New-home sales point to sector recovery; Argentina asks for proof of bribery

April 23, 2013
HOUSING
New-home sales point to recovery

U.S. sales of new homes rose in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 417,000. The increase added to evidence of a sustained housing recovery at the start of the spring buying season.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that sales of new homes increased 1.5 percent. The gain brought the level higher than February’s pace of 411,000, though below January’s 445,000 — the fastest pace since July 2008.

New-home sales are still below the 700,000 pace considered healthy by most economists, but the pace has increased 18.5 percent from 352,000 a year ago.

A limited supply of both new and previously occupied homes also has helped boost prices.

The inventory of new homes for sale increased 2 percent in March, to 153,000, the second straight gain. The median price of a new home rose to $247,000 in March. That’s 3 percent higher than a year ago.

The March sales gain came from a 20.6 percent increase in the Northeast and a 19.4 percent rise in the South. Sales fell 20.9 percent in the West, where problems of supply have hampered home buying. Sales were down 12.1 percent in the Midwest.

— Associated Press

corruption
Argentina demands proof of bribery

Argentina wants the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to name names and provide proof that Ralph Lauren bribed customs officials for years to allow its products into the South American country.

Tax chief Ricardo Echegaray came out swinging Tuesday after the U.S. government announced that the designer label had cooperated with authorities and paid a fine of nearly $1.6 million after admitting that its now-closed Argentine subsidiary violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Echegaray blamed private customs brokers and former Ralph Lauren executives for any violations and suspended their tax ID numbers, which are necessary to do business legally in Argentina.

But he also demanded that the SEC identify which Argentine officials allegedly took the bribes, which the SEC said totaled nearly $600,000 over four years until they were discovered in 2010. And Echegaray’s AFIP tax agency put out a statement that called it a lie designed to cover up how Ralph Lauren emptied its subsidiary before abandoning Argentina.

The U.S. Embassy on Tuesday referred all questions to the SEC and the Justice Department, which had no comment on Echegaray’s requests and allegations.

— Associated Press

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— From news services

Coming Today

8:30 a.m.: Durable goods orders for March.

Earnings: Boeing, Ford, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Procter & Gamble, Sprint Nextel.

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