Economy Briefs: Home prices rise in most major American cities

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HOUSING

Home prices rise in most major American cities

Home prices rose in March from February in most major U.S. cities for the first time in seven months. The increase is the latest evidence of a slow recovery taking shape in the troubled housing market.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index shows that prices increased in 12 of the 20 cities it tracks.

Three of the weakest markets reported signs of improvement. Prices increased in Tampa, Fla., and Miami, while prices in Las Vegas were unchanged.

The biggest month-over-month increases were in Phoenix, Seattle and Dallas. Prices dropped sharply in Detroit, Chicago and Atlanta.

The increases partly reflect the beginning of the spring selling season. The month-to-month prices aren’t adjusted for seasonal factors.

The overall index of 20 cities was essentially unchanged in March, after falling 0.8 percent in February.

TENNESSEE

FedEx buying company for undisclosed sum

MEMPHIS | FedEx says it will expand in Latin America with its purchase of a Brazilian transportation and logistics company.

FedEx is buying Rapidao Cometa Logistica e Transportes SA, one of the largest logistics companies in Brazil. Rapidao has been its authorized representative in Brazil for 11 years.

With Rapidao, FedEx is getting about 770 vehicles and trailers, approximately 9,000 workers in Brazil and 45 branches.

Terms of the deal were not released.

FedEx competitor UPS is bulking up with a $6.8 billion purchase of Dutch rival TNT Express. FedEx has not had a blockbuster deal like that. Instead, it has bought three smaller companies this year.

FedEx, the world's second-largest package delivery company, is based in Memphis, Tenn.

GERMANY

Inflation down in May for Europe’s biggest economy

BERLIN | An official estimate shows that the annual inflation rate in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, fell to 1.9 percent in May.

The preliminary year-on-year inflation rate reported Tuesday by the Federal Statistical Office compared with a 2.1 percent annual increase in consumer prices the previous month. Economists had expected it to stay unchanged.

The office said that prices were down 0.2 percent in month-on-month terms partly because it was the first time this year that fuel prices were lower than the previous month.

Inflation data from Germany are important to monetary policy decisions by the European Central Bank, which aims to keep inflation in the 17-nation eurozone just less than 2 percent. It has been running above target in recent months.

LOUISIANA

4 companies to pay $5M in settlement

NEW ORLEANS | Four FEMA contractors that installed or maintained government-issued trailers for storm victims after Hurricane Katrina have agreed to pay a total of $5 million to resolve claims that the temporary shelters exposed Gulf Coast residents to hazardous fumes.

The agreement is contained in a court filing Tuesday, but the documents don’t disclose how much would be paid individually by Shaw Environmental Inc., Bechtel Corp., Fluor Enterprises Inc. and CH2M Hill Constructors Inc., as well as the companies’ insurers.

The deal is linked to a proposed class-action settlement between plaintiffs’ attorneys and several companies that manufactured travel trailers for the Federal Emergency Management Agency following hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt is expected to hold a fairness hearing on the proposed settlement Sept. 27.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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