Talking Points


Nine stories you may have missed Wednesday from the world of business


Sales decline in July amid shortage of sellers

US homebuyers pulled back in July, as sales declined amid a shortage of available properties and steadily rising prices. Sales of existing homes fell 3.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.39 million, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. The decline marks a reversal from rising demand that pushed sales in June to their highest level since February 2007. Fewer homes are coming onto the market. Inventories have fallen on an annual basis for the past 14 months, an indication that many homeowners are still recovering financially from the housing bust that triggered the Great Recession almost a decade ago. Without sufficient equity in their current homes, many of these owners would be unable to generate a down payment for another home with the proceeds from a sale. — ASSOCIATED PRESS


Government sale of leases attracts few bidders

The federal government’s annual sale of oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico attracted hardly any interest on Wednesday, reflecting a dismal outlook for offshore drilling. Only three oil companies bid, on just 24 of the nearly 4,400 tracts offered for drilling and exploration in the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas coast. None competed against each other. Between them, BP Exploration and Production Inc., BHP Billiton Petroleum Inc., and Exxon Mobil Corp. offered a total of $18 million, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said. For perspective, that’s about 32 millionths of the combined market capital of the bidders’ parent companies, which totals more than half a trillion dollars. It represents the least revenue offered by the smallest number of companies making the fewest bids yet on leases in the central or western Gulf of Mexico, said Michael Celata, the agency’s regional director. — ASSOCIATED PRESS


Solar industry faces potential glut of panels

Solar manufacturers that are ramping up production now face a looming glut of panels, forcing companies to adjust or face dire consequences. Trina Solar Ltd., Canadian Solar Inc., and JinkoSolar Holding Co. are among the suppliers boosting output at factories that will expand global capacity by 18 percent this year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The manufacturers are locked in a race to build bigger and more advanced factories to crank out panels faster and cheaper. Just as they start rolling off the lines, demand is expected to slow, especially in China where the government rolled back subsidies last month. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


USDA to buy $20m in surplus cheese


The Department of Agriculture plans to buy $20 million of stockpiled cheese to distribute to food banks and pantries nationwide in an attempt to stem farmer losses after dairy prices plummeted amid a global milk glut earlier this year. The purchase of about 11 million pounds of cheese, which the USDA reported Tuesday in a statement, comes in addition to $11.2 million in subsidies for dairy producers announced earlier this month. A dairy lobbying group had asked for as much $150 million in cheese purchases. Some American dairy cooperatives had so much milk this spring they were forced to dump tens of millions of pounds. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Nearly $39m in government money for coal country

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Officials say 29 projects in nine Appalachian states and in Texas are being funded by nearly $39 million from a federal initiative aimed at stimulating economic development in US communities hard hit by coal industry layoffs. Officials for the Appalachian Regional Commission and other agencies announced the projects Wednesday at a news conference in Huntington, W.Va. The funding comes from $65.8 million made available from the Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization initiative, or POWER. Officials say the investments are expected to create or retain more than 3,400 jobs in agriculture, manufacturing, and other industries. Appalachian states involved in the projects are Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. The ARC says about 23,000 Appalachian coal jobs were lost between 2011 and 2015. — ASSOCIATED PRESS


Ford recalling more than 88,000 vehicles over fuel pump problem

Ford is recalling more than 88,000 cars and SUVs in North America because the engines can stall without warning due to a fuel pump problem. The recall covers certain Ford Taurus and Police Interceptor sedans, Ford Flex wagons, Lincoln MKS sedans, and Lincoln MKT SUVs from the 2013 through 2015 model years. All have 3.5-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engines. Ford says the fuel pump control modules can fail, and the engines may not start, or they could stall, leaving drivers without the ability to restart them. The company says it’s not aware of any crashes or injuries from the problem. — ASSOCIATED PRESS


Another Portuguese bank needs a bailout

For Portuguese taxpayers fed up with coming to the rescue of troubled banks, there’s bad news: another one needs help. The government said Wednesday it has won provisional approval from European authorities to recapitalize Portugal’s biggest bank by assets, state-owned Caixa Geral de Depositos, with 5.1 billion euros ($5.7 billion). The government will inject 2.7 billion euros into the bank, the Finance Ministry said. Since 2008 Portuguese authorities have already provided some 10 billion euros to four other banks, all of them non state-owned. — ASSOCIATED PRESS


Travel to France down after terror attacks

Fewer foreign tourists are visiting Paris after deadly attacks last year and a season of strikes, violent labor action, and exceptional floods. The regional tourism office reported figures for the first half of 2016 this week showing that the drop was especially high among Japanese, Russian, and Chinese visitors. Spending on hotels fell particularly sharply, but was partially compensated by a rise in the number of people staying in private apartment offerings. Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has called a meeting for early September to find ways to revive tourism, which represents about 7 percent of the French economy. Other French regions have not been as hard hit as Paris, though French Riviera tourism was shaken by a truck attack in Nice last month that killed 86. — ASSOCIATED PRESS


Investors pull about $25.2b from hedge funds


For hedge funds, the news is getting worse. Investors pulled an estimated $25.2 billion from hedge funds last month, the biggest monthly redemption since February 2009, according to an eVestment report. The withdrawals were the second straight for the beleaguered industry, which saw $23.5 billion pulled in June. They bring total outflows this year to $55.9 billion, driven by “mediocre” performance after a number of funds lost money last year, according to Wednesday’s report. “Unless these pressures recede, 2016 will be the third year on record with net annual outflows, and the first since the outflows in 2008 and 2009 — a result of the global financial crisis,” eVestment said. Hedge funds, which charge some of the highest fees in the money-management business, have faced mounting criticism from clients over steep costs and performance that mostly hasn’t kept pace with stock markets since the financial crisis. — BLOOMBERG NEWS