Business News

Last Update on May 24, 2016 17:04 GMT

NEW HOME SALES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Americans ramped up their purchases of new homes in April to the highest level since January 2008, evidence of a strong start to the spring buying season.

The Commerce Department says new home sales jumped 16.6 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted rate of 619,000, up from just 531,000 in the previous month. March's total was revised higher.

Steady job gains and low mortgage rates have encouraged more Americans to buy new homes. That trend is driving home construction and helping support the economy.

The new home sales figures are notoriously volatile, particularly on the regional level. Last month, new home purchases leapt 53 percent in the Northeast and 19 percent in the West. They fell 5 percent in the Midwest and jumped 16 percent in the South.

CONGRESS-IRS COMMISSIONER

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A leading House Republican says IRS chief John Koskinen (KAHS'-kihn-ihn) should be impeached for misleading lawmakers probing his agency's admitted mistreatment of conservative groups and allowing damaging evidence to be destroyed.

Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz (CHAY'-fits) told the House Judiciary Committee today, "Providing false testimony before Congress comes with a consequence, at least it should. It's a crime."

Koskinen said in a written statement that the charges are unfounded. And he said assurances to lawmakers that all emails congressional investigators were seeking had been preserved -- which turned out to be untrue -- were made before he knew data containing the emails had been destroyed.

Republicans blocked Koskinen's statement from being formally admitted as testimony.

TWITTER CHANGES

NEW YORK (AP) -- Twitter is giving users more room to express themselves.

In coming months, photos, videos and other media won't count against what is now a 140-character limit. That means more wordy tweets are on the way.

The change, announced Tuesday, is yet another attempt by the San Francisco company to make its messaging service easier to use and to attract new users.

Twitter Inc. has struggled for years to find a cure for slow user growth. The number of people using Twitter is less than one fifth those actively using its rival, Facebook.

Last year, it launched a channel called "Moments" that brings together hot topics in one place. And earlier this year, it tweaked its timeline to show tweets that users may have missed while they were away.

FRANCE-GOOGLE

PARIS (AP) -- French police say they've raided Google's Paris offices as part of an investigation into "aggravated tax fraud" and money laundering.

The raid is the latest regulatory headache for the American search engine-and-email company, which like other Silicon Valley firms faces increasing questions about its complex tax arrangements.

France's financial prosecutor's office says the raids were carried out with the help of the police anti-corruption unit and 25 information technology experts.

Google and other American technology companies typically base their European subsidiaries in Ireland or other low-tax jurisdictions such as Luxembourg, allowing them to do business with customers across the continent while minimizing their fiscal obligations -- a technique known as profit-shifting.

Google says in a statement that, "We comply with French law and are cooperating fully with the authorities to answer their questions."

EUROPE-BEER MERGER

LONDON (AP) -- The European Union's regulator has given the go-ahead to the proposed merger of Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller, clearing another hurdle for the combination of the world's two biggest beer makers.

The deal is conditional on selling practically the entire SAB beer business in Europe.

European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager says today's decision will "ensure that competition is not weakened in these markets and that EU consumers are not worse off."

The EU says Europeans buy around $140 billion worth of beer annually.

BRITAIN-ECONOMY

LONDON (AP) -- Bank of England Governor Mark Carney is defending his decision to warn of the economic risks of leaving the European Union.

In a heated exchange before a parliamentary committee today, lawmaker Jacob Rees Mogg accused Carney of colluding with Britain's government in delivering a stark warning that recession may result from a British exit from the 28-nation trading bloc. Rees Mogg has called for Carney to be fired for acting irresponsibly.

Carney rejected the charges, arguing that he had a responsibility to warn the Treasury chief about economic risks and to take the matter "straight to the British people."

Carney's intervention was important because he's seen as independent and above the political fray swirling around the June 23 vote on whether Britain should stay or leave the EU.

EUROPE-BANKS

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- A new report says European banks are likely to struggle to make profits the in months ahead and may need to cut costs, merge or change their business strategies to return to solid health.

In its review of financial stability in the 19-country eurozone, the European Central Bank says the region's banking system weathered volatility in markets at the start of the year. But it says "euro area banks continue to be confronted with an outlook of low profitability," weighed down by low interest rates, a tepid recovery in the euro countries, and by large numbers of bad loans in some countries.

The ECB, which is responsible for overseeing banks as well as interest-rate policy in the eurozone, warns that some banks may need to cut costs further or merge with other banks. Some banks might need to shift their business models to different activities to make money in the current environment.

EARNS-BEST BUY

NEW YORK (AP) -- A strong start to the year from Best Buy was overshadowed by a lengthening string of declining quarterly sales and a pessimistic outlook that added to a chorus of woes from the retail sector.

The chain's shares dropped nearly 4 percent before the market opened today.

For the three months ended April, the consumer electronics retailer earned $229 million. A year earlier the company earned $129 million.

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