Commerce reports U.S. sales of new homes drop in March

Sales of new U.S. homes plummeted in March, as the spring buying season opened with sharp declines in the Northeast and South.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that new-home sales fell 11.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 481,000. This marks a swift reversal from an annual sales pace of 543,000 in February, which had been the strongest performance in seven years.

The month-to-month volatility points to a real estate market still finding its footing in the aftermath of the housing bubble that triggered the Great Recession in 2007 and the weak recovery that has followed.

Jobless aid applications stay low, a sign of few layoffs

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits was little changed last week, evidence that employers are cutting few jobs.

Weekly applications for jobless aid ticked up 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 295,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased to 284,500. Still, that is just 2,000 higher than three weeks ago when the average was at a nearly 15-year low.

Wal-Mart chief executive’s pay falls 24 percent in 2014

Unimpressive results at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are hurting pay for its top executives.

Wal-Mart’s CEO Doug McMillon, who took over the top job at the world’s largest retailer in February 2014, received a compensation package worth $19.06 million in the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2015, according to an Associated Press analysis of a regulatory filing late Wednesday. That’s down 24 percent from $25.3 million in the previous year.

– From news service reports