New home purchases go up
WASHINGTON — Americans stepped up purchases of new homes in August after cutting back in July, suggesting that higher mortgage rates are not yet slowing the housing recovery. Sales of new homes increased 7.9 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 421,000, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That comes after sales plunged 14.1 percent in July to a 390,000 annual rate. The rebound in sales could ease worries that higher mortgage rates have started to dampen sales. It coincided with the best month of sales for previously occupied homes in more than six years.
$11 billion settlement eyed
ALBANY, N.Y. — An $11 billion national settlement is under discussion to resolve claims over JPMorgan's handling of mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the recession, said a government official familiar with ongoing negotiations among bank, federal and state officials. The Justice Department is taking the lead on the settlement, which would include $7 billion in cash and $4 billion in consumer relief, though the deal also would include states with claims against the bank, the official said. The official spoke Wednesday with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because a settlement hasn't been reached and the person wasn't authorized to discuss it publicly. The government has continued investigating JPMorgan over mortgage-backed securities, which lost value after a bubble in the housing market burst and helped spur the financial crisis.
Durable goods orders rise
WASHINGTON — Companies placed slightly more orders in August for U.S. long-lasting manufactured goods, stepping up demand for cars, trucks and machinery. Even with the gain, business spending on factory goods may not be strong enough to accelerate economic growth in the July-September quarter. Orders for durable goods, items expected to last at least three years, increased 0.1 percent in August, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That comes after orders plummeted 8.1 percent in July, which was largely because of a steep drop in volatile commercial aircraft orders.
Twitter to add alerts
NEW YORK — Twitter is launching an alerts feature that lets U.S. users receive emergency notices as text messages. Alerts are available from the American Red Cross, the Centers for Disease Control, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and others . If users sign up to receive Twitter alerts from one of these groups, they will get a text message when the group sends a tweet marked as an alert. Twitter says alerts will also be marked with an orange bell icon to differentiate them from regular tweets. The move follows a feature called “lifeline”, which Twitter launched last year in Japan. It underscores the service's growing role in delivering information during emergencies.