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US-China trade talks center on rivalry over technology

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese and U.S. officials are meeting in Beijing seeking to defuse tensions propelling the world's two largest economies toward a trade war. A delegation led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin arrived Thursday for two days of talks. Underlying the dispute is an intensifying rivalry in strategic technologies like semiconductors. China has been trying for decades to gain an edge in microchips, the silicon brains behind smartphones, connected cars and artificial intelligence

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Ex-Wilmington Trust officials convicted of fraud, conspiracy

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Four former executives for the only financial institution to be criminally charged in connection with the federal bank bailout program have been convicted on fraud and conspiracy charges. Jurors found the former Wilmington Trust executives guilty on Thursday. Prosecutors alleged that in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the defendants misled regulators and investors about Wilmington Trust's massive amount of past-due commercial real estate loans before the bank was hastily sold in 2011.

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US indictment alleges top VW exec knew of emissions cheating

DETROIT (AP) — A federal grand jury in Detroit has indicted former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn on charges stemming from the company's diesel emissions cheating scandal in a plot that prosecutors allege reached the top of the world's largest automaker. The four-count indictment unsealed Thursday charges Winterkorn, 70, with three counts of wire fraud and one of conspiring with other senior VW executives and employees to violate the Clean Air Act.

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Keeping what's yours: Fund investing has never been cheaper

NEW YORK (AP) — Investors paid less in fund expenses last year than ever before, as a percentage of their investments. It's encouraging because costs are one of the few things that investors can control in their portfolios, particularly when stocks and bonds around the world are gyrating as much as they have been in recent months. Plus, a fund's fees provide one of the few predictors of future success, researchers say.

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Record exports cut US trade deficit to $49 billion

WASHINGTON (AP) — Record exports trimmed the U.S. trade deficit in March for the first time in seven months. The Commerce Department says the trade gap slid to $49 billion, down from $57.7 billion in February and lowest since September. President Donald Trump has vowed to bring down America's massive deficits, which he blames on bad trade agreements and abusive practices by U.S. trading partners.

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Robot fast-food chefs: Hype or a sign of industry change?

BOSTON (AP) — Robots can't yet bake a souffle or fold a burrito, but a new restaurant in Boston is employing what it calls a "never-before-seen robotic kitchen" to cook up ingredients and spout them into a bowl. Is this a robot or just another high-tech novelty machine? Experts differ, but it's likely the fast-food industry will see more such automation in the coming years.

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Bill Gates pumps $158 million into push to combat US poverty

SEATTLE (AP) — The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says it'll spend $158 million combating U.S. poverty over the next four years. The announcement Thursday comes as the foundation moves deeper into U.S. issues after largely focusing on global health and development. Critics have long challenged Gates to do more to help the poor at home. Specific programs and grants haven't been identified, but the initiatives range from data projects to funding for community activists.

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US services firms grew in April at slowest pace this year

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. services firms grew at a slower pace in April compared to the prior month, as companies are reporting cost pressures from possible tariffs and a shortage of available workers. The Institute for Supply Management says its services index fell to 56.8, from 58.8 in March. This marks to lowest reading of the index this year. Still, any reading above 50 is a sign of expansion. The services sector has been expanding for the past 99 months, or more than eight years.

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Late buying drive erases much of an early loss for stocks

NEW YORK (AP) — A late buying drive erased much of an early loss for stocks, but weakness in health care companies and banks still left indexes mostly in the red. Cardinal Health plunged after reporting a weak quarter, and AIG also fell. Gains by technology companies including Microsoft helped moderate the losses. Tesla slumped after it reported another big loss and investors were puzzled when CEO Elon Musk mocked some analysts' questions on the company's conference call.

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The S&P 500 index slid 5.94 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,629.73. The Dow rose 5.17 points to 23,390.15. The Nasdaq composite lost 12.75 points, or 0.2 percent, to 7,088.15. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks fell 8.36 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,546.56.

Benchmark U.S. crude recovered from an early loss and rose 0.7 percent to $68.43 barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 0.4 percent to $73.62 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline picked up 0.4 percent to $2.09 a gallon. Heating oil slipped 0.4 percent to $2.11 a gallon. Natural gas lost 1 percent to $2.73 per 1,000 cubic feet.