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Briefs

787 battery short cited in inquiry

An investigation into a lithium-ion battery that overheated on a Boeing 787 flight in Japan last month found evidence of the same type of “thermal runaway” seen in a similar incident in Boston, officials said Tuesday.

The Japan Transportation Safety Board said that CAT scans and other analysis found damage to all eight cells in the battery that overheated on the All Nippon Airways 787 on Jan. 16, which prompted an emergency landing and probes by both U.S. and Japanese aviation safety regulators.

They also found signs of short-circuiting and “thermal runaway,” a chemical reaction in which rising temperature causes progressively hotter temperatures. U.S. investigators found similar evidence in the battery that caught fire last month on a Japan Airlines 787 parked in Boston.

Service sector growth cools down in January

Growth at U.S. service companies slowed slightly in January behind weaker new orders and business activity. But hiring improved, a bright sign for the economy.

The Institute for Supply Management said Tuesday that its index of non-manufacturing activity dipped to 55.2 in January.

That’s down from 55.7 in December, which was the highest level in nearly a year.

Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The modest decline from December’s strong reading suggests the industry was not greatly hampered by an increase in Social Security taxes that reduced take-home pay for most Americans.

Companies didn’t single out the rise in payroll taxes in the survey, said Anthony Nieves, chair of the ISM’s survey committee.

The report measures growth in industries that cover 90 percent of the workforce, including retail, construction, health care and financial services.

Toyota Motor hikes fiscal profit forecast

Toyota Motor Corp. raised its fiscal year profit forecast Tuesday to triple what it eked out for the disaster-struck previous year, as the world’s top automaker continued on a comeback roll as sales surged, especially in the U.S.

Toyota’s October-December profit jumped 23 percent to $1.09 billion, compared with the same period the previous year.

Quarterly sales edged up 9 percent to $58 billion.

Underlining its solid recovery, Toyota is now expecting fiscal year profit of $9.3 billion. It had initially expected a $8.5 billion profit.

Toyota also raised its sales forecast for the fiscal year through March, to $237 billion, up 17 percent from the previous fiscal year.

Home prices surge by most in 6 1/2 years

U.S. home prices jumped by the most in 6 1/2 years in December, spurred by a low supply of available homes and rising demand.

Home prices rose 8.3 percent in December compared with a year earlier, according to a report Tuesday from CoreLogic, a real estate data provider. That is the biggest annual gain since May 2006. Prices rose last year in 46 of 50 states.

Home prices also increased 0.4 percent in December from the previous month. That’s a healthy increase given that sales usually slow over the winter months.

Steady increases in prices are helping fuel the housing recovery.

They’re encouraging some people to sell homes and enticing prospective buyers to purchase homes before prices rise further.

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