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Home sales decline to lowest since 2014

U.S. sales of existing homes fell in January from a year earlier by the most in more than three years. Would-be buyers were stymied by rising prices and a shortage of homes for sale.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that sales dropped 3.2 percent from December to January, the second straight monthly decline, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.38 million. That was the slowest sales pace since September. Compared with 12 months earlier, sales dropped 4.8 percent — the steepest year-over-year decline since August 2014.

A lack of available homes is holding back sales, even as Realtors report that more people are visiting open houses and demand is strong. The total supply of homes for sale dipped to 1.52 million, the fewest for any January since records began in 1999.

The Realtors' group also said many homeowners are reluctant to sell at a time of rising mortgage rates because they would have to pay a higher rate on a new house, a phenomenon known as "rate lock."

The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate reached 4.38 percent last week, the highest in nearly four years.

 

Broadcom lowers bid for Qualcomm deal

Broadcom trimmed its hostile takeover offer for Qualcomm on Wednesday in the wake of the San Diego company agreeing to pay more for Dutch automotive chip maker NXP Semiconductors.

But Broadcom said it remains committed to acquiring Qualcomm even with NXP in tow.

Broadcom's new offer is $79 per share — $57 in cash and $22 in Broadcom stock — should NXP be included in the deal.

Its original offer of $82 per share stands if Qualcomm can't close NXP, which makes chips used in cars and is a key cog in the San Diego company's growth strategy to diversify its business beyond smartphones.

The $82 per share offer consists of $60 in cash and $22 in Broadcom stock.

 

Google digital assistant to include Nest camera

Google's voice-activated assistant is branching out to Nest's deluxe security camera in an expansion that may amplify the privacy concerns surrounding internet-connected microphones.

The virtual assistant is being offered to owners of the Nest Cam IQ in a free update rolling out Wednesday. The move comes just two weeks after Nest moved back under Google's direct control after spending nearly 2 1/2 years as a separate company owned by the same parent, Alphabet Inc.

The $300 Nest Cam will give Google another potentially valuable earhole in its battle with Amazon and Apple to build digital command centers in people's home.

 

White House predicts 3 percent economic growth

The White House's top economist said Wednesday the U.S. could achieve annual growth rates of 3 percent through the next decade if President Donald Trump's policies on regulations and infrastructure are enacted.

The Council of Economic Advisers released its annual economic report, which praises the effects of the tax cuts and tax overhaul signed into law by Trump last December. The report forecasts an overall average annual growth rate of 2.2 percent through 2028.

But with the "full implementation of the Administration's agenda," including the implementation of the tax law, additional cuts to regulation and a sweeping infrastructure plan, the projected growth rate reaches 3 percent through the next decade, said the report. The economic projections are more subdued than the bold predictions made by the president in recent months. Trump suggested in December he saw "no reason why we don't go to 4 percent, 5 percent, and even 6 percent."

The report says Trump's "pro-growth policy agenda," including the tax cuts and efforts to cut regulations, "have inspired enormous confidence in the economy and optimism that it will continue thriving."

 

Priceline changing name to Bookings

Priceline is changing its name to Booking Holdings Inc., citing its expansion into numerous international brands over the last 20 years.

The change at the former Priceline Group Inc. is effective immediately. The company will begin trading under the ticker symbol "BKNG" on Feb. 27.

The travel website company operates in more than 220 countries. It said Booking.com, its largest brand, has more than 1.5 million properties and averages a million bookings per day.

The company's websites include Booking.com, priceline.com, KAYAK, agoda.com, Rentalcars.com and OpenTable, which acquired the former Quickcue in Chattanooga for $11.5 milion in 2013.

Booking Holdings will still be based in Norwalk, Conn.

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