Financial & Business News
Last Update on December 22, 2014 18:13 GMT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fewer Americans bought homes in November as buying slid to its slowest pace in six months.
The National Association of Realtors says sales of existing homes fell 6.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.93 million. That's down from a revised pace of 5.26 million in October. Over the past 12 months, sales have risen 2.1 percent.
The combination of higher home prices and relatively stagnant incomes has reduced affordability and restrained buying activity. The recent decline in mortgage rates has yet to lure more buyers into the market, just as fewer distressed properties and bargains that attract investors are coming onto the market.
The Realtors estimate that 2014 sales will fall below 2013 levels.
Median home prices rose 5 percent over the past 12 months to $205,300.
BEIJING (AP) -- China says it has told the U.S. that it is against cyberattacks and opposes any nation or individual launching such attacks from a third country, but did not directly condemn the Sony hackings that Washington has blamed on North Korea.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the comments to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone conversation Sunday night, but did not blame North Korea for the hackings against Sony Pictures, according to a statement by the Foreign Ministry.
Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying warned Monday against suggesting that China was used as a platform for the attacks without sufficient evidence.
Sony Pictures canceled the release of "The Interview" after receiving threats of terrorist attacks from hackers. U.S. federal investigators have connected the hackings to North Korea.
MOSCOW (AP) -- The slide in the value of Russia's ruble is straining the country's banking system.
Russia's Central Bank says it has bailed out a mid-sized bank, at a cost of about $500 million, in order to save it from bankruptcy. It will also place Trust Bank under its supervision until it finds an investor.
The bank's problems follow a tumultuous period for the ruble, which is one of the worst-performing currencies this year, along with Ukraine's currency. It has fallen by a half as oil prices have fallen. Last week, its descent gathered pace, sparking a consumer boom as worried Russians flocked to shops to buy cars and durable goods before prices rose further.
Russia's deputy prime minister responsible for overseeing the economy says he expects the ruble to rally following moderate gains at the end of last week. Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov also says the government is not planning to introduce currency controls on Russian companies.
Still, a respected former finance minister, Alexei Kudrin, calls the ruble's plunge a "serious challenge" to Russia's economy and warns that "a full-blown economic crisis" could be ahead.
MIAMI (AP) -- U.S. rum aficionados are abuzz over the possibility of mixing a Cuba Libre with authentic Cuban rum, now that they will be able to bring home liquor distilled in the communist nation.
Relaxed limits on what licensed U.S. travelers can bring home mean that Americans will be able to enjoy small quantities of the liquor at home. But, with the embargo still in place, the rum won't be flooding bars or the market.
It's unclear what the news means for industry titan Bacardi, which was driven from its Cuba headquarters by the 1959 Castro revolution. In the past, Bacardi has left the door open for a possible return to its homeland.
In a statement, the company says it's waiting to see what effects thawing U.S.-Cuba relations may have.
MILAN (AP) -- Italy's antitrust authority has fined travel planning website TripAdvisor 500,000 euros ($600,000) following complaints of improper business practices lodged by a national hoteliers' association and a consumer protection agency.
The antitrust authority said Monday that TripAdvisor had failed to adopt controls to prevent false reviews, while at the same time promoting the site's content as "authentic and genuine."
It's given TripAdvisor 90 days to present a remedy.
The Federalberghi federation of hoteliers welcomed the decision, citing the numerous examples of "defamatory" reviews that have appeared on the site.
A U.K. regulator has previously said that TripAdvisor must stop claiming that all the reviews on its British site were written by independent travelers, and therefore reliable.
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) -- Trump Entertainment Resorts says a new $20 million pledge by billionaire investor Carl Icahn will give it time to restructure while keeping the struggling Taj Mahal casino open.
Icahn's proposal is $15 million more than his previous bankruptcy financing offer. Trump attorneys say it runs through Dec. 31, 2015.
It also comes without some of the conditions upon which Icahn had insisted as part of a plan that would transfer ownership of the Atlantic City, New Jersey casino to him.
The revised plan omits a demand for $175 million in state and local tax relief, but it also eliminates a pledge by Icahn, who holds $288 million in secured Trump Entertainment debt, to pump $100 million into the company.
A hearing on the latest proposal is set for Jan. 9.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The drone industry is teaming up with the government and model aircraft hobbyists to launch a safety campaign in response to increasing encounters between small drones and manned aircraft
The campaign by two unmanned aircraft trade associations, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Academy of Model Aeronautics includes the launch of a website, www.knowbeforefly.org , and the distribution of safety pamphlets.
Retailers say small drones, which are indistinguishable from today's more sophisticated model aircraft, are flying off the shelves this Christmas. But the FAA is concerned that amateurs are using the drones in a reckless manner, increasing the likelihood of a collision that could bring down a plane or rain debris down on people.
The FAA is receiving about 25 reports per month of drones sighted flying near manned aircraft.
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