Stock markets advance in light holiday trading

NEW YORK — Stocks rose Monday in a low-volume pre-holiday session on news that Merrill Lynch & Co. will receive an investment of up to $6.2 billion from two investment groups.

With only four trading days left in 2007 after Monday, investors may have been looking for any opportunity to tidy up their positions after a volatile year.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 98.68, or 0.73 percent, to 13,549.33. The S&P 500 gained 11.99, or 0.81 percent, to 1,496.45. The Nasdaq composite index rose 21.51, or 0.80 percent, to 2,713.50.

Brokerage Merrill Lynch gets $6 billion infusion

NEW YORK — Merrill Lynch & Co., facing steep losses from mortgage investments, said Monday it will receive a cash infusion of up to $6.2 billion from Singapore's Temasek Holdings and U.S. money manager Davis Selected Advisors.

The investment will help shore up Merrill's balance sheet as the world's largest brokerage faces steep losses amid global credit turmoil. Deteriorating mortgage-related investments and corporate loans caused the biggest loss in Merrill's 93-year history in the third quarter as it suffered $8.4 billion of writedowns.

Temasek, a government-sponsored investment fund, pledged up to $5 billion and New York-based Davis Advisors will buy $1.2 billion of Merrill stock.

MAXjet halts all flights, plans bankruptcy filing

NEW YORK — MAXjet Airways ceased operations on Monday, leaving jets on taxiways and stranding passengers on Christmas Eve as the airline said it will file for bankruptcy protection.

MAXjet cited soaring fuel prices and the deteriorating credit market for what it called a "drastic measure." But analysts said the failure raises questions about the viability of all-business-class airlines.

MAXjet launched in 2005 and offered "all-premium" flights between Stansted, New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. But analysts said it couldn't compete with deeper-pocketed AMR Corp.'s American Airlines business class.

Casino operator Harrah's gets final OK for buyout

LAS VEGAS — Harrah's Entertainment Inc. has tentatively cleared the last remaining regulatory hurdle to the largest casino buyout ever.

Harrah's said Monday that the National Indian Gaming Commission has approved the company's $17.7 billion purchase by private equity buyers Apollo Management and Texas Pacific Group, pending final commission review. That conditional approval means Harrah's can go forward with the deal, which is expected to close in early 2008.

British pound falls again to record low vs. euro

LONDON — The British pound hit record lows against the euro on Monday for the second straight day, weighed down by falling home prices and expectations that the Bank of England will keep cutting interest rates.

The euro rose to 72.710 British pence, compared with the earlier record of 72.350 pence from May 27, 2003, according to the daily reference rate of the European Central Bank. That was the lowest since the euro began trading on financial markets in 1999.

Traders seized on data showing that house prices fell 0.3 percent in December from the month before, with the average property staying on the market for more than eight weeks, longest since the Hometrack survey began in 2001.