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New home sales plunge in November

BY HBSDEALER Staff

New home sales fell 9 percent in November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 647,000 — the lowest annual rate in 12 years — according to a report released Friday by the U.S. Commerce Department.

Economists had forecast November sales at an annual rate of 715,000, which would have represented a 1.8 percent drop. The actual rate of 647,000 was the lowest since 621,000, recorded in April 1995.

Year over year, new home sales were 34.4 percent lower than in November 2006, representing the largest year-to-year decline since January 1991.

New home sales in the Midwest region were particularly weak, falling 27.6 percent to the slowest pace since July 1991. Sales also decreased in the South (6.4 percent) and Northeast (19.3 percent), but rose in the West (4 percent).

In addition, the median price for a new home decreased by 0.4 percent to $239,100. The ratio of new houses for sale to houses sold rose during November to 9.3, from 8.8 in October.

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Platinum Equity terminates PPG auto glass agreement

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Platinum Equity notified Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries of its intention to terminate its contract to purchase PPG’s automotive glass and services businesses as of Dec 31, 2007.

PPG said that Platinum Equity also filed suit with the Supreme Court of the State of New York, alleging the Platinum group is not obliged to consummate the agreement.

While the company did not comment on the specifics of the litigation, PPG said it intends to enforce its rights under the agreement with Platinum Equity.

PPG said that in the event the transaction does not close with the Platinum group, it would continue to explore other strategic alternatives for the automotive and services businesses with the goal of maximizing shareholder value.

PPG is a global supplier of paints, coatings, chemicals, optical products, specialty materials, glass and fiberglass.

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Former hardware store owner charged with fraud

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office has charged Erik Joseph, the former owner of Seaport Hardware in South Boston, of larceny and fraud in a scheme involving his customer’s credit card numbers. The 46-count indictment, announced on Dec. 19, involves $290,894 in fraudulent charges. The investigation is ongoing.

“The amount of evidence was so massive that the sitting grand jury only had time to hear testimony regarding American Express transactions,” the announcement said. “Visa, MasterCard and debit transactions will be heard by another grand jury.”

According to the district attorney’s office, Joseph began the scam in 2001 and continued it for the next six years. Prosecutors believe he set up dozens of shell businesses, each with its own credit card merchant number, bank account routing number and mailing address. Using the credit card numbers of his hardware store’s customers, Joseph would then key in transactions that billed unsuspecting cardholders for multiple sales that were just under $200, according to the charges.

At the beginning of the scheme, Joseph would wait four to six months before billing the victims, the indictment said. In 2006 and 2007, the time delay disappeared and accounts were being maxed out within days of the cardholders’ visits to Seaport Hardware. Once the credit card company had transferred funds to the bank account linked to the transaction, Joseph would drain the account and leave the victims unable to reclaim the money, according to the charges.

Joseph was arrested on Nov. 27 at his home. His arraignment is set for Jan. 15.

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