The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, February 24, 2021 1:00 am


Sales soar for Home Depot amid pandemic

News services

The housing market was among the few bright spots for the U.S. economy in 2020 and Home Depot became its supplier, racking up an unprecedented $132 billion.

Sales grew even stronger in the final quarter of the year, surging 25%, to $32.26 billion. That is up from $25.78 billion in the same period last year.

Home improvement stores became a beehive during the pandemic with millions working from home and attending school remotely. Many families concluded that bigger homes, or at least different homes, were the answer in 2020.

Home Depot Inc. earned $2.86 billion, or $2.65 per diluted share, for the three months ended Jan. 31 compared with $2.48 billion, or $2.28 per diluted share, a year earlier. Earnings, adjusted for costs related to mergers and acquisitions, were $2.74 per share. 

US home prices jump 10.1% in year

U.S. home prices surged at the fastest pace in nearly seven years in December, fueled by low mortgage rates and Americans moving from crowded urban areas to the suburbs.

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, released Tuesday, climbed 10.1% in December from a year earlier. The year-end jump was the biggest since April 2014 and follows a strong 9.2% year-over-year gain in November.

The housing market has been resilient throughout the pandemic, helped by rock-bottom rates on home loans. The average rate on the benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage ticked up to 2.81% last week from 2.73% but remains well below where it was a year earlier – 3.49%.

Puerto Rico leader rejects debt move

Puerto Rico's governor announced Tuesday that a federal control board reached a key deal that would reduce the U.S. territory's overall debt by nearly 80%, but his administration is rejecting it amid concerns about cuts to the island's crumbling public pension system.

The impasse between Gov. Pedro Pierluisi and a board that oversees Puerto Rico's finances threatens to throw into limbo attempts to end a bankruptcy-like process for a government that six years ago declared unpayable its more than $70 billion public debt load.

Puerto Rico accumulated the debt after decades of mismanagement, corruption and excessive borrowing to balance budgets.

Facebook lifts ban on news in Australia

Facebook announced Tuesday it would lift a ban on Australians viewing and sharing news on its platform after it struck a deal with the government on proposed legislation that would make digital giants pay for journalism.

The social media company caused alarm with its decision last week to block news on its platform across Australia after the House of Representatives passed the draft law. Initially, the blackout also cut access to government pandemic, public health and emergency services, fueling outrage.

Facebook's cooperation is a major victory in Australia's efforts to make Google and Facebook pay for the journalism they use – a faceoff that governments and tech companies the world over have watched closely. Google also had threatened to remove its search functions from Australia because of the proposed law, but that threat has faded.

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