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Mint sees first increase in sales since August

The U.S. Mint sold 65,500 ounces of American Eagle gold coins this month, the first increase since August as the price of the metal slumped.

Sales of gold coins increased 60 percent from 41,000 ounces in November, according to data on the mint's website. American Eagle silver-coin sales rose to 2.009 million ounces from 1.38 million in November.

Gold prices have slumped as much as 21 percent since touching a record $1,923.70 an ounce on Sept. 6 as slowing economic growth sent equities and commodities tumbling.

"Individuals were waiting for a pull back in prices," Scott Carter, the chief executive officer of Goldline International Inc., a Santa Monica, Calif.- based precious-metals retailer.

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Fraud draws guilty pleas

WASHINGTON (AP) — A politically connected financial firm and its founder pleaded guilty Friday to taking part in fraud and bid-rigging conspiracies related to the municipal bond business.

The Justice Department said CDR Financial Products Inc. of Beverly Hills, Calif., and owner David Rubin entered guilty pleas in federal court in Manhattan. The department said they acknowledged their roles in schemes designed to win contracts to invest the proceeds of municipal bonds issued by state, county and local governments.

Rubin faces up to 20 years in prison.

Two other CDR executives are scheduled to go on trial in New York next week.

CDR also was investigated for its ties to former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and business the company won in that state. No charges grew out of that investigation.

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Court delays pollution rule

WASHINGTON(AP)—A federal court is putting on hold a controversial Obama administration regulation aimed at reducing power plant pollution in 27 states that contributes to unhealthy air downwind.

More than a dozen electric power companies, municipal power plant operators and states had sought to delay the rules until the litigation plays out.

A federal appeals court in Washington approved their request Friday.

Coal plants in Western New York are not affected because they have already installed sufficient scrubbers, companies said.

Republicans in Congress have attempted to block the rule using legislation, saying it would shutter some plants and kill jobs.

The rule, finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency in July, replaces a 2005 Bush administration proposal that was rejected by a federal court.

The Bush-era rule will remain in effect.

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Oil price soars in 2011

NEWYORK (AP) — The price of oil soared in 2011 and will finish about 19 percent higher, on average, after a volatile year dominated by concerns about global supplies. Gasoline followed oil higher this year, with an average for the year of $3.52 per gallon — the highest ever. In the Buffalo Niagara region, a gallon of regular averaged $3.55 on Friday, down six cents from a month ago.

And high oil and gasoline prices are expected to continue weighing on the economy as it struggles to grow in 2012.

"It's like leaving the parking brake on while you're trying to drive the economy forward," said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research.

Benchmark crude gave up 82 cents to finish at $98.83 per barrel on Friday, the final trading day of the year.

Annual listings to appear The Buffalo News will publish the annual complete list of stocks and mutual funds in the Business section of Sunday's editions.

The 14-page section of charts includes annual results for all stocks and mutual funds. In addition, the mutual fund charts include the capital gains figures for the year.