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Job creation ended 2018 on a powerful note, with nonfarm payrolls surging by 312,000 in December though the unemployment rate rose to 3.9 percent.

The jobless rate, which was last higher in June, rose for the right reason as 419,000 new workers entered the workforce and the labor force participation rate increased to 63.1 percent. The participation level was up 0.2 percentage points from November and 0.4 percentage points compared to the year-ago level.

A broader measure of unemployment that includes discouraged workers and those holding part-time jobs for economic reasons held steady at 7.6 percent.

In addition to the big payrolls gain, wages jumped 3.2 percent from a year ago and 0.4 percent over the previous month. The year-over-year increase is tied with October for the best since April 2009. The average work week rose 0.1 hour to 34.5 hours.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been expecting payroll growth of just 176,000, though they projected the unemployment rate to fall to 3.6 percent. The wage number also was well above expectations of 3 percent on the year and 0.3 percent from November.

The report, released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, comes amid concern over whether the U.S. economy is part of a global deceleration, despite turning in its best year since the Great Recession.

Data released Friday showed a key manufacturing mark hitting a two-year low and mortgage volume at its lowest in 18 years.

The jobs market, however, remains hot.

Payrolls growth totaled 2.6 million in 2018, the highest since 2015 and well above the 2.2 million in 2017.

Health care led the way in new jobs, adding 50,000 for the month thanks to 38,000 new positions in ambulatory services and 7,000 more in hospitals. The industry saw a boom of 346,000 for the year, compared to a 284,000 gain the year before.

Restaurants and bars added 41,000 to the close the year with a 235,000 gain, down from 261,000 in 2017.

Construction also was one of the big gainers despite a slumping housing market. The industry added 38,000 jobs in December, bringing the annual total to 280,000, a 12 percent gain from 2017’s 250,000.

Manufacturing also tuned in a solid 32,000 gain for the month, with the bulk of the growth coming from the 19,000 positions added in the key durable goods sector. The sector also saw a surge in 2018, with the 284,000 new positions representing a 37 percent rise from the previous year.

Another closely watched sector, retail, posted growth of 24,000 thanks to a holiday season boost. For the year, retail added 92,000, reversing the loss of 29,000 in 2017.

Government jobs saw a gain of 11,000.

Previous months also saw positive revisions, adding to the upbeat tone for the year. November saw its disappointing 155,000 original report revised up to 176,000, while October’s count went from 274,000 to 237,000, for a net gain of 58,000 from the previous tallies.

Those revisions brought the three-month average up to a strong 254,000.

The report comes at a time of heightened market concerns over the Federal Reserve’s future path. The U.S. central bank raised interest rates four times in 2018 in an effort to prevent the economy from overheating, but President Donald Trump has criticized the Fed for endangering the economic recovery.

Futures traders expect the Fed to hold steady through the year, and in fact are pricing in a 45 percent of a rate cut by the end of 2019.

This is breaking news. Please check back here for updates.

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Apple TV channels streaming TV service announced

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Apple TV Channels includes Epix, HBO, Showtime, Starz and others. Users will need to subscribe to each channel, but Apple did not say how much it will cost for each service or if it will offer a package that includes all of them at a discount.

“For some of us, the big bundle is more than we need, so we designed a new TV experience where you can pay for only the channels you want all in one app,” Apple’s Peter Stern said during Apple’s press conference. “Watch everything on-demand and ad-free.”

Some of this isn’t new: Apple TV already lets people connect their cable provider into the Apple TV app and, using single sign-on, automatically login to apps that support streaming if you also pay for cable.

A new home screen inside a new Apple TV app will serve as a launchpad for finding TV shows and movies to watch, and it will make recommendations it thinks you’ll like. The Apple TV app is already available on iPad, iPhone and Apple TV, but the company will also bring it to Macs this spring. It will also launch on Vizio, Sony, LG and Samsung smart TVs, as well as Roku and Amazon Fire TV boxes.

Apple TV Channels and the new Apple TV app will launch through a software update in May. It will be available in more than 100 countries.

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Trump’s victory in the Mueller probe could make him take a tougher stand in China talks

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President Donald Trump’s resounding triumph in the Russia collusion investigation is set to reverberate into policy, with the most likely first impact the looming trade negotiations with China.

With the release of a summary of Robert Mueller’s report on his two-year investigation, a previously reeling Trump no longer looks as desperate for a policy win of any sort.

“It sure looked a month ago like he really badly needed a victory. I thought he would take virtually anything on trade,” said Greg Valliere, chief U.S. policy strategist at AGF and an expert on the political ramifications on financial markets. “Now that he’s got this victory, it makes him less desperate for a deal. Maybe he can get a little tougher on the Chinese.”

The timing couldn’t be better for Trump.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are off to China this week to continue negotiations over multiple trade-related issues. The two sides have been at loggerheads and involved in a tit-for-tat tariff battle that has been suspended while the negotiations continue.

Financial markets have been nervous over the progress of talks, and Wall Street largely has been hoping the issues could be resolved by the end of the month.

However, the potential that Trump could feel emboldened by the apparent conclusion from the Mueller report that the president’s campaign did not collude with Russia might delay progress with China.

“Although it is too early to tell, the developments are likely to increase the stickiness of the administration’s policies for the foreseeable future,” Ed Mills, public policy analyst at Raymond James, said in a note. “This may serve to lengthen the runway for the completion of a deal with greater concessions from China.”

The Mueller report and the China negotiations were thought to represent two of the key unknowns for corporate executives and investors. After 2018 saw the best economic growth of the expansion that began in mid-2009, 2019 started off with a high level of uncertainty, particularly over the effects that slowdowns in Europe and China will have on the U.S.

With an election year right around the corner, Trump also will need to shore up his base, much of which exists in the heartland and among the farmers who have taken a substantial hit from the China tensions. China also has suffered by losing a key market for its exports.

“Both sides have incentives to reach an agreement,” wrote Tom Block, head of research at Fundstrat Global Advisors. “China’s economy has been slipping and an end to mounting US tariffs would be a significant boost. For the US, all roads for a Trump 2020 victory lead through a solid red farm belt.”

Those looking for a resolution, however, may have to be patient.

“For people who were hoping for a quick trade deal, prospects have slipped that we’ll get anything done quickly,” Valliere said. “This could drag on a little bit more than the market had anticipated.”

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Trump moves toward China trade deal and USMCA after Mueller report

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The high-stakes trade decisions in Washington do not end there. Trump has also accused Europe of unfair trade practices, and sees tariffs on European cars as one means to address them.

The move would come with its own political risks. Trump’s tariff policy has sparked more backlash from Republicans on Capitol Hill than just about anything the president has done since he took office.

GOP lawmakers have in particular questioned the national security justification the Trump administration used to put duties on steel and aluminum imports last year. A group of lawmakers from both major parties led by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., wrote to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross last week asking him to publish the auto tariff report and answer questions about how he came to his conclusions.

Some GOP senators have already signaled they will oppose auto tariffs if Trump levies them.

“Section 232 is a vital trade remedy tool for genuine national security threats, but misusing it on autos is harmful for Ohio, its economy & auto manufacturing in our state,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a written statement. “I urge the administration to make public its recent report justifying its rationale in this case.”

Last week, Trump told Fox Business Network that he wants European automakers to build their cars in the U.S. Still, he may not exactly agree with the rationale his administration would use to levy the duties on automobiles.

Asked if he thought car imports threatened national security, the president answered, “Well, no.” He said “what poses a national security risk is our balance sheet,” in reference to trade deficits with the European Union.

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