Home sales in Maine rise, but prices dip 4 percent

SOUTH PORTLAND – Sales of existing single-family homes in Maine rose 9 percent in July over a year ago, but the median sale price dipped by nearly 4 percent.

The Maine Association of Realtors said Thursday that real estate agents sold 1,086 homes in Maine last month, up from 994 in July 2011.

The median sale price of those homes was $171,000, down from $177,500 a year earlier.

For the three-month period from May through July, the number of homes sold fell in only one of Maine’s 16 counties, Piscataquis.

The highest-priced houses were in Cumberland County, while the lowest were in Piscataquis County.

Kroger signs contract to sell cheese from Pineland Farms

NEW GLOUCESTER – Pineland Farms Creamery has won a contract to sell its natural cheese in about 500 stores of the Kroger Co. grocery chain.

Kroger, based in Cincinnati, added Pineland Farms Cheddar to its stores. The cheddar, which began selling at Kroger on July 30, is sold at Kroger Specialty Cheese shops and the Murray’s Cheese counters, Pineland said. The contract comes six years after Pineland made its first batch of cheese, the company said.

“This is an important milestone for our company and for the Maine cheese industry,” said Neal Kolterman, Pineland Farm’s vice president of sales.

Pineland’s products, made at its 5,000-acre farm, are sold at Hannaford stores in Maine and New Hampshire, and some Food Lion Stores in seven states.

Stock market loses ground for fourth day

NEW YORK – U.S. stocks fell sharply Thursday, with the Dow industrials off for a fourth day, after a Federal Reserve official threw cold water on the notion that another round of stimulus is on its way.

“Stocks have been on vacation; they’ve been ignoring things like the fiscal cliff, elections and Europe. The biggest thing they’ve been ignoring is the last earnings season. I just got through listening to companies saying we’re still profitable, but we’re not seeing growth,” said Kim Forrest, equity analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group Inc. in Pittsburgh.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell as much as 126 points, and finished off 115.30 points, or 0.9 percent, at 13,057.46. The S&P 500 index dropped 11.41 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,402.08. The Nasdaq composite retreated 20.27 points, or 0.7 percent, to 3,053.40.

Germany, France tell Greece time to move

BERLIN – German and French leaders on Thursday put pressure firmly on Greece to keep pursuing painful reforms, suggesting they are hesitant to accept the new Greek prime minister’s demand for more time to fix his country’s battered economy and public finances.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande met to discuss how to deal with Greece before Prime Minister Antonis Samaras visits both of them over the next two days. Earlier in the day, Germany’s finance minister set the stage for tough negotiations by claiming that giving Greece more time to make reforms would achieve little.

— From staff and news services