HOUSING

Signed contracts surge

The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes shot up in May. But the pace of buying this year remains slower than in 2013, in part because of sluggish sales during winter.

The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose 6.1 percent last month. It was the sharpest month-over-month gain since April 2010.

In Ohio, the one-month gain was even sharper: a 9 percent increase.

Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases. A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a contract and a completed sale.

Lower mortgage rates and increased supplies of homes on the market drove much of last month’s gains. Signed contracts rose in every U.S. region.

The housing market is finally showing signs of momentum, though overall buying remains slower than last year.

RETIREMENT

Many plans underfunded

A federal agency says that despite an improving economy, retirement plans covering roughly 1.5 million U.S. workers are severely underfunded, threatening benefit cuts for current and future retirees.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation says that the most at risk are multi-employer plans, which are collectively bargained retirement plans maintained by more than one employer.

At the same time, the agency says the financial condition of single-employer pension plans — covering about 30 million participants — are on firmer footing and are likely to see their finances remain solvent and even improve.

The report concludes that as shaky as the situation is for the underfunded multi-employer plans, the outlook is slightly better than a year ago.

OIL/GAS

Devon sells off assets

Oil and gas exploration company Devon Energy Corp. is selling some U.S. oil and gas properties to Linn Energy LLC for $2.3 billion.

The properties include those in the Rockies, onshore Gulf Coast and Mid-Continent regions, Devon said Monday. The sale is part of a transformation plan the company announced last year in which it was looking to sell noncore assets.

ACQUISITIONS

PPG buys peer in Mexico

PPG Industries Inc. agreed Monday to buy Consorcio Comex SA for about $2.3 billion, picking off the Mexican coatings and paint maker that competitor Sherwin- Williams Co. failed to buy because of antitrust issues.

Acquiring closely held Comex will give PPG paint-making capacity in Mexico and Central America and sales through about 3,600 stores in the region, Pittsburgh-based PPG said in a statement.

FARMING

Less corn, more soybeans

American farmers have planted less corn than in any year since 2010 but more soybeans than ever, as expected.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says in its annual Acreage Report released Monday that farmers planted 91.6 million acres of corn. That’s 4 percent less than last year but still the fifth-largest corn crop planted since 1944. Analysts expected some farmers to devote more acreage to soybeans because of a drop in corn prices.

The USDA says farmers planted a record high 84.8 million acres of soybeans, up 11 percent from last year. Record soybean acres have been planted in nine states, including Ohio.

Seventy-six percent of the corn crop is in good to excellent condition, compared with 63 percent last year.

WALL STREET

Stocks close quarter quietly

U.S. stocks closed out another strong quarter Monday, giving the Standard & Poor’s 500 index its sixth consecutive quarterly gain.

The market was mixed on the day as trading was muted ahead of the July Fourth holiday in the U.S.

The S&P 500 edged down less than a point to close at 1,960 Monday, two points below the record high it set June 20. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 25 points to 16,826. The Nasdaq composite rose 10 points to 4,408.

Compiled from staff, wire reports