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US stock indexes move higher on first trading day of 2020

NEW YORK (AP) — Stock indexes are higher on Wall Street’s first trading day of 2020.

The gains followed a rally in overseas markets after China's central bank said it will free up more money for lending.

Technology companies accounted for a big slice of the market's upward move. Financial and industrial stocks also notched solid gains.

Supermarket operators and household goods makers were among the biggest decliners. Health care and utilities stocks also fell broadly.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.87% from 1.91% late Tuesday.


US long-term mortgage rates ease; 30-year loan at 3.72%

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term mortgage rates have declined slightly this week, remaining close to the historically low levels where they have hovered for the past two months.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage eased to 3.72% from 3.74% last week. By contrast, the benchmark rate stood at 4.51% a year ago.

The average rate on a 15-year mortgage slipped to 3.16% from 3.19%.

Freddie Mac chief economist Sam Khater says more positive economic data and improved housing market sentiment have brought stability in mortgage rates. For all of 2019, the 30-year loan averaged 3.9%, the fourth-lowest annual rate since Freddie Mac began tracking it in 1971, according to the company.


Trump plan to curb teen vaping exempts some flavors

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. health officials will ban most flavored e-cigarettes popular with underage teenagers, but with major exceptions that benefit vaping manufacturers, retailers and adults who use the nicotine-emitting devices.

The Trump administration announced Thursday that it will prohibit fruit, candy, mint and dessert flavors from small, cartridge-based e-cigarettes that are popular with high school students. But menthol and tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes will be allowed to remain on the market.

The flavor ban will also entirely exempt large, tank-based vaping devices, which are primarily sold in vape shops that cater to adult smokers.

Together, the two exemptions represent a significant retreat from President Donald Trump's original plan announced four months ago, which would have banned all vaping flavors — including menthol — from all types of e-cigarettes. The new policy will preserve a significant portion of the multibillion-dollar vaping market. And the changes are likely to please both the largest e-cigarette manufacturer, Juul Labs, and thousands of vape shop owners who sell the tank-based systems, which allow users to mix customized flavors.


Interpol issues wanted notice to Lebanon for ex-Nissan exec

BEIRUT (AP) — Interpol issued a wanted notice Thursday for former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn (gohn), who jumped bail in Japan and fled to Lebanon rather than face trial on financial misconduct charges in an escape that has baffled and embarrassed authorities.

Lebanese Justice Minister Albert Serhan told The Associated Press in an interview that Lebanon “will carry out its duties,” suggesting for the first time that the automotive titan may be brought in for questioning. But he said Ghosn entered the country on a legal passport, and he appeared to cast doubt on the possibility Lebanon would hand Ghosn over to Japan.

Interpol issued what is known as a Red Notice, or a request to law enforcement agencies worldwide that they locate and provisionally arrest a fugitive. A Red Notice is not an arrest warrant and does not require Lebanon to arrest Ghosn.

Ghosn, who is Lebanese and also holds French and Brazilian passports, was set to go on trial in Japan in April. He arrived in Lebanon on Monday via Turkey and hasn't been seen in public since. In a statement, he said he had fled to avoid “political persecution.” Lebanese authorities have said that he entered legally on a French passport.


Volkswagen, German consumer group in diesel settlement talks

BERLIN (AP) — Volkswagen and a German consumer group said Thursday they will conduct talks on a possible settlement in a landmark case in which hundreds of thousands of people aim to establish a right of compensation for cars affected by the automaker’s diesel emissions scandal.

A court in Braunschweig, Germany, opened proceedings in September in the case. At the time, the presiding judge suggested that the two sides could consider a settlement, which he said would be possible though very difficult.

The case was brought by the Federation of German Consumer Organizations on behalf of more than 400,000 diesel owners. It uses rules enacted in Germany in 2018 that allow a form of class-action suit.

The new system was prompted in part by the scandal over Volkswagen's use of software to turn emissions controls off when vehicles weren't being tested, which was discovered in 2015.

In a statement Thursday, the two sides said that they have agreed to open talks on a possible settlement and that their common aim is “a pragmatic solution” in the interests of customers. They didn't say what such a solution might entail.


Tesla anticipated to hit low end of 2019 deliveries forecast

UNDATED (AP) — Tesla is expected to hit the low end of its 2019 deliveries forecast, according to some analysts. The electric car maker previously predicted it would deliver 360,000 to 400,000 units worldwide last year.

The company is anticipated to provide its delivery details in the next few days. Analysts also expect China to play a critical role in Tesla's growth story this year, as the company delivered its first batch of vehicles produced in Shanghai last month.


Duke Energy agrees to remove coal ash in North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The state of North Carolina says it has secured an agreement with Duke Energy to excavate nearly 80 million tons of coal ash at six facilities.

The Department of Environmental Quality said in a Thursday press release that it will be the largest coal ash cleanup in the nation’s history. It also settles various legal disputes between Duke and parties that include environmental and community groups.

For decades, coal ash has been stored in landfills or in ponds, often near waterways into which toxins can leach.

Duke Energy will remove coal ash from the Allen, Belews Creek, Cliffside, Marshall, Mayo and Roxboro sites into on-site lined landfills.


Bird flu kills 25,000 turkeys in eastern Poland, sparks cull

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Authorities in eastern Poland say bird flu is responsible for the deaths of at least 25,000 turkeys in poultry farms near the country's borders with Ukraine and Belarus.

Polish veterinary authorities on Thursday were planning to cull tens of thousands of birds in the Lubartow area, a major poultry farming region. Police were blocking access to the affected area to non-residents.

The chief veterinarian for Lublin province, Pawel Piotrowski, confirmed that the deadly H5N8 virus was responsible for the turkey deaths in two farms in the village of Stary Uscimow, which lies 45 kilometers (28 miles) from the borders with Ukraine and Belarus.

It was not clear how the bird flu virus found its way to the farms.


A milestone for French rail strikes: 29th day of walkouts

PARIS (AP) — It's the 29th straight day of French rail strikes against government plans to reform the country's retirement system. The walkouts have now surpassed a 1986-1987 rail strike in longevity. The latest French strikes, which began Dec. 5, have crippled transit services across the country, including over the Christmas-New Year holiday. The national SNCF train service says half of its vaunted high-speed trains weren't running Thursday. French President Emmanuel Macron (eh-mahn-yoo-EHL' mah-KROHN') is still backing the pension changes, saying they will be fairer to all workers. Unions and the French government will resume negotiations next week.

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