Today in business: 5 things you need to know

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An employee cleans an advertisement plate at an Apple store in Wuhan, China, on the eve of iPhone 5's Chinese debut.
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An employee cleans an advertisement plate at an Apple store in Wuhan, China, on the eve of iPhone 5's Chinese debut.

Santa's cheer competes with fiscal cliff gloom, iPhone 5 makes a big debut in China, and more in our roundup of the business stories that are making news and driving opinion

1. FISCAL CLIFF FEARS DISRUPT "SANTA CLAUS RALLY"
U.S. stocks got a modest lift early Monday as investors detected signs that Democrats and Republicans were edging closer to a deficit-reduction deal to avoid the fiscal cliff of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts looming at year's end. House Speaker John Boehner has reportedly backed away from his earlier insistence on renewing Bush-era tax cuts for all, and agreed to raise taxes on those making more than $1 million a year. Still, as the final full week of trading in 2012 began, the traditional "Santa Claus rally" that often accompanies strong holiday spending remained stalled, as analysts and investors worried about the recession economists have warned could come should the talks fall apart. [Forbes]
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2. IPHONE 5 MAKES SMASH DEBUT IN CHINA
Apple sold more than two million iPhone 5s in China in the first three days after its Dec. 14 launch, the company announced on Monday. "Customer response to iPhone 5 in China has been incredible, setting a new record with the best first weekend sales ever in China," said Apple CEO Tim Cook. Apple is rolling out the latest incarnation of its popular smartphone in more than 100 markets by year's end — its fastest launch ever. Despite the news, Apple shares dropped below $500 for the first time since February after Citigroup lowered the stock's rating over concern that iPhone 5 demand is slowing. [InformationWeek]
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3. CLEARWIRE TAKES SWEETENED SPRINT OFFER
Clearwire Corp has agreed to sell nearly half of the company for $2.2 billion to Sprint Nextel Corp, in a deal that would give Sprint, already the majority shareholder, full control of Clearwire. Sprint raised its offer by seven cents per share, to $2.97 each, after some minority shareholders said its initial bid was too low. Comcast, Intel, and Bright House Networks, which together own 13 percent of Clearwire shares, reportedly have agreed to the deal, although it's unclear how many of the company's other investors will go along. Sprint wants complete control so it can use Clearwire's space on the airwaves to provide high-speed wireless services to its customers. [Reuters]
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4. CHOBANI OPENS MASSIVE NEW YOGURT PLANT
Chobani is formally opening one of the world's biggest yogurt processing plants on Monday in Twin Falls, Idaho. The move caps an explosive expansion that has seen the company grow from nothing to a $1 billion giant in just five years. "I'm so excited," founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya told The New York Times. The 1-million-square-foot plant, which cost $450 million, is Chobani's second. The success of Chobani, which is known for its creamy Greek-style yogurt, comes as Americans embrace new yogurt types and brands, including offerings from companies such as Fage and Muller Quaker Dairy. [New York Times]
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SEE ALSO: Today in business: 5 things you need to know

5. EUROPE'S EXPORTS FALL
In the latest piece of evidence that Europe's economy is continuing to weaken, Eurostat, the European Union's statistics agency, reported Monday that the eurozone's exports fell by 1.4 percent in October from the month before. Collectively, the 17 nations that use the European common currency slipped officially into recession in the third quarter of the year after their shared economy shrank for six straight months. The slowing demand for their exports is bad news, as they need customers abroad to make up for the business they're losing as customers at home cut back on spending. [Wall Street Journal]

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