February home sales surge, median price falls in Maine

PORTLAND – Maine Realtors say homes sales were up by nearly 30 percent in February compared with a year ago.

Figures from the Maine Real Estate Information System, a statewide multiple listing database, show 624 single-family homes were sold last month. Meanwhile, the median sales price fell by nearly 6 percent, to $149,900 — half of the homes sold for more, and half for less.

Nationally, home sales rose 9.4 percent in February from a year ago and the median sales price inched up just under 1 percent.

Poor reports from Europe send stock markets lower

NEW YORK – Signs that China’s economy is weakening and Europe’s is slowing sent U.S. stocks lower Thursday.

Oil prices dropped 2 percent to their lowest level in a week after the reports of a possible global slowdown. That hurt oil stocks: Alpha Natural Resources, Consol Energy, and Noble Energy were all down 4 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 78 points, to 13,046. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 10 points to 1,393, and the Nasdaq composite fell 12 points to 3,063.

China’s manufacturing sector is contracting, according to a report. Another survey in Europe also showed signs of a slowdown there in services and manufacturing.

The news from overseas overshadowed reports showing the U.S. economy is gaining momentum.

Argentina seeks leverage over oil exploration firms

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Argentina is asking the stock markets in New York and London to warn investors that five oil exploration companies are working illegally off the shores of the Falkland Islands, which Argentina claims Britain stole from them more than a century ago.

Foreign Minister Hector Timerman wants the markets to tell anyone investing in these companies that support Falklands oil development that they face administrative, civil and criminal penalties in Argentina.

The companies are Argos Resources Ltd., Desire Petroleum PLC, Falkland Oil and Gas Ltd., Borders & Southern Petroleum PLC, and Rockhopper Exploration PLC.

Rockhopper already struck oil. Borders and Southern and Falkland Oil and Gas are drilling wells this year.

Another grocery chain drops ‘pink slime’ ground beef

CARLISLE, Pa. – Grocery chain Giant Food Stores has joined the growing number of food merchants halting sales of fresh ground beef containing the filler mocked as “pink slime.”

The Carlisle, Pa.-based company cited questions and concerns raised by hundreds of customers as the impetus for the move, which will affect 144 Giant stores in Pennsylvania and 39 Martin’s food stores it owns in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

Gaint spokesman Chris Brand said customers felt the product “was not something they wanted to purchase.”

The filler is known in the food industry as lean, finely textured beef. It’s made from bits of leftover meat.

— From news service reports