U.S. home sales fall slightly
WASHINGTON — U.S. sales of new homes fell slightly in October and September sales were slower than initially thought. The October sales pace was dragged lower by steep declines on the East Coast, partly related to Superstorm Sandy. The Commerce Department said Wednesday that new-home sales dipped 0.3 percent in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 368,000. That's down marginally from the 369,000 pace in September, which was revised lower from an initially reported 389,000. Sales fell a sharp 32.3 percent in the Northeast and nearly 12 percent in the South. The government said Sandy had a minimal effect on the housing data because it made landfall in the final days of the month. Still, the storm disrupted business activity from North Carolina to Maine.
White House halts BP contracts
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration put a stop to new federal contracts with BP on Wednesday, admonishing the British oil company for a “lack of business integrity” and also disqualifying it indefinitely from winning new leases to drill on taxpayer-owned lands. A lengthy list of criminal counts against BP stemming from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to temporarily suspend new contracts with BP and its affiliates, the agency said. Existing contracts won't be affected. Eleven oil workers were killed when a rig explosion sent oil gushing unabated into the Gulf in the largest oil spill in U.S. history. More than two years later, BP faces criminal proceedings and massive civil claims related to environmental damage.
Knight Capital could be sold
Four months after a major software malfunction at Knight Capital Group roiled markets and threatened the company's survival, a rival trading firm stepped in with an offer to buy Knight at a steep premium. Getco put up a cash-and-stock offer that values Knight shares at $3.50 — a 41 percent premium over the closing price on Nov. 23, before the first published reports about a possible buyout. But it's a fraction of the company's worth before the meltdown. Knight shares soared 15 percent Wednesday and the company postponed an investor conference scheduled for Monday.
BP officials plead not guilty
NEW ORLEANS — Two BP rig supervisors and a former BP executive pleaded not guilty Wednesday to criminal charges stemming from the deadly Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and the company's response to the massive 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico. BP well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, along with former BP vice president of exploration for the Gulf David Rainey, remained free on bond following their arraignments in federal court. Kaluza and Vidrine are charged with manslaughter in the deaths of 11 rig workers. They are accused of disregarding abnormally high pressure readings that should have been glaring indications of trouble just before the blowout of BP's Macondo well. Rainey was charged separately with concealing information from Congress about the amount of oil that was leaking from the well. Millions of gallons of crude oil spewed from BP's well for months.
Will peanut crop go to waste?
PORTALES, N.M. — Farmers in the revered peanut-growing region along the New Mexico-Texas border should be celebrating one of the best harvests in recent memory. Instead, millions of pounds of their prized sweet Valencia peanuts sit in barns at the Sunland peanut butter plant. The plant shuttered for two months amid a salmonella outbreak that sickened 41 people in 20 states. Farmers are worried about getting paid. Plant workers are nervous. And residents wonder what toll the shutdown will have on the region's economy. The tension boiled over on Monday, when the Food and Drug Administration suspended Sunland's registration to operate because of repeated safety violations. It came just as the plant was set to resume shelling the bumper crop.