Economy Briefs: Banks report stronger profits, more lending

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U.S. banks are enjoying their best profits in six years and are lending a bit more freely. The gradual improvement suggests that the industry will sustain its healing from the worst financial crisis in decades and help strengthen the economy.

The industry earned $37.6 billion from July through September — a 6.6 percent increase from its earnings in same quarter last year.

For the first time since 2009, the stronger earnings were due mainly to higher revenue rather than to less money set aside by the banks to cover losses, data issued by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. showed Tuesday. And loans to consumers rose nearly 1 percent from the July-September period of 2011.

REAL ESTATE

Home prices rise in October by most in 6 years

A measure of U.S. home prices rose 6.3 percent in October compared with a year ago, the largest yearly gain since July 2006. The jump adds to signs of a comeback in the once-battered housing market. Core Logic also said Tuesday that prices declined 0.2 percent in October from September, the second drop after six straight monthly increases. The monthly figures are not seasonally adjusted. The real estate data provider says the decline reflects the end of the summer home-buying season.

Prices increased in 45 states in October, up from 43 the previous month. The biggest increases were in Arizona, where prices rose 21.3 percent, and in Hawaii, where they were up 13.2 percent.

BUYOUTS

FedEx to offer buyouts with up to 2 years’ pay

NEW YORK — FedEx said Tuesday that it will offer some employees up to two years’ pay to leave the company starting next year.

The voluntary program is part of an effort by the world’s second-biggest package delivery company to cut annual costs by $1.7 billion within three years.

The restructuring is a response to a shift by customers away from premium package-delivery services and toward slower, less expensive modes as the global economy struggles to grow.

Employees who volunteer for the program will receive four weeks of pay for every year of service, capped at two full years of base pay. FedEx has said previously that the buyouts should reduce “fixed head count by several thousand people.”

COURTS

Ex-Goldman board member to stay free during appeal

NEW YORK — A former Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble board member convicted of insider trading charges can remain free on bail pending the appeal of his insider trading conviction, a federal appellate panel said Tuesday.

Rajat Gupta, surrounded by family members including his four daughters, watched the arguments before leaving the Manhattan courthouse visibly pleased, breaking into a smile as a cameraman positioned himself before him. He was sentenced to two years in prison and fined $5 million in October.

The two-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals didn’t immediately explain its reasoning for allowing Gupta to be freed on $10 million bail. A lower court judge previously had said he must begin serving his sentence before the appeal is heard.

Circuit Judge Jose A. Cabranes told lawyers for Gupta and the government to be ready to file written arguments within 45 days, indicating the court will hear the appeal on an expedited schedule.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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