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Economy Briefs: BP pleads not guilty in oil spill case

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NEW ORLEANS — A lawyer for BP PLC entered a not-guilty plea for the company as it was arraigned on charges stemming from a deadly 2010 rig explosion and massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The plea Tuesday in federal court was a procedural move paving the way for a later guilty plea. It doesn't signal that BP is backing away from its plea agreement, company and government lawyers said.

BP announced earlier this month that it will plead guilty to manslaughter, obstruction of Congress and other charges and pay a record $4.5 billion in penalties to resolve a federal probe of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Attorneys for BP and the Justice Department are scheduled to meet Dec. 11 with a federal judge to discuss a date for pleading guilty.

REAL ESTATE

Home prices increase in most major cities

Home prices increased in September in most major U.S. cities, more evidence of a housing recovery that is providing a lift to the fragile economy.

Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller reported Tuesday that its 20-city index of home prices rose 3 percent in September compared with the same month last year. Prices also gained 3.6 percent in the July-September quarter compared with the same quarter in 2011.

Across the nation, prices increased in 18 of 20 cities over the 12-month period. In Phoenix, prices jumped 20.4 percent over that stretch to lead all cities. Prices in Atlanta showed a modest 0.1 percent increase, ending 26 straight consecutive year-over-year declines.

COMMERCE

Orders for core capital goods up

U.S. companies in October increased their orders of machinery and equipment that signal investment plans by the largest amount in five months, a hopeful sign for future economic growth.

Orders for core capital goods, considered a proxy for business investment, rose 1.7 percent in October, the best showing since a 2.3 percent rise in May, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Orders in this category had slowed beginning in the spring, acting as a drag on overall economic growth.

Total orders for durable goods were unchanged in October at $216.9 billion following a 9.2 percent jump in September that had been driven by a surge in demand for commercial aircraft.

TECHNOLOGY

Apple to start selling new iMacs on Friday

CUPERTINO, Calif. — Apple says the smaller version of its new, slimmed-down iMac desktop computers will go on sale Friday. It will also start taking orders for the larger model, but the units won't ship until next month.

The model with the 21.5-inch screen will cost $1,299 and up, depending on the configuration. The model with a 27-inch screen will start at $1,799.

The iMac tacks the computer components to the back of a large LCD screen. The new models have no disk drive, helping make the edges one-fifth the thickness of the old model. They bulge considerably toward the middle of the back, however.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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