Microsoft Corp.’s Gates tops Forbes 400 list for 19th year

Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates remains the nation’s richest man by far, as the tech and philanthropy giant took the top spot on the Forbes 400 list for the 19th year running, with a net worth of $66 billion.

Investor Warren Buffett, the head of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., again took second with $46 billion, while Oracle Corp. co-founder Larry Ellison remains third with $41 billion and brothers Charles and David Koch, co-owners of Koch Industries Inc., tied for fourth with $31 billion.

Forbes said the rich mainly got richer in 2012, with net worth rising for 241 members of its list and shrinking for only 66. Rising stock prices, a rebound in real estate values and rare art prices helped.

More members of the Walton family, the founders of Walmart Stores Inc., moved up into the Top 10, displacing investor George Soros and Las Vegas Sands Corp. founder Sheldon Adelson. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who made his fortune with the financial data services firm Bloomberg LP, is also back with the top dogs at No. 10 with an estimated net worth of $25 billion.

Two housing reports nudge major stock indexes higher

A pair of encouraging reports about the housing market gave U.S. stocks a little boost Wednesday.

Home sales jumped to the highest level in more than two years in August, the National Association of Realtors said. Sales rose 7.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.82 million, the most since May 2010.

Earlier, the government reported that construction of single-family homes in August also was the fastest in more than two years.

The gains for broader stock indexes were muted. At its high for the day, the Dow Jones industrial average was up just 62 points.

The housing numbers “are fantastic news,” but traders continue to worry about recent discouraging signals this week like downgrades of railroads and a warning from Federal Express that the global economy is slowing, said JJ Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist for TD Ameritrade, a retail brokerage.

“The market is at a bit of a conundrum,” Kinahan said. “There are just constantly these mixed signals about what’s going on.”

The Dow closed up 13.32 points, or 0.1 percent, at 13,577.96. The Dow is just a 4 percent rally shy of its all-time high of 14,164, reached Oct. 9, 2007.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 1.73 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,461.05. Telecom and consumer discretionary stocks added the most among the industry groups in the S&P 500 index. The Nasdaq composite index rose 4.82 points, or 0.2 percent, to 3,182.62.

Five Guys chain finishes first in survey of burger favorites

Five Guys Burgers and Fries topped a new survey of favorite burger chains, leaving bigger chains such as McDonald’s and Burger King behind.

Market Force Information questioned 7,600 consumers, calculated the fan favorite based on total votes and then factored in the number of locations for each chain.

In every region, Five Guys led the list. Overall, In-N-Out was second, followed by Fuddruckers, A&W and Smashburger.

Dairy Queen ranked last in the group of 16 chains considered.

— From news service reports