Business Highlights

The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 23, 2011; 5:51 PM

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New-home sales plunged in February to record low

WASHINGTON (AP) - Sales of new homes plunged in February to the fewest on records dating back nearly half a century, a dismal sign for an already-weak housing market.

New-home sales fell 16.9 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 250,000 homes, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. It's the third straight monthly decline and far below the 700,000-a-year pace that economists view as healthy.

The median price of a new home dropped nearly 14 percent to $202,100, the lowest since December 2003. New-home prices are now 30 percent higher than of those being resold.


Japan disaster likely to be world's costliest

TOKYO (AP) - Japan's government said the cost of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the northeast could reach $309 billion, making it the world's most expensive natural disaster on record.

The extensive damage to housing, roads, utilities and businesses across seven prefectures has resulted in direct losses of between 16 trillion yen ($198 billion) and 25 trillion yen ($309 billion), according to a Cabinet Office estimate Wednesday.

If the government's projection proves correct, it would top the losses from Hurricane Katrina. The 2005 megastorm that ravaged New Orleans and the surrounding region cost $125 billion, according to the Insurance Information Institute.


In blow for BofA, Fed rejects its dividend plan

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