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Dec. 11, 2012 at 5:58 PM
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Market gains hold Tuesday

NEW YORK, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- Positive news from Washington on budget talks helped push stocks higher in New York Tuesday.

Stocks hung on to gains, although they were fading late in the session.

By close of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average added 78.56 points or 0.6 percent to 13,248.44.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq index gained 35.34 points or 1.18 percent to 3,022.30. The Standard and Poor's 500 added 9.29 points or 0.65 percent to 1,427.84.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 2,069 stocks advanced and 978 declined on a volume of 3.6 billion shares traded.

Investors shrugged off a trade deficit report. The Commerce Department said the trade gap widened from $40.2 billion to $42.2 billion in October.

The 10-year treasury note fell 11/32 to yield 1.659 percent.

The euro rose to $1.3008 from Monday's $1.2941. The dollar rose to 82.50 yen from 82.36 yen.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index lost 0.09 percent, 8.43 points, to 9,525.32.

Britain's FTSE 100 index gained 0.06 percent, 3.34 points, to 5,924.97.

Mich. House approves 2 right-to-work bills

LANSING, Mich., Dec. 11 (UPI) -- The Republican-dominated Michigan House gave final approval Tuesday to two bills for the private and public sectors.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder was expected to sign both bills, despite stiff opposition from Democrats and unions. The laws would become effective April 1.

The two bills opposed by all Democrats and some Republicans, were enacted within three hours of each other, The Lansing State Journal reported.

However, the newspaper said, one of the bills might be reconsidered in the House Wednesday, and that might delay Snyder's signature.

The House approved Senate Bill 116, right-to-work legislation for private sector workers, by a 58-52 vote. That vote came about an hour and a half after the House approved House Bill 4003 giving public sector workers right-to-work protection.

The legislation would end rules forcing workers to pay union fees as a condition of employment.

Outside the Capitol, a crowd of protesters swelled to 10,000, as demonstrators pounded drums and emptied buckets, The Detroit News reported.

A large pro-union rally was held in front of Lansing's City Hall and giant loudspeakers broadcast speeches across the Capitol lawn, the report said.

United Auto Workers President Bob King was among the speakers.

"Unions built the middle class of America. This is a national attack," he said. "These folks want to shift more and more of the wealth to a smaller and smaller group of people."

The News said the speakers included firefighters, teachers and factory workers, who promised Tuesday's protest was just the start, and said they would follow legislators all over the state to remind the public of their votes.

Earlier Tuesday, police used chemical spray Tuesday on the east side of the Michigan Capitol after a crowd pushed toward the building.

The clash was a sign of increasing tension as legislators considered the bills.

Texas judge temporarily blocks Keystone XL

NACOGDOCHES, Texas, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- A Texas judge has issued a temporary order to halt work on the Keystone XL pipeline in Nacogdoches County, court documents say.

But attorneys for TransCanada, which is building the pipeline, said they planned to fight the order in a hearing Thursday and do not expect it will stop Keystone XL construction, the Houston Chronicle reported.

TransCanada spokesman David Dodson told the newspaper the company has not halted any construction because of the order.

The judge's temporary restraining order came in response to a lawsuit filed by county resident Michael Bishop. Bishop contended pipeline owner TransCanada had misrepresented the purpose of Keystone XL when the company negotiated an agreement with him to build it through his land, court documents said.

The company said the pipeline would transport crude oil, but Bishop argued the oil that would eventually flow through Keystone XL from Canada is different because it is produced from oil sands.

Oil sands crude is produced by heating and diluting solid, hydrocarbon-bearing bitumen so that it can flow through a pipeline.

Bishop had previously signed an agreement with the company to allow it to transport "oil and crude petroleum products" through the pipeline, TransCanada attorney James Freeman said.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is a proposed addition to the pipeline that would carry bitumen from the Athabasca oil sands in Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas near the Gulf of Mexico.

The U.S. State Department is expected to make a decision early next year on whether to allow the completion of the pipeline through a sensitive Nebraska aquifer.

Delta and Virgin Atlantic form partnership

ATLANTA, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- U.S. airline Delta and Britain's Virgin Atlantic said Tuesday they had agreed to a partnership that includes Delta buying 49 percent of Virgin Atlantic.

Touting the benefits the deal would have for customers, like reciprocal frequent flier benefits and airport lounge privileges, Delta said in a statement that Richard Branson would hold onto his 51 percent share of Virgin Atlantic, while Delta would buy its 49 percent from Singapore Airlines for $360 million.

Virgin Atlantic will continue to operate its own brand under its own operating certificate, the statement said.

Delta said the deal would "create an expanded trans-Atlantic network and enhance competition between the U.K. and North America." However, the airlines said they expected the transaction would be reviewed by antitrust agencies in the United States and the European Union.

"This is an exciting day in Virgin Atlantic history. It signals the start of a new era of expansion, financial growth and many opportunities for our customers and our business. I truly look forward to the possibilities our partnership with Delta will offer," said Branson, who is also Virgin Atlantic's president.

"We have always been known for our innovation and service and have punched above our weight for 28 years. That is why our customers love us so much," he said pledging his upstart airline "will retain that independent spirit but move forward in a strengthened partnership with Delta."

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