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City ranks 2nd in home affordability

Fort Wayne is the second-most affordable place to buy a home in the country, according to a study by online financial news source 24/7 Wall St.

The company, which publishes more than 50 articles a day, used February data from to calculate median price per square foot for each of the nation’s 146 largest metropolitan statistical areas. Fort Wayne’s MSA includes Allen, Wells and Whitley counties.

Detroit placed first at $62.45 per square foot. Fort Wayne was second at $66.03. Toledo; Indianapolis; and Wichita, Kan., rounded out the top five. South Bend ranked sixth.

Least affordable MSA was San Francisco, where homebuyers pay $420.99 per square foot, on average. Honolulu; Washington, D.C.; San Jose, Calif.; and Jersey City, N.J. round out the bottom five.

Independent Alliance earnings up 20 percent

Independent Alliance Banks Inc. on Tuesday reported first-quarter earnings of $2.4 million, or $1.71 per common share, a 20 percent increase over the $2.0 million, or $1.41 a share, posted for the same three months of 2011.

The Fort Wayne-based holding company was established in 2005 and includes Grabill Bank and MarkleBank. Total assets were $964 million as of March 31.

The financial services company was able to reduce the amount of money it set aside for problem loans to $525,000 during the quarter just ended, compared with $660,000 for the prior year’s first quarter.

Mike Marhenke, president and CEO, described performance as strong and encouraging.

Unemployment drops in area Ohio counties

Unemployment dropped in the four northwest Ohio counties nearest Fort Wayne, based on data the state released Tuesday.

In Defiance County, March unemployment was 8.5 percent, down from 8.9 percent in February and 9.9 percent in March a year ago, the Office of Workforce Development said. In Paulding County, unemployment last month was 7.7 percent, down from 8.2 percent in February and 9.4 percent in March 2011. In Van Wert County, it was 7.9 percent, down from 8.6 percent in February and 9.5 percent in March last year. For Williams County, unemployment last month was 8.7 percent, down from 9.2 percent in February and 10.9 percent in March 2011.

U.S. new-home sales off 7 percent in March

Sales of new homes fell in March by the largest amount in more than a year, indicating that the U.S. housing market remains under strain.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday sales dropped 7.1 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 328,000 units. That followed a 7.3 percent increase in sales in February.

The report came the same day the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home-price index showed prices dropped in February from January in 16 of the 20 cities it tracks.

First Defiance earnings increase a robust 56%

First Defiance Financial Corp. reported first-quarter earnings of $4.2 million, or 37 cents per diluted common share, a 56 percent increase from the $2.7 million, or 25 cents a share, reported for the same three months of last year.

The Defiance, Ohio, company, released its earnings Monday. It is the holding company for First Federal Bank of the Midwest.