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A selection of top photos can be found at: http://bit.ly/APTopPhotos.NEW THIS DIGEST: Adds: DUKE-PROGRESS MERGER Updates: WALL STREET, FISCAL CLIFF TOP STORIES ECONOMY-SANDY WASHINGTON Superstorm Sandy packed a bigger economic punch than most people had thought. The storm halted sales at major retailers at the start of the crucial holiday shopping season offsetting a strong Thanksgiving Day weekend. It also shut down factories in the Philadelphia and New York region and hurt home sales in the Northeast. Governors in New York and New Jersey have increased their federal aid requests to nearly $80 billion to rebuild in the region. Still, a flurry of reports show the U.S. economy outside the storm-affected states is improving. And the rebuilding efforts could give the economy a boost in the New Year. By Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger. AP photos. With: BROKEN BUDGETS-SUPERSTORM TOMS RIVER, N.J. Superstorm Sandy may have one more nasty surprise still to come: higher taxes. The math is simple and cruel. Unless shore towns from Rhode Island to New Jersey get a big influx of aid from the state and federal governments, which are themselves strapped for cash, they will have no choice but to raise taxes on homes and businesses that survived to make up for the loss. By Wayne Parry. AP photos. Also: ECONOMY-GDP The U.S. economy grew at a 2.7 percent annual rate from July through September, much faster than first thought. The strength may fade in the final months of the year if Congress and the Obama administration fail to reach a budget deal.
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