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Innovation or monopoly? Panel looks at ATT-Time Warner deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators questioning the logic of a proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner turned their focus to the how the $85.4 billion mega-deal would affect Americans.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson assured the members of a Senate antitrust panel Wednesday that it will bring the consumers better price options than what they have today. Still after hours of questioning, the skepticism of some senators seemed to deepen over what would be one of the largest media mergers ever.


ECB seen expanding stimulus amid Trump, Italy uncertainties

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Faced with weak growth and inflation across the 19-country eurozone, the European Central Bank is expected to extend its stimulus program for at least another six months when it concludes its policy meeting Thursday.

Last month's victory by Donald Trump in the U.S. election and the uncertainty generated by the recent Italian referendum, which prompted Premier Matteo Renzi to offer his resignation, will make the decision all the more straightforward, analysts say.


A broad rally drives Dow, S&P 500 indexes to record highs

NEW YORK (AP) — The Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor's 500 indexes on Wednesday soared to their biggest gains since the presidential election and set all-time highs. Investors bought stocks that do well in times of faster economic growth, like technology and industrial companies, but they also snapped up stocks that pay large dividends.

Stocks moved steadily higher throughout the day after a mixed open. Phone and real estate companies made the largest gains, but the rally moved into high gear in the afternoon, as airlines, railroads and trucking companies soared.


US employers post fewer jobs, though openings stay healthy

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers posted fewer jobs in October than the previous month, but job openings are still at a mostly healthy level that points to steady hiring ahead.

Job openings slipped 1.8 percent to 5.5 million, the Labor Department said Wednesday. Hiring also fell to just under 5.1 million, while the number of people quitting declined to about 3 million.

While solid, the data weakened from September, suggesting that hiring is unlikely to accelerate beyond its current moderate pace anytime soon.


Consumers boost borrowing $16 billion in October

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumers increased their borrowing in October at the slowest pace in four months as growth in credit card debt and the category that covers auto loans and student loans slowed.

Total borrowing rose $16 billion, the Federal Reserve reported Wednesday. The October increase was the smallest since June.

Revolving credit, which covers credit cards, increased $2.3 billion in October. The non-revolving category, which covers auto loans and student loans, rose $13.7 billion in October.

Economists watch borrowing trends to gauge how consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, will fare.


Starbucks to boost number of shops, add more food to menu

NEW YORK (AP) — Starbucks plans to open 12,000 new locations within five years to boost its number of coffee shops worldwide by almost 50 percent.

The Seattle-based chain is also adding more food to its menu in 2017 and soon customers will be able to talk to the Starbucks app to order a latte or cookie instead of tapping their smartphones.

Starbucks outlined its five-year growth plans to investors on Wednesday, about a week after it announced that Howard Schultz, who helped build the brand, would step down as CEO in April.


Pfizer fined for hiking epilepsy drug price 2,600 pct in UK

LONDON (AP) — British regulators fined U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and distributor Flynn Pharma a record 89.4 million pounds ($112.7 million) Wednesday for increasing the cost of an epilepsy drug by as much as 2,600 percent.

Pfizer and Flynn Pharma charged "excessive and unfair prices" for the drug used by 48,000 people in Britain, the Competition and Markets Authority said. Pfizer Inc. was fined 84.2 million pounds and Flynn Pharma 5.2 million pounds.


Car company offering red light-reading vehicles in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Audi this week is unveiling technology that enables vehicles to "read" traffic signals ahead and tell the motorist how long the wait will be.

It's a simple display for the driver — a dashboard traffic signal icon and a timer — but the technology behind it is more complex. It uses 4G LTE cellular communication between the vehicle and a centralized traffic management control network.

The company theorizes that a driver who knows when a light will turn green is more relaxed and aware.


Venezuela unveils 6 new bills amid galloping inflation

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela has unveiled six new bills set to go into circulation next week.

Central Bank President Nelson Merentes said Tuesday the new higher-denomination bills would make commercial transactions easier in the country with the world's highest inflation. The six new bills will range from 500 to 20,000 Bolivars.

Triple-digit inflation and a currency meltdown have left the country's largest note worth just around 2 U.S. cents on the black market. Currently the largest-denominated bill is 100 bolivars, not even enough to buy a piece of hard candy at a street kiosk.


Jimmy John's agrees to end non-compete deals in Illinois

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says the Jimmy John's sandwich chain has agreed to stop requiring low-level employees to sign agreements preventing them from seeking jobs with competitors.

Madigan said Wednesday the Champaign-based chain also agreed to inform employees that previously signed agreements will not be enforced, tell franchise owners to rescind existing agreements and pay $100,000 to be used for public awareness of legal standards for non-compete agreements. Madigan sued Jimmy John's in June.

Jimmy John's said it is pleased to resolve the lawsuit.


Playworld recalls 1,300 slides because of hazard

NEW YORK (AP) — Playworld Systems Inc. is recalling 1,300 slides that are used in school and municipal playgrounds after a defect caused two finger amputations in children.

The Lightning Slides were sold by independent distributors over the last 16 years. They are made of stainless steel and the welds on the slides can crack and separate. A child's finger can get caught in the space.

The company said it is aware of 13 incidents of broken welds and two children who have suffered finger amputations.

Consumers were advised to stop using the recalled slides.


The Dow Jones industrial average surged 297.84 points, or 1.5 percent, to 19,549.62. The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 29.12 points, or 1.3 percent, to 2,241.35. The Nasdaq composite added 60.76 points, or 1.1 percent, to 5,393.76.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil lost $1.16, or 2.3 percent, to $49.77 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, slid 93 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $53 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline lost 3 cents to $1.51 per gallon. Heating oil slipped 2 cents to $1.62 a gallon. Natural gas fell 3 cents to $3.60 per 1,000 cubic feet.