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.