Stocks flat, trading light as 2010 end draws near

NEW YORK -- Stocks closed barely changed Tuesday amid light trading ahead of the New Year's holiday.

The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average finished slightly higher, though stocks had dipped earlier on disappointing reports on consumer confidence and home prices.

The Dow edged up after Treasury prices fell in the wake of a weak bond auction in the afternoon. Fewer than expected buyers emerged for the government's auction of $35 billion, 5-year bonds.

--The Dow closed the day higher by 20.51 points, or 0.2 percent, to 11,575.54.

--The Standard and Poor's 500 index was up 0.97, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,258.51.

--The technology-focused Nasdaq composite index lost 4.39, or 0.2 percent, to 2,662.88.

Allstate sues over toxic Countrywide securities

NEW YORK -- Allstate has filed a federal lawsuit against Countrywide Financial over $700 million in toxic-mortgage-backed securities that the insurer bought beginning in 2005, only to see their value decline rapidly.

The suit, filed Monday, targets Countrywide, its co-founder and longtime CEO Angelo Mozilo and others, as well as Bank of America, which bought the mortgage giant in 2008.

Allstate alleges that starting in 2003, Countrywide abandoned its underwriting standards and misrepresented vital information about the loans that made up the securities.

China to reduce exports of 'rare earth' minerals

BEIJING -- China is scaling back its exports next year of so-called rare earth minerals used in high tech products, which could be an unpopular move with countries such as the United States and Japan.

Numbers released Tuesday show export quotas of the rare minerals will be down 11 percent next year as compared to the same period this year.

China accounts for 97 percent of the global production of rare earths, which are essential to products like cell phones, computer drives and hybrid cars.

Alcatel-Lucent to pay $137M to settle SEC accusations

NEW YORK -- Alcatel-Lucent SA has agreed to pay more than $137 million to settle charges brought against it by the federal government.

The Securities and Exchange Commission accused the Paris-based maker of telecommunications gear of paying bribes to foreign government officials to illegally win business in Latin America and Asia.

Alcatel, a top supplier to U.S. and European phone companies, agreed to pay more than $45 million to settle the SEC's charges. It will pay an additional $92 million to settle separate criminal charges.

CityVille now top 'app' among Facebook users

LOS ANGELES -- CityVille has surpassed FarmVille as the most popular application on Facebook. About 69 million have played CityVille over the last 30 days, according to a report from AppData, a website that tracks the usage.

FarmVille has been played by about 57 million people over the last month, said AppData, which collects information on more than 75,000 apps directly from Facebook.

In CityVille, which was released a month ago, players create digital cities that they manage as mayor, deciding how in-game funds are spent to nurture businesses, build infrastructure and attract residents.

Chai's Lounge to close; replacement in works

After a nearly five-year run, Chai's Lounge & Tapas in downtown Charleston is closing.

The upper King Street watering hole said it will shut down after the close of business Friday and is to be replaced with another concept, general manager R. Palmer Quimby said Tuesday in a written statement.

The new business will be announced in the near future, he said. The space at 462 King St. will undergo a minor facelift before reopening.

"We are hoping that everything will take no more than a month and a half," Quimby said.

Chai's opened in January 2005.