Business Highlights

The Associated Press 0

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Home electricity use in US falling to 2001 levels

The average amount of electricity consumed in U.S. homes has fallen to levels last seen more than a decade ago, back when the smartest device in people’s pockets was a Palm pilot and anyone talking about a tablet was probably an archaeologist or a preacher.

Because of more energy-efficient housing, appliances and gadgets, power usage is on track to decline in 2013 for the third year in a row, to 10,819 kilowatt-hours per household, according to the Energy Information Administration.

That’s the lowest level since 2001, when households averaged 10,535 kwh. And the drop has occurred even though our lives are more electrified.

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Medicaid growth creates gap of 5M without coverage

About 5 million people will be without health care next year that they would have gotten simply if they lived somewhere else in America. They make up a coverage gap in President Barack Obama’s signature health care law created by the domino effects of last year’s Supreme Court ruling and states’ subsequent policy decisions.

The court effectively left it up to states to decide whether to open Medicaid, the federal-state program for the poor and disabled, to more people, primarily poor working adults without children.

Twenty-five states declined. That leaves 4.8 million people in those states without the health care coverage that their peers elsewhere are getting through the expansion of Medicaid, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation estimate. More than one-fifth of them live in Texas alone, Kaiser’s analysis found.

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Congress letting 55 tax breaks expire at year end

In an almost annual ritual, Congress is letting a package of 55 popular tax breaks expire at the end of the year, creating uncertainty — once again — for millions of individuals and businesses.

Lawmakers let these tax breaks lapse almost every year, even though they save businesses and individuals billions of dollars. And almost every year, Congress eventually renews them, retroactively, so taxpayers can claim them by the time they file their tax returns.

Not so far. Trade groups and tax experts complain that Congress is making it impossible for businesses and individuals to plan for the future. What if lawmakers don’t renew the tax break you depend on? Or what if they change it and you’re no longer eligible?

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Signed contracts to buy US homes level off

The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy existing homes in November was essentially unchanged from October, suggesting sales are stabilizing after several months of declines.

The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index ticked up to 101.7 from 101.5 in October. The October figure was revised lower from an initial reading of 102.1.

Higher mortgage rates and strong price gains over the past two years have slowed sales. The pending home sales index had fallen for five straight months before November. And completed sales of existing homes fell for three straight months, the Realtors said earlier this month.

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Feds announce test sites for drone aircraft

Six states were named by federal officials to develop test sites for drones — a critical next step for the burgeoning industry that could one day produce thousands of unmanned aircraft for use by businesses, farmers and researchers.

Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia will host the research sites, providing diverse climates, geography and air traffic environments as the Federal Aviation Administration seeks to safely introduce commercial drones into U.S. airspace.

An industry-commissioned study has predicted more than 70,000 jobs would develop in the first three years after Congress loosens drone restrictions on U.S. skies. The same study projects an average salary range for a drone pilot between $85,000 and $115,000.

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Russia bombings kill 31, raise concern on Olympics

Two suicide bombings in as many days have killed 31 people and raised concerns that Islamic militants have begun a terrorist campaign in Russia that could stretch into the Sochi Olympics in February. Russian and international Olympic officials insisted the site of the games, protected by layers of security, is completely safe.

The attacks in Volgograd, about 400 miles (650 kilometres) from Sochi, reflected the Kremlin’s inability to uproot Islamist insurgents in the Caucasus who have vowed to derail the games, the pet project of President Vladimir Putin.

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Sales of Ford brand vehicles to top 2.4M in 2013

Ford says 2013 North American sales of cars and trucks bearing its namesake brand will top 2.4 million, making Ford again the top-selling U.S. brand over Toyota.

The automaker says it will sell more than 600,000 passenger cars this year, the most since 2000, with the strongest demand coming from the West and Southeast.

Ford says it has seen double-digit sales growth across all segments — cars, trucks and utility vehicles. Growth has been led by demand for the Ford Fiesta small car, Ford Fusion midsize sedan, C-Max hybrid and the Ford Escape SUV.

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Cooper Tire ends buyout agreement with Apollo

Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. is calling off its sale to India’s Apollo Tyres, unraveling a $2.2 billion deal announced just over six months ago.

Cooper said financing is no longer available and it continues to claim, as it has for months, that Apollo breached the terms of the agreement. Apollo said after the announcement Monday, which it called disappointing, that it may pursue legal remedies.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow ended the day up 25.88 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 16,504.29. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell less than a point to 1,841.07 and the technology-heavy Nasdaq composite fell 2.39 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 4,154.20.

Benchmark U.S. crude for February delivery ended the day down $1.03, closing at $99.29 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Wholesale gasoline lost 3 cents to $2.79 per gallon. Heating oil fell 5 cents to $3.08 per gallon. Natural gas jumped 6 cents to $4.43 per 1,000 cubic feet. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, fell 97 cents to $111.21 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

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