdoor industry. REI officials at the co-op’s Kent, Washington, headquarters said Tuesday that Jerry Stritzke had resigned and will leave March 15. A company statement says the resignation came after an outside investigation into “a personal and consensual relationship.”

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The S&P 500 index gained 34.93 points, or 1.3 percent, to 2,744.73. The Dow climbed 372.65 points, or 1.5 percent, to 25,425.76. The Nasdaq composite rose 106.71 points, or 1.5 percent, to 7,414.62. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks added 19.25 points, or 1.3 percent, to 1,538.23.

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