The latest evidence that the housing market is recovering is sending stocks higher on Wall Street. The National Association of Realtors says the number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes rose in January from December to the highest level in almost three years. Gains for discount retailers also pushed indexes higher after Dollar Tree posted strong earnings.
- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is assuring members of Congress that the central bank has a handle on the risks and benefits of its low-interest-rate policies. Bernanke told the House Financial Services Committee today that the Fed's bond purchases are needed to boost a still-weak economy and that they have helped create jobs for average Americans. Republicans have concerns that the purchases could lead to inflation.
- Oil prices are little changed after the weekly report from the Energy Department. The Energy Information Administration says crude inventories increased by 1.1 million barrels, or 0.3 percent. Meanwhile, gasoline prices have risen to a national average of $3.79 a gallon. Alaska joins New York, California, Hawaii and the District of Columbia with averages above $4 a gallon.
- The head of the Federal Aviation Administration says he expects a recommendation from his staff next week on whether to accept Boeing's plan to fix its troubled 787 Dreamliners so that the planes can resume flying. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta says agency officials are reviewing a Boeing proposal to revamp the 787's lithium ion batteries to prevent the batteries from catching fire, or to protect the plane should a fire occur.
- Apple CEO Tim Cook is assuring shareholders that the company is working on some "great stuff" that may help reverse a sharp decline in its stock price. But Cook didn't provide any further product details during the company's annual shareholders meeting today at its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters. Apple's stock price has plunged by 36 percent since hitting its peak five months ago.
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