Low inventory drives up home prices

U.S. home prices rose in January as shoppers competed for a limited inventory of listings.

Prices increased 0.5 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from December, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said Tuesday in a report from Washington. Prices climbed 6 percent from a year earlier.

The low number of homes on the market is holding back sales and driving up prices. Closings on purchases of existing homes decreased 7.1 percent, to a 5.08 million annual rate in February, a three-month low, after a 5.47 million pace in January, the National Association of Realtors reported Monday.

Prices increased from a year earlier in all regions, led by the South Atlantic — including Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia — with an 8.9 percent gain. Prices climbed 7.4 percent in the Pacific area, with California, Oregon and Hawaii. The Middle Atlantic region — New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — had the smallest increase, 1.7 percent.

The FHFA index measures transactions for single-family properties financed with mortgages owned or securitized by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It doesn’t provide specific prices. The median price of an existing single-family home was $215,000 in January, up 8.3 percent from a year earlier, according to the Realtors group.

— Bloomberg News

Uber invites hackers for ‘bug bounties’

Transportation firm Uber is releasing a technical map of its computer and communications systems and inviting hackers to find weaknesses in exchange for cash bounties.

While “bug bounties” are not new, Uber’s move shows how mainstream companies are relying more on independent computer researchers to help bolster their systems. It also indicates growing acceptance of the idea that making computer code public can make systems more secure, a philosophy long advocated by the open-source software movement.

Uber’s “Treasure Map” details the ride-hailing company’s software infrastructure, identifies what sorts of data might be exposed inadvertently and suggests what types of flaws are most likely to be found.

“We’re wrapping up a lot of information and posting that to level the playing field,” said Collin Greene, manager of security engineering at Uber.

“That’s a level of confidence that you have not seen too many closed-source software companies take in the past,” said Alex Rice, chief technology officer at HackerOne, which is managing Uber’s bounty program.

— Reuters

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