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TMCNet:  AP Business NewsBrief at 12:55 p.m. EST

[December 17, 2012]

AP Business NewsBrief at 12:55 p.m. EST

(Associated Press Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Millions face higher taxes real soon without fixWASHINGTON (AP) _ While much of Washington is consumed by the debate over tax increases scheduled to take effect next year, big tax hikes have already gone into effect for millions of families and businesses this year. More than 70 tax breaks enjoyed by individuals and businesses expired at the end of 2011. If Congress doesn't extend them retroactively back to the beginning of this year, a typical middle-class family could face a $4,000 tax increase when it files its 2012 return in the spring, according to an analysis by H&R Block, the tax preparing giant.

Stocks move higher as budget talks progressNEW YORK (AP) _ Stocks rose on Wall Street as investors were encouraged by signs of progress in budget talks in Washington. Just two weeks remain before tax increases and government spending cuts take effect if no deal is reached. On the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, stock traders paused for a minute of silence at 9:15 a.m. EST to remember the 20 children and seven adults killed Friday in a gunman's rampage through a Connecticut elementary school.

Bangladesh probe: Fire sabotage, owner negligentDHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) _ A Bangladesh government committee investigating the garment factory fire that killed 112 people last month said in its findings Monday that the blaze was sabotage, probably by someone who worked there. But the panel said that no matter who set the fire, the owner of the factory also should be punished for the deaths because he neglected worker safety.

Tropicana uses the carrot to squeeze juice salesNEW YORK (AP) _ Tropicana wants more people to drink its juice, so it's extending a carrot _ and a bushel of other vegetables. As sugar-conscious Americans continue to shy away from fruit juices, Tropicana is using vegetables for the first time in recent history with a new drink called "Farmstand" set to hit shelves next month. By marketing the juice as a way for moms to sneak some veggies into their kids' diets, the division of PepsiCo Inc. is betting that carrots and beets can give it a new avenue for growth.

Economists forecasting moderate 2013 growthWASHINGTON (AP) _ Business economists believe the country will see modest growth in 2013 with strength coming from a further rebound in housing which will help offset weakness in business investment. In its latest survey of top forecasters, the National Association for Business Economics says it is looking for the economy to grow in 2013 by 2.1 percent after 2.2 percent growth in 2012. That would continue the same tepid growth the country has seen since the Great Recession ended in mid-2009.

Foreign holdings of US debt hit record $5.48TWASHINGTON (AP) _ Foreign ownership of U.S. Treasury securities rose to a record level in October, a sign that overseas investors remain confident in U.S. debt despite a potential budget crisis. Total foreign holdings of U.S. Treasurys rose to $5.48 trillion in October, the Treasury Department said Monday. That was up 0.1 percent from September. Still, the increase of $6 billion was the weakest since total holdings fell in December 2011.

Sprint raises offer, to buy Clearwire for $2.2BNEW YORK (AP) _ Sprint, the country's third-largest cellphone company, said Monday that it will buy out the portion of wireless network operator Clearwire that it doesn't already own after raising its offer price to $2.2 billion. The deal would give Sprint control of a flailing affiliate, one it depends upon to provide high-speed "Sprint 4G" data services on some of its phones. It would increase Sprint's access to the airwaves, meaning it could boost data speeds in coming years. However, cell towers using Clearwire spectrum have poor range, meaning Sprint may struggle to provide broad coverage.

Apple sells 2M iPhone 5s in China in first 3 daysNEW YORK (AP) _ Apple said Monday that it sold more than 2 million iPhone 5s in China in their first three days of availability, setting a record for that market. IPhone 5, which launched in China on Friday, will be available in more than 100 countries by the end of December.

Oil rises on new hope of 'fiscal cliff' resolutionNEW YORK (AP) _ The price of oil is rising Monday as political leaders in Washington appear closer to a resolution in critical budget negotiations. President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner met at the White House on Monday in hopes of making more progress toward avoiding the "fiscal cliff," a combination of spending cuts and tax increases that go into effect on Jan. 1.

EU: Tax collection still lagging in GreeceATHENS, Greece (AP) _ Greece is failing to collect the tax it is owed and is in danger of missing key targets that need to be met to reduce the government's staggering debt pile, the European Union warned on Monday. An EU task force helping Greece overcome the financial crisis that brought it to the brink of bankruptcy said Athens still has trouble dealing with old, outstanding tax claims. With 2 months to go in 2012, it was still about a billion euros behind the EU target of recovering (EURO)2 billion ($2.6 billion).

(c) 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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