Home contracts dip 0.5%
WASHINGTON — The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy U.S. homes dipped in February from nearly a two-year high. The National Association of Realtors says its index of sales agreements declined 0.5 percent last month to a reading of 96.5. January's reading of 97 was the highest since April 2010, the last month buyers could qualify for a federal homebuying tax credit. A reading of 100 is considered healthy. Contract signings typically indicate where the housing market is headed. There's a one- to two-month lag between a signed contract and a completed deal. More signings are among recent signs of a slight pickup in the housing market. January and February made up the best winter for resales in five years.
Short-term T-bills vary
WASHINGTON — Interest rates on short-term Treasury bills were mixed in Monday's auction, with rates on three-month bills dropping to the lowest level in three weeks while rates on six-month bills remained the highest in a year. The Treasury Department auctioned $31 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 0.085 percent, down from 0.095 percent last week. Another $29 billion in six-month bills was auctioned at a discount rate of 0.150 percent, unchanged from last week. The three-month rate was the lowest since these bills averaged 0.080 percent March 5. The six-month rate of 0.150 percent for the past two weeks is the highest for these bills since they averaged 0.170 percent on March 28, 2011. The discount rates reflect that the bills sell for less than face value. For a $10,000 bill, the three-month price was $9,997.85 while a six-month bill sold for $9,992.42. That would equal an annualized rate of 0.086 percent for the three-month bills and 0.152 percent for the six-month bills.
Quarterly dividend rises
NEW YORK — American Express Co. is increasing its quarterly dividend by 11 percent. The financial services company said Monday it will raise its dividend to 20 cents a share from 18 cents. It is payable May 10 to shareholders of record as of April 5. It's the company's first dividend increase since November 2007. The company passed a so-called stress test this month and got a green light from the Federal Reserve to boost its dividend.
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