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Executive action on guns...Revelers arrive in Times Square...Stocks finish with a loss

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HONOLULU (AP) — With Congress unlikely to act on gun control, President Barack Obama is expected to take executive action next week to expand background checks on gun sales. That's according to an individual with a gun control advocacy group that's been briefed on the timing. A White House spokesman says Obama would have preferred that Congress take action -- but decided to see what action he could take on his own.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Even amid a massive fireworks display at the world's tallest tower in Dubai, fire crews have been busy with a blaze raging at a nearby 63-story hotel and residential building. The building would have been likely to be packed with people because of its clear view of the fireworks. But officials say it was evacuated, with no serious injuries.

NEW YORK (AP) — Revelers are starting to fill New York City's Times Square in the hours before the famed ball drop. An estimated 1 million people are expected to be there before midnight, despite a year of headlines about extremist attacks. Nearly 6,000 police officers will patrol Times Square, some in civilian clothes and many heavily armed. Those who showed up early in Times Square shrugged off the safety concerns and expressed relief at the temperatures, which are expected to stay well above freezing.

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are closing out 2015 on a downbeat note. Major U.S. indexes declined on the last day of the year, putting a main market benchmark slightly in the red for 2015. The S&P 500 ended the year down about three-quarters of one percent for 2015. It was the worst return for the index since 2011. It gave up 19 points today, while the Dow lost 178 points. The Nasdaq composite declined 58 points.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Floodwaters are starting to recede in some Midwestern communities. The rare wintertime flooding was spurred by 10 inches of rain or more over a three-day period in a wide area of Missouri and Illinois. Hundreds of homes were damaged, and hundreds more remain evacuated.

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