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New home sales jump, giving more hope for housing market

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Sales of new homes nationwide unexpectedly rose last month

Sales of new US homes unexpectedly rose in February after a downward revision to the prior month, suggesting the housing market is beginning to stabilize after a tumultuous year. Purchases of new single-family homes increased 1.1 percent to an annualized 640,000 pace after a 633,000 rate in January, government data showed Thursday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 650,000 pace. The latest data suggest the housing market may finally be gaining its footing after last year’s rapid rise in mortgage rates. That said, affordability remains a key concern for buyers, and the limited supply of homes on the market has also restrained sales. The outlook for the housing market remains unclear. The recent collapse of several banks has pushed down Treasury yields, and thus mortgage rates. But the turmoil is also expected to lead to tighter lending conditions and standards for those trying to buy a home. Sales rose in the West and South, the two largest regions by purchases. The number of homes sold in the Northeast plunged to the lowest since June. There were 436,000 new homes for sale as of the end of last month, the lowest since April. That represents 8.2 months of supply at the current sales rate. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS



Quantgene opens location in Somerville

Quantgene, a biotech that provides early diagnostics through genomics-based medical testing and COVID-19 tests, has opened its first Massachusetts location at 53 Main St. in Somerville. The company plans to hire 20 Massachusetts residents for this 1,200-square-foot location, including a lab director, technicians, and a nursing staff. The Somerville office opened on March 1, and operations have already commenced to assist a “production for the entertainment industry” that’s being shot on the Cape, the company said. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based company now has five brick-and-mortar locations and eight mobile labs nationwide. Owner Jo Bhakdi started the company at UC Berkeley in 2015. — JON CHESTO



Growth of wind power industry at lowest level in three years

Wind power industry growth dropped to the lowest in three years in 2022, hit by rising costs and shifting government policies. That’s according to the latest analysis from clean energy researchers at BloombergNEF. While global governments are relying on a rapid scale-up of the wind industry to hit climate goals, shrinking profit margins and soaring costs have cooled development. By far the biggest market last year was China, which accounted for more than half of all global wind farms built in 2022 even after government subsidies expired at the end the previous year. China added 37.6 gigawatts of new wind capacity to the grid last year, according to the National Energy Administration, a decline from the previous two years when developers rushed to meet subsidy deadlines. The country is expected to install 61 gigawatts of wind capacity this year, according to BloombergNEF. In the United States, the declining value of production tax credits for wind projects sandbagged the industry. Onshore wind growth was the weakest in four years, dropping 37 percent compared with 2021, according to industry group American Clean Power. Meanwhile, the nascent US offshore industry has seen projects delayed and marked down due to inflationary pressures and supply chain struggles. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS

Former lieutenant governor Karyn Polito on Dec. 20, 2022.Barry Chin/Globe Staff


Polito joins board of Clean Harbors

Former lieutenant governor Karyn Polito has landed another corporate board seat following her return to the private sector in January. This one is at Clean Harbors Inc., the Norwell-based environmental and industrial services company. Polito is currently running her family’s real estate development firm, and was recently appointed to the board of Boston-based Berkshire Hills Bancorp as well. Clean Harbors chairman Alan McKim said Polito brings a wealth of experience in public and private sectors, and that the board looks forward to her input on key areas such as regulatory issues and public affairs. Polito’s appointment brings the Clean Harbors board to 13 members, 12 of whom are independent. Clean Harbors also announced that former ExxonMobil executive Edward Galante will become the company’s lead independent director as of its annual shareholders meeting on May 24. — JON CHESTO



Walmart cuts jobs at some e-commerce warehouses

Walmart is cutting staffing levels at some e-commerce fulfillment centers in the United States as the nation’s largest private-sector employer steps up investment in automation. The retailer is working with the affected employees to find other positions at Walmart, according to a company statement Thursday. In a regulatory filing, Walmart provided advance notice of the cuts to 201 employees in Pedricktown, N.J. Reuters reported earlier that the potential impact extends to hundreds of other employees in California, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company is paring jobs as it bolsters warehouse automation to reduce the cost of handling online purchases. Walmart said last month it would close three of its 11 US technology hubs and require affected workers to relocate. Employees who decide to quit will receive severance, the company said at the time. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS



Boeing bests Airbus, wins $1 billion Japan Airlines order

Boeing secured a win in Japan with an order from the nation’s flag carrier for 21 of its 737 Max aircraft, getting in ahead of rival Airbus SE, which was initially seen as the front-runner. The single-aisle jets will be delivered to Japan Airlines and flying from 2026, the carrier and Boeing said in a joint statement Thursday. The order is worth about $1 billion. The planes will replace JAL’s Boeing 737-800s, which make up the largest proportion of its fleet, the carrier’s president Yuji Akasaka said in the statement. Bloomberg News reported earlier this month that JAL was leaning toward a deal with Boeing to replace its older fleet with newer models that have better fuel efficiency. Airbus’s A320neo had been considered. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS


Amazon union wins ruling over access to warehouses

Federal labor regulators have concluded that Amazon’s policy of restricting the warehouse access of off-duty employees is illegal, backing a contention of the union that has represented workers at a Staten Island, N.Y., warehouse since winning an election there last year. In a written communication sent to the union Wednesday, a lawyer for the National Labor Relations Board’s Brooklyn region said the regional office had determined that the company broke the law by adopting the access rule last summer in response to union activity and that it had applied the rule in a discriminatory fashion against union supporters. The Amazon Labor Union contends that the access policy makes it difficult for workers to exercise their right to talk to co-workers about joining or supporting a union. An Amazon spokesperson said the company had adopted the rule to protect employee safety and building security and that it applied the rule fairly and in a way that “has nothing to do with whether an individual supports a particular cause or group.” Employees continue to have access to non-work areas outside company buildings, she said. ― NEW YORK TIMES