Maine home sales increase 7 percent over last October

The Maine Association of Realtors sees a bright spot in sales of single-family homes in the state.

A review of properties reported sold in the multi-listing service shows 945 homes were sold in Maine in October, nearly 7 percent over the number sold in October 2010.

During the same period, the median sales price dropped by just less than 1 percent to $165,000. The median means that half the houses were sold for less and half for more.

Most Maine counties showed gains in sales between August and October over the same three months of 2010.


State’s unemployment rate declines slightly last month

The Maine Labor Department says the state’s October unemployment rate was 7.3 percent, a slight drop from September’s revised figure.

Labor Commissioner Robert Winglass says October’s preliminary rate was 0.2 percentage points lower than September’s 7.5 percent, and 0.3 percentage point lower than the October 2010 rate.

The Labor Department says the number of Maine unemployed workers in October totaled 50,700, down 2,100 from a year ago.

The U.S. unemployment rate of 9 percent was down from 9.7 percent a year ago.


Heating oil average cost remains at $3.66 a gallon

Maine energy officials say the price of heating oil remains unchanged from a week ago.

The Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security said Tuesday the average cash price for No. 2 heating oil is $3.66 a gallon.

The lowest average price, $3.63 gallon, was found in southwestern Maine. The highest price was in the northern part of the state, where oil was averaging $3.79 a gallon.

Kerosene was averaging $4.08 a gallon, up 2 cents from a week ago.

Propane was going for $3.10 a gallon, which was up a penny.


Netflix share price takes another drop in sell-off

Netflix’ stock price on Tuesday plunged to its lowest point in more than 20 months.

The latest sell-off came after Netflix Inc. raised $400 million by taking on more debt and selling more stock. That move intensified concerns about the public relations and competitive pressures facing the video subscription service.

Netflix shares dropped by $3.22, or 4.3 percent, to $71.25 in trading.

Netflix shares have been in free fall since the company angered subscribers by raising its U.S. prices by as much as 60 percent. Netflix hit a peak of nearly $305 a share around the same time that the higher prices were announced in July.


Merchant groups sue Fed over higher cap on card fees

Retail groups are suing the Federal Reserve, claiming it didn’t follow the law when it set a cap on fees that banks can charge merchants for handling debit card purchases.

The National Retail Federation and other groups charge in the suit that the Fed buckled under pressure from bank lobbyists when it set the cap at about 24 cents per transaction in late June. The cap, which took effect Oct. 1, was initially proposed at 12 cents.

The merchant groups maintain that in raising the cap, the Fed considered expenses that the law did not allow.

Banks lobbied hard against the rule, which cut fees that averaged around 44 cents per transaction.


Merck to pay $950 million to resolve Vioxx probe

The Department of Justice said Tuesday that drugmaker Merck will pay $950 million to resolve investigations into its marketing of the painkiller Vioxx.

The agency said Merck will pay $321.6 million in criminal fines and $628.4 million as a civil settlement. It will also plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge that it marketed Vioxx as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis before getting Food and Drug Administration approval.

Merck stopped selling Vioxx in September 2004.