The tax rate for adjusted earnings per share was 17 percent for 2012 and 2011. The effective tax rate for continuing operations for 2012 was 7 percent compared with 20 percent in the prior year. The lower effective tax rate in 2012 was primarily due to recognition of $142 million in tax benefits from foreign tax credits partially offset by $38 million from a timing difference for when the company records tax on one of its strategic affiliates.
Earnings from equity investments, which are reflected in the company's earnings and operating EBITDA, were $79 million in the fourth quarter of 2012, a $33 million increase from the prior year period primarily due to a significant plant turnaround in its Asian affiliates in the fourth quarter of 2011 as well as the company's share of a gain related to debt restructuring at a subsidiary of one of its Infraserv affiliates. The Infraserv gain is included in other adjustments and thereby excluded from the company's operating EBITDA for the fourth quarter and the year. The cash flow impact of equity investments in the fourth quarter was consistent with the prior year period at $40 million.
During 2012, the company generated $722 million in cash from operating activities, an $84 million increase from the same period last year, primarily driven by lower trade working capital versus the prior year period. The company also made total pension contributions of $294 million in 2012, an increase of $81 million over the prior year period. Cash used in investing activities during 2012 was $500 million compared with $441 million in the same period last year. The 2012 results include the company's acquisition of two product lines from Ashland Inc. and investments in future growth initiatives. Net cash provided by financing activities during 2012 was $49 million compared with net cash used of $253 million in the prior year. In 2012, the company completed a $500 million unsecured notes offering and repaid $400 million of its senior secured term loans that were set to mature in 2016. In 2011, the company used a net of $116 million to prepay a portion of these term loans. Net debt at the end of 2012 was $2,139 million, a $196 million decrease from the end of 2011.