- - Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The recovery of the U.S. housing market is looking steadier and more sustainable, a trend that likely will add to economic growth in 2012 for the first time in seven years.

Purchases, construction and prices are increasing gradually but consistently, though they remain far below levels seen in a healthy economy.

Sales of previously occupied homes rose 2.3 percent in July from June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.47 million, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. Over the past 12 months, sales have jumped more than 10 percent.

New-home sales have been strengthening, too. Toll Bros., a builder of high-end homes, said Wednesday that it’s enjoying its most sustained demand in more than five years.

STOCKS

HP has $8.9B loss on expected charge for flop

SAN FRANCISCO — Hewlett-Packard says it suffered an $8.9 billion loss during its most recent quarter as the technology company accounted for an acquisition that hasn’t panned out the way management envisioned.

The setback isn’t a surprise. Hewlett-Packard Co. telegraphed the news earlier when it disclosed plans to take an $8 billion charge to reflect the shrinking value of Electronic Data Systems, a technology consulting service that it bought for $13 billion in 2008.

The fiscal third-quarter loss announced Wednesday translates to $4.49 per share. It’s by far the biggest quarterly setback in HP’s 73-year history. The company earned $1.9 billion, or 93 cents per share, at the same time last year.

HP’s revenue sank 5 percent from last year to $29.7 billion. That was about $500 million below analysts’ projections.

BEEF SUPPLY

USDA bought meat from slaughterhouse

FRESNO, Calif. — A California slaughterhouse under federal investigation for animal cruelty and possible health issues sold 21 million pounds of beef to the federal government in 2011 for use in school and other nutritional programs, records show.

Federal officials said nothing they have seen so far on undercover video shot at the facility shows meat from cows that may have been sick or lame made it into the food supply, but interviews with employees were ongoing.

Records show the government made five large-scale purchases of ground and chunk beef from the company in 2011, spending more than $50 million of the total $135 allocated by the government for such acquisitions that year.

USDA spokesman Justin DeJong said he did not know to which government food programs the beef was provided. The meat generally goes to the national school lunch program and food distribution on Indian reservations and is available for discount purchases by community food banks.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture acted quickly to shut down Central Valley Meat Co. of Hanford on Monday after the video shot by an animal welfare group documented questionable treatment of dairy cows bound for slaughter.

The video was shot by an operative of Compassion Over Killing who was hired by the slaughterhouse. The group has given a written statement to USDA investigators.

FACEBOOK

Co-founder Moskovitz sells 450,000 shares

NEW YORK — Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz shed 450,000 shares of Facebook in the past few days for proceeds of about $9 million, a tiny chunk of his total stake.

Mr. Moskovitz was Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard roommate when they founded Facebook in 2004. He disclosed in a regulatory filing late Tuesday that he sold the shares on Friday, Monday and Tuesday in blocks of 150,000.

He sold the shares for $18.79 to $20.08 each for proceeds of nearly $9 million.

Mr. Moskovitz, 28, left Facebook in 2008 and started Asana, whose software helps manage projects.

He did not sell any stock in Facebook’s IPO. He still owns more than 133 million shares.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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