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US stocks ticked slightly higher Tuesday, but the Nasdaq surged past the 4,000 mark for the first time in 13 years. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the session flat, with a mere 0.26 point gain pushing it to 16,072.80, a record high. The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite outperformed, adding 23.18 (0.58 percent) at 4,017.75, closing above 4,000 mark for the first time since the 2000 dot-com bust. Investors had a batch of data to weigh, including better than expected housing reports and a further slide in consumer confidence.
By Lucia Mutikani WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Permits for future U.S. home construction hit a near 5-1/2 year-high in October and prices for single-family homes notched big gains in September, suggesting a run-up in mortgage interest rates has not derailed the housing recovery. The data releases on Tuesday were the latest signs of strength in the economy, despite headwinds from rising mortgage rates and last month's partial government shutdown. "The reports reinforce the notion that the housing sector is successfully digesting the summer mortgage rate pop," said Mike Englund, chief economist at Action Economics in Boulder, Colorado. Building permits jumped 6.2 percent last month to an annual rate of 1.03 million units, the highest since June 2008, the Commerce Department said.
By Natalia Zinets and Richard Balmforth KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said on Tuesday he would attend an EU summit this week, but, criticizing the bloc for a 'humiliating' financial aid offer, declared he would sign a free trade pact only when it suited Ukraine's interests. Shifting Ukraine's economy onto European standards would require not less than $20 billion per year, he said in a television interview. Yanukovich's government announced last week it had shelved plans to sign a landmark pact with the European Union at the summit in Lithuania's capital, stunning EU leaders and igniting pro-Europe rallies in the former Soviet republic. Ukraine's decision to renew instead closer economic cooperation with Moscow revived Western fears of a swing back into Russia's sphere of influence.
By Stephanie Nebehay GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations says its aid convoys cannot reach around 250,000 people in areas besieged by Syrian government forces or rebels, despite "growing needs and intensifying conflict". The detailed assessment was included in a confidential paper that Valerie Amos, U.N. emergency relief coordinator, presented to a private, unannounced U.N. meeting in Geneva on Tuesday. "Besieged communities continue to be cut off." International mediator Lakhdar Brahimi announced on Monday that peace talks would be held on January 22, the first direct talks between the government of President Bashar al-Assad and opposition forces seeking to topple him. The U.N. document entitled "Humanitarian Situation and Response in Syria" painted a grim picture, saying there were 900 armed clashes in Syria in October compared with 500 in May. It describes a "dangerous and difficult environment for humanitarian workers" and says 12 U.N. staff and 32 volunteers or staff of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have been killed since the conflict began in March 2011.
CAIRO (AP) — Black-clad Egyptian police descended on two small anti-government rallies in Cairo on Tuesday and fired water cannons to disperse them, enforcing a controversial new law restricting protests. The heavy hand fueled a backlash among secular activists and liberals who accuse the military-backed government of accelerating down a path even more authoritarian than the Hosni Mubarak era.