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Home sales agreements rose 8.2 percent in May

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of people who signed contracts to buy homes rose sharply in May. But the influx of spring buyers wasn't enough to signal a rebound in the struggling housing market.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that its index of sales agreements for previously occupied homes rose 8.2 percent last month, to a reading of 88.8. The increase followed April's seven-month low of 82.1.

A reading of 100 is considered healthy by economists. The last time the index reached that level was in April 2010, the final month when buyers could qualify for a federal tax credit. Signings are now 17 percent above June's reading of 75.9, the lowest figure since the housing market went bust nearly four years ago.

The Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors has not yet released pending sales information for May.


News Corp. selling Myspace

News Corp. agreed to sell Myspace, its money-losing social network, to Specific Media Inc. for $35 million, said a person with knowledge of the auction.

News Corp., controlled by Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch, will keep a 5 percent stake as part of that total consideration, said the person, who wasn't authorized to speak publicly.

The sale rids Murdoch of a website that lost its lead in social networking to Facebook Inc. after being acquired in 2005 in a $580 million deal. News Corp. had sought about $100 million for Myspace after Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey said in February that he wanted a deal completed by the June 30 end of the parent company's fiscal year.

-- Bloomberg News


General Mills' news is mixed

General Mills Inc., one of the nation's largest food companies, reported Wednesday that its fourth-quarter profit rose 51 percent as higher prices boosted its revenue.

However, the maker of Cheerios, Lucky Charms and other foods warned that those price hikes will not be enough to offset higher ingredient and energy costs this fiscal year, and it issued an outlook that fell short of expectations.

Food makers have struggled with soaring costs on everything from wheat to fuel, and they've raised prices to cope.

General Mills said it earned $320.2 million, or 48 cents per share, for the fourth quarter. That's up sharply from the $211.9 million, or 31 cents per share, it earned in the same period last year. Adjusted earnings increased to 52 cents per share from 41 cents per share, meeting analysts' average forecast, according to FactSet.

Revenue rose 3 percent to $3.63 billion, narrowly missing Wall Street's estimate of $3.66 billion.


BJ's agrees to sale

NEW YORK -- About five months after putting itself up for sale, BJ's Wholesale Club Inc. said Wednesday it has agreed to be bought by Leonard Green & Partners and CVC Capital Partners for about $2.8 billion.

BJ's stockholders will receive $51.25 for each share they own.

The offer represents a 6.6 percent premium to the company's closing price Tuesday but below its 52-week high of $52.46 reached in May.

Natick, Mass.-based BJ's has 190 membership-based warehouse clubs in 15 states in the Eastern U.S. With $10.6 billion sales last year, it trails behind Costco Wholesale Corp. and Walmart Stores Inc.'s Sam's Club in size.

-- McClatchy


James OKs buyback

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Raymond James Financial Inc. agreed to buy back at least $280 million in auction rate securities from investors in a settlement with regulators from seven states and the federal government that was announced Wednesday.

The St. Petersburg-based firm agreed to pay 100 percent of what investors paid for the securities, but it didn't admit or deny allegations of dishonest or unethical conduct.

Florida, Texas, Indiana, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and South Carolina participated in the investigation along with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

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