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Dec. 17, 2012 at 6:23 PM
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Stocks post solid gains

NEW YORK, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- U.S. stock indexes closed with gains Monday after House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, reportedly proposed raising taxes on millionaires.

The offer was made privately on Friday. Although the White House rejected the majority of Boehner's proposal, Democrats said the offer was a potential opening for further budget talks and an eventual compromise, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Gains were held in check by a U.S. Federal Reserve of New York report that pegged New York state manufacturing as sliding further in December, although the pace of decline was described as modest.

By close of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average added 100.38 points, 0.76 percent, to 13,235.39. The Standard and Poor's 500 gained 16.78 points, 1.19 percent, to 1,430.36. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite added 39.27 points, or 1.32 percent, to 3,010.60.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 2,053 stocks advanced and 1,007 declined on a volume of 3.4 billion shares traded.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index added 91.32 points, 0.94 percent, to 9,828.88.

In London, the FTSE 100 index lost 0.16 percent, 9.61 points, to 5,912.15.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell 20/32 to yield 1.777 percent.

The dollar rose to 83.88 yen, up from Friday's 83.66 yen. The euro rose to $1.316 from Friday's $1.3075.

GE close to $4B deal to buy Avio

FAIRFIELD, Conn., Dec. 17 (UPI) -- General Electric is close to signing a deal to buy Avio SpA, an Italian aerospace firm, for about $4 billion, sources told The Wall Street Journal.

The deal, which is expected to be announced Thursday, is not finalized. As such, there is a chance it will not go through.

One outstanding issue yet to be resolved is how to carve Avio's space business out of the acquisition. Avio, 81 percent of which is owned by the private equity firm Cinven, makes both commercial and military jet engines and propulsion systems for satellites. But GE is not seeking to buy the space operations end of Avio's business, the Journal said.

GE is already responsible for about two-thirds of Avio's contracts, which explains why GE is interested in the purchase.

GE is expecting a large increase in jet engine orders in the next five years and is working to ensure it has an uninterrupted supply chain.

Avio employs 5,200 workers and last year had sales of $2.6 billion, a 16 percent increase over 2010.

Two North Sea oil fields get green lights

ABERDEEN, Scotland, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Britain's Department of Energy and Climate Change said Monday it had given the green light to Dana Petroleum's development of two North Sea oil fields.

"I am delighted to announce the go-ahead for this project, which will bring new jobs and create new opportunities for U.K. companies to compete for key parts of the work," said Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change John Hayes, referring to the Harris and Barra oil fields in the North Sea, estimated to contain 45 million barrels of recoverable oil.

"Dana Petroleum has really demonstrated its commitment to the North Sea and in doing so is playing its part in helping to secure the U.K.'s future energy needs," Hayes said in a statement.

The oil company, based in Aberdeen, Scotland, has set its sights on doubling is current production, said Marcus Richards, the firm's chief executive officer.

"The Western Isles project is at the heart of our growth strategy. Unlocking the potential of these new fields is a significant milestone as we aim to double our production to 100,000 barrels a day by 2016," he said.

Home sales in Canada dropped in November

OTTAWA, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Home sales in Canada dropped 1.7 percent from October to November, but the market overall remains steady, The Canadian Real Estate Association said Monday.

While sales dropped month-to-month and were off 11.9 percent from November 2011 using figures that do not account for seasonal variations, sales rose from October in two out of five local markets, the association said.

Sales were up from October in Vancouver Island, Victoria, Chilliwack, Kitchener-Waterloo, Greater Toronto, Greater Montreal and Greater Vancouver, the trade group said.

On a national average, however, the sales prices dropped 0.8 percent since November 2011 and the inventory of homes on the market rose from a 6.5-month supply at the current rate of sales at the end of October to a 6.6-month supply at the end of November.

"National sales activity lacks the momentum it had a year ago," said CREA Chief Economist Gregory Klump, who pointed to new mortgage regulations as the factor behind the cooler housing market.

"Interest rates have remained low and the economic backdrop has remained supportive for housing activity, so that should leave little doubt that recent changes to mortgage regulations are responsible for having cooled activity," Klump said.

"National sales activity has remained fairly steady at lower levels since mortgage rules were changed earlier this year, but that stability masks some real differences in trends among local housing markets," said CREA President Wayne Moen.

The association said the national average price for homes sold in November 2012 was $356,687, off 0.8 percent from November 2011.

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