- - Wednesday, October 19, 2011

REAL ESTATE

Home building jumps 15% in September

Home builders started projects in September at the fastest pace in 17 months, a hopeful sign for the economy.

Most of the gain was driven by a surge in volatile apartment construction. That could help create jobs and boost economic growth, but it doesn’t signal a comeback for the depressed housing market.

Single-family home construction, which represents nearly 70 percent of homes built, rose only slightly. And building permits, a gauge of future construction, fell to a five-month low.

Overall, builders began work in September on a seasonally adjusted 658,000 homes, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. While that is a 15 percent increase from August, it’s roughly half the 1.2 million that economists say is consistent with healthy housing markets.

GOLD

Price falls third day to $1,647 an ounce

Gold prices are falling for the third straight day. Gold has now lost all of the ground gained in this month’s rally.

Gold for December delivery fell $5.80 Wednesday, less than 1 percent, to settle at $1,647 an ounce. That’s the first time gold closed below $1,650 an ounce since Oct. 7.

Gold reached a new high of $1,891.90 in late August. Prices began to fall after that, because of concern that gold had risen too high.

Gold prices rebounded this month on worries about inflation. Traders thought a big stimulus plan in Europe would make currencies less valuable. Investors often buy gold as protection against inflation.

FEDERAL RESERVE

Survey: Economy expanding modestly

The Federal Reserve says its 12 bank regions expanded at a modest pace in September and early October, a slight improvement from the previous period.

The Fed said Wednesday that consumer spending rose slightly in most districts. A key reason was that more people purchased new cars, in part because dealers had a greater selection of models. Manufacturing also rebounded, particularly in the auto industry.

Supply disruptions caused by the Japanese crisis have begun to ease. That has helped increase auto production and sales.

The previous survey found growth more uneven across the country after a difficult summer that included wild fluctuations in the stock market.

The report, known as the Beige Book, covered the period from Aug. 27 through Oct. 7.

SEC

Citigroup to pay $285M to settle fraud charges

Citigroup has agreed to pay $285 million to settle civil fraud charges that it misled buyers of complex mortgage investments just as the housing market was starting to collapse.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said Wednesday that the big Wall Street bank bet against the deal in 2007 and made $160 million in fees and profits. Investors lost millions.

Citigroup neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s allegations in the settlement.

The penalty is the biggest involving a Wall Street firm accused of misleading investors before the financial crisis since Goldman Sachs & Co. paid $550 million to settle similar charges last year. JPMorgan Chase & Co. resolved similar charges in June and paid $153.6 million.

TECHNOLOGY

Tiny phone company is getting iPhone

NEW YORK — Apple Inc. says that C Spire Wireless, the country’s eighth-largest phone company, will start selling the iPhone 4S in a few weeks.

That’s a major coup for the small company, which provides service in Mississippi and surrounding states. So far, only the three biggest carriers sell the iPhone in the U.S. C Spire is bypassing the rest, including T-Mobile USA and U.S. Cellular, in getting the right to sell it.

Neither C Spire, which was known as Cellular South until a month ago, nor Apple explained why C Spire was getting the phone rather than the No. 4 carrier, T-Mobile.

C Spire, which is based in Ridgeland, Miss., has subscribers in Mississippi as well as the Memphis, Tenn., Mobile, Ala., and Pensacola, Fla. areas.

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