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Stocks climb...Net worth slips...FINRA fines 10 banks...NLRB: Unions can use company email

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NEW YORK (AP) — A robust report on U.S. consumer spending, right in the middle of the important holiday shopping season, is pushing stocks higher in afternoon trading on Wall Street. The government says retail sales rose 0.7 percent in November, led by online purchases and sales of autos, clothing and electronics. The energy sector rose after crude oil prices stabilized.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans' net worth has slipped a bit as shrinking stock portfolios overwhelmed a solid gain in home values from July through September. The Federal Reserve says U.S. household wealth declined 0.2 percent in the third quarter to $81.3 trillion. Americans' stock and mutual fund portfolios shrank $700 billion. The value of their homes increased $245 billion. The slight drop comes after Americans' wealth rose to a record in the April-June quarter.

NEW YORK (AP) — The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is fining 10 banks a total of $43.5 million, saying they tried to win roles in the initial public offering of Toys R Us by offering the company favorable analyst coverage. FINRA says the banks violated its conflict-of-interest rules by telling the company their analysts would write favorable reports about Toys R Us if they were named as underwriters of the offering. The toy retailer filed for an IPO in 2010 but ultimately decided did not go public.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Labor Relations Board says employees can use their company email accounts for union organizing and other workplace-related purposes, if they do it on their own time. In a 3-2 vote, the NLRB said that once an employer gives an employee access to the company email system, then the business cannot restrict what the employee emails, so long as it is generally job-related and isn't during working hours.

WASHINGTON (AP) — All registered taxis in the nation's capital will be required to use an app allowing customers to order rides through their cellphones. The D.C. Taxicab Commission calls the rule approved yesterday an effort to level the playing field. Taxis in Washington have struggled to compete with ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. Testing on the new taxi app is scheduled to begin in March, and the commission hopes to have it fully launched by the summer.

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