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Economy Briefs: New-home sales fall to 350K, 5-month low

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Americans bought fewer new homes in June after sales jumped to a two-year high in May. The steep decline suggests a weaker job market and slower growth could make the housing recovery uneven.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that sales of new homes fell 8.4 percent last month from May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 350,000. That's the biggest drop since February 2011.

Sales in the Northeast plunged 60 percent in June to the lowest level since November.

Nationwide, sales in May and April were revised much higher. June's sales pace is 15.1 percent higher than the same month last year. But sales remain well below the 700,000 annual rate economists equate with healthy markets.

MEDIA

Newsweek reviews future as print weekly

NEW YORK — The head of the company that owns Newsweek says the longtime newsweekly is examining its future as a weekly print magazine.

During a conference call with analysts Wednesday, IAC/InterActiveCorp Chairman Barry Diller said that while Newsweek's "brand is good" around the world, producing a weekly newsmagazine in print form isn't easy.

Mr. Diller said IAC is examining all options for Newsweek and will have a plan in the coming months. He said little about what those options were. Short of going Internet-only, Newsweek could publish its print editions less frequently.

"I can't tell you in what ways it will be different, but it will be different," Mr. Diller said, according to a transcript of the call, which was held to discuss IAC's quarterly earnings.

Magazines and newspapers have been trying to adapt to a world in which readers get more of their information from free websites and advertisers funnel more of their marketing budgets to less expensive alternatives online.

AUTO

Toyota takes first-half global sales lead from GM

TOKYO — Toyota bounced back from safety recalls and natural disasters, selling 4.97 million vehicles globally in the first half of the year to retake its crown as the world's top automaker from General Motors Co.

The Japanese company sold about 300,000 more cars and trucks than GM did in the first half of the year, a lead large enough that it will be difficult for GM to catch Toyota in the final six months of 2012.

GM said it sold 4.67 million vehicles during the first half. Both companies released their numbers Wednesday.

CREDIT CARDS

Visa loses $1.8 billion due to litigation costs

NEW YORK — Visa posted a loss of $1.8 billion for the April-to-June period on an increase in litigation costs. Excluding that expense, Visa's results were much better than analysts were expecting.

Payments processors Visa and MasterCard, along with a number of major banks, recently settled a long-standing legal battle against stores over card fees. Visa, MasterCard and the banks agreed to pay the retailers $6 billion as part of the settlement.

Visa increased its litigation provision by $4.1 billion, which led the company to post a loss of $1.8 billion, or $2.74 per share, for its fiscal third quarter.

Excluding the provision, Visa's net income in the latest quarter was $1.1 billion, or $1.56 per share, beating analysts' expectations of $1.45 per share according to data provider FactSet.

The San Francisco-based company said its revenue grew 10 percent to $2.6 billion, compared to analysts' expectations of $2.5 billion

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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