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Economy Briefs: Homebuilder confidence at 6 1/2-year high

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LOS ANGELES — Confidence among U.S. homebuilders inched up this month, to the highest level in more than 6 1/2 years, as builders reported the best market for newly built homes since the housing boom.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Tuesday increased 2 points to 47 from a revised 45 in November. That's the highest reading since April 2006, just before the housing bubble burst.

Readings below 50 suggest negative sentiment about the housing market. The last time the index was at or above that level was in April 2006, with a reading of 51. It has been trending higher since October 2011, when it stood at 17.

COURTS

Apple denied request to ban Samsung phones

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge late Monday rejected Apple Inc.'s demands that its chief rival in the more than $100 billion global smartphone market cease selling models a jury recently found illegally used Apple technology.

The immediate impact of the ruling means that Samsung can continue to sell three of the older-generation smartphones still on U.S. shelves that a San Jose jury in August found ripped off technology Apple used to create its iPhone.

The jury ordered Samsung to pay Apple $1.05 billion after it found the South Korean titan "infringed" several of Apple's patents in creating 26 products — three of which are still being sold in the United States.

AIRLINES

New discount carrier will fly in July

TORONTO — Air Canada is entering the low-cost leisure travel market with the launch of its new Rouge airline in the hopes of reclaiming the market share it has lost to domestic and international competitors, Canada's largest airline said Tuesday.

The new airline will begin flying on July 1 from Toronto to Venice, Italy, and Edinburgh, Scotland, two destinations that currently aren't served by Air Canada. It will also serve Athens from Toronto and Montreal.

Air Canada's existing flights to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Costa Rica will be flown by the discount carrier from Toronto.

The destinations are areas where demand for travel has been growing, said Ben Smith, Air Canada's chief commercial officer.

MONTANA

Court: State can pursue ex-billionaire bankruptcy

BILLINGS — Montana's bid to force ultraluxury resort founder Tim Blixseth into bankruptcy and make him come up with $57 million in purported back taxes has been resurrected by an appeals court ruling in the case.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled a lower-court ruling Monday and said Nevada is the proper venue for the case.

Mr. Blixseth, a onetime billionaire who lives in Washington state, is thought to have most of his assets in a Nevada-based trust.

He promised an appeal on Tuesday.

The ruling comes after a Dec. 5 order that Mr. Blixseth pay $41 million to creditors from the Yellowstone Club, the private ski resort he founded near Big Sky.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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