Business Highlights

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US, China deal aims to simmer long-running trade tensions

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States and China have signed what's being called a first phase trade agreement aimed at lowering tensions in the long-running dispute between the world's two biggest economies. The deal signed at the White House on Wednesday by President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is expected to boost exports from U.S. farmers and manufacturers and protect American trade secrets. But the agreement leaves unresolved many of the complaints voiced by the Trump administration when it started the trade war by imposing tariffs on Chinese imports in July 2018. Chief among those complaints is the way the Chinese government subsidizes its companies.

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Slight gains send Dow Jones Industrial Average above 29,000

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks ended a wobbly day with modest gains, enough to send the Dow Jones Industrial Average to its first close above 29,000 points, two months after its first close above 28,000. Traders were hopeful that the signing of a preliminary trade deal between the U.S. and China Wednesday would help bring about better relations between the two economic superpowers. Health care stocks led the gains. UnitedHealth rose after reporting solid earnings.

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US firm offers free cybersecurity help to federal campaigns

WASHINGTON (AP) — A major U.S. web infrastructure and security company says it will provide free cybersecurity support to federal election campaigns. The goal is to help thwart a repeat of the large-scale effort by Russian agents in 2016 to steal and leak sensitive campaign emails and documents. San Francisco-based Cloudflare said Wednesday it will provide access to several of its security services, including enhanced protection of firewalls, which defend networks from unauthorized access.

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Groups push for 'Medicare for All' support as primaries near

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — With just weeks to go until the first contests of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary campaign, several groups are organizing grassroots efforts aimed at convincing voters they should back candidates who fully support the "Medicare for All" legislation from which the phrase is derived. The signature Medicare for All health care proposal of Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential effort has, in concept, stood for a single-payer, government-run health care system. But the phrase has become somewhat of an umbrella term for a variety of plans to revamp and otherwise reconfigure the existing system.

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Target, like other retailers, did not have a Merry Christmas

NEW YORK (AP) — Target's rare miss in holiday sales raises concerns about the challenges ahead for the retail industry. The discounter is reporting comparable-store sales that are well below last year's, joining a growing list of retailers with meager performances during the critical holiday shopping season. Target said it experienced weaker-than-expected sales of electronics, toys and home goods. The company's same-store sales climbed 1.4% in the November-December period, compared with a very strong 5.7% increase a year earlier. Still, analysts blame the disappointing sales on increasing competition from online retailers, and say that the consumer is still financially strong.

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Does the naked body belong on Facebook? It's complicated

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The unclothed human body accounts for the bulk of the material Facebook removes from its service and some people are not happy. Facebook is tweaking its original heavy-handed policies to account for modern nuances around gender identity, political speech and self-expression. But some activists, sex therapists, artists and sex educators say the company is unfairly censoring their work, suspending them in "Facebook jail" with no warning and little, if any recourse. Facebook's monitoring systems do a better job with nudity than with hate speech, extremism and misinformation. But deciding when a nipple is art, porn or protest gets murky.

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Think tank says UAW deals increased automakers' labor costs

DETROIT (AP) — New contracts between the United Auto Workers union and Detroit's three automakers substantially increased the cost gap between Detroit and foreign automakers with U.S. factories. That's according to industry think tank The Center for Automotive Research. It calculated that General Motors and Ford will see their total costs grow $8 per hour, while Fiat Chrysler's will rise by $11 an hour during the new four-year contracts. The center calculated that on average, foreign-owned factories will only see a $2 per hour increase in the same period.

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Environmental issues top worries for those heading to Davos

LONDON (AP) — A survey of key decision-makers carried out for the World Economic Forum identifies environmental issues as the top five global risks over the coming decade. The World Economic Forum organizes next week's gathering of economic and political elites in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. It sounded the alarm bell Wednesday on potentially catastrophic challenges, like the climate crisis and the mass extinction of animal species. The concerns are especially acute, it added, at a time of growing international division, evident in the trade tensions between the United States and China.

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The S&P 500 index rose 6.14 points, or 0.2%, to 3,289.29. The Dow gained 90.55 points, or 0.3%, to 29,030.22. The Nasdaq composite added 7.37 points, or 0.1%, to 9,258.70. The Russell 2000 of smaller-company stocks picked up 6.66 points, or 0.4%, to 1,682.40.