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US consumer prices flat as gas costs keep falling

U.S. consumer prices stayed flat in November, held down by falling gas prices. Inflation remains low across the broader economy, giving the Federal Reserve latitude to continue its extraordinary stimulus program.

The consumer price index was unchanged last month after dropping 0.1 percent in October, the Labor Department said Tuesday. Gas prices declined 1.6 percent in November to keep overall prices down.

During the past 12 months, consumer prices have risen 1.2 percent – well below the Fed’s 2 percent inflation target. Excluding volatile energy and food costs, core prices rose 0.2 percent in November from October and 1.7 percent during the past 12 months.

High unemployment and small wage increases have kept consumers from ramping up spending, making it difficult for businesses to raise prices since the recession ended.

Builder confidence surges in December

U.S. homebuilders’ confidence bounced back strongly this month, a sign that construction and industry hiring may pick up in coming months.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Tuesday climbed to 58. That was up from 54 in November and matched an eight-year high reached in August.

Readings above 50 indicate that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor.

In addition, builders’ view of current sales conditions jumped this month to the highest level in eight years. And their outlook for sales heading into next year’s spring home-selling season also improved.

The index has stayed above 50 now for seven consecutive months after being below that level since May 2006.

EU car sales on rise, hint at slow rebound

The European car market is slowly mounting a rebound, with new car registrations up for the third month in a row.

The European carmakers’ association reported Tuesday that EU passenger car sales in November were up 1.2 percent over last year.

“Does this mean the crisis is already over and we can start thinking about Christmas?” asked analyst Carlos Da Silva of IHS Automotive. “Not so sure … . Europe is definitely bottoming out, but it is certainly still too soon to talk about solid growth.”

The number of cars sold last month is still among the lowest in a decade for a November, and car sales for the year to the end of November are still below the same period last year.

AT&T selling landlines in Connecticut

AT&T has agreed to sell its Connecticut landline operations to Frontier Communications Corp. for $2 billion as it continues its transition to unwired operations and a cloud network.

The deal includes landline network assets and consumer, business and wholesale customer relationships. Frontier said it will also acquire AT&T’s U-verse video and satellite TV customers in Connecticut.

AT&T will receive the $2 billion in cash for its subsidiaries The Southern New England Telephone Co. and SNET America Inc. About 2,700 landline workers who support AT&T’s Connecticut operations will transfer to Frontier when the transaction closes.

Frontier currently has more than 200 employees at its headquarters in Stamford, Conn.