Business Highlights


Senate Republicans barrel toward sweeping tax overhaul

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate is barreling toward the most sweeping rewrite of the tax code in more than three decades. The Senate voted 51-47 to formally begin negotiations with the House in an effort to reconcile their two tax bills. In a concession to lawmakers from high-tax states, the top Senate Republican says he favors expanding a deduction for state and local taxes to enable Americans to deduct local income taxes as well as property taxes.


Count the ways: How GOP tax plans would reward rich families

WASHINGTON (AP) — Under the Republican tax plans, part of prep school tuition could be shielded from taxes. A larger chunk of inheritances would be free of estate tax. Any companies people inherit — but don't necessarily work for— could be taxed at a discount. Stock portfolios gifted by parents could keep climbing. And wealthy parents could enjoy a bigger child tax credit than poor working families would. All told, such perks could further widen America's wealth gap.


VW senior manager gets 7 years in US prison

DETROIT (AP) — A Volkswagen senior manager has been sentenced to seven years in a U.S. prison for concealing software that was used to evade pollution limits on nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles. Lawyers spent roughly 90 minutes giving different views about Oliver Schmidt's culpability in the scandal. But Judge Sean Cox sided with prosecutors, calling Schmidt a "key conspirator" who viewed the cover-up as an opportunity to "shine" and "climb the corporate ladder."


Trump says government shutdown possible, blames Democrats

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is warning that a government shutdown is possible this weekend because Democrats are demanding to have "illegal immigrants pouring into our country." His comments tossed incendiary rhetoric onto a partisan showdown that was showing signs of easing. Trump's comments risked roiling a White House meeting with congressional leaders of both parties planned for Thursday aimed at averting a shutdown.


Survey: US businesses added a solid 190,000 jobs in November

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses added a robust 190,000 jobs in November, according to a private survey, a sign that hiring is strong enough to reduce the already-low unemployment rate. Payroll processor ADP said last month's hiring followed an even larger gain of 235,000 in October.


UnitedHealth ventures deeper into care with nearly $5B deal

The nation's biggest health insurer is spending nearly $5 billion to buy hundreds of clinics, just three days after rival Aetna announced a tie up with CVS Health. UnitedHealth Group Inc. said Wednesday that its Optum segment will buy the DaVita Medical Group from DaVita Inc. in a cash deal expected to close next year.


As health premiums rise, small businesses seek alternatives

NEW YORK (AP) — Small businesses have been getting notices of premium and coverage changes for 2018. The changes vary widely, depending on the state where a company is located, how many employees it has and how comprehensive its insurance is. But many owners are facing rate increases running into double-digit percentages or dramatically reduced coverage — or both. Health insurance consultants expect many owners to choose alternatives like paying for claims themselves or adding health services to lower costs.


Lyft offers self-driving car rides in Boston

BOSTON (AP) — The ride-hailing company Lyft is now sending self-driving cars to pick up passengers in a Boston neighborhood. The cars will have backup human drivers at the wheel and will be limited to short routes within the city's Seaport District, a burgeoning tech startup hub. Lyft and its Boston-based partner nuTonomy, which builds self-driving software, announced Wednesday that the pilot project has begun.


APNewsBreak: Accusers take on toxic culture in TV newsrooms

Women who say they were sexually harassed or mistreated by powerful men in television news are banding together to form a support network aimed at changing newsroom culture. The women behind the Press Forward initiative tell The Associated Press they want a zero-tolerance policy for sexual misconduct at networks, better awareness of legal rights for women coming into the industry and better accountability for executives who are responsible to ensure safety and improvements.


Sinking energy stocks pull S&P 500 to fourth straight loss

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks took another small step backward on Wednesday after a plunge in the price of oil dragged down shares of energy producers. The losses overshadowed gains for technology companies and other areas of the market.


The Standard & Poor's 500 index dipped by a fraction of a point, down 0.30 to 2,629.27. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 39.73 points, or 0.2 percent, to 24,140.91. The Nasdaq composite rose 14.16, or 0.2 percent, to 6,776.38 and the Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks lost 7.88, or 0.5 percent, to 1,508.88.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.66 to settle at $55.96 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, lost $1.64 to $61.22 a barrel. Natural gas rose a cent to $2.92 per 1,000 cubic feet, heating oil fell 5 cents to $1.86 per gallon and wholesale gasoline dropped 6 cents to $1.66 per gallon.