Dow records its third straight record high close

The Dow Jones industrial average notched its third record high close in a row Wednesday, even as other market indexes ended lower.

Trading was relatively subdued as investors reviewed the latest corporate earnings news. Utilities stocks were among the biggest decliners. Energy stocks rebounded as oil prices broke a five-day slide and climbed back above $50 a barrel.

The Dow ended up 15.38 points, or 0.1 percent, to 18,224.57. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped 1.62 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,113.86. The Nasdaq shed 1 point, or 0.02 percent, to 4,967.14. The three indexes are all up for the year.

Sales of new homes edged down in January

Sales of new U.S. homes were basically flat in January, evidence that recent job gains and relatively low mortgage rates have yet to spur the real estate market.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that new home sales slipped 0.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 481,000. This marks a slight decrease from sales of 482,000 homes in December, but represents a solid 5.3 percent gain from a year ago.

MetLife to pay mortgage settlement of $123 million

MetLife’s home-lending unit will pay $123.5 million to end an investigation into allegations it gave government-backed mortgages to people who didn’t meet federal requirements.

The Justice Department said Wednesday that MetLife knew the business was issuing hundreds of loans that didn’t meet federal requirements, which means they were not eligible for insurance by the Federal Housing Authority. But MetLife granted the mortgages anyway, and the agency says the FHA and taxpayers were stuck with the bill when defaults followed.

Southwest planes that missed inspection can fly

Federal officials have agreed to let Southwest Airlines Co. keep flying planes that missed an inspection of a backup rudder system if the planes are checked in the next five days.

Southwest grounded 128 planes – about one-fifth of its fleet – on Tuesday after discovering the missed inspections.

Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King said the groundings caused the airline to cancel about 80 flights Tuesday and 15 more by late Wednesday morning. She said crews inspected 80 of the planes overnight and will check the rest before the five-day deadline.

– From staff and news services