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Source : AP
Last Updated: Thu, Dec 27, 2012 23:45 hrs

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AP IMPACT: Ordinary folks losing faith in stocks

NEW YORK (AP) — Andrew Neitlich is the last person you'd expect to be rattled by the stock market.

He once worked as a financial analyst picking stocks for a mutual fund. He has huddled with dozens of CEOs in his current career as an executive coach. During the dot-com crash 12 years ago, he kept his wits and did not sell.

But he's selling now.

Defying decades of investment history, ordinary Americans are selling stocks for a fifth year in a row. The selling has not let up despite unprecedented measures by the Federal Reserve to persuade people to buy and the come-hither allure of a levitating market. Stock prices have doubled from March 2009, their low point during the Great Recession.

It's the first time ordinary folks have sold during a sustained bull market since relevant records were first kept during World War II, an examination by The Associated Press has found. The AP analyzed money flowing into and out of stock funds of all kinds, including relatively new exchange-traded funds, which investors like because of their low fees.

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US consumers lose confidence as fiscal cliff nears

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumers peering over the "fiscal cliff" don't like what they see.

Fears of sharp tax increases and government spending cuts set to take effect next week sent consumer confidence tumbling in December to its lowest level since August.

The Conference Board said Thursday that its consumer confidence index fell for the second straight month in December to 65.1, down from 71.5 in November.

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Fiscal cliff whipsaws stocks; confidence dims

NEW YORK (AP) — The "fiscal cliff" took the stock market on a roller coaster Thursday. Small developments in the tense budget standoff yanked stocks back and forth throughout the day.

In the end, U.S. stocks closed lower for the fourth day in a row, sending the unwelcome message that the budget standoff is still far from solved, the economy still far from healed.

The erratic performance underscored how the "fiscal cliff" can yank the market back and forth. The term refers to automatic tax increases and government spending cuts that will kick in next week if Republicans and Democrats can't reach a budget agreement by Monday night.

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US jobless aid applications fall to 5-year low

WASHINGTON (AP) — The average number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits over the past month fell to the lowest level since March 2008, a sign that the job market is healing.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications dropped 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 350,000 in the week ended Dec. 22. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to a nearly five-year low of 356,750.

Still, the Christmas holiday may have distorted the figures. A department spokesman said many state unemployment offices were closed Monday and Tuesday and could not provide exact data. That forced the government to rely on estimates. Normally, the government might estimate application data for one or two states. Last week, it had to use estimates for 19.

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US new home sales jump to fastest rate in 2½ years

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans bought new homes last month at the fastest pace in more than two and a half years, further evidence of a sustained housing recovery.

Sales of new homes rose 4.4 percent in November from October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 377,000, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That's the fastest pace since April 2010, when a federal tax credit boosted sales.

New-home sales have also increased 15.3 percent over the past year, although the improvement comes from depressed levels. Sales remain below the 700,000 that economists consider healthy.

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SeaWorld files to go public with $100 million IPO

NEW YORK (AP) — Looks like Shamu may soon be making a splash in the stock market.

The company famous for water shows featuring killer whales, dolphins and other animals at SeaWorld said Thursday that it is planning to go public. SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. has filed for an initial public offering of stock aimed at raising $100 million. That number is likely to change as the company's bankers gauge interest from investors.

From its origins as a Busch Gardens animal park at Anheuser-Busch's Tampa Budweiser brewery, the company has grown to span 11 theme parks housing 67,000 animals. Besides the three SeaWorld parks, the company owns two Busch Gardens parks and Sesame Place, an amusement park based on the children's TV show Sesame Street.

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Retailers recall more than 150,000 baby recliners

WASHINGTON (AP) — Four national retailers agreed to recall more than 150,000 Nap Nanny baby recliners after at least five infant deaths and dozens of reports of children nearly falling out of the recliners, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said Thursday.

The recall covers Nap Nanny Generations One and Two, and the Chill model infant recliners. All were sold between 2009 and 2012. The Nap Nanny was designed to mimic the curves of a baby car seat, elevating an infant slightly to help reduce reflux, gas, stuffiness or other problems.

The CPSC warned parents and caregivers that the Nap Nanny contains defects in its design, warnings and instructions. The agency said the product poses a substantial risk of injury and death to infants.

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Toyota plans to sell 9.7 million vehicles in 2012

TOKYO (AP) — Toyota expects to sell a record 9.7 million vehicles this year, bouncing back by 22 percent from a disaster-struck 2011. It has set an even higher target of 9.91 million vehicles for 2013.

The numbers released this week underline Toyota Motor Corp.'s solid turnaround from supply disruptions caused by the earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan in 2011 that had hurt global production and sales.

They also underline the Japanese automaker's ambitions to move past the woes from massive recalls that began in 2009, especially in North America.

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NY fund boss to pay $1.45 million to settle SEC suit

NEW YORK (AP) — A hedge fund founder serving the longest prison term ever given for insider trading also will be writing the government another big check.

Raj Rajaratnam, a one-time billionaire convicted last year of trading on inside information, will pay nearly $1.45 million to settle a civil case brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission, court documents show. A federal judge on Thursday approved the deal, which requires Rajaratnam to pay the settlement within 90 days and waive any right to appeal it.

The documents say the settlement includes $1.29 million representing "profits gained and losses avoided" as a result of trading on tips from a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. director convicted separately in June. The settlement also includes $148,000 in prejudgment interest.

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Unilever to phase out 'microplastics' by 2015

AMSTERDAM (AP) — Unilever, the maker of Vaseline, Axe deodorants and Dove soaps, among other cosmetic and hygiene products, says it will phase out the use of microplastics by 2015.

Many soaps, skin scrubs and shower gels contain microplastics, which are tiny polyethelene beads. Scientists and environmental groups are concerned that they contribute to polluting oceans.

The company said Thursday that it has "decided to phase out the use of plastic micro beads as a 'scrub' material in all of our personal care products" by 2015.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average finished down 18.28 points to 13,096.31. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 1.73 to 1,418.10. The Nasdaq composite index lost 4.25 to 2,985.91.

Wholesale gasoline rose less than a cent to end at $2.82 a gallon.

U.S. benchmark crude fell 11 cents to finish at $90.87 barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price various kinds of foreign oil, fell 27 cents to finish at $110.80 per barrel in London.

Heating oil rose 2 cents to end at $3.07 a gallon. Natural gas lost 4 cents to finish at $3.35 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline rose less than a cent to end at $2.82 a gallon.


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