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First Posted: 3/26/2013

Obama signs spending bill

President Barack Obama has signed a stopgap spending bill to keep the government running through the end of September.

The measure leaves in place $85 billion in automatic budget cuts known as the sequester. But it takes steps to ease the impact of the cuts to food inspection and college assistance for active duty military personnel.

The House and Senate passed the spending bill last week. Without it, the government on today would have run out of money to keep operating.

The measure funds the day-to-day operating budgets of every Cabinet agency through Sept. 30, the end of the 2013 fiscal year. It also provides another $87 billion for overseas military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and maintains a pay freeze for federal workers.

Economy gains strength

Gains in housing and manufacturing propelled the U.S. economy over the winter, according to reports released Tuesday, and analysts say they point to the resilience of consumers and businesses as government spending cuts kick in.

U.S. home prices rose 8.1 percent in January, the fastest annual rate since the peak of the housing boom in the summer of 2006. And demand for longer-lasting factory goods jumped 5.7 percent in February, the biggest increase in five months.

February new-home sales and March consumer confidence looked a little shakier. But the overall picture of an improving economy drove stocks higher on Tuesday.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 gained 12 points to close at 1,563 — a point away from its record high reached in October 2007. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 111 points, its biggest gain in three weeks.

Slovaks ink U.S. Steel deal

The Slovak government and U.S. Steel signed a deal Tuesday that will ensure the American company remains the owner of a steel mill employing thousands for at least five more years.

The negotiations between U.S. Steel and the Slovak government have been going on for months. U.S. Steel has reportedly had purchase offers for the mill in the eastern city of Kosice.

The plant, U.S. Steel’s last overseas operation, employs about 12,500 people and is a key source of business in eastern Slovakia as well as a major supplier for the country’s growing car industry.

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