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Jan. 22, 2013 at 2:41 PM
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Markets turn higher Tuesday

NEW YORK, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- U.S. stock indexes reversed direction Tuesday in New York to regain early losses.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said President Barack Obama "would not stand in the way" of a three-month extension to the debt ceiling, which would give lawmakers more time to hash out differences.

The National Association of Realtors said existing home sales dropped 1 percent November to December, but sales of previously owned homes were still elevated from a year earlier.

In afternoon trading, the Dow Jones industrial average added 48.20 points or 0.35 percent to 13,697.90. The Nasdaq composite index gained 2.12 points or 0.07 percent to 3,136.83. The Standard and Poor's 500 gained 3.37 points or 0.23 percent to 1,489.35.

The 10-year treasury note gained 2/32 to yield 1.841 percent.

Against the dollar, the euro was $1.3314 from Friday's $1.3313. The dollar dropped against the yen, hitting 88.73 yen from 89.62 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index lost 0.35 percent, 37.81 points, to 10,709.93.

In London, the FTSE 100 index lost 0.03 percent, 1.81 points, to 6,179.17.

Existing home sales slid in December

WASHINGTON, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- U.S. sales of existing homes slowed in December, but were up from December 2011 and total sales for 2012 reached a five-year high, a trade group said Tuesday.

Existing-home sales dropped 1 percent month to month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.94 million from a downwardly revised annual rate of 4.99 million in November.

Sales for the month were 12.8 percent above the 4.38 million annual rate from December 2011, the National Association of Realtors said.

Preliminary figures for 2012 overall show existing-home sales for the year reached 4.65 million, 9.2 percent higher than 2011 and the largest total since 2007, when existing-home sales reached 5.03 million.

The median sales price for existing homes rose on an annual basis for the 10th consecutive month -- the longest streak since August 2005 to May 2006, the association said.

The median price of $180,800 is 11.5 percent higher than in December 2011, the trade group said.

The total inventory of existing homes on the market fell 8.5 percent from November to 1.82 million, a 4.4-month supply at the current rate of sales.

The supply of homes for sale is the lowest it has been since May 2005, when homes on the market were calculated to be a 4.3-month supply, "which was near the peak of the housing boom," NAR said.

Union appeal of Fiat firings rejected

ROME, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- A court in Rome rejected a metalworkers union appeal of automaker Fiat's firing of 19 non-union employees at a plant near Naples, Italy.

Fabbrica Italia Pomigliano -- the corporation that operates the Pomigliano d'Arco plant -- fired the 19 workers after a court in Rome ordered the company in October 2012 to hire 19 members of FIOM, which represents metalworkers, ANSA reported Tuesday.

The October ruling came in a lawsuit in which FIOM had claimed Fiat discriminated against its members by hiring no union members at the facility in 2010 after a dispute with the union over work rules.

Fabbrica Italia Pomigliano hired 19 union workers but then said it had to let 19 non-union employees go due to the economic slowdown.

Dish to close 300 Blockbuster stores

ENGLEWOOD, Colo., Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Dish Network Corp. said it would close 300 out of 800 U.S. Blockbuster stores at the loss of about 3,000 jobs.

The company, "continues to see value the Blockbuster brand, and we continue to analyze the store-level profitability as we have in the past," said Dish spokesman John Hall.

Dish bought video rental giant Blockbuster in 2011 for $320 million, pulling it out of bankruptcy. But it is still losing market share to companies that offer digital downloads, like Netflix, The Denver Post reported Tuesday.

Hall said the stores would close "over a period of time as many leases are ending."

Dish Chief Executive Officer Joe Clayton said recently that Dish was "still evaluating" the option of selling smart phones at Blockbuster outlets.

"Nothing has been done yet. It's still in exploratory phase," Clayton said.

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