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BUSINESS
March 2, 2014 | By E. Scott Reckard
Southern California home building is stuck at historic lows, one of many factors conspiring against middle-class buyers in a recovery marked by high prices and low supply. Despite explosive price gains last year, builders and their Wall Street financiers remain hesitant to make big bets on the rebound. The slow construction is among many hurdles facing buyers seeking affordable homes. Cash-rich investors - many of them buying homes to rent out, rather than resell - have eaten into supply, especially at the lower end of the market.
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BUSINESS
February 28, 2014 | By Andrew Khouri
Pending home sales remained essentially flat nationwide last month, indicating that tight inventory and high prices continue to weigh on buyers. The National Assn. of Realtors said Friday that its pending sales index rose 0.1% in January from the month before to a reading of 95. Since January 2013, the index fell 9%. Lawrence Yun, the Realtors group's chief economist, said that severe weather across much of the U.S. held back sales, but that it wasn't the only factor. QUIZ: How much do you know about mortgages?
BUSINESS
February 28, 2014 | By Chris O'Brien
The little hockey-puck-sized Apple TV has turned into a big business.  During the company's annual shareholders meeting on Friday, Chief Executive Tim Cook said Apple TV had generated $1 billion for the company in its last fiscal year.  That figure includes sales of the $99 Apple TV unit as well as the content people are purchasing over it.  "It's a little bit harder to call it a hobby," Cook said. That was a reference to Cook's previous habit of saying the company considered Apple TV a "hobby" whenever someone tried to prod him into talking about his plans for the device.
BUSINESS
February 28, 2014 | By James Barragán
Tia Smith clutched her new phone in one hand and a phone case in the other as she shopped at a West Hollywood Best Buy. She clicked away into her smartphone's tiny screen and searched for the case in other nearby stores. "I'm trying to buy this Otter phone case for my new phone," she said. "But I'm trying to see if Target or Wal-Mart has it for cheaper so they can honor the price match," she said, as she scrolled through Target's mobile site on her new phone. As more people turn to their smartphones and tablets when they're thinking about making a purchase, retailers and marketing companies are rushing to figure out ways to transform these mobile browsers into buyers.
BUSINESS
February 26, 2014 | By Andrew Khouri
Sales of newly built homes rose unexpectedly last month, bucking a cooling trend in the housing recovery. New homes sales rose 9.6% from December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 468,000, the U.S. Commerce Department said Wednesday. Sales are up 2.2% from a year earlier. Economists had expected sales to fall last month, but instead they rose to the highest level since July 2008. The unexpected surge injects fresh optimism into a cooling housing market.  The figures follow a string of dour housing reports that indicated falling demand.
ENTERTAINMENT
February 26, 2014 | By Carolyn Kellogg
This week the erotic "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy reached a huge milestone: It sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. Forty-five million of those books were bought by readers in the U.S. The 100-million mark puts E.L. James' bestselling series on par with Ian Fleming's James Bond series. But the first Bond book, "Casino Royale," was published more than 50 years ago; "Fifty Shades of Grey" debuted in 2011. Originally self-published, "Fifty Shades of Grey" gained even wider reach after being picked up by Vintage, an imprint of Random House, in 2012.
BUSINESS
February 26, 2014 | By Tiffany Hsu
The massive theft of Target Corp. customer data contributed to a huge drop in fourth-quarter profit as the retailer scrambled to win back the trust of consumers and shore up its hobbled payments system. The Minneapolis-based chain reported that profit was nearly halved from a year earlier to $520 million and revenue slid 5% to $21.5 billion. Target also racked up $61 million in expenses related to the hack, though it expects all but $17 million of that to be covered by insurance.
BUSINESS
February 26, 2014 | By Andrew Khouri
More California homes went under contract last month, as buyers showed signs of life heading into the spring season. Pending home sales across the state rose 22.9% from December, the first increase since October, the California Assn. of Realtors said Wednesday. The January figures boost confidence in a market that cooled after a torrid rebound early last year. Buyers have struggled with low inventory, higher mortgage rates and sharply higher prices. That has raised questions about just how robust the upcoming spring home-buying season will be.  Quiz: How much do you know about mortgages?
BUSINESS
February 25, 2014 | By Jessica Guynn
SAN FRANCISCO -- Facebook is in talks with two gun control groups that are pressuring the giant social network to crack down on illegal gun sales and trades. "We are talking with a number of organizations around our policies on guns," a Facebook spokesman said. Facebook also noted that it's common for the company to engage with advocacy groups concerned about hate speech, bullying and other hot-button issues. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group backed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have stepped up their demands after recent gun arrests were tied to sales of guns facilitated through Facebook.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
February 24, 2014 | By Maura Dolan
SAN FRANCISCO - Party hosts who ask guests to pay a cover charge to defray costs may be held legally responsible if an underage drinker becomes intoxicated and hurts himself or others, the California Supreme Court decided Monday. In a unanimous ruling, the high court said a cover charge amounts to a sale of alcohol, and state law creates liability for those who sell alcohol to obviously intoxicated minors. The decision, which overturned two lower court rulings, is most likely to affect student parties, where underage drinking and cover charges are common.
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