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Associated Press

Posted on January 2, 2013 at 6:02 AM

WALL STREET

Stocks look to 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — The stock market closed 2012 on a high note Monday, even with the fate of fiscal cliff talks in doubt. The Dow was up 166 points to finish the year at 13,104. The S&P rose 24 points and the Nasdaq climbed 59.

WORLD MARKETS

Asia stocks jump as US staves off 'fiscal cliff'

BANGKOK (AP) — Stock markets in Asia registered relief today over the U.S. congressional vote to stop hundreds of billions of dollars in automatic tax increases and spending cuts that risked plunging the world's biggest economy into recession.

Markets in Asia blessed the stopgap measure approved late Tuesday in Washington to retroactively counter some of the "fiscal cliff" effects. The bill Congress passed awaits President Barack Obama's signature.

But some analysts said that expectations for a compromise were so low that any deal was viewed as positive.

Benchmark crude oil rose to near $93 per barrel. The dollar fell against the euro and rose against the yen.

FISCAL CLIFF

Cliff avoided: Congress staves off tax hikes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Legislation to block the "fiscal cliff" is headed to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature. The bill will avoid, for now, the major tax increases and government spending cuts that had been scheduled to take effect with the new year.

Final approval came in the House on New Year's Night. The vote was 257 to 167.

The Senate passed the bill less than 24 hours earlier.

The measure raises tax rates on incomes over $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples, a victory for Obama.

It also extends expiring unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, prevents a cut in fees for doctors who treat Medicare patients and cancels a $900 pay increase due to lawmakers in March.

Another provision is designed to prevent a spike in milk prices.

Obama says an effort to change the nation's tax code that is too skewed toward the wealthy has been achieved.

The president said in an appearance late yesterday in the White House that the House vote to prevent a mix of tax increases and spending cuts avoids a problem that could have sent the economy back into recession.

SUPERSTORM AID

NY area lawmakers: House GOP scraps vote Sandy aid

WASHINGTON (AP) — New York area-lawmakers in both parties are erupting in anger, saying the House Republican leadership has decided to let Congress adjourn without holding a vote on aid for victims of Superstorm Sandy.

There is no immediate comment from either Speaker John Boehner (BAY'-nur) or Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who sets the floor schedule.

In remarks on the House floor, Republican Rep. Peter King called the decision absolutely indefensible, while Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey said she felt betrayed.

The Senate approved a $60.4 billion measure Friday to help with recovery from the October storm that devastated parts of New York, New Jersey and nearby states. The House Appropriations Committee has drafted a smaller, $27 billion measure, and a vote had been expected before Congress' term ends Thursday at noon.

WEEK AHEAD

Full slate of major releases on tap

UNDATED (AP) — It's an abbreviated but busy week of reports following a break to celebrate New Yer's Day.

Today, the Institute for Supply Management releases its manufacturing index for December and the Commerce Department releases construction spending for November.

The Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims tomorrow and Freddie Mac, the mortgage company, releases weekly mortgage rates. Also Thursday, the Federal Reserve releases minutes from its December interest-rate meeting and automakers release vehicle sales for December. We'll also get December sales comparisons from selected chain retailers.

On Friday, the Labor Department releases employment data for December; the Institute for Supply Management releases its service sector index for December and the Commerce Department releases factory orders for November.

REGISTER REVIVAL

California newspaper defies trend to shrink costs

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A major Southern California newspaper is defying conventional wisdom by spending heavily to expand in print.

The Orange County Register is adding about 100 journalists and expects the paper will soon be 40 percent larger than it was under previous owners. Thicker pages with triple the number of colors will produce crisp photos and graphics.

The Register introduced or expanded sections for business, automotive and food coverage. High school sports, community news and investigative reporting are getting more attention. Even color comics are back.

Aaron Kushner leads an investment group that bought the 107-year-old Register and parent company, Freedom Communications Inc., in July. The 39-year-old, first-time newspaper owner says readers will pay for high-quality news.

A big test comes when the Register begins charging for access to its website.

FRANCE-APPLE THEFT

Thieves break into Paris' flagship Apple store

PARIS (AP) — Masked and armed thieves used the New Year's Eve celebration to rob the flagship Apple store in Paris.

The French press reported that up to $1.3 million in goods were stolen at the store selling products such as Apple's iPhones and iPads behind the Paris Opera house, a figure police would not immediately confirm.

Police said Tuesday the theft occurred about 9 p.m. Monday, 3 hours after closing, while police were deployed around the famed Champs-Elysees Avenue where revelers traditionally gather on New Year's Eve.

Christophe Crepin of the Unsa police union said the "well prepared" operation was carried out by four masked and armed individuals.

The daily Le Parisien reported the thieves entered the store by threatening a security guard at a back entrance.

INDIA-PAYING THE POOR

India paying welfare directly, aiming to end fraud

NEW DELHI (AP) — India will send billions of dollars in social welfare money directly to its poor under a new program, aiming to cut out the middlemen blamed for the massive fraud that plagues the system.

Previously officials only handed out cash to the poor after taking a cut and were known to enroll fake recipients or register unqualified people. The new program would see welfare money directly deposited into recipients' bank accounts and require them to prove their identity with biometric data, such as fingerprints or retina scans.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has described the venture as "nothing less than magical," but critics accuse the government of hastily pushing through a complex program in a country where millions don't have access to electricity or paved roads, let alone neighborhood banks.

SHELL-ARCTIC DRILL SHIP

No fuel sheen, no sign that hull is breached

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Officials say two aircraft that flew over an oil drilling ship that went aground off an island in a severe Alaska storm have not seen any signs that the vessel is leaking fuel or that its hull had been breached.

Federal on-scene response coordinator Capt. Paul Mehler says the rig is aground but appears to be stable on Tuesday.

When the storm eases and weather permits, the plan is to get marine experts onboard the Kulluk to take photos and videos, and then come up with a more complete salvage plan.

The Kulluk is carrying 150,000 gallons of diesel and about 12,000 gallons of lube oil and hydraulic fluid. The rig ran aground Monday on a sand and gravel shore off an uninhabited island in the Gulf of Alaska. It's one of two Shell rigs for Arctic offshore drilling.

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