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Briefs

Foreclosure crisis eases in March

The number of U.S. homes repossessed by lenders last month fell to the lowest level in more than five years, the latest evidence that the nation’s foreclosure crisis is abating amid an improving housing market.

While some states still saw increases in homes taken back by banks, nationally home repossessions fell 3 percent in March from the previous month and were down 21 percent from a year earlier, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

Thirty-four states posted annual declines in completed foreclosures. Among those bucking that trend: Arkansas, Maryland, Washington and Pennsylvania.

All told, lenders repossessed 43,597 homes last month, the lowest level since September 2007.

At the current monthly pace, completed foreclosures will total roughly 550,000 this year, down from 671,000 last year, RealtyTrac said.

Building permits up slightly in county

The Home Builders Association of Fort Wayne said there were 65 Allen County residential construction requests in March, compared with 60 permits the same month a year ago.

The average construction price was $226,186 in March, compared with $251,514 in March 2012. Year-to-date figures show 160 permits this year, compared with 120 residential building requests in 2012 – a 33 percent increase.

In February, Home Builders Association President Charlie Giese pointed to the Tuscany subdivision in Perry Township as a major reason for the increase. Tuscany is a 156 single-family residential project.

Cold March keeps spending tepid

So much for new spring shorts and T-shirts. As cold weather lingered across most of the country, Americans shopped modestly in March.

U.S. retailers reported a key revenue figure rose slightly during the month, as shoppers held back on spending because of the cold weather across the nation, particularly the Midwest and East Coast, and continued fears about the economy. According to a preliminary tally of 15 retailers by the International Council of Shopping Centers, revenue in stores open at least a year rose 1.4 percent, or 2.2 percent excluding drugstores. That was below expectations, said Michael Niemira, chief economist at the council.

Jobless aid claims slacken to 346,000

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to a seasonally adjusted 346,000, signaling that the job market might be stronger than March’s weak month of hiring suggested.

Applications for unemployment aid dropped 42,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. The decline nearly reversed an increase over the previous three weeks. The four-week average, a steadier measure, rose 3,000 to 358,000.

Automakers hit with air bag recall

Six automakers, including Toyota, Honda and Nissan, are recalling nearly 3.4 million older-model vehicles worldwide because of defective air bags that can send shrapnel flying into the passenger compartment.

The recall mainly affects cars sold by Japanese automakers in North America, Europe and Japan. A small number of cars made by Germany’s BMW AG and General Motors Co. are also involved.

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