Business Highlights

AP News
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Posted: Dec 29, 2016 5:57 PM

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AP Explains: Did Trump just create 8,000 jobs?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump gave himself kudos for the creation of 8,000 new U.S. jobs by a Japanese tech mogul, saying it was proof of "the spirit and the hope" stirred by his presidential win.

But for those particular jobs, Trump was basically taking a bow for the second time.

The jobs were part of a public commitment made on December 6 by Masayoshi Son upon emerging from the elevator bank at Trump Tower after a meeting with Trump. Son pledged that companies controlled by his firm SoftBank would invest $50 billion in the United States and create 50,000 jobs.

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What it means if Trump names China a currency manipulator

WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to name China a currency manipulator on his first day in the White House.

There's only one problem: it's not true anymore.

China, the world's second-biggest economy behind the United States, hasn't been pushing down its currency to benefit Chinese exporters in years.

And even if it were, the law targeting manipulators requires the U.S. spend a year negotiating a solution before it can retaliate.

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AP Explains: How Amazon Echo listens and what it stores

NEW YORK (AP) — Can Amazon's Echo speaker really be a witness to a murder?

Authorities investigating the death of an Arkansas man found floating face-up in a hot tub believe that Amazon might have some evidence, given how Echo listens for commands and questions and communicates with Amazon's servers to respond.

Details are scant. Here's what's known.

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Pay to rise for millions as 19 states increase minimum wage

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — It will be a happy New Year indeed for millions of the lowest-paid U.S. workers. Nineteen states, including New York and California, will ring in the year with an increase in the minimum wage.

Massachusetts and Washington state will have the highest new minimum wages in the country, at $11 per hour.

Workers and labor advocates argue the increases will help low-wage workers now barely making ends meet and boost the economy by giving some consumers more money to spend.

But many business owners opposed the higher wages, saying they would lead to higher prices and greater automation.

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Humanoid robot Pepper is amusing, but is it practical?

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — While merrily chirping, dancing and posing for selfies, a robot named Pepper looks like another expensive toy at a San Francisco mall. But don't dismiss it as mere child's play.

Pepper embodies the ambitions of SoftBank Robotics, an Asian joint venture formed by a trio of major technology companies that's aiming to put its personable robots in businesses and homes across the U.S. over the next few years.

Pepper could become a playmate, companion and concierge. It could eventually respond to voice commands to retrieve vital information, make reservations and control home appliances that are connected to the internet.

That's the theory, anyway. For now, Pepper is more amusing than practical.

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Red Solo Cup inventor Robert Hulseman dies at age 84

CHICAGO (AP) — Robert Hulseman, who in the 1970s invented the Red Solo Cup for family picnics only to see it embraced as the go-to beverage holder at college keg parties and football tailgates — and even the inspiration for a country music party hit — has died. He was 84.

The former president and chief executive of his family's Solo Cup Co. died at his home in Northfield, Illinois, on Dec. 21 of health complications following a series of strokes, his son Paul Hulseman told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The younger Hulseman said his father never fully understood how massively popular the large red plastic cup became in pop culture. He said the cup was intended for families, and recalled being about 10 years old when he and his siblings helped their father choose the cup's first colors: red, blue, yellow and peach.

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Weekly applications for US jobless aid fall to 265,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, continuing a nearly two-year trend that suggests a solid job market.

Weekly requests for jobless aid fell 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 265,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The less volatile four-week moving average for claims was 263,000.

The historically low number of people seeking jobless aid is a positive sign for the economy.

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Long-term US mortgage rates rise, staying near 2014 highs

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term US mortgage rates ticked up again this week, staying at their highest levels since early 2014.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac on Thursday reported the rate on 30-year fixed-rate loans rose to an average 4.32 percent from 4.30 percent last week. That average is at its highest since April 2014.

It's a sharp increase from a 30-year rate that averaged 3.65 percent for all of 2016, the lowest level recorded from records going back to 1971.

Rates began to climb after the presidential election. Investors have bid rates higher out of the belief that the president-elect's plans for tax cuts and higher infrastructure spending will increase economic growth and inflation.

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Study: Ad-tech use shines light on fringe, fake news sites

NEW YORK (AP) — What distinguishes mainstream news sites from those devoted to fake news or other hyper-partisan takes on events? It's not just the stories they run, but also the way they use online technology that tracks readers and shows them ads, according to a new study by a web analytics firm.

In particular, the study — from the New York-based startup Mezzobit — showed that such fringe news sites are relatively unsophisticated in the way they make money from online ads, perhaps because many are shoestring operations that can easily cover their costs.

Mainstream sites need to make a lot of money to fund journalism. But fringe sites don't, and they typically aren't as focused on using tools that maximize ad revenue by auctioning slots to the highest bidder, according to the Mezzobit study. Instead, they generally tap run-of-the-mill services from ad networks like those run by Google and Facebook.

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Honda recalls 633,753 Odyssey minivans for rear seat defect

DETROIT (AP) — Honda Motor Co. is recalling 633,753 Odyssey minivans in the U.S. because the second-row seats could move unexpectedly.

The recall involves Odysseys from the 2011 to 2016 model years. They were made between Aug. 1, 2010, and Oct. 1, 2015.

The vehicles have a second-row seat lever that moves the outer seats forward to access the third row. Honda says the release lever may remain in an unlocked position, which could allow the seats to move unexpectedly.

Dealers will repair the seat levers for free. There are no reports of injuries or accidents related to the issue.

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The Dow Jones industrial average fell 13.90 points, or 0.1 percent, to 19,819.78. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 0.66 points, or 0.03 percent, to 2,249.26 The Nasdaq composite lost 6.47 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,432.09.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 29 cents to close at $53.77 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, slipped 8 cents to close at $56.14 a barrel in London.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline added a penny to $1.68 a gallon and heating oil held steady at $1.70 a gallon. Natural gas futures fell 10 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $3.80 per 1,000 cubic feet.