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Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the new Mac Pro with a cost as high as $6,000 as he delivers the keynote address during the 2019 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) at the San Jose Convention Center on June 03, 2019 in San Jose, California. But the company is focused more than ever on putting consumer services at the forefront of its future success.

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Apple has asked the Trump administration to exclude 15 components from import tariffs, according to U.S. Trade Representative comment filings published recently.

The Chinese-made inputs Apple asked to have exempted from the 25% import tax include parts like a power supply unit, stainless-steel structural enclosure, circuit boards and completed mice and trackpads, according to the filings.

“There are no other sources for this proprietary, Apple-designed component,” according to the filings. Apple also said that there are no comparable products for the 15 parts from United States-based or other international sources.

The filings underscore the tightrope Apple is walking due to the U.S. trade war with China. Although Apple’s products are designed in California, and contain parts and technology from the U.S., final assembly for most of Apple’s products is completed in China. Apple assembles some Mac computers in Cork, Ireland.

While the filings do not specify which Apple product houses the components, descriptions of the parts indicate they are inputs for the Mac Pro, a high-end computer set to go on sale later this year starting at $5,999.

Earlier models of the Mac Pro were assembled in the U.S., but the Wall Street Journal previously reported that a new redesign announced earlier this year will be manufactured in China. Apple declined to comment.

Apple opposes the U.S. tariffs, which went into effect last fall and were raised to 25% in May. Apple CEO Tim Cook has said he personally told President Donald Trump that tariffs are the wrong approach to China. Although Apple warned last fall that the tariffs would affect “a wide range of Apple products,” it ended up dodging the duties for products including the Apple Watch and AirPods.

Bloomberg first reported the filings.

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High paying jobs for independent freelance workers

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Gone are the days when freelance work was a precarious career choice limited to a handful of niche industries. Shifting workplace norms and a tight labor market in the U.S. are giving employees the freedom to strike out on their own while raking in impressive sums.

That’s according to new research from Upwork, a global freelancing platform which has identified a list of 20 of the most lucrative jobs for independent workers right now.

Those jobs, which are presented in terms of the key skills they require, span industries from law to marketing and tech, and can command average hourly earnings of $165 to $255, the report found.

Upwork’s CEO Stephane Kasriel said the findings highlight the growing freedoms of professionals with the right skills.

“This is a clear indication that there’s an incredible opportunity for this increasingly important segment of the workforce and that businesses are willing to pay top dollar for access to high-quality talent,” he said.

Of course, not all independent jobs command such high pay, and freelance work, by its very nature, can be unpredictable. However, even at the lower end, freelancers who earn $50 an hour rank among the country’s top wage earners, according to Upwork’s chief economist, Adam Ozimek.

“While wages for the most lucrative skills are high, they aren’t outliers,” Ozimek told CNBC Make It. “One-third of U.S. freelancers on Upwork earn at least $50/hour, which would put them in the top 10% of U.S. wage earners overall.”

The study, which drew on Upwork’s database of 5,000 skills across 70 categories, ranked top skills according to the hourly rates charged by U.S. freelancers from January to June 2019.

Here is the full list of the most lucrative skills for independent workers.

1. Legal entity structuring

Average hourly rate: $255

When starting a business, deciding the legal form it will take is vital.

Such structures can range from sole proprietorship, where the business leader is the sole owner, to a partnership, corporation or a limited liability company. Each has wide-reaching implications for taxation and other factors. Therefore, most savvy business owners are willing to pay for experts who can help make the call.

2. Blackline

Average hourly rate: $220

Blackline is a U.S. software company that helps automate accounting and finance processes. Professionals who can implement and operate the software for businesses can earn up to $220 per hour, according to Upwork.

3. Bitcoin

Average hourly rate: $215

Bitcoin, arguably the most widely recognized blockchain-based cryptocurrency, has fluctuated in popularity — and price — since its launch in 2009. Yet, as cryptocurrencies gain traction, for instance with the launch of Facebook’s Libra, those with bitcoin expertise are raking in good money.

4. International accounting standards

Average hourly rate: $215

Any individual or company that conducts business internationally needs to ensure they operate according to the appropriate tax systems. Failure to do so can mean big fines, so prudent business leaders are willing to fork out money for guidance from such professionals.

5. Software licensing

Average hourly rate: $200

A software licence is a document that provides legal guidelines for the use and distribution of software. Such licenses are vital for both the increasing number of software businesses and the individuals who use their services.

6. Applied behavioral analysis

Average hourly rate: $195

Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) is a form of therapy that seeks to alter and improve behavior in humans and animals. Typically, ABA is used to treat individuals with social disorders, such as autism, but it can also be applied as a therapy for other psychological conditions.

7. Behavioral design

Average hourly rate: $195

Behavioral design focuses on how design can influence human behavior. Such design processes have wide-reaching social applications, ranging from health and well-being to sustainability and crime prevention, making it a lucrative career route for designers.

Going Freelance

Amy Barry is a certified public accountant (CPA) who left her corporate consulting job to go freelance. With expertise in S corporations, C corporations, international accounting standards and property and equipment leases, she earned over $200,000 over five tax seasons.

“I left my corporate job to work independently and run my own business because I wanted to be more in control of my life,” said Barry. “At my traditional job, I was at the office 80+ hours per week … (Now) I make more money working less hours, which gives me more time for family and friends.”

8. Trade law

Average hourly rate: $185

Trade law relates to the rules and customs surrounding the exchange of goods and services between businesses and countries.

As trade continues to weigh on international relations, professionals with expertise in this domain are in high demand.

9. Image object recognition

Average hourly rate: $180

Image object recognition refers to technology that can find and identify objects in an image or sequence.

The technology has proven transformative for a host of industries, from commerce to transportation and security. That means programmers with the expertise to develop and implement it are cashing in.

Maskot | Maskot | Getty Images

10. Trademark consulting

Average hourly rate: $180

Trademark consultants advise individuals with the legal process of obtaining a trademark — typically a sign, phrase or symbol — for their businesses.

Trademarks have been around for centuries. But at a time of growing consumer awareness, developing a recognizable brand is arguably more important than ever.

11. Due diligence

Average hourly rate: $180

Due diligence refers to the research an individual or company should undertake before entering into an agreement with another party.

Such processes can be complex, so individuals who can offer advice in this area often command top dollar for their expertise.

12. Virtual machine

Average hourly rate: $175

In computing, a virtual machine is a copy of a computer system. Virtual machines provide a way for users to run an operating system in an app window or on their desktop that acts like a separate computer.

Sound complicated? That’s why IT whizzes with the know-how can command a hefty pay packet.

13. Property and equipment leases

Average hourly rate: $175

A lease refers to a contractual agreement between two parties — namely the user and the owner — over the use of an asset, such as a property.

Such agreements can be complex and sometimes contentious, calling for third parties who can weigh in with their experience and guidance.

Weekend Images Inc. | E+ | Getty Images

14. SQR

Average hourly rate: $170

SQR, which stands for Structured Query Reporter, is a programming language used for generating reports from database management systems.

A techie with SQR expertise can expect to earn top dollar by helping businesses better understand and make use of their data.

15. S corporation

Average hourly rate: $170

An S corporation is a specific type of business entity reserved for small businesses which dictates their tax treatment in the U.S. An S corporation must have fewer than 100 shareholders and can be taxed as a partnership, thereby avoiding double taxation.

An expert in S corporation structuring can provide valuable guidance for some 30.2 million small businesses in the U.S.

16. Patents

Average hourly rate: $170

A patent is a form of protection that provides a person or legal body with the exclusive right to make, use and sell a concept or invention for a given period of time.

Such protections can be vital to a business’ success — and at a time of strong market competition, professionals who can help procure them are considered invaluable.

17. IT strategy

Average hourly rate: $165

An IT strategy, or a technology strategy, is a plan set out to create maximum value for a company using technology. That may consist of developing objectives, principles and tactics.

Since technology has become an intrinsic part of most businesses today, appointing individuals who can navigate that can be a good move for smart executives.

Hinterhaus Productions | DigitalVision | Getty Images

18. C corporation

Average hourly rate: $165

A C corporation, in contrast to an S corporation, is a type of business entity reserved for large corporations. Under U.S. law, such businesses are taxed separately from their owners.

An expert in C corporation structuring can provide valuable guidance for America’s many large companies.

19. Lucene search

Average hourly rate: $165

Apache Lucene is a free, open-course search engine software library, written in the popular programming language, Java. It is used, for instance, in adding search functionality to an app or website.

Individuals with knowledge of such software are finding they’re able to earn lucrative sums as businesses look for help in boosting their tech offerings.

20. Orcad

Average hourly rate: $165

Orcad refers to a software tool suite first created by software firm Orcad Systems Corporation. It is primarily used by electronic design engineers in the production of circuit boards and microchips.

The software was assumed by Cadence Design Systems as part of a takeover in 1999, but continues to see strong demand in the area of electronic design automation.

Don’t miss: The 10 countries with the fastest-growing earnings for freelancers

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Fed minutes, Jackson Hole meeting ahead

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Asia markets were set to trade higher on Thursday, likely taking cues from Wall Street, where stocks gained overnight after strong quarterly results lifted investor sentiment.

Nikkei futures in Osaka and Singapore traded higher than the benchmark index’s last close at 20,618.57. Japan’s preliminary manufacturing PMI data for August is expected this morning.

SPI futures pointed to a muted open in Australia after the ASX 200 finished at 6,483.30 on Wednesday.

“The hot and cold vibes in the equity markets continue with gains in the overnight session effectively reversing the losses recorded the previous day,” Rodrigo Catril, senior foreign exchange strategist at the National Australia Bank, said in an early morning note.

Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart

Markets had a relatively modest reaction overnight after the Fed released minutes of its last meeting in July, where the U.S. central bank lowered the benchmark rate by 25 basis points.

In its minutes, Fed officials who voted to lower interest rates three weeks ago agreed that the move shouldn’t be viewed as an indication that there is a “pre-set course” for future cuts.

The summary indicated that policymakers viewed the move as a “mid-cycle adjustment” — an expression that Fed Chair Jerome Powell had used in a news conference afterward. That was said to have contributed to a stock market sell-off following the July 30-31 meeting as market players grew concerned that the Fed might not be as accommodative with policy as anticipated.

The U.S. dollar last traded at 98.295 against a basket of its peers, climbing from levels near 98.145 earlier in the day. Among currency pairs, the Japanese yen traded at 106.59 against the dollar while the Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6785.

“The main reason why the (dollar) strengthened and US treasury yields lifted was because the minutes did not strengthen the chances of further rate cuts this year. The Fed instead eased back slightly the probability of further cuts,” Richard Grace, chief currency strategist and head of international economics at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, wrote in a morning note. Bond yields move inversely to prices.

Still, fears of recession lingered in the market as the spread between the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note and that of the 2-year note turned negative for the second time in one week. The inverted bond-market spread is seen by many veteran traders as an important recession omen, though the timing on the eventual downturn is less predictable.

— CNBC’s Jeff Cox and Thomas Franck contributed to this report.

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Trump and Maduro confirm high-level talks between officials

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Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro delivers a speech during a pro-government rally against US sanctions in Caracas on August 10, 2019.

FEDERICO PARRA | AFP | Getty Images

The leaders of the U.S. and Venezuela have confirmed high-ranking officials from their respective governments have been engaged in talks “for months.”

It comes less than three days after both Axios and the Associated Press reported that the U.S. had opened secret communications with top members of Venezuela’s socialist administration.

Speaking at the White House during a meeting with his Romanian counterpart on Tuesday, President Donald Trump said: “We are talking to various representatives of Venezuela … I don’t want to say who but we are talking at a very high level.”

Shortly thereafter, Venezuela’s embattled President Nicolas Maduro said during a televised address: “I can confirm that for months that we have had contact.”

Maduro said the aim of discussions was to “normalize and resolve this conflict” between the two countries. However, like Trump, Maduro did not wish to disclose which officials had been engaged in the talks, citing: “various contacts through various channels.”

“Just as I have sought dialogue in Venezuela, I have sought a way for President Donald Trump to really listen to Venezuela,” he added.

The South American nation is currently in the midst of one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent memory, with more than 4 million people having fled since 2015 amid an economic meltdown.

‘An effort to gain time’

In late January, Maduro broke diplomatic relations with the U.S. after the White House recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s rightful interim president.

Officials from the U.S. and Venezuela had not previously confirmed contact before Tuesday.

Washington has imposed sanctions on a number of high-level officials and Venezuelan state entities to ramp up the pressure on Maduro — and ultimately try to oust him as leader of the OPEC country.

More recently, Maduro and a delegation representing Guaido have been meeting in Barbados to try to resolve a political stalemate.

Maduro is using “the same tactic that he has used with the opposition, opening backchannels in an effort to gain time,” Diego Moya-Ocampos, principal political analyst for Latin America at IHS Markit, told CNBC via telephone on Wednesday.

He is trying to show that his administration is “engaging with different international actors in an effort to exhaust them,” so that the Venezuelan topic loses momentum and regime change is no longer on the agenda, Moya-Ocampos said.

What is going on in Venezuela?

A protracted political stand-off has thrust the oil-rich, but cash-poor, country into uncharted territory — whereby it now has an internationally-recognized government, with no control over state functions, running parallel to Maduro’s regime.

Guaido assumed a rival interim presidency in January, citing Venezuela’s constitution, and denounced Maduro’s government as illegitimate after he secured re-election last year in a vote widely criticized as rigged.

However, Maduro has refused to cede power. And, crucially, he still has the broad support of the military.

The minimum wage for the average citizen in Venezuela, which is estimated to be roughly $7 a month, would not be enough to cover even 5% of the basic food basket for a family of five people, the UN said in a report last month.

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