- - Monday, March 28, 2011


More people signed contracts for homes

More Americans signed contracts to buy homes in February, but sales were uneven across the country and not enough to signal a rebound in the housing market.

Sales agreements for homes rose 2.1 percent last month to a reading of 90.8, according to the National Association of Realtors’ pending home sales index released Monday. Sales rose in every region but the Northeast.

Signings were 19.6 percent above June’s index reading, the low point since the housing bust. Still, the index is below 100, which is considered a healthy level. The last time it reached that point was in April, the final month people could qualify for a home-buying tax credit.

Contract signings are usually a good indicator of where the housing market is heading. That’s because there’s usually a one- to two-month lag between a sales contract and a completed deal.

But the Realtors group also noted “a measurable level of contract cancellations” that occurred in February. Many buyers canceled after appraisals showed the properties were valued much lower than their initial bids.


‘11 Honda minivans recalled for windows

DETROIT | Honda Motor Co Ltd is recalling 2,800 of its Odyssey minivans to repair potentially faulty windows.

There is a potential failure with the driver- and front-passenger-door power windows in the affected 2011 models in which the window may come off the track and become inoperative or drop into the door, according to a U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website.

The window may shatter into the passenger cabin, so Honda is replacing those windows, NHTSA said. The recall is expected to begin on or before April 15.

No crashes or injuries were reported related to the defect, Honda said.

Earlier this month, Honda recalled more than 33,000 Odyssey minivans for 2011 because of a possible windshield wiper defect.


Massey mines cited for dozens of violations

CHARLESTON | Massey Energy Co. was cited for more than 80 safety violations uncovered in the latest round of special inspections targeting troubled mines in the United States, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration said Monday.

The Massey citations are among 166 issued at eight mines in five states during special inspections in February, MSHA said.

The agency started the so-called impact inspections after 29 miners died in an explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia on April 5, 2010.

Two Massey mines in West Virginia and one each in Virginia and Kentucky accounted for more than half the violations issued nationally during impact inspections last month. MSHA also cited three non-Massey coal mines in Kentucky and Alabama and a stone quarry in Pennsylvania.


Crude dips as rebels recapture Libyan ports

NEW YORK | Oil prices slipped below $104 per barrel Monday after Libyan rebels recaptured some key oil ports and promised to resume exports. Prices, however, remain 22 percent above what they were in mid-February, when fighting in Libya squeezed off shipments that had supplied nearly 2 percent of the world’s oil.

Energy analysts said oil prices should fall as Libya gets closer to a resolution of its six-week-old crisis. Yet it’s unlikely the rebels will bring much oil back to the world market soon.

Traders remain concerned that uprisings in the Middle East will threaten more oil supplies. Protests in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria could further destabilize the region and draw OPEC heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Iran into protracted conflict, analysts said.

The concerns go beyond major oil-producing countries. Yemen produces only 0.3 percent of the world’s oil, but market prices can rise with the added dangers to crucial shipping lanes off its coast.


First tweeter returns as product guru

SAN FRANCISCO | Jack Dorsey, the Twitter co-founder responsible for the messaging service’s first tweet five years ago, is returning to oversee the company’s products.

Twitter is tapping into its creator’s ingenuity as it tries to build upon its popularity to make more money by selling more ads. The privately held company doesn’t disclose its finances, but research firm eMarketer Inc. estimates Twitter will bring in advertising revenue of about $150 million this year.

Mr. Dorsey, Twitter’s original CEO, announced his new role Monday on his Twitter account. He says he intends to remain CEO of a mobile payments service called Square that’s located near Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters.

As part of the new job, Mr. Dorsey’s title has been changed from Twitter’s chairman to executive chairman.

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