WASHINGTON – Sales of previously occupied U.S. homes dipped in March as the supply remained tight, though the pace remained ahead of last year’s.
The National Association of Realtors says sales dipped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.92 million, from 4.95 million in February. February’s figure was revised lower.
Sales in March were 10.3 percent higher than a year earlier.
The number of homes for sale rose 1.6 percent to 1.93 million. That is still 16.8 percent below the supply of a year earlier. The Realtors group says it expects a rising number of homes to become available.
The median home price rose 11.8 percent from February to March to $184,300, the biggest one-month gain since 2005. That might have caused some investors to hold off on purchases.
Halliburton to settle in BP spill
NEW ORLEANS – BP’s cement contractor on the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 says it is trying to negotiate a settlement over its role in the disaster.
Halliburton Chief Financial Officer Mark McCollum said during a conference call Monday that talks are at an “advanced stage.” The Houston-based company says it hopes to resolve a substantial portion of private claims spawned after the explosion of the rig Deepwater Horizon.
Testimony ended last Wednesday in the first phase of a trial over the blast, which killed 11 workers and triggered the nation’s worst offshore oil spill.
A federal judge in New Orleans ultimately could decide how much more money BP, Halliburton and rig owner Transocean Ltd. owe for their roles in the catastrophe.
News Corp. gets hefty payout
NEW YORK – News Corp. says that the insurers backing its board of directors will pay the company $139 million to settle shareholder lawsuits over the British phone hacking scandal and the controversial purchase of an entertainment company run by founder Rupert Murdoch’s daughter.
News Corp. also agreed to corporate governance reforms, including a whistleblower hotline and an annual review of the independence of current and prospective board members. The reforms will remain in place through at least 2016.
The cash settlement, after subtracting fees for the plaintiffs’ lawyers, will benefit shareholders indirectly by going into the company’s coffers.
The reforms don’t change the company’s dual-class share structure, which allows CEO Murdoch to control the company through a family trust.
News Corp. shares rose 43 cents, or 1.4 percent, to close at $31.64 Monday.
Ralph Lauren admits to bribes
ALBANY, N.Y. – Ralph Lauren Corp. has settled U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission allegations that bribes were paid to Argentine import officials, agreeing to give up more than $700,000 of illicit profits and pay an $882,000 penalty.
Federal authorities say Monday the New York-based apparel company promptly reported the violations from 2005 to 2009 after discovering them in 2010, terminated culpable employees and a third-party agent, and shut down operations in Argentina.
The company won’t be prosecuted under agreements involving worldwide risk assessment and training employees about the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which it was accused of violating.
Lauren attorney Thomas Hanusik says the company “did all the right things” when the issue surfaced to ensure it doesn’t happen elsewhere.
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