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Business Highlights

The November gain was driven by improvements in labor markets, manufacturing orders and strong financial market indicators reflecting in part stock market gains.

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Average US rate on 30-year loan rises to 4.47 pct.

WASHINGTON (AP) a¿¿ Average U.S. rates for fixed mortgages rose slightly this week but remained near historically low levels.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the rate on the 30-year loan increased to 4.47 percent from 4.42 percent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed loan rose to 3.51 percent from 3.43 percent.

Mortgage rates peaked at 4.6 percent in August and have stabilized since September, when the Federal Reserve surprised markets by taking no action on starting to reduce its $85 billion-a month bond purchases. The Fed decided this week that the outlook for the economy appeared strong enough for it to reduce the monthly bond purchases starting in January by $10 billion.

The purchases are designed to keep long-term rates such as mortgage rates low.

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Darden looking to spin off or sell Red Lobster

NEW YORK (AP) a¿¿ Darden Restaurants wants to set Red Lobster adrift.

The company said Thursday that it is looking to either spin off or sell Red Lobster as part of its plan to boost value for its shareholders. Those plans also include suspending the opening of new Olive Garden locations and limit the opening of new LongHorn Steakhouse restaurants.

Darden Restaurants Inc. has also decided it won't make any acquisitions of additional brands "for the foreseeable future" and plans to review senior management's compensation and incentive programs so that there is more emphasis on same-store restaurant sales growth and free cash flow.

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Christie's launches in India to tap growing wealth

MUMBAI, India (AP) a¿¿ Christie's held its first art auction in India on Thursday, aiming to tap into a budding market for prestige purchasing among the country's fast-growing ranks of millionaires despite an economic slowdown.

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