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Economy Briefs: 2012 home prices 
up 7.5%, most in 6 years

- - Monday, January 14, 2013

HOUSING

LOS ANGELES — A measure of U.S. home prices rose in 2012 by the most in six years, buoyed by stronger demand, a lower inventory of unsold homes and fewer sales of bank-owned properties.

Real estate data provider CoreLogic says its home price index climbed 7.5 percent last year, the biggest annual increase since 2006. CoreLogic forecasts that home prices will rise 6 percent nationally this year.

BEVERAGES

Coca-Cola unveils ad on combatting obesity

NEW YORK — Coca-Cola on Monday will begin airing a two-minute ad on the connection between sugary drinks and obesity during the highest-rated shows on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC in hopes of flexing its marketing muscle in the debate over sodas and their impact on public health.

The ad lays out the Coca-Cola Co.'s record of providing drinks with fewer calories over the years and notes that weight gain is the result of consuming too many calories of any kind — not just soda.

EUROPE

Industrial output down for third month in eurozone

LONDON — Industrial output across the 17 European Union countries that use the euro fell in November for the third straight month, official figures showed Monday, raising fears that the recession in the region continued into the last three months of 2012.

COURTS

2 big oil companies on trial in New Hampshire

CONCORD, N.H. — The state of New Hampshire has launched its case against two major oil companies in what is expected to be the longest and most complex trial in state history.

The state's lawyers say ExxonMobil Corp. and Citgo Petroleum Corp. should pay $700 million in damages to monitor and clean up groundwater contamination caused by the gas additive MTBE — now banned in New Hampshire.

CHINA

Severe smog crisis prompts unusual media transparency

BEIJING — One of Beijing's worst rounds of air pollution kept schoolchildren indoors and sent coughing residents to hospitals Monday, but this time something was different about the murky haze: the government's transparency in talking about it.

Even state-run media gave the smog remarkably critical and prominent play. "More suffocating than the haze is the weakness in response," read the headline of a front-page commentary by the Communist Party-run China Youth Daily.

SWITZERLAND

Swatch in $1 billion deal for Harry Winston brand

GENEVA — Switzerland's biggest watch maker, Swatch Group AG, will pay about $1 billion to acquire Canada's Harry Winston watch and jewelry brand, officials from both companies said Monday.

The Biel, Switzerland-based company has agreed to pay $750 million to acquire the brand from Toronto-based Harry Winston Diamond Corp.

FLORIDA

Deal puts Valpak coupons on drivers' cellphones

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The company that sends you blue envelopes stuffed with coupons also wants you to save money while you're driving.

Valpak has partnered with Roximity, a Denver-based app developer, to bring coupons and deals to drivers of newer-model Fords and Lincolns who use the voice-controlled Sync AppLink connected to their mobile phone.

The app allows people to hear about personalized deals from stores, restaurants and other businesses as they drive. The "coupon" appears on the driver's smartphone and can be redeemed once the car is stopped.

From wire dispatches and staff reports