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Economy Briefs: U.S. home sales rise 2.1 percent in October

- - Monday, November 19, 2012

U.S. sales of previously occupied homes rose solidly in October, helped by improvement in the job market and record-low mortgage rates.

The increase along with a jump in homebuilder confidence this month suggests the housing market continues to recover.

The National Association of Realtors said Monday that sales rose 2.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.79 million. That's up from 4.69 million in September, which was revised lower.

The sales pace is roughly 11 percent higher than a year ago. But it remains below the more than 5.5 million that economists consider consistent with a healthy market.

MORTGAGES

As part of settlement, banks cut mortgage balances $6.3B

LOS ANGELES — Five of the biggest U.S. banks have cut struggling homeowners' mortgage balances by $6.3 billion, part of a total $26.1 billion in home loan relief provided under a landmark settlement over foreclosure abuses.

More than 309,000 borrowers received some form of mortgage relief from March 1 to Sept. 30, according to a report issued Monday by Joseph Smith, monitor of the settlement.

STOCKS

Apple climbs; analyst calls two-month sell-off 'insane'

NEW YORK —Shares of Apple jumped nearly 6 percent Monday, with one analyst calling a two-month sell-off in shares of the most valuable company on earth "insanely insane."

After hitting an all-time high of $705.10 on the day the company launched the iPhone 5, Apple's stock slumped into correction, and then into bear territory, down nearly 21 percent from that September high.

Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White, who sees insanity in the stock plunge, believes that the sell-off over the past eight weeks is overdone. He cites new "blockbuster" products for the holiday season —including the iPad Mini — as reasons for buying the stock.

FISHING

Countries OK continued strict limits on tuna catch

AGADIR, Morocco — Fishing countries Monday voted to keep up strict limits on catching Atlantic bluefin tuna, overruling fierce opposition from critics who argue that the key sushi ingredient is on the rebound.

Stocks of bluefin in the Atlantic Ocean fell catastrophically because of rampant, often illegal, overfishing and lax quotas — dropping by 60 percent between 1997 and 2007.

CREDIT

Average U.S. credit card debt per borrower up in 3Q

LOS ANGELES — Americans cranked up their use of credit cards in the third quarter, racking up more debt than a year ago, while also being less diligent about making payments on time, an analysis of consumer-credit data shows.

The average credit card debt per borrower in the U.S. grew 4.9 percent in the July-to-September period from a year earlier to $4,996, credit reporting agency TransUnion said Monday.

EXECUTIVES

Walgreen CEO pay down in fiscal '12 to $12 million

Walgreen CEO Gregory D. Wasson's total compensation slipped in fiscal 2012, as earnings sank 21 percent and a contract dispute hurt revenue for the nation's largest drugstore operator.

Mr. Wasson, 54, received compensation valued at about $12 million for the fiscal year that ended Aug. 31, according to the Deerfield, Ill., company's annual proxy statement filed Monday. That represented a 1 percent drop compared to fiscal 2011.

TECHNOLOGY

Windstream opens new data center in D.C. area

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Windstream Corp. is opening a 65,000-square-foot data center in the Washington, D.C., area to help meet growing demand for cloud and managed data services.

The Little Rock-based phone and Internet services company said Monday that the center in McLean is one of a series of data hubs around the country. The company opened a similar center in Little Rock earlier this year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.