2020 home sales best since 2006
Sales of existing homes rose 0.7% in December, pushing the entirety of 2020 to a pace not seen in 14 years and providing one of the few bright spots for a U.S. economy mired in a global pandemic.
Rising sales in the final month of the year lifted activity to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.76 million units in December, the National Association of Realtors reported Friday.
For all of 2020, sales rose to 6.48 million, the highest level since 2006 at the height of the housing boom. That represented a 5.6% gain from the 5.34 million previously owned homes sold in 2019.
The median sales price was $309,800 in December, up 12.9% from a year ago.
China manufacturer to hire 205 workers in Georgia
A manufacturer of plumbing fixtures and outdoor furniture will open a factory and warehouse northeast of Atlanta, investing $45 million and hiring 205 people.
Spring Mountain Center announced Friday that it would begin construction near Winder later this year.
The company is affiliated with a Chinese company, said Barrow County Economic Development Director Lisa Maloof. It makes faucets, shower heads, toilets, outdoor grill cabinets and outdoor furniture, according to its website.
Spring Mountain CEO Jie Xiang said the company wants to create a domestic supply chain and get closer to American consumers to better understand their needs. The company supplies U.S. brands including Kohler and Hansgrohe.
Maloof said workers will make more than $20 an hour, on average.
The 275,000 square-foot (25,000 square-meter) facility will be the first occupant in an industrial park Barrow County developed.
IRS pushes back 2020 tax filings
The start of tax filing season is postponed by a couple of weeks this year, but the government says it expects to pay most refunds reasonably quickly.
Typically, the IRS begins accepting and processing individual income tax returns in late January. But the agency has pushed back the start of filing to Feb. 12 for returns for the tax year 2020.
The shift was needed, the IRS said, to allow the agency to update and test its systems to reflect late-year tax changes approved by Congress, including a second round of economic stimulus payments.
"This start date will ensure that people get their needed tax refunds quickly while also making sure they receive any remaining stimulus payments they are eligible for as quickly as possible," IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig said.
Russian firm may aid Parler get back online
Parler LLC, the social media app popular with Trump supporters and conspiracy theorists, is attempting to get back online with the help of a Russian company whose clients include an internet service provider to Russian intelligence, raising concerns about the conservative social forum's security if it ever formally returns.
U.S-based Parler began working with DDoS-Guard on Jan. 17 after getting cut off from Amazon Web Services. The Russian company offers its customers cybersecurity services and web hosting, which includes reserving website names, collecting platform data and piecing it together to present on the internet.
Publicly available internet information shows Parler's data flows through a DDoS-Guard server registered to an address in Belize, which cybersecurity experts believe is a tool to protect the true identity and location of Parler's web host. The Russian company declined to say what services it's offering Parler.
Nevertheless, cybersecurity researchers said Parler's relationship with DDoS-Guard — which has fulfilled contracts with several government entities including the state-owned telecommunications company TransTeleCom Co ZAO — raises concerns that its millions of users could be susceptible to surveillance if the platform returns online. Russian telecommunications companies play an essential role in the government's digital surveillance program, SORM, which requires service providers and carriers to install backdoors to state intelligence.
"Most people would be afraid of being fronted by Russians, but Parler actually signed up for it," said Justin Shattuck, senior security solutions engineer at Resilience Cyber Insurance Solutions. "It's a little crazy."
Twitter bans account that threatened Trump
Twitter said on Friday it had permanently banned what it called a "fake" account thought to be connected to the office of Iran's supreme leader, shortly after a posting that seemed to threaten former President Donald Trump.
In the image posted late Thursday by the account linked to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Trump is shown playing golf in the shadow of a giant drone, with the caption "Revenge is certain" written in Farsi.
In response to a request for comment from The Associated Press, a Twitter spokesman said that the tweet had violated the company's "abusive behavior policy," and that the account had violated its "manipulation and spam policy."
In a later statement, he said Twitter had determined the account was "fake," without elaborating how it came to the conclusion.
— Compiled by Dave Flessner