Housing construction numbers fall sharply
WASHINGTON -- Housing construction and new building permits were down sharply in October, providing fresh evidence that rising mortgage rates are beginning to cool the five-year housing boom. The Commerce Department reported Thursday that construction of new homes and apartments fell by 5.6 percent last month, the biggest decline in seven months. Applications for new building permits, a good sign of future activity, fell by 6.7 percent, the biggest decline in six years.
CHICAGO -- Conrad Black, who once controlled the Hollinger International media empire, was charged with three other executives Thursday with looting millions of dollars from the company, cheating on taxes and dipping into corporate coffers to finance his lavish lifestyle. An arrest warrant was issued for the 61-year-old Black, a former Canadian citizen who is now a member of the British House of Lords. Federal prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald said that if he fails to appear before the judge to answer the charges the government will seek to have him extradited. Hollinger International Inc. owns the Chicago Sun-Times and other publications in the United States and Canada.
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Hewlett-Packard Co.'s fiscal fourth-quarter profit fell 62 percent after the computer and printer company took a $1.1 billion charge for a massive restructuring it announced in July. Still, the results announced Thursday exceeded expectations and HP shares gained 6 percent. Aside from the one-time expense, all the company's business units reported revenue growth.
DETROIT -- DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group said Thursday it will give two years of free gas to customers who buy a 2005 or 2006 vehicle before Jan. 3, following announcements of new discounts by rivals General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. Chrysler will also kick in two years of free scheduled maintenance and increase the warranty on mechanical parts to five years or 60,000 miles. The offer begins Monday.
LOS ANGELES -- Net income at media conglomerate The Walt Disney Co. dropped 26 percent in the fourth quarter after several charges, including the expensing of stock options. Disney said Thursday that profit increased at its media networks division, which includes the ABC network and ESPN cable channel, as well as at its theme parks. But profit fell at Disney's studio, which sold fewer DVDs worldwide, and its consumer products division.
SEATTLE -- Consumers' appetite for Starbucks Corp.'s lattes and other delicacies continued to grow in the company's fiscal fourth quarter, pushing earnings up 21 percent. For the 13 weeks ended Oct. 2, the Seattle coffee retailer said it earned $123.7 million, or 16 cents per share, up from $102.6 million, or 12 cents per share, in the 14-week period a year earlier. Revenue for the company's fiscal fourth quarter increased 14 percent to $1.66 billion, up from $1.45 billion in the comparable period last year. Starbucks said a number of offerings, ranging from its core coffee beverages to its popular music CDs, helped propel growth during the fiscal year.
-- From wire reports