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Rising bond rates drag stock indexes lower; home prices in big cities surged in January

US home prices soared in January by most in seven years

The COVID-19 pandemic has fueled demand for single-family houses even as the supply for such homes shrinks. File/AP

Stocks mostly slip as rates turn up

NEW YORK — Rising Treasury yields put pressure once more on big technology companies on March 30, pulling U.S. stock indexes further below their recent all-time highs.

The S&P 500 lost 0.3 percent. Health care stocks also dragged down the market, outweighing gains by banks, industrial stocks and companies that rely on consumer spending. Smaller companies bucked the downward trend, powering the Russell 2000 index to a 1.7 percent gain.

Treasury yields perked higher after a report showed that consumers are feeling more confident than economists expected. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden was set to unveil details Wednesday about plans to spend what could be more than $3 trillion on infrastructure and other measures to help the economy and environment.

The consumer confidence report, and the prospect of more massive government spending, fueled a sell-off in U.S. bonds, driving their yields higher.

"This is spooking debt investors," said Megan Horneman, director of portfolio strategy at Verdence Capital Advisors.

US home prices soared in January

WASHINGTON — U.S. home prices increased at the fastest pace in seven years in January as the pandemic has fueled demand for single-family houses even as the supply for such homes shrinks.

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, released Tuesday, rose 11.1 percent in January from a year earlier. That's the biggest gain since March 2014. Prices rose in all 20 cities, and the 12-month increase was larger for all cities in January than in the previous month.

"January's data remain consistent with the view that COVID has encouraged potential buyers to move from urban apartments to suburban homes," said Craig Lazzara, Managing Director and Global Head of Index Investment Strategy at S&P DJI. It's not yet clear whether that trend will fade as the pandemic is brought under control, Lazzara said, or if there will be a permanent shift higher in demand.

The biggest price gain was in Phoenix, where home prices jumped 15.8 percent, followed by Seattle, with a 14.3 percent gain, and San Diego, at 14.2 percent.

Confidence among consumers surges in March

WASHINGTON — U.S. consumer confidence surged in March to the highest reading in a year, helped by increased vaccinations and more government economic support.

The Conference Board said Tuesday its consumer confidence index rose to 109.7 in March, the best showing since it stood at 118.8 in March of last year as the pandemic was beginning to hit the United States. The index stood at 90.4 in February.

The present situations index, based on consumers' assessment of current business and labor market conditions, rose to 110.0, up from 89.6 in February. The expectations' index, based on consumers outlook for income, business and labor market conditions also improved, rising to 109.6 in March, up from a reading of 90.9 in February.

Conference Board senior indicators director Lynn Franco said the significant improvement in the index and its two major components was a good sign for future economic growth.

"Consumers' renewed optimism boosted their purchasing intentions for homes, autos and several big-ticket items," Franco said. But he noted that concerns about inflation had also risen, likely because of rising gasoline prices, and this could temper spending in the months ahead.

IRS warns of scam aimed at schools

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service issued a warning Tuesday about a phishing scam targeting students and staff at educational institutions who have an ".edu" email address.

The IRS said it has received complaints about the scam aimed at students at both public and private, profit and non-profit institutions.

The fraudulent emails display the IRS logo and use various subject lines, such as "Tax Refund Payment" or "Recalculation of your tax refund payment." The emails ask people to click a link and submit a form to claim their refund. The phishing website then requests people provide personal information, such as their name, date of birth and Social Security number.

People who receive this scam email should not click on the link in the email, but they can report it to the IRS.

The IRS said taxpayers who believe they may have provided identity thieves with their information should consider immediately obtaining an Identity Protection PIN. An IP PIN is a six-digit number that helps prevent identity thieves from filing fraudulent tax returns in the victim's name.

Taxpayers who attempt to e-file their tax return and find it rejected because a return with their social security number already has been filed should file an Identity Theft Affidavit reporting themselves as a possible identity theft victim.

DraftKings buys sports betting video firm

LAS VEGAS — DraftKings has bought Vegas Sports Information Network, a multiplatform broadcast and content company delivering sports betting news, analysis and data to U.S. customers.

The acquisition provides more content for DraftKings, which has retail or online sports betting operations in 14 states. Terms of the deal were not released.

It continues a nascent trend in the industry of sports betting and gambling companies acquiring broadcast partners in an effort to reach more potential sports betting customers, a tactic employed last year by Bally's Corp. in partnering with Sinclair Broadcast Group.

VSiN, based in Las Vegas, develops, produces, and distributes up to 18 hours of live sports betting content each day. In addition to its 24/7 stream, VSiN's original content is accessible through multiple video and audio channels.

Its talent roster includes Brent Musburger, the sports broadcaster; and former NFL executive Michael Lombardi.

Brian Musburger, VSiN's CEO and his leadership team will continue to manage its day-to-day operations while maintaining editorial independence. DraftKings said it intends to fully integrate VSiN's current employee base located in Las Vegas, including its on-air talent, into its 2,600 person global workforce.

Virgin Galactic rolls out latest spaceship

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Virgin Galactic rolled out its newest spaceship Tuesday as the company looks to resume test flights in the coming months at its headquarters in the New Mexico desert.

Company officials said it will likely be summer before the ship — designed and manufactured in California — undergoes glide flight testing at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico. That will coincide with the final round of testing for the current generation of spacecraft, which will be the one that takes British billionaire and Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson to the fringes of space later this year.

CEO Michael Colglazier said the addition of the new ship marks the beginning of Virgin Galactic having a fleet that will one day be capable of ferrying paying customers and scientific payloads from spaceports around the globe. The company is still aiming for commercial operations to begin next year following testing and a few months of downtime for maintenance and other upgrades.

Virgin Galactic has reached space twice before.

Associated Press

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