Business Highlights

December 19, 2017


House passes massive tax package; Senate to vote next

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans have passed the most sweeping rewrite of the nation’s tax laws in more than three decades, putting Congress on the verge of handing President Donald Trump his first major legislative victory. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the Senate would vote Tuesday evening. In a last-minute glitch, however, Democrats said three provisions in the bill violate Senate budget rules. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the House would vote on the package again Wednesday.


Will tax plan turn cash-hoarding companies into spenders?

NEW YORK (AP) — Republicans say a lower corporate tax rate will incentivize U.S. companies to buy machines and computers and make other big outlays to fuel growth and help workers. Critics say companies already have plenty of cash, and will just use the tax savings to buy back stock.


House GOP unveils $81B disaster relief for hurricanes, fires

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans have unveiled an $81 billion disaster aid package to help hurricane-ravaged communities and states hit by wildfires, almost double the amount requested by President Donald Trump. The emergency aid would provide $26 billion for community development block grants, which would help Florida, Texas and the Caribbean rebuild, along with Western states recovering from wildfires. GOP leaders promised a vote this week on the measure.


Board games get messy with squirting toilets, soggy dogs

NEW YORK (AP) — Board games are getting messier as toy makers try to match the popularity of Pie Face, a game that flings whipped cream at faces. The latest entries, such as Toilet Trouble and Soggy Doggy, splash, spray or shake water onto players. Videos of players getting wet or smashed with whipped cream end up on YouTube, Facebook or Instagram, and help to fuel sales.


Facebook improves how blind can “see” images using AI

MENLO PARK, Calif. (AP) — Facebook is rolling out a new face recognition service that identifies people in photos, even those who aren’t tagged by the poster. The innovation is meant to help blind people learn more about photos and tip off people who want to know when they are in photos but haven’t been tagged. It will also crack down on impersonators who use other people’s faces in their own profile photos.


FedEx says record number of holiday deliveries are on track

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A record number of holiday packages are on track to arrive this year, and the package delivery companies appear to be handling the load well. FedEx offered the latest update Tuesday on its busiest time of the year as it released its fiscal second quarter earnings report. FedEx said Tuesday that its second-quarter earnings grew 11 percent to $775 million, or $2.84 per share.


Gene therapy for rare form of blindness wins US approval

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. health officials on Tuesday approved the nation’s first gene therapy for an inherited disease, a treatment that improves the sight of patients with a rare form of blindness. It marks another major advance for the emerging field of genetic medicine.


US short of options to punish NKorea for serious cyberattack

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is vowing that North Korea will be held accountable for a May cyberattack that affected 150 countries, but it isn’t saying how. That highlights the difficulty of punishing a pariah nation already sanctioned to the hilt for its nuclear weapons program. The WannaCry ransomware attack infected hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide and crippled parts of Britain’s National Health Service.


Tech, small-cap stocks pull back from their recent highs

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks declined Tuesday as big technology companies and smaller firms gave up some of their recent gains. Stocks made big gains the previous two days as the Republican-backed tax bill made its way through Congress. Smaller companies in particular have surged because investors feel they will be major beneficiaries of the reduced corporate tax rate. High-dividend stocks dropped as bond yields rose.


The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 8.69 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,681.47. The Dow Jones industrial average shed 37.45 points, or 0.2 percent, to 24,754.75. The Nasdaq composite gave up 30.91 points, or 0.4 percent, to 6,963.85. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks fell 12.17 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,536.75.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 30 cents to $57.46 a barrel in New York while Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 39 cents to $63.80 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline picked up 2 cents to $1.70 a gallon. Heating oil gained 1 cent to $1.94 a gallon. Natural gas sank 5 cents to $2.69 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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