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Investors push up U.S. home sales

WASHINGTON » Investors lifted U.S. home sales last month, plunking down cash to grab cheap homes at risk of foreclosure. But purchases made by first-time homebuyers fell, a troubling sign for the weak housing market.

Sales of previously occupied homes rose in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.1 million, the National Association of Realtors said yesterday. That’s a 3.7 percent increase from the February pace, but far below the 6 million homes a year that economists say represents a healthy market.

Foreclosures or short sales — when the lender agrees to accept less than what is owed on the mortgage — rose to 40 percent of all purchases. And deals paid for entirely in cash accounted for 35 percent of all resold homes. The Realtors group says that’s the biggest percentage since it has been tracking all-cash sales.

New AT&T phone contracts dive

NEW YORK » AT&T Inc. used to draw in subscribers by the millions with the lure of the iPhone. Now, it’s mostly selling iPhones to its own customers, who are trading up from other AT&T phones.

The drop in recruitment from other carriers was made clear yesterday as AT&T said it added just 62,000 net new subscribers on contract-based plans in the first quarter, a record low. In many previous quarters, the number was above a million.

The difference is that Verizon Wireless started selling the iPhone on Feb. 10, ending 3 1/2 years of exclusivity for AT&T. AT&T said it activated 3.6 million iPhones, up from 2.7 million a year ago. Subscribers new to AT&T accounted for 23 percent of the iPhones, down from about 33 percent a year ago.

Apple earnings nearly double

NEW YORK » Apple Inc. reported yesterday another exceptional quarter, nearly doubling its net income and far exceeding analyst estimates on the strength of the seemingly unstoppable iPhone.

However, sales of Apple’s big new product, the iPad tablet computer, came in below expectations. The second version of the tablet launched three weeks before the end of the quarter, and manufacturing constraints may have prevented Apple from selling more of them.

Apple said net income for its fiscal second quarter, which ended in March, was $5.99 billion, or $6.40 a share, up 95 percent from $3.07 billion, or $3.33 a share, a year ago. Analysts polled by FactSet expected earnings of $5.37 a share.

The results were lifted by the record sale of 18.65 million iPhones, millions more than analysts expected.

American Air parent loses $436M

DALLAS » American Airlines lost $436 million in the first quarter as it battled rising jet fuel prices, foreshadowing huge losses at other U.S. airlines.

American responded to the grim numbers yesterday by announcing it will scale back plans to add new flights and retire at least 25 older, gas-guzzling planes later this year.

American’s parent, AMR Corp., lost $1.31 a share. Not counting one-time charges for sale-leaseback deals, the company said it would have lost $1.21 per share. Analysts, who usually exclude such items from their figures, expected a loss of $1.28 per share, according to research firm FactSet. A year ago, AMR lost $505 million, or $1.52 a share. Revenue rose 9.2 percent, to $5.53 billion, as passenger traffic improved modestly and fares rose since December.


New York Life Insurance Co. has announced the following new agents:

>> Douglas Kalani Akiu served in the U.S. Army Airborne Infantry for four years.

>> Diem “Emy” Pham majored in finance and investments at California State University, Long Beach. Akiu and Pham’s responsibility is to help families protect their financial future by using financial planning tools and life insurance products.

ProService Hawaii has promoted Chana Clark to director of marketing from marketing manager. Her responsibilities include the company’s marketing initiatives, overseeing sales coordinators and inside sales specialists and providing sales support management.

Maui Medical Group has appointed Dr. Vicki Anne Herrman to its pediatrics department. Her experience includes being a registered nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit and nursing house supervisor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

> First Hawaiian Bank Foundation has awarded a $50,000 grant to Pacific Buddhist Academy. Funds will go toward the construction of new classroom facilities.

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