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12/17/2017 01:23 AM
Gillibrand sends Trump campaign contributions to anti-sexual-violence group

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has sent to the anti-sexual-violence organization RAINN a sum equaling the contributions made in 2007 and 2010 to Gillibrand's campaign funds by Donald Trump, the New York Daily News reported, saying a spokesman for the New York Democrat had confirmed the development. Gillibrand found herself in a war of words late this week with now-President Trump, as she called for his resignation over the sexual-misconduct claims lodged against him and he responded by ripping Gillibrand for seeking donations from him in the past, saying she had begged and would "do anything" for the requested contributions. The sum Gillibrand reportedly sent to RAINN was $5,850.

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12/16/2017 01:40 PM
Democrat Schumer vows to push for Senate vote on net neutrality: report

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday he would use the Congressional Review Act as a vehicle to force a Senate vote on the Federal Communications Commission's repeal this week of Obama-era rules on net neutrality, according to a Reuters report. Those rules barred internet service providers from discriminating against content, content providers or consumers, provided the content in question is legal. The commission voted 3-2, along party lines, on Thursday to repeal those rules. Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who joined the commission during the Obama administration as a Republican member put forth by Sen. Mitch McConnell, reportedly said the rollback of the rules could benefit consumers as broadband providers such as AT&T and Comcast offer wider ranges of internet service options. Even if Schumer succeeds in getting senators on the record on net neutrality the move is not expected to have an impact on the rollback.

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12/15/2017 10:40 PM
Procter & Gamble confirms Nelson Peltz will get a board seat

Procter & Gamble Co. shares ticked higher in the extended session Friday after the consumer goods company certified that activist investor Nelson Peltz secured a seat on its board. P&G shares rose 0.8% to $92.58 after hours. In a statement, P&G said "results between Ernesto Zedillo and Nelson Peltz were extremely close, with Mr. Peltz receiving almost 50% of shares voted." The company continued: "Because the election results were so close, and because a large number of shareholders voted for Nelson Peltz to be a Director, the Board has engaged in numerous discussions with Mr. Peltz regarding a Board seat." P&G said it will work with Peltz, who will join the board on March 1, as it does not agree with such strategies as "taking on excessive leverage, or substantially reducing R&D spending, or advocating for a break-up of the Company, or moving the Company out of Cincinnati." Last month, Peltz won an elected board seat, which the company considered to be a preliminary result.

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12/15/2017 09:42 PM
Fitch upgrades Portugal credit rating to investment grade

Fitch Ratings hiked Portugal's credit rating two notches to BBB, returning it to investment-grade status. Large institutional investors like pension funds are often required to abstain from buying bonds ranked below investment-grade. The move would also make its sovereign paper eligible for entry in benchmark bond indexes and could, therefore, draw billions of dollars of inflows. The ratings company justified its move saying they expected government debt levels to fall. Portuguese bond yields touched a three-year low on Friday on anticipation of an upgrade. Debt prices rise when yields move higher.

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12/15/2017 09:14 PM
Campbell Soup in 'advanced talks' to buy Snyder's-Lance: report

Campbell Soup Co. is in "advanced talks" to buy snack maker Snyder's-Lance Inc. , CNBC reported late Friday, citing sources familiar with the potential deal. The acquisition could be announced as early as next week and would be Campbell's largest, the report said. The deal could be delayed or fall apart, the sources said. It would value Snyder's at about $50 a share, according to the report. Shares of Campbell Soup were flat in late trading Friday after gaining 2% at the end of the trading day, while Snyder's-Lance shares rose 5% after finishing the regular session up 5.3%.

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12/15/2017 09:03 PM
All main stock indexes close at records ahead of GOP tax bill draft

All main stock benchmarks closed at records on Friday with the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average extending their weekly winning streak to four as Republicans prepared to outline their final version of the tax bill. Stocks have been sensitive to developments from Capitol Hill on the tax bill and any news that is viewed as a step closer to enacting tax cuts tend to buoy market sentiment. The Dow rose 140 points, or 0.6%, to close at 24,648. The S&P 500 climbed 23 points, or 0.9%, to end at 2,675 while the Nasdaq Composite Index gained 80 points, or 1.2%, to close at 6,936.

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12/15/2017 08:36 PM
Corker says he'll vote 'yes' on Republican tax bill

Sen. Bob Corker said Friday he'll vote for the final version of the Republican tax bill. The Tennessee Republican was the only senator from his party to vote against the Senate's version of the measure. He said in a statement, "I believe that this once-in-a-generation opportunity to make U.S. businesses domestically more productive and internationally more competitive is one we should not miss." His support makes it much more likely the Senate will approve the measure.

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12/15/2017 08:33 PM
Intel's stock surges back above 50-day MA, paces Dow gainers amid broad chip sector rally

Intel Corp.'s stock surged 3.4% to pace the Dow Jones Industrial Average's gainers, and to bounce back above the widely-watched 50-day moving average line, amid a broad rally in the semiconductor sector. The stock had been hovering just above the 50-day MA line, which chart watchers use as a guide to the short-term trend, for about a week until closing just below on Thursday for the first time since Aug. 29, 2017. The line currently extends to $43.46. Meanwhile, the iShares PHLX Semiconductor ETF jumped 1.8% to $170.20, with all 30 of its equity components trading higher, but remained just below its 50-day MA at $171.25. Among the ETF's other more-active components, shares of Micron Technology Inc. climbed 0.6%, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. rallied 1.6%, Nvidia Corp. surged 2.5% and Applied Materials Inc. ran up 3.0%. All four of those stocks are below their 50-day MAs.

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12/15/2017 07:48 PM
Oil prices settle higher, but post third straight weekly decline

Oil prices settled higher Friday, but tallied a loss for a third straight week, on the back of ongoing concerns over growth in U.S. crude production. "The driving force behind oil markets remains [the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries'] rebalancing act," said Adrienne Murphy, chief market analyst at AvaTrade. "OPEC-led cuts simply provide an opening for U.S. shale producers to fill the void with their supplies. The supply curbs could prove to be futile and OPEC [members] are really taking a gamble," she said. January West Texas Intermediate crude rose 26 cents, or 0.5%, for the session to settle at $57.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost about 0.1% for the week.

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12/15/2017 07:42 PM
Sirius' stock sinks on heavy volume after CRB raises royalty payment rate

Shares of Sirius XM Holdings Inc. sank 5.8% in very active trade Friday, after the company disclosed that it will have pay higher royalties to play music on its satellite radio programs. Volume ballooned to 74.2 million shares, compared with the full-day average of 16.3 million shares, and enough to make the stock the most actively trade on major U.S. exchanges, according to FactSet. Sirius said in an SEC filing that the Copyright Royalty Board had determined that starting Jan. 1, 2018, the company will be required to pay a royalty of 15.5% of gross revenue through 2022, up from the 2017 rate of 11.0%. "We anticipate that the [CRB] decision will result in an increase in our aggregate royalty expense on an annual basis beginning in 2018," the company stated in the filing. "We are not yet able to estimate the impact on our financial statements, although the additional royalty expense could be material." The stock has now lost 9.0% since it closed at an 11 1/2-year high of $5.86 on July 31, 2017, but was still up 19.8% year to date, while the S&P 500 has gained 19.6%.

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12/15/2017 07:04 PM
Deutsche Bank has been asked for info on Flynn transactions: WSJ

Deutsche Bank has been asked by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller to hand over information about transactions that could be linked to Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Deutsche Bank also has been asked for information about entities connected to Flynn, the report said.

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12/15/2017 06:41 PM
Gold ends slightly higher, marks first weekly rise in a month

Gold ended with a modest climb Friday, logging a gain for the week following three-straight weeks of declines. Prices got a boost after the Federal Reserve announced its decision this week to raise interest rates, as expected, and didn't change its forecast for inflation and interest rates in 2018. "Gold had already priced in the Fed rate increase in the last month and there was an element of 'sell the Fed rumour' and 'buy the Fed news'," said Mark O'Byrne, research director at GoldCore. "The outlook for gold is good. Seasonally, January is generally a good month to own precious metals, particularly gold," he said. February gold rose 40 cents to settle at $1,257.50 an ounce.

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12/15/2017 06:40 PM
House ethics panel probing Nevada Democrat over sexual harassment allegations

The House Ethics Committee announced Friday it has opened an investigation into Rep. Ruben Kihuen, a Nevada Democrat, over sexual harassment allegations. Kihuen said in a statement he welcomes the "opportunity to clear my name." Two women have accused the congressman of sexual harassment.

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12/15/2017 06:08 PM
Baker Hughes reports a decline in the weekly U.S. oil-rig count

Baker Hughes on Friday reported that the number of active U.S. rigs drilling for oil was down 4 at 747 this week. The decline follows increases over the last three weeks in a row. The total active U.S. rig count, which includes oil and natural-gas rigs, also fell by 1 to 930, according to Baker Hughes. January West Texas Intermediate crude was up 31 cents, or 0.5%, from Thursday, to $57.35 a barrel, up from $57.31 shortly before the rig data.

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12/15/2017 04:30 PM
Pandora stock rises as company introduces new on-demand radio feature

Shares of Pandora Media Inc. rose 3% in Friday morning trading after the company announced that it would allow users of its ad-supported radio service to play songs on demand, in exchange for watching a 15-second video advertisement. Listeners of the free radio product who search for a song will be able to watch an ad to "unlock a Pandora Premium listening session," the company said in a Thursday afternoon release, in reference to Pandora's paid on-demand streaming service that launched earlier this year. The ability to play a specific song was the "top request" among listeners of Pandora's radio product, according to CEO Roger Lynch. Stifel analysts led by John Egbert wrote that while Spotify and YouTube also allow mobile users to listen to music on demand for free, "this feature helps Pandora narrow that gap and could potentially avoid pushing the company's listeners toward rival services when they're looking for a specific song." They added that "investors may be under-appreciating the benefits this product could yield to Pandora, both in terms of audience and ad revenue stabilization." Stifel has a hold rating on Pandora shares and an $8 price target. Pandora shares have fallen 61% this year, compared with a 19% gain for the S&P 500 Index .

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12/15/2017 03:53 PM
Express Scripts shares rise on Baird upgrade

Express Scripts Holding Co. shares rose 4.3% in heavy Friday morning trade after the company was upgraded to outperform by Baird Equity Research. Baird also issued a $81 price target; Express Scripts shares traded at $71.33 as of Friday morning. "ESRX is cleaning up, competitor shifts may present opportunities, early tone on 2019 selling season is positive, execution has been steady, near-term numbers are going up, anti-[pharmacy-benefit manager] rhetoric may ease," said Baird analyst Eric Coldwell. "We continue to have a multitude of PBM concerns. But ESRX setup seems most favorable in years." The Baird upgrade comes at a time of major shifts in the PBM industry, including CVS Health Corp.'s about $69 billion acquisition of health insurer Aetna Inc. and health insurer Anthem Inc.'s plans to form its own PBM. As other companies move away from contracting with a standalone PBM, Express Scripts -- the largest standalone PBM -- has sought to diversify its offerings through an acquisition of medical benefit management company eviCore health care, announced in early October. Despite a plethora of long-term challenges that could threaten Express Scripts, Coldwell said the CVS-Aetna merger was unlikely to affect the company's performance in the next year or two, and noted that "ESRX's early tone on 2019 renewal and selling season was positive." In addition, new drug price data shows that U.S. drug spending increased at a rate below the increase in overall health care spend, Coldwell said, which "may soften anti-PBM rhetoric, for now." The company's divestiture of United BioSource is also positive, he said, because it eliminates a possible conflict of interest between the payers Express Scripts contracts with and UBC's drugmaker clients. Express Scripts shares have risen 13.8% over the last three months, compared with a 6.8% rise in the S&P 500 and a 10% rise in the Dow Jones Industrial Average .

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12/15/2017 02:54 PM
Under Armour's stock soars after analyst turns bullish, boosts price target

Shares of Under Armour Inc. soared 8.3% in morning trade Friday toward a 1 1/2-month high, after the athletic apparel and accessories maker was upgraded at Stifel Nicolaus, citing signs that margins are set to improve next year. Analyst Jim Duffy raised his rating to buy, after being at hold the past 14 months, and boosted his stock price target to $17 from $12. He said that while margins may remained pressured in the first half of 2018 given inventory clearance, but he believes investors are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. "With evidence of improving sales quality and cost structure management, we expect the stock begins to anticipated structural capacity for margin improvement before it shows in reported results," Duffy wrote in a note to clients. The stock has now rocketed 29% since it closed at a 5 1/2-year low of $11.61 on Nov. 3. It was still down 49% year to date, while shares of rival Nike Inc. have run up 28% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has climbed 25%.

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12/15/2017 02:48 PM
Trump says child tax credit in bill 'increasing' as Rubio wavers

President Donald Trump said Friday the final Republican tax bill contains a "tremendous" child tax credit, and that it's "increasing on a daily basis." He did not elaborate but his comments follow statements by Sen. Marco Rubio, who has said he can only support the bill if it contains a more-generous child tax credit. The text of the bill is expected to be released late Friday afternoon. Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump also said he didn't want to talk "yet" about pardoning Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser.

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12/15/2017 02:33 PM
Stocks on track to add to weekly gains on tax bill optimism

U.S. stock indexes opened higher Friday as investors shrugged off concerns over potential roadblocks to the tax bill. The Dow and S&P are set to notch their fourth week of gains. The S&P 500 rose 8 points, or 0.3%, to 2661. The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 138 points, or 0.5%, to 24647. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 26 points, or 0.4%, to 3882.

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12/15/2017 02:29 PM
Teva to launch generic version of Gilead's Viread in the U.S.

Shares of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. rallied 3.5% in premarket trade Friday, after the drug maker announced the exclusive launch of generic Viread 1 tablets (300 milligrams) in the U.S. The rally comes a day after the company said it would cut 14,000 jobs, or more than a quarter of its workforce, which sent the stock surging 10.2%. Teva said tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Viread) tablets are used in combination with other agents to treat HIV-1 in adults and pediatric patients, and are also indicated for the treatment of hepatitis B. Viread is Gilead Sciences Inc.'s product, and had sales of $274 million in the quarter ended Sept. 30, down from $303 million a year ago. Gilead's stock was little changed ahead of the open. Teva's stock has tumbled 52.3% year to date through Thursday, while Gilead shares have gained 3.8%, the SPDR S&P Pharmaceuticals ETF has climbed 11.0% and the S&P 500 has run up 18.5%. (This replaces and earlier item that incorrectly reported the stock's move on Thursday.)

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12/15/2017 01:55 PM
MGM Growth Properties boosts dividend by 6.3%

MGM Growth Properties LLC said Friday it will raise its quarterly cash dividend on Class A shares to 42 cents a share, up 6.3% from 39.5 cents a share. The new dividend will be payable Jan. 16 to shareholders of record on Dec. 29. Based on the real estate investment trust's Thursday stock closing price of $29.10, the new annual dividend rate of $1.68 would imply a dividend yield of 5.77%, compared with the SPDR Real Estate Select Sector ETF's implied yield of 3.80%. MGM Growth's stock, which was still inactive in premarket trad, has rallied 15.0% year to date, while the REIT ETF has gained 7.6% and the S&P 500 has climbed 18.5%.

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12/15/2017 01:47 PM
Costco's stock jumps into record territory after analysts boost price targets after results

Shares of Costco Wholesale Corp. shot up 2.9% toward record territory in premarket trade Friday, after the warehouse-club retailer's better-than-expected fiscal first-quarter results triggered a slew of price-target increases by Wall Street analysts. Of the 30 analysts surveyed by FactSet, 15 have raised their price targets. That raised the average target to $191.93 from $179.09 at the end of November. RBC Capital analyst Scot Ciccarelli raised his target to $202 from $191 and reiterated his outperform rating. "Costco not only has some of the best foot traffic growth we know of in retail, but is also gaining traction with its own e-commerce initiatives," Ciccarelli wrote in a note to clients. The stock was trading at $191.85 about 45 minutes before the open, above the Dec. 4 record close of $189.56 and the Dec. 5 intraday record of $191.22. The stock has rallied 16.5% year to date through Thursday, while the SPDR S&P Retail ETF has slipped 0.6% and the S&P 500 has gained 18.5%.

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12/15/2017 01:32 PM
Alnylam shares surge 5% after FDA lifts hold on hemophilia drug

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. shares rose 5% in pre-market trade Friday after the company said the Food and Drug Administration has lifted a hold on clinical trials for hemophilia therapy fitusiran. Alnylam said it and the regulator previously agreed on various ways to reduce risk for the trials, and the company expects to get back to dosing patients around the end of the year. In September, Alynlam said that it had suspended fitusiran dosing after a patient had a "fatal thrombotic event" in a phase 2 open-label extension study. (That study, along with a phase 3 trial, are among those that can now continue, the company said.) Alnylam and Sanofi are co-developing and co-commercializing fitusiran. Alnylam shares have surged 62.3% year-to-date, compared with a 18.5% rise in the S&P 500 and a 24% rise in the Dow Jones Industrial Average .

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12/15/2017 01:12 PM
Ripple surpasses bitcoin cash for third most valued cryptocurrency, jumps above $30 billion

Ripple coins, a popular business-focused cryptocurrency, on Friday surpassed bitcoin cash for the title of third most valued cryptocurrency. According to data and research site, Coinmarketcap.com, a single Ripple token was valued at around 77 cents and has jumped more than 230% this week alone to reach a market value at nearly $31 billion, eclipsing bitcoin cash at $28 billion. Bitcoin cash is a spinoff of core bitcoin that offers transaction processing at larger sizes. Ripple, which offers businesses a chance to use its blockchain technolody, or digital-ledger protocol to banks, has been accelerating in popularity in recent weeks alongside bitcoin's eye-popping rise. Although it isn't the first time that Ripple has been the third most popular coin by market value, it is the first time its value has exceeded $30 billion. The crypto asset is behind Ethereum, the second most popular cybercoin at $64 billion and core bitcoin at nearly $300 billion.

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12/15/2017 01:12 PM
Fitbit stock falls as Stifel Nicolaus sees 'no sightlines to profitability'

Shares of Fitbit Inc. fell 5.7% in premarket trading Friday after analysts at Stifel Nicolaus downgraded the stock to sell. "With the stock market near all-time highs, no visibility to monetization of healthcare opportunities, and no opportunity for Fitbit to benefit from corporate tax reform, we cannot advocate owning Fitbit shares," wrote the analysts, led by Jim Duffy. He sees "no sightlines to profitability" unless Fitbit is able to "drastically" reduce costs or generate enough demand for its newer products to compensate for weak interest in basic fitness trackers. Given Fitbit's gross margins, Duffy thinks the company would need to deliver revenue growth in the mid-teens in order to break even, which he deems a "high hurdle" given estimated holiday performance. Separately, analysts at Morgan Stanley on Thursday pointed to "continued inventory build" for Fitbit's new Ionic smartwatch and suggested that the company's older watch, the Blaze, could actually outsell it this holiday season. Fitbit has been trying to appeal more to healthcare businesses so that it can become less reliant on device sales to consumers, but Duffy is skeptical. "While monetization avenues in the digital health space remain conceptually intriguing, realization of the opportunity has been underwhelming to date and there is nothing tangible to point to return on the associated R&D investment spending," he wrote. He set a price target of $6 on Fitbit shares. The stock is down 6.8% so far in 2017, compared with a 18% gain for the S&P 500 Index .

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12/15/2017 12:56 PM
Bitcoin notches fresh record as CME aims for its own futures contract

The No. 1 cryptocurrency touched a fresh record on Friday after a mostly subdued week, with CME Group Inc. set to follow rival Cboe Global Markets Inc. with a bitccoin futures contract on Sunday. The spot price of a single bitcoin had traded at $17,872.56 earlier, a fresh record peak, according to Coindesk.com. Meanwhile, bitcoin futures for January trading on Cboe were at $18,600, shooting nearly 11% higher after closing at $16,800 on Thursday in New York. Cboe kicked off futures trading of bitcoin, which has hit mainstream popularity, on Sunday 6 p.m. Eastern Time. The CME is expected to follow in two days. So far, bitcoin has soared nearly 1,800%.

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12/15/2017 12:45 PM
Marathon Petroleum to sell GP economic interest in MPLX for over $10 billion in MPLX shares

Marathon Petroleum Corp. said Friday it agreed to sell its general partner economic interest in MPLX LP, a master limited partnership formed to develop and acquire midstream energy assets, to MPLX in exchange for 275 million MPLX shares. Based on Thursday's closing price for MPLX shares of $37.94, the deal is valued at $10.43 billion. After the deal's closing, which is expected to be Feb. 1, 2018, Marathon will own about 64% of MPLX shares outstanding. Shares of Marathon and MPLX were still inactive in premarket trade. Marathon's stock has gained 9.6% year to date, while MPLX shares have run up 28% and the S&P 500 has gained 18.5%.

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12/15/2017 12:12 PM
Performance Food CFO Tom Ondrof to change positions in March, after 17 months in the role

Performance Food Group Co. said Friday Chief Financial Officer Tom Ondrof will leave the position, to become the foodservice distributor's strategic growth leader. Ondrof joined the company as CFO in October 2016. He will be succeeded as CFO by Jim Hope, currently the executive vice president of operations, effective March 1, 2018. Separately, the company said it still expects 2018 adjusted earnings per share to grow 13% to 18% over a year ago. The FactSet 2018 EPS consensus of $1.41 implies 13.7% growth over last year's $1.24. The stock, which was inactive in premarket trade, has rallied 27.3% year to date, while shares of rival Sysco Corp. have gained 10.0% and the S&P 500 has climbed 18.5%.

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12/15/2017 11:52 AM
EU leaders approve moving to 2nd phase of Brexit talks

European Union leaders on Friday agreed to move to the second phase of talks with the U.K. over Britain's exit from the bloc. Leaders of 27 EU member states determined that a sufficient amount of progress in negotiations has been made in recent months and they are now ready to start discussing trade an other issues. Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, in a tweet congratulated U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May. EU leaders made the decision in Brussels where they gathered for a summit.

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12/15/2017 02:43 AM
CSX Corp. CEO is placed on medical leave

CSX Corp. said Thursday that it's President and CEO E. Hunter Harrison has been placed on medical leave "due to unexpected complications from a recent illness." The board of directors named Chief Operating Officer James Foote as acting CEO. "Hunter is a good friend and has been a colleague of mine for many years. He is an icon in the industry and we pray for his speedy recovery," Foote said in a company press release. The company said it would update investors on the situation with a conference call Friday at 7:30 a.m. Eastern. CSX, based in Jacksonville, Fla., provides rail, intermodal and rail-to-truck services.

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