REAL ESTATE

Home price growth

slowed in October

U.S. home price growth slowed in October, a likely consequence of higher mortgage rates having worsened affordability and causing sales to fall.

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 5 percent from a year earlier, down from an annual gain of 5.2 percent in September, according to a Wednesday report.

Home prices have dropped as would-be buyers are struggling to afford homes. Prices have consistently climbed faster than wages, a challenge that was overcome until last year by historically low mortgage rates. But borrowing costs began to rise last year after President Donald Trump cut taxes by increasing the budget deficit and the Federal Reserve hiked interest rates.

"Prospective home buyers can no longer sustain the demand that propped up aggressively rising home prices," said Cheryl Young, a senior economist with the real estate firm Trulia. "With little sign that home buyers' purchasing power will strengthen into 2019, expect the housing market to stagnate well into next year."

FOOD INDUSTRY

False organic claims

ripping off thousands

Prosecutors say thousands of individuals and businesses were victims of a large-scale scheme in which ordinary corn and soybeans were fraudulently marketed nationwide as "certified organic."

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said in a filing Wednesday that potentially "tens of thousands" were defrauded by Randy Constant and his associates into paying a premium for products that they didn't want.

Constant, of Chillicothe, Missouri, and three others have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Constant, who owned an Iowa grain brokerage, acknowledged that he sold $142 million worth of corn, soybeans and wheat over a 7½ year period that wasn't organic despite his representations.

Constant was aware that most of his product was grown using non-organic methods. The buyers included companies who processed the grain into other products that were marketed as organic.

 

ENVIRONMENT

Maui County, Hawaii,

bans foam containers

A Maui County law banning a common way of serving up popular plate lunches takes effect at the end of the year.

Maui is the first Hawaii county to ban polystyrene foam containers. The ban takes effect on the Big Island on July 1.

Starting Dec. 31, Maui businesses won't be allowed to use or sell foam food containers, including hinged clamshell containers, plates, bowls and cups. Polystyrene food containers still may be used for raw or butchered meats, poultry, fish or eggs — food that needs further preparation to eat, according to the county.

Supporters have said the measure will reduce pollution. Opponents have said small businesses and consumers will face higher costs for biodegradable containers.

County officials have been sending informational packets to businesses and attending public hearings, the Maui News reported. An estimated 2,000 businesses will be affected by the new law, said Tamara Farnsworth of the county's Department of Environmental Management.