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FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares mostly up after signing of China-US trade pact

BANGKOK (AP) — Share prices were mostly higher today in moderate trading in Asia after the U.S. and China signed a preliminary trade agreement that investors hope will bring better relations between the two biggest economies.

Japan's Nikkei 225 added 0.7%, while the Kospi in South Korea added 0.8%. Shares fell in China, with the Shanghai Composite index giving up 0.5%. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng picked up 0.1%.

On Wall Street Wednesday, the S&P 500 index rose 0.2% to 3,289.29. The index also climbed to an all-time high on Monday. The Dow gained 0.3% to 29,030.22. The Nasdaq composite added 0.1%, to 9,258.70. Smaller-company stocks fared better than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 picked up 0.4%, to 1,682.40.

TRUMP-TRADE

Senate expected to give Trump back-to-back trade victories

WASHINGTON (AP) — One day after signing a new trade deal with China, President Donald Trump is expected to get more good news on his trade agenda today.

The Senate will take up the new North American trade pact.

The House has already overwhelmingly approved the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The Senate is expected to do the same and send the measure to Trump’s desk for his signature before senators turn to articles of impeachment.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell describes the pact as a “major win for the Trump administration, a major win for those of us who are already ready to move past this season of toxic political noise.”

CALIFORNIA-CORPORATE TAXES

California targets companies with highly paid execs

SACREMENT), Calif. (AP) — California is considering raising taxes on some of the country's largest companies. The size of the tax increase would depend on how much a company pays its top executives compared to the average salary of the company's workers. The bigger the gap, the bigger the tax increase would be. The proposal would apply to about 2,000 companies nationwide that do business in California.

The proposal would only apply to companies that post at least $10 million of taxable income from business conducted in California. That would apply to about 2,000 companies nationwide, including the Walt Disney Co., headquartered in Burbank.

Heiress Abigail Disney, granddaughter of Roy Disney — the brother of Walt Disney and one of the company's co-founders — supports the bill. She has no formal role at the company, but she has been advocating for higher wages for the company's workers.

TV-HBO-MAX

HBO Max chief dismisses streamer's high-end fee as obstacle

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — An HBO Max executive says its high-end subscription fee won’t be an obstacle to the streaming service’s launch. HBO Max Chief Content Officer Kevin Reilly said people don't shop for their entertainment with price as the primary motivation. The service will launch in May with a $15 monthly fee.

Other newcomers include Apple TV Plus, which costs $5 a month, and Disney Plus, which is $7 monthly. HBO Max, like other outlets, is scooping up talent to stock its shelves.

After striking a five-year deal with “The Big Short” filmmaker Adam McKay, the service announced Wednesday he’s writing an anthology series inspired by the best-selling book “The Uninhabitable Earth.

Reilly said that viewers unable or reluctant to pay that fee can look to a lower-priced iteration in the future.

The company previously said it plans to launch a version of HBO Max with ads in 2021.

STARBUCKS-UNDERSERVED COMMUNITIES

Starbucks expands presence in low-income communities

DETROIT (AP) — Starbucks is expanding a program that tries to help low-income communities by opening coffee shops in them and hiring local workers. The Seattle-based company plans to open or remodel 85 stores by 2025 in rural and urban communities across the U.S. Each store will have event space and Starbucks will partner with local United Way chapters to offer programs like youth job training.

Starbucks opened its first community store in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2016, two years after devastating riots that followed the shooting of an unarmed black man by police. It has opened 13 other locations since then, including stores in Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, New Orleans and Jonesboro, Georgia. Another store will open this spring in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Starbucks estimates the stores have created more than 300 jobs.

The company says the stores are profitable and feature the same menu and prices as regular Starbucks.

NILE-DAM-DISPUTE

California targets companies with highly paid execs

WASHINGTON (AP) — Officials from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan say they have reached a preliminary agreement that should help clear the way for the filling and operation of a $5 billion dam project on the Nile River. The foreign ministers and water resources officials of the three countries wrapped up three days of talks in Washington Wednesday with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and World Bank President David Malpass.

The discussions involved the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The dam is around 70% complete and promises to provide much needed electricity for Ethiopia’s 70 million people. However, Egyptian officials are concerned that filing the reservoir behind the dam could significantly reduce the amount of Nile water available to Egypt.

The countries plan to meet again in Washington on Jan. 28-29 with the goal of reaching a final agreement on the dam's filing and operation.

RESMED-KICKBACK-SUITS

Sleep apnea company pays $37.5M to settle kickback lawsuits

SAN DIEGO (AP) — ResMed, a San Diego-based company that sells sleep apnea machines, will pay $37.5 million to settle allegations that it provided kickbacks to obtain customer referrals. The U.S. Department of Justice announced the settlement Wednesday.

The settlement covers five whistleblower lawsuits filed on behalf of the federal government. The lawsuits say that the company provided free services and equipment to medical equipment suppliers, sleep labs and other health care providers in violation of the federal False Claims Act.

ResMed didn't acknowledge any wrongdoing in the settlement but agreed to tighten controls on its pricing and sales.

Shares of ResMed finished up 40 cents at $158.72 Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

XGR-TELEGRAPH ERA ENDS

News flash from Florida legislators: Telegraph era is over

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida lawmakers are transmitting a news bulletin: The telegraph era is over. Before there was instant messaging, emails and even corded telephones, there was the reliable telegraph to instantaneously transmit messages far and wide. While thumbing through a volume of Florida laws, state Rep. Tommy Gregory and a colleague came upon old statutes regulating the telegraph industry. He found the laws meaningless in the era of the internet, smartphones and emojis.

Now, Gregory wants those pages ripped out of the state's laws. On Wednesday, a state House committee agreed, telegraphing the end of an era. One lawmaker cheekily registered his vote by using his fingers to tap into the dais as if using Morse Code. The Florida law was adopted more than a century ago and remained mostly unchanged since 1913.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Associated Press

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