December 20, 2013

Briefcase

U.S. home sales decline for third straight month

The number of people who bought existing U.S. homes in November declined for the third straight month. Higher mortgage rates have made home-buying more expensive, while the lingering impact of the October government shutdown may have deterred some sales.

The National Association of Realtors said home sales fell 4.3 percent to an annual rate of 4.90 million. That’s the weakest pace since December 2012, and the first time since April that the pace has slipped below 5 million.

Still, the association projects that total sales this year will be 5.1 million. That would be the strongest since 2007, when the housing bubble burst.

The median sales price of an existing home was $196,300 in November, a slight decrease from October but 9.4 percent higher than a year ago.

Google fined $1.2 million for breaking laws in Spain

Spain’s data protection agency says it has fined search engine giant Google $1.2 million for three serious breaches of the country’s laws.

Thursday’s statement said Google collects and processes personal information illegally, that it combines personal information for purposes that are “not determined clearly” and that personal data is stored and maintained “for indeterminate periods of time.”

Data watchdogs in France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Spain have said Google needs to provide additional guarantees to comply with privacy protection rules.

Dealertrack will purchase Dealer.com for $1 billion

Dealertrack Technologies Inc., which makes software used by auto dealerships, says it is buying Dealer.com in a cash and stock deal that could be worth nearly $1 billion.

Dealer.com, which is based in Burlington, Vt., provides marketing and customer-relationship-management software for the auto industry.

Dealertrack will pay about $620 million in cash plus about 8.7 million of its common stock.

Carnival Cruise Lines posts small fourth-quarter profit

Carnival Cruise Lines posted a small but surprising fourth-quarter profit as it began to win back passengers after a year when its ships were often seen behind tow boats.

Carnival has had two rough years, with the Contra Concordia running aground near Italy in 2012, and mechanical problems and fires this year.

Net income for the fourth quarter fell 29 percent to $66 million, or 8 cents per share, compared with a year earlier when it earned $93 million, or 12 cents per share.

Its adjusted profit was 4 cents per share.

– From news service reports

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