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Global stocks down...Russia hikes rates...Omnibus spending bill winners

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HONG KONG (AP) — Global stock markets are down again today, as are oil prices. Japan's Nikkei took the biggest hit among Asian markets, losing 2 percent. China's Shanghai Composite bucked the trend, gaining 2.3 percent after manufacturing data showed contraction, fueling hope that Beijing may introduce more stimulus. European stocks are edging lower in early trading, while U.S. futures point to a lower open. Benchmark U.S. crude is approaching $55 a barrel in overseas trading.

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's a relatively quiet day for economic data. The Commerce Department releases data on housing starts for November this morning. Also today, Federal Reserve policymakers begin a two-day meeting in Washington to set interest rates.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia's Central Bank has raised its key interest rate to 17 percent. The massive overnight rate hike is meant bolster the ruble, but the effect so far has been fleeting. The ruble staged a two-hour rally, but has since rolled back to new historic lows. The ruble's value has sunk roughly 50 percent since January, battered by Western sanctions imposed over the conflict in the Ukraine and plunging worldwide oil prices.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by Congress contains money for a vast array of projects. A Michigan boot-maker, potato farmers and more than 1,200 contractors that supply parts for a next-generation fighter plane are among the many winners. The travel and tourism industry won a six-year renewal of the Corporation for Travel Promotion, or Brand USA, to promote tourism in the United States.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The health insurance industry says companies will give consumers more time to pay January's premiums under President Barack Obama's health care law. The move is an attempt to head off potential problems as the Obama administration renews millions of current customers, while trying to accommodate new ones as well. Renewing coverage each year is standard operating procedure for private insurance plans, but this is the first renewal year for the health law and involves a massive electronic data transfer.

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