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AP News
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Posted: Dec 29, 2009 5:06 PM

Consumer confidence extends rise in December

NEW YORK (AP) _ A more upbeat outlook on jobs pushed Americans' confidence in the economy higher in December for the second month in a row, a survey released Tuesday said.

Consumers' expectations for the job market over the next six months reached their highest level in two years, but Americans remain gloomy about their current prospects.

The Conference Board said its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 52.9, up from a revised 50.6 in November, but the reading is still far short of the 90 that would signify a solid economy. In October, consumer confidence was 48.7. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters predicted a reading of 52 for December.

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Home prices rise again in October

NEW YORK (AP) _ Home prices rose for the fifth month in a row in October, but the recovery is shaky with only 11 of the 20 metro areas tracked showing gains.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index released Tuesday edged up 0.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted reading of 145.36 in October from September. Without adjusting for seasonal factors the index was flat.

The index was off 7.3 percent from October last year, nearly matching expectations of economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters. Many economists, however, are predicting a double dip in prices this winter as foreclosures increase and government support wanes.

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Stocks slip to break six-day winning streak

NEW YORK (AP) _ The stock market edged lower Tuesday, breaking a six-day advance as reports on home prices and consumer confidence did little to excite buyers.

Major indexes had risen modestly in the early going but slipped as the dollar strengthened and tugged on commodities prices. A stronger dollar makes commodities more expensive for foreign buyers. The drop in commodities weighed on energy and materials stocks.

Trading was quiet, as it has been in recent days, and many investors left at the end of the day for a long New Year's weekend. The low volume held the Dow Jones industrial average to a 38-point range, and the modest losses came after stocks had risen for six straight days. The Dow slipped 1.67, or less than 0.1 percent, to 10,545.41.

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Tylenol Arthritis Caplet voluntary recall expanded

NEW YORK (AP) _ Johnson & Johnson is expanding a voluntary recall of Tylenol Arthritis Caplets due to consumer reports of a moldy smell that can cause nausea and sickness.

According to a statement posted to the Food and Drug Administration Web site late Monday, the New Brunswick, N.J., company is now recalling all product lots of the Arthritis Pain Caplet 100 count bottles with the red EZ-Open Cap.

Johnson & Johnson had recalled five lots of the product last month after consumers complained of a musty, mildew-like odor that triggered nausea, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea.

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Oil near $79 a barrel; pump prices ticking up

NEW YORK (AP) _ Energy prices rose slightly Tuesday with a majority of futures traders taking the holiday week off, though a stronger dollar helped keep a barrel of oil below $79.

Benchmark crude for February delivery added a dime to settle at $78.87 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, still the highest close since mid-November. In London, Brent crude for February delivery increased 32 cents to settle at $77.64 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

A rise in the dollar versus other currencies tends to push oil prices lower. Crude is priced in dollars, and investors holding foreign money can't buy as much when the dollar rises.

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Spectranetics will pay $5M to end federal probe

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) _ Spectranetics Corp. said Tuesday it will pay $5 million to end a government investigation into allegations it imported and marketed medical lasers that had not been cleared by regulators.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Spectranetics illegally imported the devices and marketed them for purposes that had not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which led to false claims being filed with Medicare between 2003 and 2008. It also said a Spectranetics clinical trial called CORAL did not meet federal standards.

The Colorado-based company agreed to pay $4.9 million to resolve the investigation, which began in 2008, and will forfeit another $100,000 in cash or property in the near future.

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Reinsurer: Catastrophe costs down in '09

FRANKFURT (AP) _ Insurers' losses from natural disasters fell by more than half in 2009 thanks to fewer hurricanes and earthquakes, although climate change contributed to a significant increase in damages and losses in the U.S., a leading reinsurer said Tuesday.

Munich Re AG said in its annual review that insured losses came in at $22 billion this year, down from $50 billion in 2008. It said total economic losses, including losses not covered by insurance, fell 75 percent to $50 billion from last year's $200 billion.

The decrease was largely the result of fewer hurricanes and severe earthquakes that plagued 2008, though the company said that climate change was blamed for a significant increase in the amount of damages and losses in the U.S. because of heavy thunderstorms, hail, tornados and torrential rains.

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Nokia expands patent dispute beyond Apple iPhone

NEW YORK (AP) _ Nokia Corp. is broadening a legal dispute it already has with Apple Inc. over the iPhone, saying almost all of the company's other products also violate the Finnish phone maker's patents.

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Nokia said Tuesday that it has filed a complaint against Apple with the U.S. International Trade Commission, alleging Apple's iPhone, iPods and computers all violate Nokia's intellectual property rights.

At issue are key features found in Apple products, including aspects of user interface, cameras, antenna and power management technologies, Nokia said. The company claims that the technologies in question help cut manufacturing costs, reduce gadget size and prolong battery life.

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RC2 Corp. to pay $1.25 million for lead in toys

WASHINGTON (AP) _ An Illinois firm agreed to pay a $1.25 million settlement for importing and selling Thomas & Friends children's toys that contained lead levels above legal limits and risked sickening children.

In agreeing to the penalty settlement, RC2 Corp. denied that it knowingly violated federal law as alleged by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the agency said in a statement Monday evening.

The commission, which provisionally accepted the settlement, charged that RC2 Corp. of Oak Brook, Ill., and one of its subsidiaries, Learning Curve Brands Inc., knowingly imported and sold Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway toys that had "paints or other surface coatings" containing lead levels above .06 percent by weight. The toys were imported from China.

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UK mortgagees pay down debt for 6th quarter

LONDON (AP) _ U.K. homeowners paid off 4.9 billion pounds ($7.85 billion) in mortgage debt in the third quarter, the Bank of England said Tuesday, marking the sixth consecutive quarter in which consumers reined in spending to bolster their personal finances.

The third-quarter figure was 2 billion pounds less than in the second quarter. U.K. householders have now injected 33.9 billion pounds of housing equity since the second quarter of last year.

The equity injection peaked at 7.6 billion pounds in the fourth quarter of 2008.

By The Associated Press

The Dow slipped 1.67, or less than 0.1 percent, to 10,545.41.

The S&P 500 index fell 1.58, or 0.1 percent, to 1,126.20, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 2.68, or 0.1 percent, to 2,288.40.

Benchmark crude for February delivery added a dime to settle at $78.87 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In London, Brent crude for February delivery increased 32 cents to settle at $77.64 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

In other Nymex trading in January contracts, heating oil rose 2.93 cents to settle at $2.1028 gallon while gasoline gave up less than a penny to settle at $2.0106 a gallon. Natural gas fell 17.6 cents to settle at $5.814 per 1,000 cubic feet.