Business

Existing-home sales fall off in January

Sales of previously owned homes plunged in January as severe weather and high costs handcuffed would-be buyers.

Existing-home sales tumbled 5.1 percent from December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million, reaching the lowest level in more than a year, the National Association of Realtors said Friday. Sales also fell 5.1 percent from a year earlier.

Although harsh weather held back sales, the trade group said there was more behind the poor figures.

“We can’t ignore the ongoing headwinds of tight credit, limited inventory, higher prices and higher mortgage interest rates,” said Lawrence Yun, the group’s chief economist.

The national median sale price for a previously owned home last month was $188,900, up 10.7 percent from a year earlier.

Fannie Mae payment to offset bailout

WASHINGTON – Fannie Mae posted its eighth straight profitable quarter in the final three months of last year and will send the federal government $7.2 billion, pushing its total dividend payments above the cost of the 2008 bailout for the first time, the company said Friday.

Boosted by the housing market rebound, the mortgage giant posted $6.5 billion in profit in the fourth quarter of 2013 and a record $84 billion for the year.

With Fannie Mae’s next payment, it and Freddie Mac will have sent $192.4 billion to the Treasury, topping the $187.5 billion the Treasury pumped into the companies in 2008, in the middle of the subprime housing market collapse, to keep them afloat so they could support the struggling housing market after the financial crisis.

Barnes & Noble gets acquisition offer

Barnes & Noble Inc., the last-standing major chain in the national bookstore market, received a conditional proposal from a private investment management firm to take over 51 percent of the company for $22 per share.

The offer came through Thursday night, according to New York firm G Asset Management, which said its suggested price was 31 percent higher than Barnes & Noble’s most recent $16.78-a-share closing price.

But G Asset Management, which said Barnes & Noble is “substantially undervalued in its current form,” said its bid is conditional on due diligence, the ability to obtain financing and the outcome of negotiations.

The company said last month that sales during the nine-week holiday period ended Dec. 28 slipped 6.6 percent to $1.1 billion from the same time a year earlier.

Natural gas prices up 18 percent in week

NEW YORK – Concerns about another cold front enveloping the country next week pushed natural gas prices higher Friday, helping the commodity finish its biggest week in two years.

March natural gas rose 7 cents Friday, or 1 percent, to $6.14 per 1,000 cubic feet. Natural gas is up 18 percent this week, the most since April 2012.

Natural gas is by far the most popular form of heating in the U.S. The cold has caused demand to soar, and supplies have run low in parts of the country.

U.S. natural gas supplies stood at 1.443 billion cubic feet last week, down 34 percent compared to the country’s five-year average, the Energy Department said Thursday.

The last time natural gas prices were this high was November 2008.



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