Business Highlights

By The Associated Press Markets Associated Press

How to keep your smartened-up home safe from hackers

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More people are getting voice-activated speakers and other smart devices for convenience and security — but doing so could also be giving hackers a key to their homes. Many devices from reputable manufacturers have safeguards built in, but those aren't guarantees against trouble. Research devices to learn of manufacturers' promises. It helps to stick with reputable brands, as they know their reputations are at stake if they're caught in a lie.

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Smart homes: Not just for tech geeks anymore

Internet-connected lights, locks and laundry machines are close to becoming everyday household items. Voice-activated speakers such as Amazon's Echo and Google Home are partly the reason. The more people use such speakers, the more things they want them to do. That search often leads to smart-home products. Questions remain over security and privacy. But analysts say the bigger hurdles are cost and awareness.

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US stocks close higher in light trading; new high for Dow

U.S. stock indexes wrung out another modest gain in quiet session on Wall Street Thursday, nudging the Dow Jones industrial average to a new high ahead of the final trading day of 2017.

Financial stocks accounted for much of the market's gains. The sector benefited from rising bond yields, which help banks because it enables them to charge higher interest rates on loans.

Some energy stocks got a boost from natural gas prices, which jumped nearly 7 percent as temperatures dropped across much of the U.S. Crude oil prices also rose.

Consumer-goods makers lagged the broad rally, which gave the market its second higher close in a row.

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Revenue hit predicted for California's medical pot market

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California's medical marijuana market is expected to take a hit as pot becomes legal in the state for recreational use. California approved medical marijuana two decades ago. And for those 18 and older, it's not hard to find a doctor to write a pot prescription for a real or imagined health issue. But that charade will end for many with recreational sales. One study says revenue from medical marijuana sales is expected to drop from an estimated $2 billion in 2016 to about $1.4 billion next year.

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Cases could open door to pension cuts for California workers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Cases before the California Supreme Court could change a longstanding precedent that benefits promised to public employees can never be reduced. The cases have enormous implications for cities, counties, schools, fire departments and other local bodies facing a sharp rise in their pension costs. The ballooning costs are an issue that Gov. Jerry Brown will face in his final year despite his earlier efforts to reform the state's pension systems.

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'Obamacare' sign-up tally dips slightly to 8.7M

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government says more than 8.7 million people signed up for coverage next year under the Obama-era health care law, exceeding expectations for a program President Donald Trump tried to repeal. The final tally Thursday for 39 HealthCare.gov states showed about 80,000 fewer sign-ups than reported last week. A spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the dip was due to late cancellations. Sign-up season continues in other states, including California and New York.

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Average mortgage rates climbed this week

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates increased this week, although they're lower than a year ago. The $1.5 trillion in tax cuts President Donald Trump signed into law last week led to an increase in the interest charged on a 10-year U.S. Treasury note. This pushed up average mortgage rates. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose to 3.99 percent, up from 3.94 percent last week.

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The Standard & Poor's 500 index picked up 4.92 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,687.54. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 63.21 points, or 0.3 percent, to a record 24,837.61. The Nasdaq composite gained 10.82 points, or 0.2 percent, to 6,950.16. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks rose 4.99 points, or 0.3 percent, to a record 1,548.93.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 20 cents to settle at $59.84 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, gained 28 cents to $66.72 per barrel in London. Natural gas prices surged as temperatures dropped in the U.S. Natural gas rose 18 cents, or 6.7 percent, to $2.91 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline held steady at $1.79 a gallon. Heating oil added 1 cent to $2.05 a gallon.