but still worried
U.S. homebuilders’ confidence in the housing market held this month at its highest level in nearly eight years. But builders are starting to worry that sales may slow if mortgage rates continue to rise.
The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Tuesday registered at 58 this month. That’s unchanged from August, which was revised down from an initial reading of 59.
Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good, rather than poor.
In the latest survey, which included 264 respondents, a measure of current sales conditions was unchanged, while a gauge of traffic by prospective buyers rose one point. But builders’ outlook for single-family home sales over the next six months fell three points.
Mortgage rates have risen more than a full percentage point since May, when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke first indicated the Fed could slow its $85 billion a month in bond buying this year.
22 firms paying
$14.4M to feds
Twenty-two investment firms are paying a total of $14.4 million to settle federal charges of improperly short-selling certain stocks and buying them soon after in public offerings.
The Securities and Exchange Commission announced the settlements Tuesday. One of the best-known is the hedge fund D.E. Shaw & Co., which agreed to pay $465,986 in restitution plus interest and a $201,506 penalty.
Short-selling is a bet that a stock will lose value. Short-sellers borrow shares and agree to sell them in hopes that the share price will fall. They can then buy the shares at a lower price, return them to the lender and pocket the difference.
SEC rules prohibit short-selling a stock in the five business days before a public offering and then buying that stock in the offering.
Microsoft said Tuesday that its board approved a 22 percent increase in the company’s quarterly dividend to 28 cents along with a new $40 billion stock buyback program.
The new dividend represents an increase of 5 cents over the world’s largest software company’s previous dividend. It will be paid on Dec. 12 to shareholders of record as of Nov. 21.
The increase in the dividend will cost Microsoft an extra $416 million per quarter, based on the 8.33 billion shares that FactSet says the company has outstanding.