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Home prices rise twice as fast as wages


Home prices rise twice as fast as wages

March home prices in the United States climbed at the strongest rate in nearly three years as a dwindling supply of houses for sale caused prices to significantly outpace income growth. The Standard & Poor’s CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, released Tuesday, rose 5.9 percent over the 12 months ended in March, the most since July 2014. Home values are increasing at more than double the pace of average hourly earnings, making it more difficult for many people to afford to buy a home. “Over the last year, analysts suggested that one factor pushing prices higher was the unusually low inventory of homes for sale,’’ said David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. ‘‘People are staying in their homes longer rather than selling and trading up. A steady job market has bulked up demand among many would-be buyers, but there are fewer properties on the market. Sales listings have plummeted 9 percent over the past year to 1.93 million, according to the National Association of Realtors. The shortage of homes to buy has caused prices to rise sharply in many metro areas. The largest annual gain was in Seattle, where prices have surged 12.3 percent. Portland, Ore., recorded a 9.2 percent increase, while Dallas prices rose 8.6 percent. — ASSOCIATED PRESS


Three Mile Island owner threatens to close plant

Cheap natural gas could do what the worst commercial nuclear power accident in US history could not: put Three Mile Island out of business. The plant’s owner, Exelon Corp., announced Tuesday that the plant — which was the site of a partial meltdown in 1979 — will close in 2019 unless the State of Pennsylvania comes to its financial rescue. The plant, along with other nuclear power installations around the United States, has struggled to compete in an electricity market booming with inexpensive gas. The Chicago-based energy company’s announcement came after what it called more than five years of losses at the single-reactor plant and Three Mile Island’s recent failure to be selected as a guaranteed supplier of power to the regional electric grid. Exelon wants Pennsylvania to give nuclear power the kind of preferential treatment and premium payments that are extended to renewable forms of energy, such as wind and solar. It has not said how much it wants. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has made no commitment to a bailout but said in a statement Tuesday that he is concerned about layoffs at Three Mile Island and open to discussions. Exelon employs 675 people at the plant. — ASSOCIATED PRESS



Alleged Russian hacker can be extradited

A Czech court ruled Tuesday that a Russian man who faces charges of hacking computers at American companies can be extradited either to the United States or Russia — and the suspect immediately appealed his possible extradition to the United States. Czech authorities arrested Yevgeniy Nikulin in Prague in cooperation with the FBI in October after Interpol issued an international warrant. He is accused of stealing information from LinkedIn, Dropbox, and other companies. Moscow also wants him extradited on a separate charge of Internet theft in 2009. Russian officials had previously said they were working to prevent his extradition to the United States. The 29-year-old has denied wrongdoing. Nikulin’s defense lawyers have said the US charges were based on one FBI agent, and suggested the United States was seeking him for political reasons. — ASSOCIATED PRESS



Flip-flop maker Havaianas subject of sale speculation

Havaianas, those colorful Brazilian flip-flops worn by the likes of Kim Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow, don’t always come cheap. But for investors, the company may soon look like a bargain. As a noncore asset, the trendy sandal maker officially known asAlpargatas SA is likely to be among the first to hit the chopping block should parent company J&F Investimentos SA need to raise quick cash after its controlling shareholders admitted to paying bribes in Brazil. It wouldn’t be the first time. The company’s last owner, builder Camargo Correa SA, put it up for sale less than two years ago for the same reason. That run of bad luck aside, Alpargatas is well-managed and a new owner might be just what it needs to finally break out, said Gustavo Gato, a portfolio manager at Explorador Capital Management, whose assets under management include Alpargatas shares. While Havaianas’s footwear sits atop the global flip-flop food chain, with a Swarovski-encrusted pair retailing for $70 at Saks Fifth Avenue, the company’s stock trades at just 12 times its estimated 12-month earnings, compared with a median of almost 19 times for 100 global peers. Alpargatas said it doesn’t comment on market speculation in an e-mail sent by external press officials. J&F said in an e-mail it’s not selling any assets. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


American Tower may try to buy Cellnex

American Tower Corp. is exploring a bid for Cellnex Telecom SA to expand in Europe as the Spanish tower operator’s main shareholder considers selling assets as part of a merger, people familiar with the matter said. Any offer from American Tower would hinge on the successful combination of the Spanish company’s largest shareholder, Abertis Infraestructuras SA, with Atlantia SpA, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. Atlantia would determine whether to sell the Abertis assets once the deal is concluded, one of the people said. Cellnex shares have risen about 31 percent this year giving the company a market value of about $4.6 billion. American Tower, which has a market value of about $56 billion, has yet to make a formal offer for the Spanish firm, another person said. No final agreements had been reached with any of the parties, and the discussions may not result in a deal, the people said. “Cellnex management has not had any type of contact with American Tower over any sort of possible deal,” a spokesman said. Representatives for American Tower and Abertis declined to comment. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Android creator unveils Essential phone, home assistant

Andy Rubin created the software that powers hundreds of millions of Android devices around the world. Now he has two gadgets of his own: the Essential Phone and the Essential Home. The almost full-screen display echoes a design popularized earlier this year by Samsung Electronics’s Galaxy S8 handset and soon to be followed by Apple with a revamped iPhone. The Essential Home is a puck-sized, voice-controlled gadget that can control appliances and provide reminders. Essential is part of Rubin’s new Playground Global incubator, which plans to raise $300 million. With the new products, Rubin is betting he can take on Apple and Samsung, which have dominated consumer hardware in recent years. The Essential handset includes many modern smartphone technologies, including a Qualcomm processor and a USB-C port for charging. Uniquely, it includes a magnetic connector on the back to connect to such accessories as a camera that takes 360-degree photos and a wireless charging hub. The Home assistant device has a circular screen and can play music, set timers, and control lights with a user’s voice. — BLOOMBERG NEWS