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The 10-Point: My Guide to the Day's Top News

The Wall Street Journal
Good morning,
A Rising Buck
A strengthening dollar is presenting a challenge to U.S. manufacturers by making their exports more expensive and their foreign earnings less valuable. The U.S. currency surged to a 14-year high in the wake of Donald Trump’s election and the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates, adding a wrinkle to the president-elect’s pledge to boost factory employment. A stronger dollar is a sign of rising optimism for the U.S. economy as the stock market soars to new highs. Prospects of higher inflation and rising interest rates encourage investment in U.S. assets, reflecting growing hopes for better returns. However, while good for U.S. consumers and companies that purchase components abroad, many U.S. manufacturers have started to dial back revenue forecasts and are looking for ways to cut costs.

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Who Wants to be a Billionaire?
The concentration of wealth among Mr. Trump’s nominees is setting up an arduous and expensive Senate confirmation process that could slow implementation of the White House agenda. The president-elect has so far appointed five billionaires and half a dozen multimillionaires to serve in his administration. To win confirmation, they will be required to disclose their financial holdings and divest themselves of any assets that could present a potential conflict of interest with their new posts. While the process may not hurt the nominees’ chances of winning Senate approval, it could eat time and prevent the Trump administration from hitting the ground running. In other political news, we identify the 10 Democratic senators up for re-election in 2018 in states carried by Mr. Trump in November. The senators could either break ranks or doom the Republican agenda.
Xi’s Power Play
China’s Communist Party elite was craving a firm hand on the tiller when it chose Xi Jinping for the nation’s top job in 2012. The party’s power brokers got what they wanted—and then some. Four years on, Mr. Xi has taken personal charge of the economy, the armed forces and most other levers of power, overturning a collective-leadership system introduced to protect against one-man rule after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976. Now, as he nears the end of his first five-year term, party insiders say he is trying to block promotion of a potential successor, suggesting he wants to remain in office after his second term expires in 2022. There is even talk of shrinking, downgrading or scrapping China’s top leadership body. We report that concern is rising among the country’s elite that the nation is shifting toward a rigid form of autocracy ill-suited to managing a complex economy.
Artful Resolutions
The secret to keeping a new year’s resolution? Pick something you’ll actually enjoy. To inspire us to reach for ambitious goals in 2017, we asked artists, writers, performers and others what cultural aspirations they have for next year and why. Architect Frank Gehry plans to visit the North Pole to see an iceberg, while actor Idris Elba, who is also a musician and DJ, wants to go to Burning Man, the annual festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Author Ann Patchett plans to catch a performance of the Giffords Circus in England, which previously brought her to tears. And Chris Jackson, the actor who originated the role of George Washington in “Hamilton,” resolves to read the plays of August Wilson in order. See all of the resolutions here.
TODAY'S VIDEO
A Pop Icon
That Was Painless
George Michael, the British pop-music superstar who wrote and performed a string of hits in the duo Wham! and as a solo artist, died at the age of 53.
TOP STORIES
U.S.

Actors’ Pay Dispute Spotlights Small Los Angeles Theaters

States Aim to Lure College Dropouts Back to School
WORLD

Facing Conservatives, Israel’s Leader Takes Harder Stance on Settlements

Female Pilot’s Asylum Request Riles Afghan Military Leadership
BUSINESS

Tips for Returning Gifts Purchased Online

‘Rogue One’ Soars Over Box Office’s New Arrivals
MARKETS

As Obama Steps Aside, Banks See New Opportunity in Student-Lending Business

Protectionist Walls Are Popping Up…Around Banks
NUMBER OF THE DAY
10%
The approximate proportion of holiday purchases that are returned. As shoppers flock to stores this week to return unwanted gifts, traditional retailers have an opportunity that pure e-commerce players don’t: To make another sale.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
[It’s] a pretty darn big loophole.
Elise Bean, former chief counsel to a Senate investigating subcommittee, on law-firm bank accounts creating a gap in U.S. money-laundering defenses. Hundreds of millions of dollars allegedly siphoned from Malaysian state fund 1MDB passed through firms’ pooled accounts in the U.S., prosecutors say.
TODAY'S QUESTION
Going back to our story above, what are your thoughts on the concentration of wealth among Mr. Trump’s nominees? Send your comments, which we may edit before publication, to 10point@wsj.com. Please include your name and location.
—Compiled by Margaret Rawson
READER RESPONSE
Responding to Friday’s question on Ray Dalio’s management techniques at Bridgewater, Dan Sanjeap of New York said: “If you don’t want to suffer through astronaut training don’t join the Dalio space program. That said let’s remember that the moon landing required turning off autopilot and finding a landing spot by manual navigation. The future will always be the dark side of the moon.” Scanlon of Colorado wrote: “His search for control, now and in the future, reminds me of the ‘great and powerful Oz.’ A lot of smoke and trembling, but nothing behind the curtain.” And Jan Rogers Kniffen of Connecticut shared: “I run into people who work for Mr. Dalio occasionally…I realize that the management style at Bridgewater sounds a bit 1984-esque, and maybe a little bit creepy, but it is pretty hard to argue with the incredible success it has yielded with, as far as I know, no issues with compliance with securities laws. And, yes, I have heard the stories of spending time ‘crying in the bathroom.’ If the job is taking that toll on someone, then he or she needs to find a new job. But, for those who thrive in the environment at Bridgewater, fortunes are made. And, fortunes have been made for the investor as well.”

This daily briefing is named "The 10-Point" after the nickname conferred by the editors of The Wall Street Journal on the lead column of the legendary "What's News" digest of top stories. Technically, "10-point" referred to the size of the typeface. The type is smaller now but the name lives on.

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