By Bruce Nichols HOUSTON (Reuters) – A hostage situation in a bank in Pearland, Texas ended on Friday with the capture of a last suspect and the release of two hostages he was holding, police Lt. Onesimo Lopez said.

By Ann Nachtigal SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota (Reuters) – New Year’s Eve brought disastrous weather to the nation’s mid-section, with a blizzard in the Dakotas and tornadoes that killed six people in Arkansas and Missouri. Tornadoes killed three people on Friday in Washington County in northwest Arkansas, two in Lecoma, Missouri and one in Rolla, Missouri, according to emergency officials. Missouri declared a state of emergency.

* Mexican peso firms almost 6 percent in 2010 * Slower growth seen cooling Mexico gain in 2011 * Intervention threatens other Latam currencies By Michael O’Boyle MEXICO CITY, Dec 31 (Reuters) – Mexico’s peso firmed on Friday as the currency notched a nearly 6 percent gain for the year, boosted by a strong recovery in exports to top trading partner the United States. The peso (MXN=: Quote , Profile , Research ) firmed to 12.3650 per U.S

By Edward Krudy NEW YORK (Reuters) – A bout of profit taking seems likely early next year after the S&P 500 ended its best December in almost two decades, but stocks may have further to run at the start of 2011. Technical indicators are pointing to a strained market, though recently stocks have been maintaining the momentum of late 2011.

* China to crack down on Internet telephone services * No carriers mentioned by name (Adds more detail, bylines) By Terril Yue Jones and Jennifer Saba BEIJING/NEW YORK, Dec 31 (Reuters) – The popular Internet telephone service Skype could be dealt a major setback in one of the world’s largest markets as the Chinese government cracks down on what it called illegal Internet telephone providers. A Chinese government circular from the powerful Ministry of Information and Industry Technology called for a crackdown “on illegal VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) telephone services” and said it was collecting evidence for legal cases against them

* Women most at risk * Findings may help explain obesity epidemic By Julie Steenhuysen CHICAGO, Dec 31 (Reuters) – People with a family history of alcoholism may be turning to high-calorie treats instead of booze to satisfy their addiction, U.S. researchers say, a change that could be fueling the obesity epidemic.

BANGALORE (Reuters) – Dollar Financial Corp (DLLR.O: Quote , Profile , Research ) said its unit agreed to buy Purpose U.K. Holdings Ltd, which provides online payday loans under the brand PaydayUK, for about $195 million, expanding the payday lender’s foreign footprint

By Walter Brandimarte and Sebastian Tong NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – World stocks ended 2010 at their highest levels in 28 months on Friday and oil touched a 26-month peak as expectations of a further recovery in the global economy supported investors’ appetite for risk heading into the new year.

PARIS (Reuters) – French media group Lagardere said on Friday it had entered into exclusive negotiations with privately held Hearst Corp to sell its international magazines and press business for cash. Lagardere, which publishes Elle and Paris Match magazines, said that the two sides had agreed for the negotiations to run until January 30. The company, France’s biggest magazine publisher, said in early December it wanted to sell its international division, to cut costs and refocus on its domestic titles, which are its most profitable.