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OPTIMISM REIGNS: Comments from President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner stoked optimism that a deal could be reached in budget talks before the end of the year. That helped the Dow Jones and the Standard & Poor's 500 turn around after early losses.

DIVIDEND BONANZA: Costco, the wholesale club operator, delighted investors by announcing a special dividend of $7 a share. They joined companies including Las Vegas Sands in making special payouts to avoid higher taxes on dividend income that will start in 2013, unless lawmakers strike a deal.

CANARIES AND COAL MINES: Some investors say that weak corporate earnings in third quarter are as worrisome as the looming "fiscal cliff" and signal that trouble for the stock market lies ahead.

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