Jul 20, 6:02 PM EDT

Business Highlights


China clamping down on use of VPNs to evade Great Firewall

BEIJING (AP) - China is tightening control over use of virtual private networks in a move that foreign companies worry might disrupt their operations or jeopardize trade secrets and information about customers. In a letter to corporate customers, the biggest Chinese internet service provider says VPNs can connect only to a company's headquarters abroad - not to any other sites outside China.


The importance of bigger earnings for stock funds

NEW YORK (AP) - This earnings season is off to a good start, and the encouraging run is expected to keep going. Instead of excitement, though, the reaction so far from Wall Street has been more like relief. That's because the strong reports that are forecast would be more a justification for the big moves that stock prices have already made rather than reason for further gains.


Exxon fined $2M for Tillerson-era breach of Russia sanctions

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Treasury Department is imposing a $2 million fine on Exxon Mobil Corp. for showing "reckless disregard" for U.S. sanctions on Russia while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was the oil giant's CEO. The sanctions breach on Tillerson's watch raises significant questions about his ability to credibly enforce sanctions and to persuade European countries to keep doing so. Exxon is also suing the U.S. government to stop the fine.


U.S. buildings, NFL stadium check panels amid fears of fire

Testing is underway on the panels of a high-rise hotel in Baltimore. It's among U.S. buildings now under scrutiny after a deadly fire in a London apartment building. British authorities are examining whether the panels helped spread the fire that ripped across the London building's outer walls, killing at least 80 people. City officials have confirmed that the Cleveland Browns' NFL stadium used "similar if not identical" material, but say it poses no danger.


Alexa, turn up my Kenmore AC; Sears cuts a deal with Amazon

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (AP) - Sears will begin selling Kenmore appliances on Amazon.com, including smart appliances that can be synced with Amazon's voice assistant, Alexa. Sears has struggled with weak sales for years, in part because of consumers' shift to online shopping.


Norovirus confirmed in diner who reported eating at Chipotle

NEW YORK (AP) - A diner who reported eating at a Chipotle in Virginia has tested positive for norovirus. But health officials say it's not yet enough to determine the cause of the 60 reported illnesses. The restaurant was temporarily closed earlier this week after Chipotle said it became aware of customers reporting symptoms consistent with norovirus. The chain has stressed the safety measures it has taken to prevent such incidents, or respond quickly when they do occur.


Honorably discharged veterans will soon get to shop tax-free

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. (AP) - Starting later this year, all honorably discharged veterans will be eligible to shop tax-free online at the Army & Air Force Exchange Service with the same discounts they enjoyed at stores on base while they were in the military. The group that runs thousands of stores on U.S. Army and Air Force bases worldwide is about to gain 13 million potential new customers. That will give it more ammunition in its fight for veterans' online shopping dollars.


US stocks waver as earnings and central banks dominate

NEW YORK (AP) - US stocks wobble between little gains and losses and finish about where they started after Europe's central bank leaves its economic stimulus policies unchanged. Health care companies rise following some solid earnings reports while rough results hurt companies that make basic materials. Sears' deal with Amazon wallops home improvement stores and appliance retailers.


Trump administration pulls health law help in 18 cities

CHICAGO (AP) - President Donald Trump's administration has ended Affordable Care Act contracts that brought assistance into neighborhoods in 18 cities, meaning shoppers on the insurance exchanges will have fewer places to turn for help signing up for coverage. Community groups say the move was announced to them by contractors last week, and some call it an attempt to damage the health law's marketplaces by a president who has made clear his intention to let "Obamacare" fail.


Prominent digital drug marketplaces knocked out in 1-2 punch

PARIS (AP) - Two of the world's most notorious digital marketplaces have been knocked out in a one-two punch that officials say yielded a trove of new intelligence about the drug merchants that operate in the hidden corners of the internet. The darknet, a part of the internet accessible only through specialized anonymity-providing tools, is an attractive place for sales of drugs, weapons and other illegal merchandise. Merchants and buyers can operate with relative openness while still keeping their identities secret.


Musk says government likes plan for high-speed tunnels

DETROIT (AP) - In a tantalizing Tweet, Elon Musk says he has "verbal government approval" to build a tunnel for high-speed transportation from New York to Washington. The billionaire entrepreneur didn't say who gave him the approval, and he acknowledged that the deal is far from finalized.


The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped at the finish and lost 0.38 points to 2,473.45. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 28.97 points, or 0.1 percent, to 21,611.78. The Nasdaq composite rose 4.96 points, or 0.1 percent, to a record high of 6,390.

Benchmark U.S. crude lost 33 cents to $46.79 a barrel in New York and Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, sank 40 cents to $49.30 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline dipped 1 cent to $1.61 a gallon. Heating oil also fell 1 cent to $1.54 a gallon. Natural gas fell 2 cents to $3.04 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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