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Stocks edge up as investors keep eye on Washington

| Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, 4:42 p.m.

NEW YORK — Apple and other technology companies led the stock market up for the second day in a row Thursday.

The gains came a day after Apple took its worst fall in four years. CEO Tim Cook said Apple will produce one of its Mac computers in the United States next year and will spend $100 million in 2013 to shift production of the line from China.

The tech giant's stock gained $8.45 to $547.24.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 39.55 points to close at 13,074.04. Intel led the Dow, rising 31 cents to $20.16.

Investors' biggest concern remains the automatic tax increases and federal spending cuts scheduled to start Jan. 1. “Everybody is paying close attention to the soap opera in Washington,” said John Canally, investment strategist and economist at LPL Financial.

President Obama said on Wednesday that the White House and Republicans could reach an agreement “in about a week” if the Republicans drop their opposition to raising taxes on making more than $250,000 a year.

Most investors believe Obama and congressional Republicans will strike a budget deal to avoid this “fiscal cliff” before the year is out. Until they reach an agreement, however, the stock market will likely be hostage to news out of Washington.

In other trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 4.66 points to 1,413.94, while the Nasdaq composite climbed 15.57 points to 2,989.27.

In the market for U.S. government bonds, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note ended the day at 1.59 percent, the same as late Wednesday.

The Labor Department said unemployment benefits applications fell 25,000 last week to 370,000, a level consistent with modest hiring. The drop was also a sign that the spike in applications caused by Superstorm Sandy has eased.

The government will release its closely watched monthly jobs report on Friday. Private economists forecast that hiring in November sank.

from the previous month. They expect the jobless rate to stay unchanged at 7.9 percent.

More companies announced plans to reward investors with dividends this month in case taxes rise next year.

Sirius XM Radio said it will issue a one-time dividend of 5 cents per share at the end of the month and spend up to $2 billion buying back its stock.

Safeway shifted a payment set for January to Dec. 31.

Dividends, now taxed at 15 percent, will be treated like ordinary income next year unless Congress and the White House extend tax breaks as part of a budget deal.

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