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Today in business: 5 things you need to know
Toyota reclaims the automaking crown, Apple reportedly prepares to release a 128GB iPad, and more in our roundup of the business stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
Toyota is back on top.
Toyota is back on top. David McNew/Getty Images

1. DURABLE GOODS ORDERS RISE
Orders for U.S.-made durable goods — such as airplanes, cars, computers, and furniture — jumped by 4.6 percent in December. Rising sales of these big-ticket items typically signal an improving economy. The gains, however, were helped by contracts for military and commercial aircraft, massive but sporadic purchases that can give the durable-goods report a temporary boost. Caterpillar Inc., which manufactures farm and other heavy equipment, warned that it was expecting growth to be "relatively weak in 2013."  [MarketWatch]
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2. TOYOTA BACK ON TOP
Toyota is once again the world's largest automaker. The Japanese company announced Monday that it sold a record 9.75 million vehicles in 2012, beating out General Motors, which sold 9.29 million. GM held the crown for decades before losing it to Toyota in 2008, then reclaiming it in 2011 when its Japanese rival was hampered by supply disruptions caused by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan. Strong sales of new models in the U.S. helped Toyota bounce back. [USA Today, Financial Times]
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3. BOEING DREAMLINER BATTERY NOT FAULTY
Airline safety inspectors in Japan say they "have found no major quality or technical problem" with lithium-ion batteries used on Boeing's 787 Dreamliner. The battery was considered a possible source of problems, including a fire, on Dreamliners owned by two Japanese airlines. About 50 of the new jets have been delivered and put into use by airlines around the world, but all have been grounded while inspectors make sure the batteries and electrical systems are safe. [BBC]
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4. HOME SALES FALL
Sales of existing homes fell unexpectedly in December. After three months of gains, economists were expecting contracts on previously existing homes to rise by 0.3 percent; instead they fell by 4.3 percent, according to an index released Monday by the National Association of Realtors. Still, the industry group said the housing recovery remains on track, as sales only declined because there were fewer low-priced homes on the market. "Supplies of homes costing less than $100,000 are tight in much of the country," said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun, "so first-time buyers have fewer options." [Reuters]
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5. APPLE RUMORS: A 128GB IPAD IS COMING
9to5Mac reported Monday that Apple is preparing to release a 128GB version of the iPad 4. The rumor, which 9to5Mac attributes simply to unnamed sources, fueled a new round of speculation about where Apple intends to go next with its wildly popular tablet. 9to5Mac says the new device will simply add a bigger, more expensive option to the current line of 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB fourth-generation iPads, although it might be intended for government or internal use. Some bloggers were skeptical that consumers will be able to get their hands on such a machine any time soon, saying that Apple surely would introduce an iPad with beefier memory some day, but that it would probably wait to do so with a completely new iPad 5 model. [9to5Mac]

 

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