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Business Highlights

Posted November 23

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"Joy" or "hope"? Holiday giving may depend on how you voted

This holiday season, elves and "joy" may be on the way out and "peace" and "hope" on the way in. A divisive election that left half the country deflated and the other half rejuvenated could reverberate through the holiday shopping season in the gifts people give or how they spend.

Some retailers say they have seen a surge in feel-good items such as spa treatments, candles and comfort food, while executives at some major retailers like Wal-Mart, Target and Macy's have said there's no discernable shift in consumer behavior since the presidential election won by Republican Donald Trump.

The divide in the outlook may reflect the rift in the election, as Americans split along geographic lines as well as by income.

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Another failure in search for treatment to slow Alzheimer's

An experimental treatment for Alzheimer's failed again in a widely anticipated study, disappointing many who had hoped drugmaker Eli Lilly had finally found a way to slow the progression of the mind-robbing disease.

The drug did not work better than a placebo treatment in a study of more than 2,100 people with mild Alzheimer's, the company announced Wednesday.

With more than 5 million people in the United States afflicted, Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia. There's no known way to prevent, cure or even slow its progression.

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Equipment companies power Dow and S&P 500 to new records

The Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor's 500 indexes again set records Wednesday in a quiet day of pre-holiday trading. Machinery and equipment makers climbed after strong results from Deere, but technology companies fell.

Stocks opened mostly lower, but they slowly recovered. Industrial companies like Caterpillar and United Technologies continued to rise. Banks also rose as bond yields climbed. Companies that make hardware and network devices skidded after printer and PC maker HP gave a weak profit forecast.

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Fed minutes raise expectations for December hike

Federal Reserve officials earlier this month believed it would be appropriate to raise a key interest rate "relatively soon," with some arguing for a hike at the Fed's next meeting in December in order to preserve the Fed's credibility.

Minutes released Wednesday show that Fed officials were moving closer to hiking rates for the first time in nearly a year. Some officials argued that if the Fed did not raise rates at its December meeting, it ran the risk of harming the central bank's credibility given the many signals it had sent about an impending hike.

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Mortgage rates keep rising after Trump's election win

Long-term U.S. mortgage rates continued to surge this week in the aftermath of Donald Trump's election win.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Wednesday that the average rate on a 30-year fixed rate loan shot up to 4.03 percent, the highest since July 2015 and up from 3.94 percent a week earlier. The rate on 15-year home loans climbed to 3.25 percent, up from 3.14 percent last week and highest since January.

Long-term U.S. interest rates have climbed since Trump was elected.

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Thanksgiving travel expected to be heaviest since 2007

Americans took to the roads, air and railways Wednesday for what is expected to be the busiest Thanksgiving travel period in almost a decade. Almost 49 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more between Wednesday and Sunday, the most since 2007, because of lower gas prices and an improving economy, according to AAA.

And while they look forward to eating turkey and watching football, many are ready to abandon another, more recent, American pastime: rehashing the rancorous election between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

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Lufthansa pilot strike forces 1,800 flight cancelations

German airline Lufthansa canceled nearly 900 flights on Wednesday and scrapped another 912 scheduled for Thursday after pilots launched a two-day strike in a pay dispute.

The Cockpit union initially called members out on a 24-hour strike Wednesday. Late Tuesday night, after Lufthansa tried and failed to have courts block the walkout, it said that they would also strike on Thursday.

Still more cancellations were expected for Friday, after the union said late Wednesday that all pilots flying short-haul routes would stay off the job that day as well.

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Juno Therapeutics halts study after more patient deaths

Juno Therapeutics again halted its study of an experimental leukemia treatment Wednesday after two more patients died of complications.

It was the second setback for the closely watched study, which was previously halted after two patient deaths in July.

The company said that the latest deaths occurred after patients suffered a severe form of brain swelling, similar to the previous two fatalities. Juno said it's working with regulators to determine what to do next.

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Gov't wants phone makers to lock out most apps for drivers

The government wants smartphone makers to lock out most apps when the phone is being used by someone driving a car.

The voluntary guidelines unveiled Wednesday are designed to reduce crashes caused by drivers distracted by phones. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also wants automakers to make infotainment systems easy to pair with smartphones.

Drivers could still make calls but the phones and automaker systems would lock out the ability to enter text. Internet browsing, video not related to driving, text from books, and photos also would be locked out. Navigation systems would be permitted, but with guidelines on how to avoid driver distraction.

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Twitter accidentally suspends CEO Jack Dorsey's account

Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey says the social media platform accidentally suspended his account.

Dorsey tweeted Tuesday night, "just setting up my twttr ... again (account suspension was an internal mistake)." The post was an echo of his first-ever tweet, which came in 2006.

San Francisco-based Twitter suspended the accounts of several prominent members of the so-called "alt-right" in an apparent crackdown on accounts tied to hate speech or threats of violence. Twitter declined comment, but noted its policies against hate speech and harassment.

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The Dow rose 59.31 points, or 0.3 percent, to 19,083.18. The Standard & Poor's 500 index edged up 1.78 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,204.72. The Nasdaq composite lost 5.67 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,380.68.

Benchmark U.S. crude slipped 7 cents to $47.96 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 17 cents to $48.95 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline picked up 1 cent to $1.42 a gallon. Heating oil fell 1 cent to $1.52 per gallon. Natural gas rose 4 cents to $3.03 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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