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Metro area consumer prices up; other business briefs


Area consumer prices up

Prices in the metropolitan area increased in December, year over year, the most since last spring. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics said Wednesday its consumer price index for the 31-county region that includes Long Island was up 2.1 percent last month compared with a year earlier. That's the highest year-over-year inflation rate since April's 2.4 percent. Area prices dropped 0.3 percent in December, month over month. The bureau's chief regional economist, Martin Kohli, said the yearly rise in prices was driven by the cost of gasoline, up 7 percent in the past 12 months, and medical care, up 3.8 percent. The cost of groceries rose 1.7 percent on higher prices for bacon, cheese, apples, snacks and ice cream, he said. -- James T. Madore


Fed finds economic growth

Holiday shopping, strong auto sales and a recovering housing market helped boost the U.S. economy from mid-November through early January, according to a Federal Reserve survey released Wednesday. The Fed said 12 of its regional banking districts reported "modest or moderate" growth in the final weeks of 2012. Of those, only St. Louis said growth had slowed from the previous survey, which covered October through early November. The report, called the Beige Book, will be used as the basis for the Fed's policy discussion later this month.-- AP

CEOs: Raise retirement age

An influential group of business CEOs is pushing a plan to gradually increase the full retirement age to 70 for both Social Security and Medicare and to partially privatize the health insurance program for older Americans. The Business Roundtable's plan would protect those 55 and older from cuts, but younger workers would face significant changes. The plan unveiled Wednesday would result in smaller annual benefit increases for all Social Security recipients. Initial benefits for wealthy retirees would also be smaller. A Roundtable spokesman said the plan "addresses America's new fiscal and demographic realities." -- AP

Two banks' settlement: $557M

Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley will pay a combined $557 million to settle federal complaints that they wrongfully foreclosed on homeowners who should have been allowed to stay in their homes. The agreements announced Wednesday with the Federal Reserve were similar to deals struck earlier this month with 10 other major banks and mortgage lenders. Combined, the 12 firms will pay more than $9 billion. The settlements could compensate hundreds of thousands of Americans whose homes were seized because of abuses such as "robo-signing," when banks automatically signed off on foreclosures without properly reviewing documents. -- AP

Prius top seller in California

Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius hybrid passed Honda Motor Co.'s Civic to become the bestselling vehicle line in California, the largest U.S. auto market, for the first time as higher fuel prices and new versions of the car drove up demand. Toyota, the world's largest seller of gasoline-electric autos, sold 60,688 Prius models to Golden State drivers in 2012, 78 percent more than a year earlier, based on registration data from Experian Automotive. California, which buys more than 10 percent of all new vehicles sold in the United States, has been the top overseas market for Prius since sales of the car began in 2000. On Long Island there were 20,982 gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles registered as of April 2011, according to the auto data provider R.L. Polk & Co. Of those, 10,954 were Toyota Priuses, representing less than 0.5 percent of the vehicles on the road.-- Staff and wire reports


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