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Dec. 18, 2012 at 7:48 PM
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Markets close higher

NEW YORK, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- U.S. stock indexes rose Tuesday on reports that lawmakers in Washington are closing in on a budget deal.

The New York Times reported the philosophical quibbling between the White House and House Republicans over the 2013 budget was over and the numbers are close.

The National Association of Home Builders said Tuesday business confidence among builders had risen in December for the eighth consecutive monthly gain.

By close of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average added 115.57 points, 0.87 percent, to 13,350.96. The Standard and Poor's 500 gained 16.43 points, 1.15 percent, to 1,446.79. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite added 43.93 points, or 1.46 percent, to 3,054.53.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 2,276 stocks advanced and 816 declined on a volume of 4 billion shares traded.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index added 136.15 points, 1.37 percent, to 10,059.16.

In London, the FTSE 100 index gained 0.4 percent, 23.75 points, to 5,935.90.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose 2/32 to yield 1.817 percent.

The dollar rose to 84.38 yen, up from Monday's 83.89 yen. The euro rose to $1.3228 from Monday's $1.3163.

S&P lifts Greek credit rating six notches

ATHENS, Greece, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Credit rating firm Standard & Poor's lifted Greece's credit grade significantly Tuesday but left its bonds in junk status.

S&P lowered Greece's rating to selective default early in the month as it initiated a debt buyback program, CNNMoney reported.

With that buyback completed and with the recent approval of a $65 billion bailout loan disbursement, S&P jumped Greece's rating up six notches to B-minus.

Despite facing major economic headwinds -- six years of recession and an unemployment rate of 25 percent -- S&P said the region's commitment to keeping Greece in the eurozone was a good sign.

"We view the eurozone member states' decision to provide material cash flow relief to Greece as indicative of their determination to restore stability to Greek finances, and to preserve Greece's eurozone membership," S&P said.

AA tells pilots to expect growth

FORT WORTH, Texas, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- The head of American Airlines said he was "impartial about a merger" that might help the carrier emerge from bankruptcy, a company executive said.

Chief Executive Officer Tom Horton met recently with representatives of the Allied Pilots Association.

After the meeting, summing up what was discussed, Vice President of Flight John Hale wrote in a memo that Horton was, "impartial about a merger, contrary to what you may have heard."

Hale also said the airline would add 1,650 pilots as it added new aircraft to its fleet, the Fort Worth, Texas Star-Telegram reported Tuesday.

In addition, Hale said that pilots could expect pay to increase by 50 percent within the next five years.

"For pilots this is growth and opportunity unseen for more than a decade," Hale wrote.

Home builder confidence rose in December

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- U.S. builders' confidence in the market for new single-family homes rose for the eighth consecutive month in December, a trade group said Tuesday.

The National Association of Home Builders said the Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index for builder confidence added two points to reach 47, climbing from a slightly revised November reading, which put the index at its highest level since April 2006.

"Builders across the country are reporting some of the best sales conditions they've seen in more than five years, with more serious buyers coming forward and a shrinking number of vacant and foreclosed properties on the market," said NAHB Chairman Barry Rutenberg in a statement.

Rutenberg added that "today's overly stringent lending standards" were keeping some buyers from participating.

The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index is based on a monthly NAHB survey measuring builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months.

The general index is made up of three component indexes and two of the three are now above the "critical midpoint of 50," the trade group said.

The index measuring current sales rose two points to 51 in December, while the index measuring expectations six months down the road lost one point to reach 51.

The index that gauges customer traffic has a ways to go to reach 50. In December, that index rose one point to reach 36, the NAHB said.

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