AP News

Business Highlights


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For the New York Stock Exchange, a sell order

NEW YORK (AP) — The Big Board just isn't so big anymore.

In a deal that highlights the dwindling stature of what was once a centerpiece of capitalism, the New York Stock Exchange is being sold to a little-known rival for $8 billion — $3 billion less than it would have fetched in a proposed takeover just last year.

The buyer is IntercontinentalExchange, a 12-year-old exchange headquartered in Atlanta that deals in investing contracts known as futures.

Intercontinental Exchange, known as ICE, said Thursday that little would change for the trading floor at the corner of Wall and Broad streets, in Manhattan's financial district.

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US Mint testing new metals to make coins cheaper

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — When it comes to making coins, the Mint isn't getting its two cents worth. In some cases, it doesn't even get half of that.

A penny costs more than two cents and a nickel costs more than 11 cents to make and distribute. The quandary is how to make coins more cheaply without sparing our change's quality and durability, or altering its size and appearance.

A 400-page report presented last week to Congress outlines nearly two years of trials conducted at the Mint in Philadelphia, where a variety of metal recipes were put through their paces in the massive facility's high-speed coin-making machinery.

Evaluations of 29 different alloys concluded that none met the ideal list of attributes. The Treasury Department concluded that additional study was needed before it could endorse any changes.

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Pension fund reconsider investments in gun makers

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — From California to New York, teacher and public-worker retirement funds are reconsidering their investments in gun makers and confronting an uncomfortable fact: Their pensions have supported the manufacture of deadly weapons, in some cases the same type of gun used in the Connecticut school shooting.

For years, the gun industry has been a reliable investment, attracting tens of millions of dollars from some of the nation's largest retirement funds. The firearms business has been strong, driven by relaxed laws for carrying concealed handguns and by buyers who feared that tighter gun restrictions were more likely under President Obama.

But after the bloodbath in Connecticut, the practice is under review in at least four states, including two of the most populous, California and New York.

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Americans seeking unemployment aid rises by 17,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week by 17,000, reversing four weeks of declines. But the number of people seeking aid is consistent with a job market that continues to grow modestly.

Unemployment claims rose the week of Dec. 15 to a seasonally adjusted 361,000 from a revised 344,000 the week before.

The less-volatile four-week moving average fell 13,750 to 367,750, lowest since late October. Applications had surged in early November after Superstorm Sandy, then dropped back.

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US economy grew at 3.1 percent in summer

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.1 percent over the summer as exports increased, consumers spent more and state and local governments added to growth for the first time in three years. But the economy is likely slowing in the current quarter.

The Commerce Department's third and final estimate Thursday of growth for the July-September quarter was revised up from its previous estimate of a 2.7 percent annual growth rate.

Growth in the third quarter was more than twice the 1.3 percent growth rate in the April-June quarter. But disruptions from Superstorm Sandy and uncertainty weighing on consumers and businesses from the "fiscal cliff" are likely holding back growth in the October-December quarter. Many analysts predict an annual growth rate of just 1.5 percent for this quarter.

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US home sales surge to highest level in 3 years

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. sales of previously occupied homes jumped to their highest level in three years last month, bolstered by steady job gains and record-low mortgage rates. The report was the latest sign of a sustained recovery in the housing market.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that sales rose 5.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million in November. That's up from 4.76 million in October.

Previously occupied home sales are on track for their best year in five years. November's sales were the highest since November 2009, when a federal tax credit that was soon to expire spurred sales. Excluding that month, last month's sales were the highest since July 2007.

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US mortgage rates rise; still near record lows

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average rates on U.S. fixed mortgages rose this week but remained near record lows, a trend that is leading more Americans to buy homes or refinance their loans.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on a 30-year loan increased to 3.37 percent from 3.32 percent last week. That's just above the 3.31 percent rate of a month ago, the lowest on records dating to 1971.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage dipped to 2.65 percent from 2.66 percent last week. The record low is 2.63 percent.

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Measure of future US growth dips 0.2 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — A measure of the U.S. economy designed to signal future activity fell in November, suggesting that growth could remain weak in the early part of next year.

The Conference Board said Thursday that its index of leading indicators dropped 0.2 percent in November, compared with October, when the index had risen 0.3 percent. It was the first decline in the index since a 0.4 percent fall in August. The index is intended to anticipate economic conditions three to six months out.

Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein says the slight decline in the index November reflects an economy that remains weak as it faces a looming fiscal cliff.

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Olive Garden owner shifts course to focus on deals

NEW YORK (AP) — After new ad campaigns touting the quality of its food failed to spark sales, the parent company of Olive Garden and Red Lobster is retooling its strategy to attract diners with more promotional deals.

The shift comes after Darden Restaurants Inc. earlier this fall moved to update the image of its flagship chains and appeal to younger diners in their 20s and 30s, who increasingly prize fresh, high-quality ingredients. The problem is that many of those same diners also want cheaper prices and convenience, reflecting the rise of chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Panera Bread Co., which offer food that's a step up from traditional fast-food for slightly higher prices.

In addition to those shifting tastes, Darden and other casual dining chains such as Applebee's are dealing with customers who are being more careful about where and how often they eat out in the weak economy.

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RIM loses BlackBerry subscribers for first time

TORONTO (AP) — BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion, which is already struggling with plunging sales, said Thursday it lost subscribers for the first time in the latest quarter, as the global number of BlackBerry users dipped to 79 million.

But the Canadian company added to its cash position as it prepares to launch new smartphones on Jan. 30 that are deemed critical to the company's survival.

Three months ago, RIM had 80 million subscribers.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 59.75 points to close at 13,311.72. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 7.88 to 1,443.69. The Nasdaq composite index rose 6.02 to 3,050.39.

Benchmark crude for February delivery ended the day at $90.13 per barrel, up 15 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, dropped 16 cents to finish at $110.20 per barrel in London.

Natural gas prices gained 14 cents, or 4.2 percent, to end at $3.46 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil rose 2 cents to finish at $3.06 a gallon. Wholesale gasoline gained a penny to end at $2.75 a gallon.


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