Money Matters - Simplified


Bruno Mars agrees to plea in drug case; dodges jail time

Singer/songwriter Bruno Mars, who’s currently facing a charge of possessing cocaine, has cut a deal with Las Vegas prosecutors, is all set to accept a plea deal that will allow him to pay a fine, serve probation and have a felony cocaine possession charge against him dismissed, according to multiple tabloid reports.

Home sales dropped in October

Washington -- Sales of new single-family homes fell 8.1 percent in October compared with September, the U.S. Commerce Department said Wednesday.

Home sales fell to 283,000 on an annual basis after reaching 308,000 in September. October's sales also came in 28.5 percent below the 396,000 posted in the same month a year ago.

The U.S. Federal Reserve, in minutes of its Nov. 3 policy meeting released Tuesday, said the housing market in August and September "remained exceptionally weak."

Despite historically low interest rates for mortgage contracts "consumer pessimism … the depressed rate of household formation and tight underwriting standards for mortgages" continued to drag on the market, the Fed said.

Ring plunges during proposal

Des Niubes, Wash. -- A Washington state man who proposed to his girlfriend on a marina pier said he accidentally dropped the ring into the water.

Travis Pittman, who popped the question to girlfriend Kim Hopper on a pier near the Des Moines Marina, said he attempted to put the ring on Hopper's finger after she accepted the proposal, but he lost hold of the ring and it fell, KING-TV, Seattle, reported Wednesday.

Pittman, a Web producer for KING-TV, said the ring took a "bizarre bounce" by Hopper's shoe and plunged into Puget Sound.

The future groom said a scuba diver has offered to search with an underwater metal detector.

Factory orders drop in Europe

Brussels -- New factory orders in the euro zone dropped 3.8 percent in September, Eurostat said Wednesday.

Orders fell after rising 5.1 percent from July to August. In the 27-member European Union, new orders dropped 2.5 percent, Eurostat said.

Core factory production, which excludes big-ticket transportation orders dropped 3.3 percent in the 16 countries that use the euro as currency and 0.7 percent in the larger EU.

From September 2009, orders were up 13.5 percent in the euro area and 13.4 percent in the EU. Excluding planes, trains and ships, orders from a year ago were up 15.6 percent in the euro zone and 5.2 percent in the EU.

Crude oil prices drop Monday

New York -- Crude oil prices dropped below $85 per barrel Monday, as a stock market rally fell flat with the dollar index rising 0.69 percent.

The Nikkei 225 index added 1.06 percent while the Shanghai composite index in China gained 0.97 percent Monday
Markets closed higher in Britain, France, Germany and Sweden. But the rally failed to carry across the Atlantic. The Dow Jones industrial average added 9.39 points or 0.08 percent, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index lost ground, falling 0.12 percent.

Controversial science award dropped

United Nations -- UNESCO has effectively canceled a proposed science award named after the president and long-time dictator of Equatorial Guinea, U.S. human rights groups say.

UNESCO's Executive Board -- on which 58 member countries have a seat -- adopted the proposal for a prize named after Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogoin in 2008 and accepted the president's offer of $3 million in prize money, reported.

Although a winner had already been accepted, the board decided to postpone implementation of the award after an outcry from human rights and science groups.

Obiang has ruled Equatorial Guinea since leading a 1979 coup in which his predecessor -- his uncle -- was killed.

U.S. airlines slash tarmac delays sharply

Washington -- U.S. airline delays leaving passengers stranded on runways dropped sharply in August compared to a year ago, the Department of Transportation said.

In August 2009, there were 66 flights with passengers were stranded in planes for more than 3 hours, the DOT said. In August 2010, there was only one such incident, the department said Tuesday.

U.S. airlines made the improvement without any change in the rate of canceled flights, which could have affected the data.

The lone flight delay that left passengers stranded past the DOT maximum was a United Airlines flight leaving San Juan, Puerto Rico, that was a diverted flight.

Couple find, return lost wedding ring

Austin, Texas -- A Texas widow who dropped her diamond wedding ring in a store parking lot said the couple who found and returned the ring restored her "faith in mankind."

Mary Hornsby, 73, whose husband, Michael, died while training for the Vietnam War in 1965, said she searched the parking lot of the Costco store in Austin after the 1-carat diamond ring slipped off her finger Monday morning but saw no sign of it, the Austin American-Statesman reported Thursday.

Farmer sued for too many veggies

Decatur, Ga. -- A Georgia farmer being sued by his county for growing too many vegetables says the charges should have been dropped following a rezoning of the area.

Steve Miller said Dekalb County code enforcement officers began citing him in January for growing too many crops for his farm's zoning, and for having employees without permits on site. He said he stopped growing vegetables while rezoning was in progress during the summer, WSB-TV, Atlanta, reported Monday.

Miller said the charges were put on hold during the rezoning process, but the county began pursuing the nearly $5,000 in fines two weeks after the rezoning. Officials said Miller was in violation prior to the rezoning.

Retail sales lack that 'cold, wet' spark

Washington -- Sales at U.S. retail chains dropped sightly in week ending Sept. 4, the International Council of Shopping Centers said Wednesday.

Sales fell 0.4 percent compared to the previous, but sales rose 1.8 percent compared to the same week a year ago, ICSC said.

Hot weather again "curbed" the appetite for fall weather clothing, the report said. Weather Trends International reported the week was the 15th consecutive week with weather hotter than both the same week a year ago and the week's historic average.