Business Highlights

By The Associated Press Markets Associated Press

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Tax bill advances, final Senate vote uncertain

WASHINGTON (AP) — A key Senate committee advanced a sweeping tax package to the full Senate on Tuesday, handing Republican leaders a victory as they try to pass the nation's first tax overhaul in 31 years. The Senate Budget Committee voted 12-11 to advance the bill as two committee Republicans who had said they were considering voting against the measure — Bob Corker of Tennessee and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — backed the legislation.

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Powell says he favors loosening some bank regulations

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jerome Powell, President Donald Trump's pick to be chairman of the Federal Reserve, told senators at his confirmation hearing Tuesday that he believes some bank regulations can be rolled back — something the administration and Wall Street favor. But he stressed that he will protect the central bank's political independence, calling it vital for the Fed's role.

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Judge rules in favor of Trump over fate of consumer watchdog

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge ruled Tuesday in favor of President Trump in his effort to appoint the acting head of nation's top financial watchdog agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In a ruling from the bench, Judge Timothy Kelly declined to stop on an emergency basis the president from putting in place Mick Mulvaney, currently the White House's budget director. In doing so, Kelly ruled against Leandra English, the CFPB's deputy director.

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Banks power solid gains for US stocks, more record highs

NEW YORK (AP) — Banks led a broad rally in U.S. stocks Tuesday, lifting the market to a milestone-shattering finish. Gains by industrial stocks, retailers and health care companies also helped drive the major stock indexes to record highs. Investors were encouraged by news that a Senate committee cleared the way for a tax reform bill to go before the full Senate. Banks also got a boost from Federal Reserve chair nominee Jerome Powell, who said that the Fed would consider easing up on financial regulations.

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US home prices leapt in September by the most in 3 years

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices rose at the fastest pace in more than three years in September, lifted by a record-low supply of houses for sale. The Standard & Poor's CoreLogic Case-Shiller national home price index rose 6.2 percent in September from a year earlier, the largest gain since June 2014.

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AP EXCLUSIVE: Big contracts, no storm tarps for Puerto Rico

WASHINGTON (AP) — Thousands of Puerto Ricans remain homeless after Hurricane Maria, and many complain the federal government is taking too long to provide tarps for roofs. A newly created Florida company won more than $30 million in contracts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide tarps and plastic sheeting. But Bronze Star LLC never delivered those urgently needed supplies, which even months later remain in demand in the U.S. territory.

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In Trump health secretary pick, Dems have questions but hope

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's pick for health secretary is a former drug company executive who already has drawn heat from Democrats over his ties to the pharmaceutical industry. But as Alex Azar faces his first nomination hearing, even some of those critics see signs he could shift the health care debate away from partisan confrontation with his reputation as a listener and problem solver. The former executive with Eli Lilly and Co. gets his first Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday.

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EPA hears worries about climate in heart of coal country

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The coal industry and environmentalists are squaring off at a two-day public hearing over the Trump administration's intended repeal of an Obama-era plan to limit planet-warming carbon emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency is holding the only scheduled hearing on the reversal in Charleston, West Virginia, capital of a state heavily dependent on coal mining.

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Supreme Court wrestles with whistleblower protection issue

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court seems reluctant to take a broad view of whistleblower protections passed by Congress after the 2008 financial crisis. The question the justices are wrestling with involves the Dodd-Frank Act. Part of the law protects people who report legal violations to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission from being fired, demoted or harassed. The question for the court is whether employees who report problems to their company's management also qualify for protections.

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The S&P 500 index rose 25.62 points, or 1 percent, to 2,627.04. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 255.93 points, or 1.1 percent, to 23,836.71. The Nasdaq composite added 33.84 points, or 0.5 percent, to 6,912.36. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 23.12 points, or 1.5 percent, to 1,536.43.

Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 12 cents to settle at $57.99 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, declined 23 cents to close at $63.61. Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $1.77 a gallon. Heating oil was little changed at $1.95 a gallon. Natural gas rose 15 cents, or 5 percent, to $3.07 per 1,000 cubic feet.