By The Associated Press___ Dow average closes above 16,000 for the first time NEW YORK (AP) a¿¿ The Dow Jones industrial average closed above 16,000 for the first time Thursday as the blue-chip index races toward its best year in a decade. The Dow has been on fire lately, propelled higher by a combination of solid corporate earnings, a steadily strengthening economy and easy-money policies from the Federal Reserve. Since the start of the year, the Dow is up 22 percent and has now topped three 1,000 point milestones in 10 months. It eclipsed 14,000 in February and 15,000 in May. If it holds onto its gains, it would notch its strongest performance since 2003. ___ Senate panel advances Yellen's bid to lead Fed WASHINGTON (AP) a¿¿ A Senate panel on Thursday advanced Janet Yellen's nomination to lead the Federal Reserve, setting up a final vote in the full Senate after lawmakers return from a two-week Thanksgiving break. Yellen's path to confirmation also became easier on Thursday when the full Senate voted to change its rules for approving all presidential nominees other than Supreme Court selections. Now a simple majority will be required, instead of 60 votes. Yellen was nominated by President Barack Obama in October to succeed Ben Bernanke, whose second four-year term as chairman will end Jan. 31. She would be the first woman to lead the Fed and the first Democrat to do so since Paul Volcker stepped down in 1987. ___ Gov't expects to finish GM stock sale by year end DETROIT (AP) a¿¿ The U.S. government expects to sell the last of its stake in General Motors by the end of the year, bringing an end to a sad chapter in the 105-year-old auto giant's history. The Treasury Department said Thursday that it still owns 31.1 million shares of the auto giant, less than 2 percent. It plans to sell them by Dec. 31, as long as the price holds up.
The government received 912 million shares in exchange for a $49.5 billion bailout during the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009. So far it has recovered $38.4 billion of the money, but selling the remaining shares at Wednesday's $37.69 closing price gets the government $1.17 billion, leaving taxpayers short by roughly $10 billion.The government says the bailouts of GM and Chrysler were needed five years ago to save the American auto industry and more than a million jobs. It never expected to get all of the money back. ___ Beaujolais vineyards aim to be more than 'Nouveau' PARIS (AP) a¿¿ The wine world's best-known party is beginning a¿¿ the ritual uncorking of Beaujolais Nouveau every November. That's both a curse and a blessing for the famed French region and its lesser-known yet finer wines. Beaujolais Nouveau is easy to drink, but everything a fine wine is not: young, poor in tannins and not suited to storage. It's partially because new wines could never hope to stir the imagination the way that the great wines of Bordeaux or Champagne do that the makers of Beaujolais Nouveau resorted to what has become a hugely successful marketing campaign. And so, as they do every year, bars and wine shops the world over uncorked the first bottles of the 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau at midnight on Wednesday. What started as the very first chance to taste a given year's wine in Paris years ago has led to parties as far away as Japan and the United States. ___ Jury orders Samsung to pay Apple $290 million SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) a¿¿ A Silicon Valley jury on Thursday ordered Samsung Electronics to pay Apple $290 million for copying vital iPhone and iPad features. The verdict covers 13 older Samsung devices that a previous jury found were among 26 Samsung products that infringed Apple patents.
The previous jury awarded Apple $1.05 billion. But U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh ordered the new trial and tossed out $450 million of the damages after concluding the previous jury miscalculated the amount Samsung owed.Samsung appealed that verdict and is expected to appeal the latest verdict. ___ US unemployment benefit applications drop to 323K WASHINGTON (AP) a¿¿ The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits fell 21,000 to a seasonally adjusted 323,000 last week, the lowest since late September and further evidence of an improving job market. The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average fell for the third straight week to 338,500. Both figures are near pre-recession levels. Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They had spiked in early October because of the partial government shutdown and processing backlogs in California. But first-time applications have now fallen in five of the past six weeks. The decline indicates that employers are laying off fewer workers. ___ US wholesale prices dip for 2nd month on cheap gas WASHINGTON (AP) a¿¿ U.S. wholesale prices fell in October for the second straight month, driven down again by cheaper gasoline costs. The Labor Department said Thursday that the producer price index, which measures prices before they reach the consumer, dropped 0.2 percent in October. That followed a 0.1 percent decline in September. The cost of gas plunged 3.8 percent last month, lowering the index. Over the past 12 months, energy costs have kept inflation weak. Prices have increased just 0.3 percent in that stretch. ___ Average US rate on 30-year mortgage at 4.22 pct. WASHINGTON (AP) a¿¿ Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages declined this week after two weeks of increases, keeping home-buying affordable. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan fell to 4.22 percent from to 4.35 percent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage dipped to 3.27 percent from 3.35 percent.
Rates had spiked over the summer and reached a two-year high in July on speculation that the Federal Reserve would slow its bond purchases later this year. But the Fed held off in September and now appears poised to wait at least a few more months to see how the economy performs. The bond purchases are intended to keep long-term interest rates low.___ NJ becoming 3rd state to offer Internet gambling ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) a¿¿ New Jersey is poised to allow adults in the state to click a mouse or swipe a screen for a chance to win money, making it only the third state to offer online gambling. A five-day trial period of Internet gambling begins Thursday night when players invited by casinos to test their systems make real-money bets online. If all goes well, Internet gambling will be available to gamblers in New Jersey starting Tuesday. The only other states with online gambling are Nevada and Delaware. ___ By The Associated Press= The Dow Jones industrial average rose 109.17 points, or 0.7 percent, to close at 16,009.99 Thursday. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 14.48 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,795.85. The Nasdaq composite rose 47.88 points, or 1.2 percent, to 3,969.15. Benchmark U.S. crude for January delivery gained $1.59 to close at $95.44 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Wholesale gasoline added 8 cents to $2.74 gallon. Heating oil rose 5 cents to $3.01 a gallon. Natural gas advanced 3 cents to $3.70 per 1,000 cubic feet. Brent crude, the benchmark for an international variety of crude, gained $2.02 to $110.08 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.