Sept 19 - Summary of business headlines: Housing hopes keep building, breaks Wall Street losing streak; 3M cautious on economy; Oil prices in worst slump since 2011; America's richest get richer in Forbes list. Conway G. Gittens reports.
Wall Street gains ground as housing shows further sign of improving. Gains were paltry but enough to snap a two-day losing streak for the broader market. Sales of previously owned homes jumped in August by the fastest pace in two years. But even more importantly, home prices rose from a year ago. Beth Ann Bovino of Standard & Poor's: SOUNDBITE: BETH ANN BOVINO, DEPUTY SENIOR ECONOMIST, STANDARD AND POOR'S RATINGS SERVICES (ENGLISH) SAYING: "You would want to look at, in terms of how this trend will last, what's happening with inventories. Inventories for new homes and existing homes are well below where they were during recession highs. So we are unwinding a lot of that inventory that's been sitting there. That's good for the future. If inventories are unwound and people are interested in buying then that means sales are going to increase and also prices as well." One other piece of housing-related news: the number of new homes under construction increased in August. The gain, though, not as strong as anticipated as groundbreaking on multi-family homes fell. Oil suffered one of its biggest sell-offs in more than a year. U.S. stockpiles saw the largest one-week gain since March, the Saudis hint they will boost supplies in order to keep oil prices low, and there's continued speculation the U.S. could release oil from its strategic reserve. Those factors helped push oil prices to a loss of more than six bucks over three days. On the corporate front: 3M says the "economic environment has changed", which in effect puts the company's long-term growth targets in jeopardy. America's wealthiest were 13 percent wealthier in the past year, according to Forbes annual list of the 400 richest Americans. One notable change Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg dropped to No. 14 from 36 after his company's disastrous stock debut. Speaking of losing money, London bankers saw their annual bonuses cut by 11 percent last year compared to the year before, in data released by the UK government. Tighter regulations and tougher economic conditions are blamed for smaller pay outs. As for markets in the U.K. and across European - stocks rallied for the first time this week. Conway Gittens, Reuters