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Stocks soar on budget deal, but problems lurk

NEW YORK (AP) — The "fiscal cliff" compromise, even with all its chaos, controversy and unresolved questions, was enough to ignite the stock market on Wednesday, the first trading day of the new year.

The Dow Jones industrial average careened more than 300 points higher, its biggest gain since December 2011. It's now just 5 percent below its record high close reached in October 2007. The Russell 2000, an index that tracks smaller companies, shot up to 873.42, the highest close in its history.

The reverie multiplied across the globe, with stock indexes throughout Europe and Asia leaping higher. A leading British index, the FTSE 100, closed above 6,000 for the first time since July 2011, at 6,027.37.

In the U.S., the rally was extraordinarily broad. For every stock that fell on the New York Stock Exchange, roughly 10 rose. All 30 stocks that make up the Dow rose, as did 94 percent of the stocks in the Standard & Poor's 500 index.

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Taxes rising for most people despite fiscal deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — While the tax package that Congress passed New Year's Day will protect 99 percent of Americans from an income tax increase, most of them will still end up paying more federal taxes in 2013.

That's because the legislation did nothing to prevent a temporary reduction in the Social Security payroll tax from expiring. In 2012, that 2-percentage-point cut in the payroll tax was worth about $1,000 to a worker making $50,000 a year.

The Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan Washington research group, estimates that 77 percent of American households will face higher federal taxes in 2013 under the agreement negotiated between President Barack Obama and Senate Republicans. High-income families will feel the biggest tax increases, but many middle- and low-income families will pay higher taxes too.

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Avis buying Zipcar in deal worth nearly $500 million

NEW YORK (AP) — Avis is leaping into the car-sharing service business by buying Zipcar for $491.2 million, aiming to capture a new type of customer and technology that will vastly expand its car rental options.

Car sharing has become a popular alternative to traditional rentals in metropolitan areas and on college campuses, allowing members to get a vehicle for an hour or two for short trips instead of renting a car for a day or using mass transit. The segment has been growing while traditional car rentals have struggled in the current slow-growth economy.

Zipcar, which was founded in 2000, has more than 760,000 members, triple what it had in 2008. It went public in 2011 and 2012 is expected to be its first-ever profitable year. Avis Budget Group Inc. is the third-largest U.S. rental car company, behind Enterprise Rent-a-Car and Hertz Global Holdings Inc.

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US manufacturing expanded slightly last month

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. manufacturing grew slightly last month and factory hiring increased. The modest gain suggests the economy entered the new year with some momentum.

The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday that its index of manufacturing activity rose in December to 50.7. That's up from a reading of 49.5 in November, which was the lowest reading since July 2009, one month after the recession ended.

A reading above 50 indicates growth, while a reading below signals contraction. The ISM is a trade group of purchasing managers.

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US construction spending dips 0.3 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Spending on U.S. construction projects fell in November from October because a steep drop in volatile federal projects offset another gain in home building.

Construction spending dipped 0.3 percent in November, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. It was the first decline since March and followed a 0.7 percent increase in October, which was revised lower.

Total spending declined to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $866 billion. That is 16.1 percent above a 12-year low hit in February 2011. Even with the gain, the level of spending remained only about half of what's considered healthy.

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Boehner agrees to Sandy aid vote on Friday

WASHINGTON (AP) — Under intense pressure from angry Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner agreed Wednesday to a vote this week on aid for Superstorm Sandy recovery.

The speaker will schedule a vote Friday for $9 billion for the national flood insurance program and another on Jan. 15 for a remaining $51 billion in the package, Republican Rep. Peter King of New York said after emerging from a meeting with Boehner and GOP lawmakers from New York and New Jersey. The votes will be taken by the new Congress that will be sworn in Thursday.

King left the session with Boehner without the anger that led him to rip into the speaker Tuesday night.

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2013 auto sales will be strong, firm predicts

DETROIT (AP) — A healthier economy and more model introductions should push U.S. auto sales above the 15 million mark this year, predicts an auto industry research firm.

The Polk research firm says auto sales should continue to lead the country's economic recovery, rising nearly 7 percent over 2012 to 15.3 million new vehicle registrations.

Automakers release December and full-year sales for 2012 on Thursday. Analysts think sales reached 14.5 million last year, the strongest performance since 2007 — just before Americans felt the impact of the recession. Sales of more than 15 million are considered a sign of health for the auto industry and the economy, many analysts say.

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Microsoft renews plea for crackdown on Google

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Microsoft began the new year harping on a favorite theme: The software maker is arguing that government regulators need to crack down on Google to preserve fair competition in the Internet and smartphone markets.

The latest refrain came Wednesday in a blog post by Dave Heiner, Microsoft's deputy general counsel. His attack amounted to a last-ditch appeal to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the European Commission as they wrap up wide-ranging investigations into Google's business practices. Resolutions to those probes are expected early this year, perhaps within the next week at the FTC.

Microsoft fears Google, perhaps its biggest nemesis, will emerge from the antitrust probes without being required to make significant changes.

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Asian-led consortium buys stake in ArcelorMittal

TORONTO (AP) — Global steel giant ArcelorMittal will sell a 15 percent stake in one of its Canadian iron ore operations to an Asian-led consortium for $1.1 billion in cash.

In the transaction announced Wednesday, a group led by South Korean steelmaker POSCO and China Steel Corp. will enter into a joint venture partnership that will own ArcelorMittal's Labrador Trough iron ore mining and infrastructure assets.

The consortium also includes other investors who were not identified in the announcement.

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Macau casino revenue in 2012 rose to $38 billion

HONG KONG (AP) — Casino revenue in Macau climbed 13.5 percent last year to a record $38 billion, as the Asian gambling hub reinforced its position as the world's biggest gambling market.

Gross revenue from Macau's 35 casinos also hit a monthly record in December, rising 20 percent to 28.2 billion Macau patacas ($3.5 billion), according to data posted on the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau on Wednesday.

But gambling revenue growth eased off in 2012 from the year before, when it rocketed 42 percent to $33.5 billion, as China's economy slowed and wealthy mainland Chinese gamblers held back amid fears about a crackdown on corruption.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 2.4 percent to 13,412.55. The Standard & Poor's 500 jumped 36.23, or 2.5 percent, to 1,462.42. The Nasdaq rose 92.75, or 3.1 percent, to 3,112.26.

Benchmark crude for February delivery rose $1.30 to finish the first trading day of the year at $93.12 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price various kinds of international oil, rose $1.36 to end at $112.47 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to finish at $2.80 a gallon. Heating oil added a penny to end at $3.05 a gallon. Natural gas fell 12 cents to finish at $3.23 per 1,000 cubic feet.