Business briefs: Manatee-Sarasota housing cools slightly

December 20, 2013 

Housing market may be more balanced

MANATEE COUNTY -- Sales of existing homes in the Manatee Sarasota area stayed flat month to month for the first time this year, a hint that the market may be stabilizing as prices and mortgage interest rates rise.

Year over year the median sales price increased 11 percent to $165,000 and sales on non-distressed existing homes were up 10 percent. Sale prices on distressed or foreclosed homes were up 5 percent month over month, but up 14 percent over the same time last year to a median of $114,000.

November's slowdown in sales could mean the market is becoming more balanced as investors -- typically cash buyers -- looking for bargains pull back and homebuyers have an opportunity to take their time house shopping. Still Florida remains one of the top states for cash sale. States with the highest percentage of cash sales were Florida at 62.7 percent, Georgia at 51.3 percent, Nevada at 51 percent, South Carolina at 50.3 percent and Michigan at 49 percent, according to RealtyTrac, a real estate data firm.

500K with canceled health plans lack coverage

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration says less than a half million people whose health insurance has been canceled in recent months have not signed up for other coverage.

Officials say that number could shrink in the coming days. People have until Dec. 23 to purchase insurance and ensure they have no gap in coverage when their current plans expire at the end of the month.

The cancellations have become a nagging problem for the White House. President Barack Obama repeatedly promised that people who liked their insurance could keep it under the new health law.

However, more than 4 million people had their plans canceled because they didn't meet the law's new requirements. Some of those people are purchasing new plans through their insurance company or the government exchanges.

Stocks pause day after powerful surge

NEW YORK -- U.S. stock indexes ended up pretty much where they started Thursday, a day after a powerful surge.

Stocks gained the most in more than two months Wednesday after the Federal Reserve said it would reduce its bond-buying program to $75 billion a month from $85 billion. Investors saw the decision as a vote of confidence in the economy.

"It's good for the economy, and it's good for the market, to start standing on its own two feet," said Natalie Trunow, chief investment officer for stocks at Calvert Investments.

Financial markets were still digesting the Fed's move on Thursday. While stocks were holding close to record levels, Treasury yields climbed, the dollar rose and gold slumped to its lowest in more than three years.

Major U.S. stock indexes started the day lower, moved gradually higher throughout the day and closed essentially flat.

-- Herald staff and wire reports

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