ECONOMY BRIEFS: Contracts to buy homes hit 2-year high in July

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Americans signed the most contracts to buy homes in July than at any other point in the past two years, further evidence of a housing recovery.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that its index of sales agreements for previously occupied homes jumped 2.4 percent in July to 101.7. That’s higher than June’s reading of 99.3. It’s also the highest reading since April 2010, the last month that buyers could qualify for a federal home-buying tax credit.

A reading of 100 is considered healthy. The index is 12.4 percent higher than July 2011. It bottomed at 75.88 in June 2010 after the tax credit expired.

AUTOmotive industry

Chevy Volt broke monthly sales record in August

DETROIT | General Motors says sales of its Chevrolet Volt electric car will break a monthly record in August.

The company says it already has sold more than 2,500 Volts this month, with two days left. The previous record was 2,000 in March.

A spokeswoman says about one-third of the sales are in California, where Volt owners can drive alone in carpool lanes. She says sales are growing in other states.

So far this year, GM has sold more than 13,000 Volts. The car can go about 35 miles on battery power before a small gas generator kicks in to keep it moving.

Earlier this week, GM said it will close the Volt factory in Detroit next month to control inventory and retool the plant to build the new Chevrolet Impala.

BANKS

Citigroup agrees to pay $590M in shareholder suit

NEW YORK | Citigroup has agreed to pay $590 million to settle legal claims by shareholders that its executives misled them about the bank’s growing problems before the financial crisis.

The bank denied the allegations Wednesday, but said it agreed to the deal to eliminate the cost and uncertainty of litigating the class-action lawsuit.

Plaintiffs say Citigroup executives kept mum between February 2007 and April 2008 about huge losses the bank faced on complex mortgage investments. When the problem was disclosed, they say, Citigroup’s share price plunged. They blame the bank for their losses.

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