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Jan. 25, 2013 at 1:58 PM
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Stocks climb Friday

NEW YORK, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- U.S. stock indexes rose modestly Friday in New York after the Census Bureau said sales of new homes slipped November to December.

Sales declined 7.5 percent month-to-month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 369,000, the bureau said.

Better-than-expected corporate reports from Microsoft and Procter & Gamble, however, provided a boost to the market.

In afternoon trading, the Dow Jones industrial average added 51.50 points or 0.37 percent to 13,876.83.

The Nasdaq index of tech-oriented stock gained 12.06 points or 0.39 percent to 3,142.44. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 5.56 points or 0.37 percent to 1,500.38.

The 10-year treasury note fell 22/32 to yield 1.935 percent.

Against the dollar, the euro rose to $1.346 from Thursday's $1.3377. The dollar rose against the yen, hitting 91.06 yen from 90.33 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index gained 2.88 percent, 305.78 points, to 10,926.65.

In London, the FTSE 100 index climbed 0.31 percent, 19.54 points, to 6,284.45.

Britain's GDP down in fourth quarter

LONDON, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Britain's Office of National Statistics said the country's economy shrank by 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to the third.

In a preliminary estimate, the ONS said the economy was flat in 2012 compared to 2011. The economy, however, pulled narrowly out of its second recession in the third quarter with gross domestic product growth at 0.9 percent.

This week International Monetary Fund Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard said Britain should rethink its overall strategy of consolidating debt.

While attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Finance Minister George Osborne responded quickly by saying debt consolidation was allowing Britain to borrow at low rates, CNNMoney reported.

"Credibility is very hard won and easily lost. And I think it would be a huge mistake to put that at risk," Osborne said.

In a research note for clients, however, economists at Nomura said "another contraction ... and thus a "triple-dip recession -- seems worryingly easy to deliver."

ONS said that output of production industries fell 1.8 percent in the final quarter of the year compared to the July through September period.

The industrial output drop follows a 0.7 percent increase in the previous quarter-to-quarter report.

ONS said the construction sector came out of a slump, albeit just barely. The construction sector gained 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter after contracting by 2.5 percent in the third quarter and shrinking 3 percent in the second quarter.

Overall, the gross domestic product for Britain was estimated to be flat from 2011 to 2012 -- no expansion and no contraction over the course of the year, ONS said.

"Users are, however, reminded that this figure is subject to revision in the second estimate of GDP when all quarters of 2012 are open for revision," the national data office said.

Russia to ban beef, pork from U.S., Canada

MOSCOW, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Russia is set to ban beef and pork imports from the United States and Canada because of the steroid ractopamine, used as a feed additive for cattle.

Last year, Russia banned the use of ractopamine as did many other European countries, The Voice of Russia reported.

"Ractopamine is a synthetic highly active pharmacological agent that helps pork producers to drive their net profits up by around 10 percent. But the profits left aside, its benefits for consumers are fairly dubious. Ractopamine has a strong impact on human body. Medicine uses drugs with just the opposite mechanism of action, particularly in cardiology. So we have all the reasons to join the measures that other countries and blocs of countries, including China and the European Union, have already introduced," said Alexei Alexeyenko, an expert with Rosselkhoznadzor, Russia's consumer rights protection agency.

Russia's new ban on the import of American and Canadian beef and pork, which may be implemented as early as Feb. 4, will only apply to chilled meat imports, and later, unless the use of ractopamine is decreased, deep-frozen meet supplies will also be banned.

Sergei Yushin, the chairman of the National Meat Association's executive committee, said he believes the ban will not likely hurt consumers.

"It will partially affect purchase prices, but consumer prices are unlikely to grow due to an excess of supply over demand ... As for beef, imports from Canada, [they] are insignificantly low and imports from the U.S. average on 7.5 percent and are unable to exert any major influence on our market," Yushin said.

Annual new home sales jump 19.9 percent

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Sales of new single-family homes dropped November to December in 2012, but annual sales topped 2011 substantially, the U.S. Commerce Department said Friday.

In 2011, there was an estimated 306,000 new home sold. In 2012, sales came to 367,000, a 19.9 percent increase, the department said.

Sales in December declined from November, off 7.3 percent.

After rising in November, sales fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 369,000 from 398,000 in November, a rate revised sharply upward from 377,000, the number released last month.

Sales also remained ahead of the same month a year earlier. In December 2011, the annual sales rate was estimated at 339,000.

The Commerce Department said the average price for a new home sold in November was $248,900, down from $299,700 in November.

The seasonally adjusted estimate of how many new homes were on the market at the end of the month was 151,000, which represents a 4.9-month supply at the current rate of sales.

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