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Business Highlights: From corn to Apple: The cases behind the US-China standoff; Crude, natural gas down

🕐 4 min read

___The S&P 500 index rose 23.05 points, or 0.9 percent, to 2,704.10. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 15.19 points, or 0.1 percent, to 24,999.67. The Nasdaq composite climbed 98.66 points, or 1.4 percent, to 7,281.74. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies picked up 12.48 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,499.42.

U.S. crude oil fell 0.8 percent to settle at $53.79 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 0.4 percent to close at $61.89 per barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 1.4 percent to $1.36 a gallon. Heating oil slid 1 percent to $1.88 a gallon. Natural gas dropped 1.4 percent to $2.81 per 1,000 cubic feet.

WASHINGTON (AP) — To hear the Americans tell it, the Chinese have gone on a commercial crime spree, pilfering trade secrets from seed corn to electronic brains behind wind turbines. China has stripped the arm off a T-Mobile robot, the U.S. says, and looted trade secrets about robotic cars from Apple. The alleged victims are American companies, whose cases lie behind the U.S. complaints in the current trade talks. Beijing denies the charges and counters that the U.S. is just trying to suppress a rising competitor.

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Facebook removes 783 fake pages, accounts tied to Iran

NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook says it has removed 783 Iran-linked pages, accounts and groups from its service for what it calls “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” That means misrepresenting who is running the accounts with the intent of disrupting politics and elections.

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S&P 500 index delivers biggest monthly gain since 2015

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street got its mojo back in January after finishing 2018 with its worst December since 1931. Stocks finished higher Thursday, closing out the month with the best monthly gain for the S&P 500 index since 2015. A series of strong corporate earnings helped power the monthlong rally, which followed a dismal December that nearly brought the benchmark index into a bear market, meaning a decline of 20 percent from a recent peak.

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How will bankrupt utility deal with wildfires from now on?

LOS ANGELES (AP) — When California’s Pacific Gas & Electric comes out of bankruptcy, it will face the same danger that put the company in financial peril in the first place: wildfires. The question is: How will it respond to that threat as it reorganizes under Chapter 11 protection?

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Natural gas prices slump despite US winter weather blast

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Strong production, healthier stockpiles and forecasts calling for milder temperatures next month are keeping natural gas prices from rebounding from a two-month skid even as demand surges as a massive weather system blankets much of the Midwest and Northeast with frigid temperatures.

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Trump order asks federal fund recipients to buy US goods

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has signed an executive order aimed at encouraging government contractors to “buy American” as part of the administration’s efforts to boost U.S. manufacturing. The new order asks federal agencies to encourage those who receive federal financial assistance for infrastructure projects to use American materials and products. Trump says he wants American roads, bridges and railways to be built with American iron, steel, concrete and hands.

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As Wall Street spasmed with fear, 401(k) savers held steady

NEW YORK (AP) — While professional traders scrambled to sell stocks amid a fear-fueled, nearly 20 percent drop for the S&P 500 late last year, most people at home remained pretty calm when it came to their own retirement savings. So say numbers from Fidelity Investments, which show that the vast majority of 401(k) participants continued to sock savings away in their accounts during the last three months of 2018 and refrained from the perhaps-tempting choice to abandon stocks and hide out in the safety of cash.

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Trump casts doubt on US-China trade deal hopes

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is casting doubt on whether the U.S. and China can reach a comprehensive trade deal to keep a steep tariff increase from kicking in against Beijing in March. American and Chinese negotiators are meeting in Washington this week to try to make progress toward a deal by a March deadline. That’s when U.S. tariffs against Chinese goods are scheduled to bump up to 25 percent from 10 percent.

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Companies hope vests will ease burden for assembly workers

FLAT ROCK, Mich. (AP) — Ford Motor Co. and other manufacturers want to help their workers take a load off. Or at least make it easier to lift a load up. Ford is among several companies providing wearable technology to elevate and support workers’ arms. Nicholas Gotts wears an EksoVest during his shifts building Mustangs at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant in suburban Detroit. He says the exoskeleton makes his job “a whole lot easier and a lot less strenuous.” The vest provides lift assistance for 5 to 15 pounds per arm.

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US wages and benefits up 0.7 percent in Q4

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. workers saw their annual wages and benefits rise by 0.7 percent in the final three months of last year, a moderate gain that was down only slightly from the third quarter. The Labor Department says that the seasonally adjusted October-December gain was down from a 0.8 percent rise in the third quarter.

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