Forecast gauge up

A measure of the U.S. economy designed to signal future activity increased in December from November, suggesting growth may strengthen in early 2013. The Conference Board said Thursday that its index of leading indicators rose 0.5 percent in December, the best showing since September.

Netflix stock soars

Netflix’s roller-coaster ride on Wall Street surged to new heights, with the company’s stock climbing $43.60 to close at $146.86. Investors celebrated a fourth-quarter earnings report highlighted by accelerated growth in Netflix’s Internet video service.

Jobless claims fall

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly unemployment benefit applications dropped 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 330,000. That’s the fewest since January 2008.

Loan rate rises

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the average rate on the 30-year fixed loan increased to 3.42 percent from 3.38 percent last week. That’s still near the 3.31 percent rate reached in November, the lowest in records dating to 1971.

Battery problems

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner battery that caught fire earlier this month in Boston shows evidence of short-circuiting and a chemical reaction known as thermal runaway, in which an increase in temperature causes progressively hotter temperatures, federal accident investigators said. National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said it isn’t clear yet what caused either problem.

Horsemeat in burgers

Burger King has stopped buying beef from an Irish company whose patties were found to contain traces of horsemeat. Silvercrest, which is owned by ABP Food Group, shut down its production line last week and recalled 10 million burgers from supermarkets in Britain and Ireland after horse DNA was found in some beef products.

Palms Casino fine

The Nevada Gaming Commis-sion has signed off on a $1 million fine against the Palms Casino Resort for failing to prevent nightclub employees from providing drugs and prostitutes to customers. During a series of stings last March, employees of nightclubs at the Las Vegas casino accepted payments from undercover agents for the illegal transactions.

Sustainable fish

McDonald’s says it will be the first national restaurant chain to carry a label from a group that certifies sustainable fishing practices. The blue “ecolabel” from the Marine Stewardship Council certifies the Alaskan pollock used in McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwiches come from suppliers with sustainable fishing practices.

No united Europe

British Prime Minister David Cameron wants nothing to do with a United States of Europe, an idea gaining currency as the countries that use the euro struggle to fix their debt crisis. “To try and shoehorn countries into a centralized political union would be a great mistake, and Britain would not be a part of it,” he said at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos.

Jobless Spain

Spain’s unemployment rate shot up to a record 26 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, leaving almost 6 million people out of work, the National Statistics Institute said. Spain is in its second recession in just over three years.