Housing and auto market news tops our roundup of the day's top business news stories.
Pending Home Sales Dip in June
The National Association of Realtors reports Wednesday that a gauge of pending home sales fell 1.8 percent last month. the trade group's index reached a seasonally adjusted 110.3 in June, fown from 112.3 in May. June is the first index decrease in six months.
Ford on the Road to Record Year with Record Quarterly Profit
Ford Motor Co.'s net income jumped 44 percent to $1.9 billion in the second quarter. In North America, fully-loaded versions of the Ford Explorer, Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX SUVs drew buyers, who paid an average of $37,013 for the new Edge crossover in the second quarter, or $1,683 more per vehicle than they were paying for the outgoing model last year, the Associated Press notes. Ford reported that buyers of the bestselling F-150 paid an average of $3,800 more per truck in the second quarter, loading them up with pricey features, including a 360-degree camera and adaptive cruise control. Globally, the new S-Max wagon in Europe, the Ka small car in South America and the Mustang sports car in China also fetched higher prices. Ford pulled off a record quarterly profit of $2.6 billion in North America despite those dealerships weren't fully stocked with the F-150 pickup.
Case-Shiller Home Price Index Up Almost 5 Percent
The 20-city Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller home price index climbed a less-than-forecast 4.9 percent in May from a year ago. May figures are the latest available. Analysts anticipated an increase of almost 6 percent. An improving economy has paved the way for increased home sales in recent months, but this has not translated to more people selling their homes, according to the Associated Press, which cites Census Bureau data released Tuesday that found the proportion of Americans owning their own homes is at the lowest level since 1967. Home prices gained the most in Denver, where year-over-year appreciation was 10 percent, followed by San Francisco (9.7 percent) and Dallas (8.4 percent).
Pell Grants for Prisoners
As part of a broader push for prison reform and a bid to cut recidivism, the Obama administration plans to restore federal funding for prison inmates to take college courses. The money would go to the prisons and not the prisoners and would come in the form of Pell grants, which were created for low-income individuals and do not have to be repaid. Congress passed legislation in 1994 banning government student aid to prisoners in federal or state institutions. By setting up proposed "experimental sites," the administration would be seeking to get around the ban with its 3-to 5-year pilot program, the Associated Press reports. Supporters of the initiative point to a Rand study that found inmates who took part in education programs behind bars had 43 percent lower odds of returning to prison than inmates who had not.
EPA Ordered to Relax Emissions Limits in 13 States
The Environmental Protection Agency was ordered Tuesday by a federal appeals court to relax some limits it set on smokestack emissions that cross state lines and taint downwind areas with air pollution from power plants. But the court did uphold the EPA's right to impose the clean-air standards, rejecting an argument by states and industry groups that the rule was overly burdensome, the Associated Press reports. The ruling orders the EPA to redo sulfur-dioxide and nitrogen-oxide standards for 13 states, mostly in the South and Midwest, that contribute to soot and smog along the East Coast. Texas and South Carolina would see limits for both forms of pollution adjusted, while new limits for either sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxide would be set in 11 other states: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
Toyota is Bugged! Volkswagen Now World’s Largest Automaker
Volkswagen surpassed Toyota as the world's largest automaker in the first half of 2015, USA TODAY reports. Volkswagen sold 5.04 million vehicles in the first six months of the year, edging Toyota's 5.02 million. General Motors, formerly the world's biggest automaker, is now firmly entrenched in the No. 3 slot. Toyota will survive. Its operating profit margin for its 2015 fiscal year, which ended March 31, was 10.1 percent. Volkswagen's global operating profit margin was 6.3%.