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North America trade pact deals rare setback to Big Pharma

WASHINGTON (AP) — A revamped North American trade deal nearing passage in Congress gives both the White House and Democrats a chance to claim victory. But the pact leaves at least one surprising loser: the pharmaceutical industry, a near-invincible lobbying powerhouse in Washington. To satisfy House Democrats, the Trump administration removed a provision that would have given the makers of ultra-expensive biologic drugs 10 years of protection from less expensive knockoffs. Democrats opposed what they called a giveaway to the industry that could have locked in inflated prices by stifling competition. Top biologics include drugs that fight cancer and immune disorders.

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After ebullient 2019, Wall Street warns of slower road ahead

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street is telling investors to expect less from their investments next year following a fabulous 2019. It’s not because Wall Street sees the economy falling into a recession, at least not in 2020. It’s a simple matter of math. Analysts say stocks and bonds don’t have as much room to rise after their stellar 2019, when nearly everything rose in concert. Plus, one of the major reasons for the big gains this year can’t happen again. The Federal Reserve has already come to the rescue once with a major about-face on interest rates.

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China targets tech giants in app privacy crackdown

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese tech companies including social media giant Tencent have been ordered by regulators to clean up how their apps handle user information or face possible penalties. The industry ministry said 41 apps failed an examination following orders to ensure they comply with user data rules. The operators cited include major social media and news services such as Tencent’s QQ messaging app, Sina Sports, Sohu News and Xiaomi Finance. The ministry said violations included improperly collecting or using information about visitors to their services. Chinese authorities encourage internet and social media use but have steadily tightened censorship and controls on what companies can do with information they gather.

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Federal study finds race, gender affect face-scanning tech

WASHINGTON (AP) — A study by a U.S. agency has found that facial recognition technology often performs unevenly based on a person’s race, gender or age. This is the first time the National Institute of Standards and Technology has investigated demographic differences in how face-scanning algorithms are able to identify people. Lawmakers and privacy advocates have raised concerns about biased results in the commercial face recognition software increasingly used by law enforcement, airports and a variety of businesses.

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Big spending bill wins Senate OK, has victories all around

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has passed a $1.4 trillion government spending package in what amounted to a last, bipartisan burst of legislating before the end-of-the-year holidays. The Senate cleared the two-bill package in a set of votes Thursday and sent it to President Donald Trump in time to forestall a possible government shutdown this weekend. The White House says Trump will sign it before Friday’s midnight deadline. The legislation gives Trump a victory on his U.S.-Mexico border fence but also gives Democrats long-sought domestic spending increases and a repeal of Obama-era taxes on high-cost health insurance plans.

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Senate passes anti-robocalls bill, sending it to Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has passed a bill to crack down on robocalls, a persistent and costly problem for Americans. The House already passed it, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it. The bill requires phone companies to offer free call-blocking apps and verify that the number calling you is real.

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Farm, ethanol groups angered at final EPA ethanol rule

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Some farm groups and farm-state lawmakers are expressing anger at the Trump administration over final ethanol rules that they say fail to uphold the president’s promises to the industry. The Environmental Protection Agency has released final renewable fuel standard rules for next year that do not include language President Donald Trump agreed to that would guarantee 15 billion gallons of ethanol is blended into the nation’s gasoline supply.

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Senate OKs big changes to how Americans save for retirement

WASHINGTON (AP) — A major change to how Americans save for retirement is close to becoming law. The Senate on Thursday passed the Secure Act as part of its massive spending package. President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law. The Secure Act is designed to help more people save more for retirement. Its provisions include making it easier for small businesses to band together to offer retirement plans to employees. It also allows long-term part-time employees to gain access to workplace retirement plans. And it raises the age when retirees must draw from retirement savings.

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US stocks move higher as markets yawn at Trump’s impeachment

NEW YORK (AP) — Technology companies led stocks higher on Wall Street Thursday, extending the market’s gains for the week and pushing the major indexes to more record highs. The broad gains erased the S&P 500’s slight losses from a day earlier. The benchmark index has notched gains six out of the past seven days.

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The S&P 500 rose 14.23 points, or 0.4%, to 3,205.37. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 137.68 points, or 0.5%, to 28,376.96, a record. The Nasdaq composite climbed 59.48 points, or 0.7%, to 8,887.22, a record. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks picked up 5.36 points, or 0.3%, to 1,667.09.

The Associated Press