Wall Street notches best day in 10 years in holiday rebound
Wall Street notched its best day in 10 years as stocks rallied back Wednesday, giving some post-Christmas hope to a market that has otherwise been battered this December. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped more than 1,000 points — its biggest point-gain ever — rising nearly 5 percent as investors returned from a holiday break. The benchmark S&P 500 index also gained 5 percent and the technology heavy Nasdaq rose 5.8 percent. But even with the rally, the market remains on track for its worst December since 1931, during the depths of the Great Depression, and to finish 2018 with its steepest losses in a decade.
A strong economy translates into big sales this holiday
NEW YORK (AP) — Americans buoyed by a strong economy pushed holiday sales growth to a six-year high. Retail sales rose 5.1 percent between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24 from a year ago, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracked spending online and in stores across all payment types, including those who paid by cash or check. Total sales topped $850 billion this year, Mastercard said. "From shopping aisles to online carts, consumer confidence translated into holiday cheer for retail," said Steve Sadove, a senior adviser at Mastercard and the former CEO of the department store chain Saks. Online sales continued to grow, up more than 19 percent from a year ago.
'Tech addicts' seek solace in 12 steps and rehab
BELLEVUE, Wash. (AP) — The young men sit in chairs in a circle in a small meeting room in suburban Seattle and introduce themselves before they speak. It is much like any other 12-step meeting — but with a twist. "Hi, my name is," each begins. Then something like, "and I'm an internet and tech addict." The eight who've gathered here are beset by a level of tech obsession that's different than it is for those of us who like to say we're addicted to our phones or an app or some new show on a streaming video service. For them, tech gets in the way of daily functioning and self-care.
As ball drops, minimum-wage workers in NYC will see pay rise
NEW YORK (AP) — The lowest-paid workers in New York state will have something to look forward to in the new year: a higher minimum wage, with the biggest boost coming to employees in New York City, who will make at least $15 per hour. For workers struggling in this expensive city, it's a cause for celebration, an extra bit of cash to help with the daily fight to make ends meet, even as rents and other costs continue to rise. For some business owners, it's a burden as they try to figure out how to cope with higher labor costs.
US home price growth slowed in October
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home price growth slowed in October, a likely consequence of higher mortgage rates having worsened affordability and causing sales to fall. The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 5 percent from a year earlier, down from an annual gain of 5.2 percent in September, according to a Wednesday report. Home prices have dropped as would-be buyers are struggling to afford homes. Prices have consistently climbed faster than wa0ges, a challenge that was overcome until last year by historically low mortgage rates. But borrowing costs began to rise last year after President Donald Trump cut taxes by increasing the budget deficit and the Federal Reserve hiked interest rates.
FBI concerned by money mules roped into fraud schemes
WASHINGTON (AP) — The email caught the executive at a small company by surprise one morning in 2016. The company's owner, or so he thought, was requesting a money transfer to pay for supplies from a new vendor. It wasn't until that night when the executive, hours after the money had been transferred and still puzzled by the out-of-the-blue demand, texted the owner to make sure he'd heard the request correctly. The befuddled reply was disheartening: "I just saw your message about a wire transfer today. What is that about?" It was all part of a fraud scam that targeted companies, schools and nonprofits in Connecticut and elsewhere in the United States and that resulted this month in a 45-month prison sentence for one of the culprits.
Potholes, water woes: New Orleans seeks more of tourist tax
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A night's stay at a New Orleans hotel can take as much as a 15 percent bite in taxes and fees. Yet barely more than 1 in 10 of those tax and fee dollars — out of an estimated $166 million collected annually — finds its way into city coffers in this leading Southern tourist destination. That's according to estimates by an independent research agency that last calculated the figure in 2015. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell's still-new administration says the city needs and deserves a bigger share. When Cantrell took office in May, she inherited many lingering infrastructure challenges: potholed streets, drainage problems and a drinking water system plagued by periodic boil-water advisories.
In volatile market, companies can plan for possible slowdown
NEW YORK (AP) — As the Dow Jones Industrial Average seesaws and mostly drops by hundreds of points a day, Kathy Barnes sees the impact of the volatility on homebuilders and general contractors in the St. Louis area. Barnes, who helps these small business owners manage their projects, says her clients are worried that the bull market that gave customers the confidence to do major work on their homes is at an end. Builders are investing in fewer properties and contractors are handling smaller-scale renovations. "People are holding back for fear of the worst," Barnes says. Although the overall economy and consumer spending have been strong, some small business owners, particularly those who supply big-ticket items and services like home remodeling, are feeling the effects of volatility in stocks that has persisted for much of this year.
AP EXPLAINS: What is Boxing Day and how did it get its name?
LONDON (AP) — In Britain and other countries like Australia and Canada, the day after Christmas is a secular national holiday known as Boxing Day. Here's a brief look at some theories about how the holiday got its name and how people celebrate it: NO NEED FOR BOXING GLOVES While no one seems to know for sure how it came to be called Boxing Day, it definitely has nothing to do with the sport of boxing. Perhaps the most widely held understanding of its origins comes from the tradition of wealthier members of society giving servants and tradesmen a so-called Christmas Box containing money and gifts on the day after Christmas.
No more paperwork: Estonia edges toward digital government
TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — In the Estonian capital of Tallinn, three-day-old Oskar Lunde sleeps soundly in his hospital cot, snuggled into a lime green blanket decorated with red butterflies. Across the room, his father turns on a laptop. "Now we will register our child," Andrejs Lunde says with gravity as he inserts his ID card into the card reader. His wife, Olga, looks on proudly. And just like that, Oskar is Estonia's newest citizen. No paper. No fuss. This Baltic nation of 1.3 million people is engaged in an ambitious project to make government administration completely digital to reduce bureaucracy, increase transparency and boost economic growth.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped more than 1,000 points, rising nearly 5 percent as investors returned from a holiday break. The benchmark S&P 500 index also gained 5 percent and the technology heavy Nasdaq rose 5.8 percent.
Benchmark U.S. crude climbed 8.7 percent to settle at $46.22 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 7.9 percent to $54.47 a barrel in London.