Business Highlights

By The Associated Press Markets Associated Press

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Tech giants lead rally as stocks near records; Amazon surges

NEW YORK (AP) — US stocks set more records as major technology companies like Microsoft and Google parent company Alphabet lead the charge after they reported strong quarterly results. Online retailer Amazon surges as well. The Nasdaq makes its biggest gain of the year. Retailers fall after J.C. Penney cuts its profit forecast and toy company Mattel reports a big loss and says it will stop paying dividends.

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US economy shows resilience with 2nd straight solid quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than eight years since the Great Recession officially ended, the economy is still recording consistent gains — in the job market, in business investment, in consumer spending and corporate earnings. Unemployment is at a 16-year low. Companies are restocking. An improving global economy is boosting U.S. exports. Stock prices are rising in tandem with company profits.

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Madrid eyes crackdown after Catalonia declares independence

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — In one of the most momentous days in recent Spanish history, lawmakers in the Catalan regional parliament have voted to unilaterally declare independence. The move Friday prompted the government to adopt special constitutional powers to stop it. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government has called an emergency meeting and is expected to use its new powers to immediately dismiss the Catalan regional government and dissolve its parliament in Barcelona, then call an early election.

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State Department releases list of off-limits Russian firms

WASHINGTON (AP) — Arms trader Rosoboronexport and missile manufacturer Almaz-Antey are among the more than three dozen Russian companies the State Department is warning other countries and businesses to avoid doing business with or risk being hit with U.S. sanctions. The State Department on Friday published of list of businesses and individuals linked to Russia's defense and intelligence agencies. The list, nearly a month overdue, was required by a sweeping new sanctions law.

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Facebook announces new ad transparency before Russia hearing

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facebook is taking new steps to verify advertisers and make all ads on the site more transparent. The announcement comes ahead of next week's congressional hearings on Russian interference in last year's U.S. elections. Users will be able to click on the ads and find out more about who's behind them.

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Profit soars at Exxon and Chevron on higher oil prices

DALLAS (AP) — Exxon and Chevron get a boost from higher crude prices, as third-quarter profits soar by at least 50 percent. Analysts expect 2017 profits at both companies will far surpass last year's results, and they forecast another strong year in 2018. Chevron's CEO calls oil companies "a pretty resilient bunch."

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Russia's RT says Twitter pushed it for ads before election

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian state-owned television station RT says Twitter has pushed it to spend millions on advertising ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Twitter said on Thursday it would ban ads from RT and Sputnik, two state-sponsored Russian news outlets that the U.S. intelligence community has said tried to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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White House says tax cuts could add $1.2T to US economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's top economist is doubling down on claims that corporate tax cuts would spark economic growth and boost incomes. Kevin Hassett is chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Hassett says the plan to slash the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent could increase the size of the U.S. economy by $700 billion, to $1.2 trillion over a decade.

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Timberlake at Super Bowl: White male privilege again?

NEW YORK (AP) — The booking of Justin Timberlake for the Super Bowl halftime show has triggered a backlash from women, minorities and others. They say Janet Jackson was unfairly forced to pay a far higher price than he ever faced for their breast-baring "wardrobe malfunction" at the big game in 2004.

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White House weighs in on Puerto Rico contract

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says it's unaware of any federal role in the decision to award a $300 million, no-bid contract to a tiny Montana company to help restore Puerto Rico's power grid. White House spokesman Raj Shah says the decision to award the contract to Whitefish Energy was made exclusively by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

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The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 20.67 points, or 0.8 percent, to 2,581.07. The Dow Jones industrial average made a comparatively modest gain of 33.33 points, or 0.1 percent, to 23,434.19 as drugmaker Merck and oil company Chevron skidded after their third-quarter reports. The Nasdaq composite made its biggest gain since November as it soared 144.49 points, or 2.2 percent, to 6,701.26. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 10.86 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,508.32.

Benchmark U.S. crude reached a six-month high as it jumped $1.26, or 2.4 percent, to $53.90 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose $1.14, or 1.9 percent, to a two-year high of $60.44 a barrel in London.