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Business news briefs — Jan. 28

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HOME SALES

Price index drops slightly

Home prices fell slightly in November as colder weather slowed buying, ending nine straight months of price gains, according to an index in 20 large metropolitan areas.

Despite the overall decline in the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller report, prices in nine areas recorded positive monthly returns; of the nine, Boston and Cleveland were the only cities not in the Sun Belt.

The index shows prices in the Cleveland area ticked up 0.3 percent from October to November. Prices grew 6 percent in the Cleveland area from November 2012 to November 2013.

Overall, home prices in the 20 top cities slipped 0.1 percent from October to November, partly reversing the previous monthly increase of 0.2 percent. But the index is not adjusted for seasonal variations, so the monthly decline partly reflects slower buying in the late fall as temperatures drop.

EARNINGS

AT&T beats forecasts

AT&T posted stronger-than-expected earnings for the final quarter of 2013, helped by higher revenue from mobile and Internet service subscribers.

The company said it earned $6.9 billion, or $1.31 per share, in the October-December period. That’s up from a loss of $3.8 billion, or 68 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier.

The latest quarter’s results included a pension-related gain of $7.6 billion, tax expenses and other items. Adjusted earnings were 53 cents per share in the latest quarter, beating analysts’ expectations by 2 cents.

Revenue rose 2 percent to $33.2 billion from $32.6 billion.

According to research firm FactSet, analysts on average were expecting revenue of $33.1 billion.

WALL STREET

Dow gains 90 points

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 10.94 points in Tuesday trading, or 0.6 percent, to 1,792.50. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 90.68 points, or 0.6 percent, to 15,928.56. The Nasdaq composite climbed 14.35 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,097.96. Nine of the 10 sectors that make up the S&P 500 index rose. Health care and financial stocks were the two best-performing sectors. The technology sector was the only one to fall. Apple slumped $44, or 8 percent, to $506.50 after the company’s first-quarter results released late Monday disappointed investors. First-quarter shipments of iPhones were below expectations, reinforcing perceptions that Apple is now mostly selling its mobile devices to repeat customers who are upgrading, instead of reeling in new customers. Apple also provided a cautious second-quarter revenue forecast.

ECONOMY

Durable goods orders drop

Businesses cut back sharply on their orders for long-lasting manufactured goods in December with a key category that signals investment plans falling by the biggest amount in five months. Orders for durable goods fell 4.3 percent in December compared with November, when orders had risen 2.6 percent, the Commerce Department reported. The weakness was led by a big 17.5 percent drop in the volatile category of commercial aircraft.

RETAIL

J.C. Penney on defensive

J.C. Penney is bolstering its shareholder rights plan, or “poison pill” — typically an effort to thwart takeover attempts. The shareholder rights plan can now be put into effect if an individual or group acquires 4.9 percent or more of its outstanding stock. That’s down from a 10 percent threshold. The corporate defense strategy allows existing shareholders to buy more shares at a very low price if that occurs. Penney said the purpose of lowering the threshold is to protect its ability to use certain funds that can be used for tax benefits. The Plano, Texas-based department store chain is cutting jobs and closing stores in an effort to return to profitability.

INVESTING

Shareholder has demands

Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. of Cleveland shareholder Casablanca Capital LP urged the biggest U.S. iron-ore producer to spin off foreign assets and double its dividend.

Compiled from staff and wire reports.


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