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Dec. 28, 2012 at 7:16 PM
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Markets skid for fifth day

NEW YORK, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Positive economic data failed to bring stock indexes out of a four-day slump Friday as investors focused on "fiscal cliff" talks in Washington.

Investors fear an economic drop would be unavoidable if lawmakers don't reach an agreement regarding tax issues, spending cuts and the budget deficit by Tuesday.

The National Association of Realtors said its pending home sales index rose in November, climbing 1.7 percent for the third consecutive monthly gain.

The Chicago Business Barometer rose for the third consecutive month in December, albeit from a 3-year low in September, an Institute for Supply Management report said.

Major market indexes were in the red, Friday. By close of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 158.20 points -- 1.21 percent -- to 12,938.11. The Nasdaq lost 25.59 points (0.86 percent) to 2,960.31.

The Standard and Poor's 500 shed 15.67 points (1.1 percent) to 1,402.43.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 972 stocks advanced and 2,084 declined on a volume of 2.4 billion shares traded.

The 10-year treasury note was up 11/32 to yield 1.701 percent.

The euro fell to $1.3217 from Thursday's $1.3237. The dollar fell to 85.96 yen from 86.11 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index added 0.7 percent, 72.20 points, to 10,395.18.

In London, the FTSE 100 index dropped 0.49 percent, 28.93 points, to 5,925.37.

Kindle Fire HD Amazon's top holiday seller

SEATTLE, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Amazon says the Kindle Fire HD was its best-selling product this holiday season, and also the most gifted and most-wished-for item.

While declining, as always, to release specific sales figures, Amazon said the Fire HD has been at the top in all three categories since it was introduced 15 weeks ago.

The non-HD Kindle Fire, the Kindle Paperwhite and regular Kindle e-readers joined the Fire HD as the top four best-selling devices for Amazon across the globe for holiday shoppers, Slash Gear reported Friday.

There was also a jump in demand for downloadable digital content, Amazon said, with more than 23 million movies, TV shows, games, apps, songs and other content downloaded on Christmas Day.

It was not just a holiday gift phenomenon, the company said, noting that the Kindle tablet was its best-selling product in all of its global markets in October.

Car companies poised to grow in Spain

MADRID, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Automakers in Europe said they would spend about $2.64 billion expanding plant capacity in Spain in 2013, offering hope to a struggling economy.

Ford Motor Co. and Renault recently announced expansion plans for Spain that would add investment dollars and jobs to Spain, where the unemployment rate is 24 percent, The New York Times reported Friday.

Without a nationwide automobile workers union, each automaker in the country negotiates individual compensation packages for hourly workers. That has allowed labor costs to remain low relative to those in other countries, the Times said.

Labor costs in Spain are about 40 percent lower than they are in Germany and France, which are Europe's other major auto-making countries.

Unit labor costs, a measure of the cost of production, have fallen 4 percent in Spain since 2008. Partly as a result, the Spanish Automobile and Truck Manufacturers' Association predicted automobile production in Spain would rise 11 percent in 2013 to 2.2 million cars and trucks.

The European Commission's data agency Eurostat said labor costs for automakers in Spain were $27 per hour, compared with $39.73 per hour in Germany and $45.14 per hour in France.

"We have lost some jobs but it has been a proud resistance compared to the massacre in some other (work) sectors," said Manuel Garcia Salgado, the head of the automobile division of the Union General de Trabajadores.

"I don't want to give lessons to anybody but at such a delicate moment for Spain, showing that we believe in flexibility and consensus has certainly been highly valued by the carmakers," he said.

Apple's Tim Cook takes a pay 'cut'

CUPERTINO, Calif., Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Apple head Tim Cook received a more modest pay packet this year after being awarded a large, multiyear package last year, The Wall Street Journal reported.

A regulatory filing Thursday revealed Cook's salary rose to $1.4 million in 2012 from $900,000 but he received no stock awards this year, resulting in the much-smaller pay package, the Journal said.

Most of his compensation in 2011 came from a grant of shares awarded when he became chief executive, making him one of the highest paid chief executive officers, but Apple said he would not be getting any new shares.

"Mr. Cook's target cash compensation remains significantly below the median for CEOs of peer companies," Apple said in the filing.

His predecessor as head of Apple, Steve Jobs, famously took an annual salary of only $1.

Apple's shares reached a high of $644 at one point this year, giving the company a market value of more than $600 billion and making it the world's most valuable firm.

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