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Senate passes US-Canada-Mexico trade deal, a Trump priority

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has overwhelmingly approved a new North American trade pact that rewrites the rules of trade with Canada and Mexico. Passage of the measure gives President Donald Trump a major policy victory before senators turns their full attention to his impeachment trial. The measure goes to Trump for his signature. It would replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, known as NAFTA. It tore down most trade barriers and triggered a surge in trade. But Trump and other critics blamed NAFTA for encouraging U.S. companies to move their manufacturing plants south of the border to take advantage of low-wage Mexican labourers.

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China welcomes US deal, says ‘core concerns’ must be met

BEIJING (AP) — China has welcomed an interim trade deal with Washington and said the two sides need to address each other’s “core concerns.” A foreign ministry spokesman said Thursday that the “Phase 1” agreement shows Beijing and Washington “can find appropriate and effective solutions to relevant issues through dialogue.” China agreed to buy more American farm exports and Washington dropped plans for additional tariff hikes on Chinese goods. Beijing still wants earlier punitive tariffs to be lifted, which the agreement fails to do. Asian financial markets were mixed amid questions about how China can carry out promises to buy billions of dollars of U.S. soybeans, gas and other exports.

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Labour Department limits news outlets’ use of embargoed data

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Labor Department will begin restricting news organizations’ use of economic data by barring computers from the rooms where reporters receive such data before its public release. The early access to embargoed data allows news services to prepare articles in advance of the public release of economic reports. While credentialed reporters will still have early access to embargoed economic data, the department says it’s barring their use of computers during that time. The Labor Department says this is to ensure the security of the data and to prevent anyone from benefiting from early access to the data, which can influence stock and bond markets.

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NBC Peacock streamer to offer sneak peak of late-night TV

NEW YORK (AP) — Paying subscribers of NBCUniversal’s upcoming Peacock streaming service will get Premier League soccer matches unavailable on TV and late-night shows from Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers a few hours early. The premium offering will cost $5 with ads and $10 without. Some Cox and Comcast customers will get the ad-supported version for free. The service launches April 15 for some Comcast customers and July 15 for everyone else.

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Gap dumps plans to spin off Old Navy as a separate entity

NEW YORK (AP) — Gap Inc. says it no longer intends to spin off Old Navy as a separate entity. The company says its board scuttled the move after determining it would be too costly and complex, especially given the retailer’s recent struggles. Gap announced in February 2019 that it planned to split into two publicly traded companies, one for its low-cost Old Navy brand and another for the Gap, Banana Republic and its lesser known brands like Athleta, Intermix and Hill City. Like many mall-based clothing chains, Gap is seeking ways to turn its business around.

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Expert: Georgia election server showed signs of tampering

BOSTON (AP) — A computer security expert says a forensic image of an election server central to a bitter legal battle over the security of Georgia’s election administration showed signs of tampering. The server was left exposed to the open internet for at least six months but was wiped clean in mid-2017. That was just days after election integrity activists filed a lawsuit seeking an overhaul of what they called an unreliable and negligently run state election system. The expert’s findings are based on an FBI copy of the server’s contents made before it was erased. State officials have said they’ve seen no evidence that any election-related data was compromised.

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Group finds aircraft approval process safe, despite crashes

WASHINGTON (AP) — A government committee that reviewed how the Federal Aviation Administration certifies new passenger planes for flight has determined that the system is safe and effective, despite two deadly crashes involving the Boeing 737 Max. The committee was appointed by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in April after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people. Members found in a report released Thursday that the FAA’s system of delegating some inspections to aircraft manufacturers is effective and allows the U.S. industry to thrive, but small changes are needed. The findings conflict with legislators who are investigating the crashes and may try to stop the FAA from delegating work to Boeing.

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NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks closed broadly higher on Wall Street, pushing major indexes to more record highs. A batch of solid economic data injected more optimism into markets Thursday, a day after the U.S. and China signed an initial trade deal. Technology companies including Microsoft led the gains. Morgan Stanley rose sharply after reporting blowout results for its latest quarter.

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The S&P 500 index climbed 27.52 points, or 0.8%, to 3,316.81. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 267.42 points, or 0.9%, to 29,297.64. The Nasdaq gained 98.44 points, or 1.1%, to 9,357.13. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks rose 22.82 points, or 1.4%, to 1,705.22.

The Associated Press