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Nov. 16, 2012 at 2:21 PM
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Stocks swing higher

NEW YORK, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- U.S. stock markets headed higher Friday, with investors bucking a downward trend triggered by the national election.

Markets started lower, headed for the seventh day of losses out of the past eight trading sessions. But they turned around in early afternoon trading after congressional negotiators expressed optimism in resolving the so-called "fiscal cliff" following the first round of talks at the White House.

If gains hold, it will be for only the second positive session since the Nov. 6 election.

Between election day and Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average has given up 4.5 percent or 594 points. The Standard & Poor's 500 is off 4.65 percent or 66 points since voters went to the polls. Similarly, the Nasdaq index has lost 5.6 percent or 168 points since the election.

In afternoon trading Friday, the DJIA added 8.99 points or 0.07 percent to 12,551.37. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index gained 7.50 points or 0.26 percent to 2,844.43. The S&P 500 tacked on 1.72 points or 0.13 percent to 1,355.05.

The benchmark 10-year treasury rose 7/32 to yield 1.571 percent. Before polls opened Nov. 6, 10-year notes were yielding 1.689 percent.

The euro fell to $1.2725 from Thursday's $1.2782. Against the yen, the dollar rose to 81.22 from 81.17 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index gained 2.2 percent, 194.44 points, to 9,024.16.

In London, the FTSE 100 index shed 1.27 percent, 72.16 points, to 5,605.59.

Hostess files to liquidate company

NEW YORK, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- U.S. bakery Hostess Brands, makers of Twinkies and Devil Dogs, has filed for permission to liquidate, saying it cannot weather a strike by its bakers.

The company, which is already in bankruptcy court, has 33 bakeries and 565 distribution centers, CNNMoney reported Friday.

It has 18,500 workers -- 5,000 of them, represented by Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers, went on strike Nov. 9, when the company imposed a contract that cut pay 8 percent, ABC News reported. The union said the contract cut benefits by 27 percent to 32 percent.

"We deeply regret the necessity of today's decision, but we do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike," Hostess Chief Executive Officer Gregory Raymond said in a statement Wednesday.

BCTGM President Frank Hurt said in a statement this week the company was "making a mockery of the labor relations system that has been in place for nearly 100 years."

The 82-year-company makes several products that are household names -- snacks such as Twinkies, Ho Hos, donettes, Fruit Pies, and Hostess Cupcakes -- the shiny, chocolate cupcake decorated with a curlicue of white icing across the middle. The firm also makes Wonder Bread.

The company -- which is controlled by a group of investment firms including hedge funds Silver Point Capital and Monarch Alternative Capital -- had told the union bakers had a deadline of 5 p.m. EST Thursday to return to work.

Members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters voted in September to accept a contract that cut wages and benefits.

The company went to court after the bakers' union rejected its contract offer, to force workers to accept a contract that included an 8 percent pay cut in the first year of a five-year deal, with raises of 3 percent penciled in for the following three years and a raise of 1 percent for the final year of the contract.

The company said it had asked to lower its contribution to pension and healthcare plan, in return for giving workers equity in the company.

The union said it had agreed to concessions in previous contracts to help the company survive bankruptcy.

Home ownership on long decline in Britain

LONDON, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Home ownership in Britain is down to a 24-year low, creating a long-term renter class with wide-ranging implications, an advocacy group in London said.

"Buying your first home is no longer a joyful rite of passage for young adults but returning to being a privilege of elites," said Paula Higgins, chief executive officer of HomeOwners Alliance.

A report titled "Death of a Dream" was released by the group Friday. It said home ownership is down to 64.7 percent, a drop from the 69.7 percent peak of 2002.

The downward trend pre-dates the recession, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Construction of new homes is down to its lowest level since the 1920s, the report says. About 100,000 homes are built each year.

Generations have been growing up without the security of their parents owning their homes, the report said. In addition, it said, the need for public housing for the elderly is expected to double by 2060 as more people retire without the financial security of owning a home.

"This government inherited a paralyzed housing market from labor where the lenders wouldn't lend, the builders couldn't build and millions of hard-working, aspiring home buyers were blocked from taking their next step on the property ladder," said a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government, a coalition of agencies that is attempting to make home ownership more available.

Sandy affected U.S. industrial production

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Superstorm Sandy affected October U.S. industrial production, which fell 0.4 percent after a 0.2 percent increase in September, the Federal Reserve said Friday.

The Fed estimated Sandy, which hit the Northeast in late October, may have reduced industrial production by "nearly 1 percent," curtailing the output of electricity, chemicals, food, transportation equipment and electronics.

In October, the manufacturing index fell 0.9 percent, although "excluding storm-related effects, factory output was roughly unchanged from September," the monthly report said.

Output at U.S. mines rose 1.5 percent in October while production at utility companies slipped 0.1 percent.

Capacity utilization -- measuring production as a percentage of manufacturing, mining and utilities operating at full steam -- fell 0.4 in September to 77.8 percent, 2.5 percentage points less than its 1972-2011 average.

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