Mortgage relief program has lost half its applicants

More troubled homeowners are dropping out of the Obama administration’s main foreclosure-relief program, which has been widely criticized for failing to help more people keep their homes.

The Treasury Department said Wednesday that about 774,000 homeowners have dropped out as of last month. That’s about 54 percent of the more than 1.4 million people who applied. And it’s up from October, when approximately 756,000 had fallen out.

The program is intended to help those at risk of foreclosure by lowering their monthly payments. Borrowers start with lower payments on a trial basis. The program has struggled to convert them into permanent loan modifications.

Six banks repay bailouts worth combined $2.6 billion

Six banks have repaid government bailouts worth a combined $2.6 billion, the Treasury Department said Wednesday.

The banks returned taxpayer money that they received in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

Huntington Bancshares, First Horizon National Corp., Wintrust Financial Corp., Susquehanna Bancshares Inc., Heritage Financial Corp. and The Bank of Kentucky Financial Corp. all paid back the money they owed.

Honda recalling Accords, Pilots for suspension flaw

Honda Motor Co. is recalling about 10,800 Accord sedans and Pilot sport utility vehicles to prevent possible front suspension failure.

The Japanese automaker said the recall covers late 2010-2011 Accord sedans and 2011 Pilot SUVs in the United States.

Honda said problems with the machinery used to tighten spindle nuts on the front axles on both vehicles could cause the front suspension to fail.

The company said a flaw in the software for the equipment used in the assembly process was discovered at its plant in Alabama.

Honda said it expects to notify owners this week and the repairs will be conducted at dealerships.

Honda owners can go to www.recalls.honda.com or call (800) 999-1009 and select option 4.

Walgreen income jumps 19 percent in fiscal quarter

Walgreen Co. said Wednesday that its net income jumped 19 percent in the fiscal first quarter as thousands of newly renovated stores and more successful promotions boosted sales at the largest drugstore operator in the United States.

During the past few years, Walgreen has spent hundreds of millions of dollars remodeling its stores to improve sales and reduce inventory costs. After months of uneven results, Wednesday’s report indicated the company’s plans may be paying off.

Walgreen shares soared as high as $40.20 Wednesday, the stock’s highest price since October 2009.

The Deerfield, Ill., company said net income rose to $580 million, or 62 cents per share, from $489 million, or 49 cents per share. Revenue rose 6 percent to $17.3 billion from $16.3 billion.

Besides renovating stores, the company is also simplifying product assortments and adding new products such as wine and beer.

Japan’s export growth up for first time since February

Japan’s export growth improved for the first time in nine months in November, a possible sign that global demand is turning up again.

Exports from the world’s third-largest economy rose 9.1 percent from a year earlier, the government said Wednesday.

While exports have expanded throughout the year, the rate of growth has steadily fallen as overseas demand cooled and the yen rose to 15-year highs. In February, exports jumped more than 45 percent. October, that had slid to less than 8 percent.

The slowdown triggered widespread concern about the fate of Japan’s recovery, which has depended heavily on exports.