Strapped homeowners come looking for help

Matt Davis, who works in loss mitigation at First Federal bank, helps Kim Short of Hanahan during the financial mortgage seminar Saturday.

WASHINGTON -- U.S. stocks rose solidly Tuesday after European markets rallied and corporate bellwether Alcoa predicted stronger demand in 2012. The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed at its highest level since July.

European markets soared after Fitch Ratings said it won't downgrade France's credit rating this year.

Despite Europe's troubles, the U.S. economy appears to have strengthened in recent weeks. A series of positive reports on hiring, manufacturing and consumer sentiment eased fears that Europe will drag the U.S. into another recession.

Kicking off U.S. corporate earnings season, aluminum maker Alcoa said late Monday its fourth-quarter revenue far outpaced projections. Chief Executive Klaus Kleinfeld predicted global aluminum demand will increase 7 percent in 2012.

--The Dow Jones industrial average rose 69.78, or 0.6 percent, to 12,462.47.

--The S&P 500 increased 11.38, or 0.9 percent, to 1,292.08.

--The Nasdaq gained 25.94, or 1 percent, to 2,702.50.

Electronics show says it has record participants

LAS VEGAS -- The trade group that puts on the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas said it has hit a record number of exhibitors this year, as the industry continues its rebound after the recession. The show already is the largest trade show in the Americas. It opened Tuesday and is expected to draw more than 140,000 attendees.

The Consumer Electronics Association said the show has more than 3,100 exhibitors, up from a pre-show estimate of 2,800-plus. The show usually has just over 2,700 exhibitors, but dipped to 2,500 in 2010.

Eastman Kodak develops new business structure

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Eastman Kodak Co. said Tuesday that it has realigned and simplified its business structure in an effort to cut costs, create shareholder value and accelerate its drawn-out digital transformation.

The photography icon has been pummeled by consumers' switch to digital. It said in November that it could run out of cash in a year if it couldn't sell 1,100 digital-imaging patents.

Since the start of the year, Kodak said it now has two business units instead of three: commercial and consumer. No business segments are being cut, just reorganized. Kodak has been reported to be preparing for a bankruptcy filing if it can't sell the patents, which analysts estimate could fetch as much as $3 billion.