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BRIEFCASE

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NEW YORK — Stronger earnings from Mattel, Coca-Cola and other big companies lifted the Standard & Poor’s 500 index Tuesday for only the fourth day this month.

Mattel jumped 9 percent, more than any other company in the S&P. The country’s biggest toy maker said net income rose because of better sales of Barbie dolls and lower advertising costs. Its stock climbed $3.01 to $34.05.

Coca-Cola posted higher income and revenue than Wall Street had expected, thanks in part to booming business overseas. Coke rose $1.21, or 1.6 percent, to $77.69.

The S&P rose 10.03 points to 1,363.67. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 78.33 points to 12,805.54, only its third increase of the month. The Nasdaq composite index gained 13.10 points to 2,910.04.

WASHINGTON — Consumer prices were unchanged in June, held down by cheaper gas. Outside the volatile food and energy categories, inflation was mild.

Weak economic growth is limiting the ability of companies to raise prices. The tame inflation was underscored by a 0.2 percent drop in consumer prices for the April-June period as a whole. That was the first quarterly drop in consumer prices in two years.

In its report Tuesday, the Labor Department said gas prices fell a seasonally adjusted 2 percent in June, the third straight decline. Food prices edged up 0.2 percent.

Gas prices have tumbled more than 50 cents a gallon since peaking in early April, although they may be leveling off. On Monday, the average nationally price for a gallon of gas averaged $3.40, according to AAA.

Confidence among U.S. homebuilders is swelling to a five-year high, with many now anticipating that sales of new homes will strengthen this year even as signs point to a slowing economy.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index surged six points this month to 35, the highest reading since March 2007, the trade association said Tuesday.

The index, which is based on responses from 318 builders, rose from a reading of 29 last month, marking the largest one-month gain in nearly a decade.

Cheaper mortgages and lower home prices in many markets have made home buying more attractive.

WASHINGTON — U.S. industrial production rose in June as factories made more cars, machines and business equipment, the Federal Reserve said Tuesday. Factory output recovered to levels reached in the spring, but appears to be leveling off.

Analysts said the U.S. manufacturing sector is struggling to mount a sustained recovery after three months of slow growth.

Factory output rose 0.7 percent last month, after falling by the same amount in May, the Fed said. Factories produced more machines and vehicles used by businesses, and production of consumer goods edged higher.

Charleston County hotels sold about 2,400 fewer room nights in June compared to June 2011, according to a College of Charleston study.

The county’s hotel occupancy rate dropped 2 percent to 76.8 percent, but inns continued to charge higher rates.

The average daily rate was $126.19, a jump of 5.6 percent over June 2011, and the revenue per available room climbed 3.4 percent to $96.87.

Even with fewer room nights sold in June, for the year the county hotel occupancy rate is up 0.2 percent. The report does not include the performance of hotels on county beaches.

Staff and wire reports

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