- - Tuesday, June 21, 2011

REAL ESTATE

Home sales fell to 2011 low

Fewer people purchased previously occupied homes in May, lowering sales to their weakest point of the year.

Home sales sank 3.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.81 million homes, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday. Economists say that’s far less than the 6 million homes per year sold in healthy housing markets.

Analysts said they expect sales to level off at about 5 million per year. That’s not much better than the 4.91 million homes sold last year, the worst showing in 13 years.

SEC

JPMorgan to settle civil fraud charges

JPMorgan Chase & Co. will pay $153.6 million to settle civil fraud charges over misleading investors into purchasing complex mortgage securities just before the housing market collapsed.

The settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission announced Tuesday is one of the most significant legal actions targeting Wall Street’s role in the 2008 financial crisis.

As part of the settlement, investors who were harmed will receive all of their money back, the SEC said. JPMorgan also agreed to improve the way it reviews and approves mortgage securities transactions.

The bank neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing under the settlement.

GANNETT

Publisher lays off 700 more workers

The nation’s largest newspaper publisher is laying off another 700 employees to cope with an unrelenting advertising slump.

Gannett, the owner of USA Today and more than 80 other daily U.S. newspapers, hoped to complete the cuts Tuesday. The layoffs are occurring at most Gannett newspapers but not at USA Today.

The payroll reductions represent 2 percent of Gannett’s 32,600 employees. The division targeted in the cutbacks employs 22,400 people at newspapers that include the Indianapolis Star and the Arizona Republic.

IRS

IG: Workers didn’t comply with law

A government investigator says 133 workers at the Internal Revenue Service apparently didn’t comply with U.S. tax laws during a two-year period but the agency failed to detect them.

An IRS spokeswoman says nearly half the cases were workers who filed late returns. Those workers were due a refund, though, and didn’t owe the government taxes.

From 2004 to 2008, the IRS identified an average of nearly 8,800 employees a year who were not complying with all U.S. tax laws. Some had filed late returns or paid taxes late, while others didn’t pay taxes or didn’t pay enough.

AUTO

GM pickup plants close for 2 weeks

DETROIT — General Motors Co. plans to close two U.S. pickup truck plants for two weeks in July at a time when pickup sales are starting to wane and trucks are stacking up on dealer lots.

The company said the shutdowns at the Flint, Mich., and Fort Wayne, Ind., factories have been scheduled for months to do maintenance on equipment and help to outfit the Flint plant for a third shift that’s coming in August.

Spokesman Tom Wickham wouldn’t comment on the growing pickup inventory but said workers at the factories were told about the closures during the first quarter.

Sales of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup fell nearly 16 percent last month as buyers worried that the U.S. economy was sputtering. GMC Sierra pickup sales dropped 5 percent. GM’s stockpile of trucks is about double what is considered ideal.

ISRAEL

Apple urged to remove pro-Palestinian app

JERUSALEM — The Israeli government on Tuesday appealed to Apple Inc. to remove an application called “ThirdIntifada” from its App Store, saying the program glorifies violence against the Jewish state.

Israel’s information minister, Yuli Edelstein, sent the request in an email to Steve Jobs, the chief executive of the American iPhone maker.

“Intifada” is the Arabic term for two violent uprisings against Israel over the past two decades. The free application encourages its followers to share opinions and organize protests against Israel.

It is linked to a website that, among other things, helped organize violent clashes with Israeli troops recently along Israel’s borders with Lebanon and Syria.

AUTO

Study: Chrysler vehicles improve, but results vary

DETROIT — Chrysler Group LLC, operated by Italy’s Fiat SpA, has improved its vehicle lineup, but five of the U.S. automaker’s eight models tested by Consumer Reports remained “mediocre,” the magazine said Tuesday.

The Dodge Durango SUV and Charger sedan improved the most and both vehicles received “very good” marks. Both models were redesigned under Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne.

Testers were unimpressed with the Chrysler 200 sedan, the Dodge Avenger and Journey, and the Jeep Compass and Patriot, Consumer Reports said, adding that they scored at or near the bottom of their respective categories.

The Chrysler Town & Country scored well but fell short of the best minivans, the magazine said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports