- - Wednesday, October 26, 2011

REAL ESTATE

New-home sales rise as builders cut prices

Sales of new homes rose in September after four straight monthly declines, largely because builders cut their prices.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that sales rose 5.7 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 313,000 homes. Still, that’s less than half the 700,000 that economists say must be sold to sustain a healthy housing market.

A big reason for the gain was that the median sales price fell 3.1 percent to $204,400 - the lowest since October 2010. The number of new homes on the market was also unchanged at 163,000, a record low.

EUROPE

Source: Eurozone ready to boost bailout fund ‘several fold’

BRUSSELS | Eurozone leaders are ready to increase the firepower of its bailout fund “several fold” but will not give a headline figure, said an EU source familiar with a draft agreement to be adopted at a summit on Wednesday.

Eurozone leaders were meeting in Brussels to find ways to beef up the 440-billion-euro European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) without actually increasing the individual guarantees provided by governments.

But the lack of any precise figure could unnerve markets already concerned that the EFSF is not big enough to rescue a big economy, such as Italy, after Greece, Ireland and Portugal were bailed out.

Germany and France agreed to increase the fund “at least” fourfold, according to a diplomatic source.

Germany leans toward a formula that would increase the fund’s firepower to at least one trillion euros.

Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme also called for it to be increased “a notch over one trillion euros,” adding: “It is crucial that [the summit] succeed before markets open tomorrow.” But another source said “there will not be any figures” published at the summit.

DRILLING

BP gets deep-water permit, its first since spill

U.S. officials have given BP the go-ahead to drill a new deep-water well in the Gulf of Mexico, its first such permit since last year’s catastrophic oil spill.

Regulators said Wednesday BP has met strict safety requirements implemented after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The proposed exploratory well is located roughly 246 miles south of Lafayette, La., in water more than 6,000 feet deep. That’s about 1,000 feet deeper than BP’s Macondo well that blew out in April 2010, killing 11 rig workers and leading to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

This is BP’s first permit to drill, but the company has been active in the Gulf for months.

Other companies have also received deep-water permits in recent months.

RECALL

GM recalls SUVs to fix tire-pressure monitors

DETROIT | General Motors is recalling more than 36,000 Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain crossover SUVs to fix tire-pressure monitors that don’t work right.

The company says the systems in the 2012 vehicles should warn drivers when tire pressure drops 25 percent below the recommended pressure. But in the recalled vehicles, the warning light doesn’t come on until the tire pressure falls more than 25 percent.

Federal safety regulators say underinflated tires can overheat. That could lead to a blowout and a crash. But GM says it knows of no crashes or injuries caused by the problem.

The recalled vehicles were built between July 18 and Sept. 6 of 2011.

TECHNOLOGY

Release of upgraded PlayBook tablet delayed

TORONTO | Research In Motion said it is delaying the launch of an upgraded operating system for its struggling PlayBook computer tablet until February 2012, yet another setback for a tarnished company struggling to compete with Apple.

David Smith, RIM’s senior vice president, said in a post on the company’s blog late Tuesday that the new version of the operating system isn’t up to its standards at this point.

Mr. Smith also said the new version also won’t have the popular messaging service BlackBerry Messenger when it’s introduced in February.

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