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Associated Press

Posted on December 24, 2012 at 5:00 PM

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Shoppers found bigger sales, smaller crowds

NEW YORK (AP) — Shoppers who waited until the final days before Christmas were rewarded with big bargains and lighter crowds. But their last-minute deal hunting may hurt stores.

Although fresh data on the holiday shopping season won't be available until Christmas, analysts expect growth from last year to be modest. Several factors have dampened shoppers' spirits, including fears that the economy could fall off the "fiscal cliff," triggering tax increases and spending cuts early next year.

On Christmas Eve, Taubman Centers, which operates 28 malls across the country, reported a "very strong weekend." But many last-minute shoppers in cities including New York, Atlanta and Indianapolis were spending less than they did last year, and taking advantage of big discounts of up to 70 percent that hurt stores' profits.

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Lawmakers see 'fiscal cliff' deal as elusive

WASHINGTON (AP) — With anxiety rising as the country lurches towards a "fiscal cliff," lawmakers are increasingly skeptical about a possible deal and some predict the best possibility would be a small-scale patch because time is running out before the yearend deadline.

Sen. Joe Lieberman predicted Sunday: "We're going to spend New Year's Eve here, I believe."

Even those who see the possibility of a deal don't expect a lot.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said she expects "it is going to be a patch because in four days we can't solve everything."

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FDA warns doctors of counterfeit Botox

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal regulators have warned more than 350 medical practices that Botox they may have received from a Canadian supplier is unapproved and could be counterfeit or unsafe.

The Food and Drug Administration said in a letter sent last month, a letter released publicly last week, that batches of the wrinkle treatment shipped by suppliers owned by pharmacy Canada Drugs have not been approved by the FDA and that the agency cannot assure their effectiveness or their safety.

The FDA said Canada Drugs was previously tied to shipping unapproved and counterfeit cancer drugs.

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Georgia counties sue HSBC claiming loss of tax base

ATLANTA (AP) — Three Atlanta-area counties have filed a lawsuit claiming that British bank HSBC cost them hundreds of millions of dollars in extra expenses and damage to their tax bases by aggressively signing minorities to housing loans that were likely to fail.

The Georgia counties' failure or success with the relatively novel strategy could help determine whether other local governments try to hold big banks accountable for losses in tax revenue based on what they claim are discriminatory or predatory lending practices. Similar lawsuits resulted in settlements this year worth millions of dollars for communities in Maryland and Tennessee.

Fulton, DeKalb and Cobb counties say in their lawsuit, which was filed in October, that the housing foreclosure crisis was the "foreseeable and inevitable result" of big banks, such as HSBC and its American subsidiaries, aggressively pushing irresponsible loans or loans that were destined to fail. The counties say that crisis has caused them tremendous damage.

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LSE trims LCH.Clearnet offer amid capital changes

LONDON (AP) — London Stock Exchange PLC has reduced the value of its bid to buy up to 60 percent of European clearing house LCH.Clearnet to take into account new capital requirements being imposed by regulators.

The Exchange said Monday that its offer values LCH.Clearnet at a provisional €15 ($19.83) a share, down from the March offer of around €20 a share. The overall value of the deal was not disclosed.

It said the reduction was based on the assumption that LCH.Clearnet will have to raise €300 million in new capital. LCH.Clearnet is currently in discussions with regulators about how much It needs to raise to shore up its capital base.

The offer for LCH.Clearnet, which clears trading deals, including risky derivatives, has been extended to the end of January.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 52 points to 13,139.08. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gave up 3 points to 1,426.66 The Nasdaq composite slipped 8 points to 3,012.60.

The price of U.S. benchmark oil closed down 5 cents to $88.61 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell 17 cents to $108.80 a barrel.

Natural gas fell 10.5 cents to $3.346 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil eased 2 cents to $3.00 a gallon. Wholesale gasoline rose 1.6 cents to $2.75 a gallon.

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