MARKETS & ECONOMYECONOMY-MANUFACTURING WASHINGTON â¿¿ U.S. manufacturing grew slowly last month after shrinking in November and hiring increased, a sign of modest economic momentum heading into the new year. The Institute for Supply Management says its index of manufacturing activity rose to 50.7 in December from 49.5 in the previous month. November's reading was the lowest reading since July 2009, one month after the recession ended. By Christopher S. Rugaber. CONSTRUCTION SPENDING WASHINGTON â¿¿ U.S. builders spent less on construction projects in November, the first decline in eight months, as activity was held back by a big drop in spending on federal projects. The Commerce Department says construction spending dipped 0.3 percent in November compared with October, when spending had risen a revised 0.7 percent. It was the first drop since March. By Martin Crutsinger. SUPERSTORM AID WASHINGTON â¿¿ Republicans and Democrats from New York and New Jersey lashed out at House Speaker John Boehner for pulling legislation on Hurricane Sandy aid, demanding that he reverse course and allow a vote as their constituents continue to struggle with the aftermath of the devastating storm. President Barack Obama called for an immediate House vote, and governors of the two states called House inaction a "dereliction of duty." By Andrew Miga And Larry Margasak. AP photo â¿¿ SMALLBIZ-SMALL BUSINESS LENDING â¿¿ The erratic pace of borrowing by small businesses owners continued in November â¿¿ a sign that they were still cautious about hiring. â¿¿ OIL PRICES â¿¿ The price of oil rose as traders cheered a deal in Washington to avert the "fiscal cliff." Benchmark crude for February delivery rose $1.30 to finish the first trading day of the year at $93.12 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. DROUGHT-NOT ENOUGH SNOW ST. LOUIS â¿¿ Winter storms have dropped more than 15 inches of snow on parts of the Midwest and East in recent weeks. But climatologists say it would take at least 8 feet of snow â¿¿ and likely far more â¿¿ to return the soil to its pre-drought condition in time to ease the woes of farmers and ranchers. By Jim Suhr.