Chatter: Stock markets soar after 'fiscal cliff' deal struck




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Need to know:

Global markets rallied on the first trading day of 2013 after news the United States had avoided the dreaded "fiscal cliff."

Asian markets led the rise, while in London the FTSE 100 broke the 6,000 barrier for the first time since July 2011.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama flew back to join his family at their holiday home in Hawaii after Congress approved legislation to avert a "fiscal cliff" of steep tax rises and spending cuts.

Obama hailed the deal, which raises taxes for only the wealthiest Americans and delays spending cuts for two months.

Want to know:

Hugo Chavez, the ailing Venezuelan president, is said to be conscious but in a "delicate" situation after a cancer operation..

Vice President Nicolas Maduro denounced rumors the president's health was failing, and said Chavez is aware of the complexity of his condition following a fourth cancer operation in Cuba.

Chavez, 58, was elected to a fourth term in office in October, and is due to be sworn in next week. But it is unclear if he will be able to attend ceremony.

Dull but important:

The United States has been saved at the 11th hour from plunging over the "fiscal cliff." But anxious types still have plenty to worry about: there are a few cliff-like deadlines looming on the horizon.

Have you forgotten about the debt ceiling? It may have slipped under the radar, but US debt hit its legal borrowing limit ($16.4 trillion) on Monday, giving Congress only about two months before it must raise the debt ceiling or risk causing the government to default on its bills and financial obligations.

See our list of three deadlines you should know about, all of which will hit before the end of the first quarter.

Just because:

They're being called the planet's oldest fossils — traces of bacteria that lived a record-breaking 3.49 billion years ago, discovered in Western Australia.

Australia's remote Pilbara region — now an iron ore mining hub — was once shoreline and rocks made from sediment piled up billions of years ago, now exposed and available for examination.

The fossils could help those looking for the building blocks of life on Mars. A paleontologist from Harvard University explained that remnants of life on the Red Planet might even be better preserved than they are on Earth.

Strange but true:

Police in the UK are hunting for a group of people — two of them dressed as Oompa Loompas — who beat a man outside a supermarket in the city of Norwich.

Two males had orange-painted faces and dyed green hair, like the Oompa Loompa characters created by author Roald Dahl and depicted in the 1971 film "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

The Oompa Loompas were accompanied by a dark-haired woman in a dress, and a man wearing what the Telegraph newspaper described as "conventional attire."

Police said they were unsure why the attackers were dressed like tiny chocolate workers.