Builder confidence down in March

Builder confidence in the market for new homes fell this month, according to a survey by the National Association of Home Builders, which said demand was not the problem.

The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, released Monday, blamed a limited supply of ready-to-build lots, rising material and labor costs, and the tougher credit and appraisal standards that prevail in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

The survey touched on builders’ frustrations at a time when Americans are feeling more confident about the economy and housing.

“Many of our members are reporting increased demand for new homes in their markets,” said NAHB Chairman Rick Judson, a home builder from Charlotte.

Despite the current dissatisfaction, the longer-term picture is improving, the group said. A gauge of the outlook for sales over the next six months was at its strongest point in more than six years.

The builder sentiment index released Monday fell to 44 from 46 in February — the second decline since January, which was preceded by eight straight monthly gains. Readings below 50 suggest negative sentiment about the housing market. The last time the national index was at 50 or higher was in April 2006.

The sentiment was higher in the West, where the index moved above 50 in January and stood at 57 in the latest survey.

— Los Angeles Times

Dow Jones probes bribery allegations

Dow Jones said it found no sign of impropriety at its China operations after the Wall Street Journal reported that a whistleblower had accused Journal employees of bribing Chinese officials for information.

The Justice Department had asked Dow Jones to investigate the matter as part of a wider probe into the 2011 British phone-hacking scandal at its parent company, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

It is not clear if the Justice Department is satisfied with Dow Jones’s findings or if it is still looking into the allegations separately. A department spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Journal reported on its Web site Sunday that an unidentified informant had told the Justice Department that Journal employees in China had given gifts to Chinese officials in exchange for information. The accusations related to the Journal’s reporting activity in Chongqing, the power base of disgraced Chinese official Bo Xilai, according to WSJ.com.

— Reuters

Also in Business

l  Gaithersburg-based Med­Immune will gain 300 jobs as parent company AstraZeneca consolidates its overall global research and development operations, the companies announced Monday. The announcement comes as ­AstraZeneca designated the Gaithersburg subsidiary one of three global research and development centers for the company, as well as the center of its marketing and specialty care commercial operations for the United States.

l  The Supreme Court declined Monday to consider a dispute over a class action that accused Goldman Sachs Group of misleading investors about the risks associated with mortgage securities offerings. The lawsuit was revived in September when the New York-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit said that the lead plaintiff could pursue class-action claims on behalf of investors in other certificates backed by mortgages from the same lenders.

l  Indonesian airline Lion Air will buy 234 short-to-medium-range aircraft from Airbus for $24 billion in what is being billed as the biggest civilian deal in the history of the aircraft manufacturer. Airbus is the rival of U.S.-based Boeing.

l  Chrysler is telling owners of about 2,500 Dodge Challenger muscle cars with V-6 engines not to drive them, saying a short in a wiring circuit can set them on fire. The cars are from the 2013 model year. They were made during the eight weeks that ended Jan. 24.

l  Coca-Cola is taking bottled water and doing what Coke is famous for — giving it bubbles and flavor. The Atlanta-based company confirmed Monday that it would introduce a line of fruit-flavored seltzer waters called “Fruitwater” starting April 1.

— From staff reports
and news services

Coming Today

l  8:30 a.m.: Housing-starts data released.

l  9 a.m.: Federal Open Market Committee meets.

l  Earnings: Adobe Systems, DSW, Williams-Sonoma.

— From news services