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January 6, 2013 | By Kenneth R. Harney
WASHINGTON —With all the nail biting over fiscal policy and the economy in the closing weeks of 2012, you might have missed some of the positive trends under way for real estate. Start with home equity. It's growing again significantly after five years of declines and stagnation. This is a huge piece of good news that hasn't received much attention. After hitting a low of $6.45 trillion in the final three months of 2011, Americans' combined home equity jumped nearly $1.3 trillion during the next nine months to $7.71 trillion — a 20% gain — according to the "flow of funds" quarterly estimate released in December by the Federal Reserve.
January 1, 2013 | By Tom Petruno
Global financial markets overcame a torrent of fears in 2012 to post strong gains nearly across the board. Returns on most categories of stock mutual funds were in double digits. The average domestic equity fund generated a total return (price change plus dividend income) of 15%, after losing 2.5% in 2011, according to investment research firm Morningstar Inc. It was the third calendar-year gain in the last four years, as the bull market that began in March 2009 rolled on. Bond mutual funds also posted positive returns as market interest rates continued to slide, boosting the value of older bonds issued at higher rates.
December 20, 2012 | By Andrew Tangel
NYSE Euronext, operator of the New York Stock Exchange, has agreed to sell itself to the IntercontinentalExchange in an acquisition that would reshape Wall Street. ICE, a 12-year-old electronic exchange operator based in Atlanta, will pay $33.12 a share for NYSE Euronext in a stock-and-cash deal worth $8.2 billion. The companies announced the acquisition early Thursday, saying both of their boards or directors unanimously approved the deal. The acquisition is slated to close in the second half of 2013, pending the blessing of U.S. and European regulators and both companies' shareholders.
December 18, 2012 | By Tiffany Hsu and Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times
Retailers are pulling back on sales of assault weapons and investors are abandoning gun makers' stocks as the nation's grief focuses on the funerals of the 20 children and six adults killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School rampage in Newtown, Conn. Calling the deadly assault "tragic and devastating," private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management said Tuesday that it will sell its 95% stake in Freedom Group Inc., which makes the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle that police said was used in the attack.
November 15, 2012 | By Alejandro Lazo
Rising home prices are helping trim the ranks of underwater homeowners in Los Angeles and Orange counties, a new report by real estate information company Zillow Inc. says. There were an estimated 438,012 homes underwater in Los Angeles and Orange counties in the third quarter. A home is underwater when the outstanding debt on the property is more than what the home would fetch in a sale. That represented about 25.9% of homes with mortgages in the region, down from 28.9% in the second quarter.  The website estimates that there is roughly $58.9 billion worth of negative equity in the two counties.  In a news release, Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries said the decrease in negative equity should help homeowners looking to refinance out of costly loans or sell their properties.
November 1, 2012 | By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times
KAPOLEI, Hawaii - For all those visitors to Waikiki Beach who see Honolulu as a South Sea paradise, Maeda Timson would like to invite them to climb into her minivan and drive for a moment in her world. She leaves her home in this fast-growing suburb every morning at 6:20 for what has become an hour and a half commute to her job as vice president at Bank of Hawaii in downtown Honolulu. Sometimes it takes two hours to go the 23 miles. "Where's the quality of life?" Timson said.
October 11, 2012 | By Robert Greene
They didn't go there. Did they? Did the No on 31 campaign , funded mostly by organized labor and backed by the California Democratic Party, really invoke the "Tea Party" as being on the right (right as in “correct”) side of the issue? Did they really cite fringy populist conservatives who worry about a United Nations takeover of California? Yeah, they kinda did. How else would you interpret the Google ad that says “Learn why California Democrats and Tea Party both say vote No”?
October 7, 2012 | By Stuart Pfeifer, Los Angeles Times
With interest rates at near-record lows, these have not been good times for investors looking to generate low-risk income. Money-market accounts are paying an average of 0.5%. (Think about that: A $1-million deposit into an average money-market will yield a whopping $5,000 a year.) Even five-year CDs are yielding just 1.5% on average. So, where's an income-hungry investor to turn? One option is high-yield bonds, which are paying about 6% but carry risk that issuing companies may default, eroding the bonds' value.
October 6, 2012 | Shan Li
In a swift overhaul, top officials of troubled teen clothier Wet Seal Inc. - including the chairman - were ousted and replaced by board members handpicked by an activist shareholder that directed the coup. The Foothill Ranch retailer, which operates about 550 mall-based stores under the Wet Seal and Arden B. brands, has been under attack for months by its third largest shareholder, New York City private equity firm Clinton Group. "The company now has a newly formed board where the majority have specialty retail experience," Greg Taxin, managing director of Clinton Group, said in an interview.
October 1, 2012 | By Andrew Tangel
NEW YORK -- Stocks rallied 1% in early trading, as investors saw more reasons to be optimistic about Europe's debt crisis. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 143 points, or 1.1%, to 13,581 shortly after the opening bell on Wall Street. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 15 points, or 1.1%, to 1,456. The Nasdaq was up 28 points, or 0.9%, to 3,144. Stress tests of Spain's troubled banks reportedly turned out better than expected. Investors also digested a report showing U.S. manufacturing increased in September, following three months of decline.
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