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Stocks finish down on year's last day ... Consumer confidence ... Merrill Lynch-settlement

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NEW YORK (AP) — Lingering concerns about the political future of Greece pushed U.S. and global stock markets modestly lower today. Trading was slow as most investors have closed their books for 2014. It was the eighth-slowest day of the year on the New York Stock Exchange. As been the case several times this year, investors turned their eyes to Europe. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 55.16 points, or 0.3 percent, to 17,983.47. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 10.22 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,080.35. And the Nasdaq composite fell 29.47 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,777.44.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A private survey shows that Americans, impressed with an improving economy, are feeling more confident about the future. The Conference Board says today that its consumer confidence index climbed to 92.6 this month from a revised 91 in November.

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Merrill Lynch is paying New Hampshire $400,000 for violating telemarketing laws and has agreed to reform its telemarketing practices. The federal Bureau of Securities Regulation has released details of the settlement with the New York-based financial services company, its sixth telemarketing-related settlement in recent years.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices rose in October at a slightly slower pace, as real estate sales have fallen and affordability has increasingly become a challenge for potential buyers. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index increased 4.5 percent in October from 12 months prior. The figures reported today mark the eleventh straight month of price gains decelerating and the smallest gain since October 2012.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Thousands of workers in Rhode Island will get a 12.5 percent raise tomorrow, as the minimum wage goes from $8 per hour to $9. The Democratic-dominated General Assembly approved the $1-per-hour increase in June and Democratic Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed it in July over objections from some Republican lawmakers that it would put a squeeze on small businesses and could hurt the state's fragile economy.

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