Business news for Monday, December 30

New York Stock Exchange (Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. markets are little changed as they start the last week of 2013. The Dow Jones industrial average is up 2 points at 16,481. The S&P 500 is down 1 point at 1,840 and the Nasdaq is down 8 points at 4,148.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy existing homes in November was essentially unchanged from October, suggesting sales are stabilizing after several months of declines. The National Association of Realtors says its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index ticked up to 101.7 from 101.5 in October. Still, home re-sales should reach 5.1 million this year, the best total in seven years.

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — Ford says retail sales have risen 15 percent through November of this year. The automaker says it expects to sell at least 2.4 million Ford-brand vehicles this year, enough to make it North America's top-selling brand. It says it expects December sales to "grow substantially" compared to last December.

NIWOT, Colo. (AP) — The company that makes Crocs shoes is getting a $200 million bailout from a private equity fund. Crocs says it will use the money from Blackstone, plus cash on hand, for a $350 million share buyback. Crocs shares peaked above $75 in 2007 as buyers snapped up the clogs known for being comfortable but ugly. But it hasn't been able to add new products with the same popularity. Crocs CEO John McCarvel will retire.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Samsung is launching a 110-inch TV that has four times the resolution of standard high-definition TVs. Today's launch of the giant television set reflects global TV makers' move toward ultra HD TVs. The TV's sticker price is about $150,000 in South Korea, and it'll be available in China, the Middle East and Europe.

NEW YORK (AP) — With only two trading days left in 2013, the S&P 500 is up roughly 29 percent, the index's best year since 1997. And the Dow is up 25.8 percent, its best year since 1996. Investors are hoping the rally will continue in 2014. The surge did stall Friday. Stocks were mostly flat. The Dow closed down a point. The S&P fell less than a point and the Nasdaq dropped about 10 points. Futures point to slight gains at this morning's opening.

TOKYO (AP) — Pre-holiday trading is thin but shares advanced in Asia, while Europe was lower in early trading. Japan's Nikkei 225 index ended 2013 at its highest level in more than six years. The dollar gained against the euro and the yen. Benchmark crude oil rose and remained above $100 a barrel.

UNDATED (AP) — Before the closing bell sounds Tuesday afternoon ahead of the New Year's Day break, investors will receive some key data on the housing market. Today, the National Association of Realtors releases November's pending home sales index. On Tuesday, it's the S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices for October. Also on Tuesday, the Conference Board will release the Consumer Confidence Index for December.

LONDON (AP) — Microsoft says if reports in a German magazine about U.S. spying are true, the company "would have significant concerns." Der Spiegel reports that American spies have intercepted computer deliveries, exploited hardware weaknesses and have even hijacked Microsoft's internal reporting system to spy on their targets. Der Spiegel has published a series of NSA stories based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

BEIJING (AP) — A new audit report says China's local government debt has soared 70 percent over the past three years and warns local leaders to take steps to control the rapid increase. The report follows warnings rising debt could endanger China's economic growth. Communist Party leaders have pledged to make getting debts under control an official priority.

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