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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Toll bros kills it

Toll Brothers, Inc. (NYSE:TOL) (www.tollbrothers.com), the nation's leading builder of luxury homes, today announced results for its first quarter ended January 31, 2015.
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FY 2015 First Quarter Financial Highlights:
  • FY 2015's first quarter net income was $81.3 million, or $0.44 per share, compared to net income of $45.6 million, or $0.25 per share, in FY 2014's first quarter.
  • Pre-tax income was $124.0 million, compared to pre-tax income of $71.2 million in FY 2014's first quarter.
  • Revenues of $853.5 million and home building deliveries of 1,091 units rose 33% in dollars and 18% in units, compared to FY 2014's first quarter. The average price of homes delivered was $782,300, compared to $693,600 in FY 2014's first quarter.
  • Net signed contracts of $873.2 million and 1,063 units rose 24% in dollars and 16% in units, compared to FY 2014's first quarter. The average price of net signed contracts was $821,500, compared to $766,100 in FY 2014's first quarter.
  • Backlog of $2.74 billion and 3,651 units rose 2% in dollars and was approximately flat in units, compared to FY 2014's first-quarter-end backlog. The average price of homes in backlog was $750,300, compared to $732,900 at FY 2014's first-quarter end. At FY 2015's first-quarter end, the Company also had a backlog of $295.8 million and 128 units in unconsolidated home building joint ventures in which the Company is a 50% partner.
  • Gross margin, excluding interest and write-downs, improved to 27.3%, compared to 24.4% in FY 2014's first quarter.
  • SG&A leverage (SG&A as a percentage of revenue) improved to 12.5%, compared to 15.2% in FY 2014's first quarter.
  • Income from operations improved to 11.4% of revenue, compared to 4.9% of revenue in FY 2014's first quarter.
  • Other income and Income from unconsolidated entities totaled $26.9 million, compared to $39.5 million in FY 2014's first quarter.
  • The Company ended its first quarter with 258 selling communities, compared to 263 at FYE 2014, and 238 at FY 2014's first-quarter end. The Company still projects to end FY 2015 with between 270 and 310 selling communities.
  • At FY 2015's first-quarter end, the Company had approximately 45,300 lots owned and optioned, compared to approximately 47,200 at FYE 2014 and approximately 51,200 one year ago.
  • In updating its guidance, the Company now expects to deliver between 5,200 and 6,000 homes in FY 2015 at an average price of $725,000 to $760,000, compared to previous guidance of 5,000 to 6,000 homes at an average price of $710,000 to $760,000. This compares to 5,397 deliveries in FY 2014 at an average price of $725,000.
  • The Company, as per prior guidance, projects full FY 2015 gross margins (pre-interest and pre-impairments) of approximately 26%, which is consistent with FY 2014.
Douglas C. Yearley, Jr., Toll Brothers' chief executive officer, stated: "Momentum (MMBF) continues to build as we begin the spring selling season. In our first quarter, we achieved 24% growth in the dollar value of signed contracts. Since the start of the second quarter, the number of signed contracts is up 13%.
"We continue to benefit from our ongoing geographic diversification strategy. While we remain the dominant luxury builder in the suburban Washington, DC to Boston corridor, our growth in the West and South and in urban centers has expanded our brand into more locations and product lines.
"Our California presence has increased significantly with the acquisition of Shapell Homes and several other well-timed Coastal California land purchases. This quarter, California produced 29% of the value of our signed contracts at an average price of approximately $1.1 million. Texas contributed 11% of the value of contracts with the Dallas division the main contributor. Our City Living division contributed 5% of the value of contracts at an average unit price of $2.3 million.
"We are optimistic about earnings growth in FY 2016. This guidance is based on the high quality of our land positions, continued strong sales, particularly in California, and projected delivery growth from City Living buildings in New York City in FY 2016."
Martin P. Connor, Toll Brothers' chief financial officer, stated: "Our gross margin, SG&A leverage and operating margin all improved significantly this quarter compared to one year ago. Our first quarter gross margin was particularly strong, due to a large number of high-priced deliveries from our Hoboken and New York City Living divisions.
"Subject to our normal caveats regarding forward-looking statements, we offer the following guidance: We project full FY 2015 (pre-interest and pre-impairment) margins to be approximately 26%, consistent with our previous guidance. In our second quarter, we project delivering approximately 32% of units from our first-quarter-end backlog at an average price of $720,000 to $740,000. With three months of sales behind us, we are updating our delivery guidance for the full FY 2015 to a range of 5,200 to 6,000 homes at an average price of $725,000 to $760,000, compared to our previous guidance of a range of 5,000 to 6,000 homes at an average price of $710,000 to $760,000. We still expect to end FY 2015 with between 270 and 310 communities as we position the Company for future growth."
Robert I. Toll, executive chairman, stated: "We are encouraged by the latest data from the Labor Department indicating strong job and wage growth momentum and also the Census Bureau's recent monthly reports showing solid growth in household formations, all of which are good for housing demand.
"More jobs and better jobs should boost household formations and provide a basis for stronger housing demand. With the latest release from the National Association of Realtors citing home price appreciation, our buyers, who often are selling a home to move up, will have more money to invest in their new home and more potential customers to buy their existing home. Another positive data point comes from the Conference Board, which said consumer confidence in January reached its highest level since August 2007. We believe these positive macroeconomic trends, coupled with recent Federal initiatives to increase mortgage availability, should support housing's recovery."
Doug Yearley stated: "Last week, Toll Brothers (TOL) was recognized as the Most Admired Home Builder in Fortune magazine's annual survey of the World's Most Admired Companies. This recognition speaks not only to the quality of our homes and communities, but also to the core of our business culture, our financial strength, our personnel, and our corporate management strategy. We salute all our Toll Brothers colleagues for their tremendous commitment to our customers and the hard work that led to this honor."
Bob Toll continued: "We were also recently named America's Most Trusted Home Builder" from among 133 U.S. home builders, based on a study of 43,200 new home shoppers in the nation's top 27 housing markets conducted by Lifestory Research. Since Toll Brothers began back in 1967, we have sought to build a brand whose foundations are quality and trust. I believe we have succeeded. Congratulations to all our Toll Brothers associates on these significant awards."
Toll Brothers' financial highlights for the FY 2015 first quarter ended January 31, 2015 (unaudited):
  • FY 2015's first-quarter net income was $81.3 million, or $0.44 per share diluted, compared to FY 2014's first-quarter net income of $45.6 million, or $0.25 per share diluted.
     
  • FY 2015's first-quarter pre-tax income was $124.0 million, compared to FY 2014 first-quarter pre-tax income of $71.2 million. FY 2015's first-quarter results included pre-tax inventory write-downs totaling $1.1 million ($0.9 million attributable to operating communities and $0.2 million attributable to future communities). FY 2014's first-quarter results included pre-tax inventory write-downs of $2.0 million ($1.3 million attributable to an operating community and $0.7 million attributable to future communities).
     
  • FY 2015's first-quarter total revenues of $853.5 million and 1,091 units increased 33% in dollars and 18% in units from FY 2014's first-quarter total revenues of $643.7 million and 928 units.
     
  • The Company's FY 2015 first-quarter net signed contracts of $873.2 million and 1,063 units, increased 24% in dollars and 16% in units, compared to FY 2014's first-quarter net signed contracts of $701.7 million and 916 units.
     
  • On a per-community basis, FY 2015's first-quarter net signed contracts was 4.09 units per community, compared to first quarter totals of 3.95 in FY 2014, 4.34 in FY 2013, 2.86 in FY 2012 and 2.81 in FY 2011.
     
  • In FY 2015, first-quarter-end backlog of $2.74 billion and 3,651 units increased 2% in dollars and was approximately flat in units, compared to FY 2014's first-quarter-end backlog of $2.69 billion and 3,667 units.
     
  • Excluding write-downs and interest, FY 2015's first-quarter gross margin improved to 27.3% from 24.4% in FY 2014's first quarter. FY 2015's first-quarter gross margin, including write-downs and interest, improved to 23.8% from 20.1% in FY 2014's first quarter.
     
  • Interest included in cost of sales declined to 3.3% of revenue in FY 2015's first quarter from 4.0% in FY 2014's first quarter.
     
  • SG&A as a percentage of revenue improved to 12.5%, compared to 15.2% in FY 2014's first quarter.
     
  • Income from operations of $97.1 million represented 11.4% of revenues in FY 2015's first quarter, compared to $31.8 million and 4.9% of revenues in FY 2014's first quarter.
     
  • Other income and Income from unconsolidated entities in FY 2015's first quarter totaled $26.9 million, including an $8.1 million gain from the sale of home security accounts to a third party by the Company's wholly-owned Westminster Security Company, compared to $39.5 million in FY 2014's same quarter, which included $23.5 million related to the sale of two shopping centers in which Toll Brothers was a 50% partner.
     
  • FY 2015's first-quarter cancellation rate (current-quarter cancellations divided by current-quarter signed contracts) was 5.6%, compared to 7.0% in FY 2014's first quarter. As a percentage of beginning-quarter backlog, FY 2015's first-quarter cancellation rate was 1.7%, compared to 1.9% in FY 2014's first quarter.
     
  • In FY 2015's first quarter, unconsolidated home building joint ventures in which the Company is a 50% partner delivered 27 units totaling $19.3 million of revenues, compared to 15 units totaling $11.6 million of revenues in the first quarter of FY 2014. The Company recorded its share of the results from these entities' operations in "Income from Unconsolidated Entities" on the Company's Statements of Operations.
     
  • In FY 2015's first quarter, unconsolidated home building joint ventures in which the Company is a 50% partner signed 20 contracts for $30.7 million, compared to 11 contracts for $7.8 million in FY 2014's first quarter.
     
  • At January 31, 2015, unconsolidated home building joint ventures in which the Company is a 50% partner had a backlog of $295.8 million and 128 units, compared to $42.4 million and 58 units at January 31, 2014.
     
  • The Company ended its FY 2015 first quarter with $511 million in cash and marketable securities, compared to $598 million at FYE 2014, and $1.20 billion at FY 2014's first-quarter end. At FY 2015's first-quarter end, the Company had $933 million available under its $1.035 billion, 15-bank credit facility, which matures in August 2018.
  • The Company's Stockholders' Equity at FY 2015's first-quarter end increased 9.4% to $3.96 billion, compared to $3.62 billion at FY 2014's first-quarter end.
     
  • The Company ended its FY 2015 first quarter with a net debt-to-capital ratio(1) of 41.5%, compared to 41.3% at FYE 2014 and 34.1% at FY 2014's first-quarter end. After the closing of the Shapell acquisition in early February 2014, the Company had a pro forma net debt-to-capital ratio of approximately 47.0%.
     
  • During the first quarter of FY 2015, the Company repurchased approximately 201,000 shares of its common stock at an average price of $31.08 for a total purchase price of $6.2 million.
     
  • The Company ended FY 2015's first quarter with approximately 45,300 lots owned and optioned, compared to 47,200 one quarter earlier, 51,200 one year earlier and 91,200 at its peak at FY 2006's second-quarter end. Approximately 36,100 of these 45,300 lots were owned, of which approximately 15,600 lots, including those in backlog, were substantially improved.
     
  • In the first quarter of FY 2015, the Company purchased 1,352 lots for $233.9 million.
     
  • The Company ended FY 2015's first quarter on January 31, 2015, with 258 selling communities, compared to 263 at FYE 2014 and 238 at FY 2014's first-quarter end. The Company still expects to end FY 2015 with between 270 and 310 selling communities.
     
  • Based on FY 2015's first-quarter-end backlog and the pace of activity at its communities, the Company now estimates it will deliver between 5,200 and 6,000 homes in FY 2015, compared to previous guidance of 5,000 to 6,000 units. It believes the average delivered price for FY 2015 will be $725,000 to $760,000 per home, compared to the previous guidance of $710,000 to $760,000.
     
  • In the second quarter of FY 2015, the Company projects delivering approximately 32% of units from its first-quarter-end backlog at an average price of $720,000 to $740,000.
     
  • The Company projects full FY 2015 gross margins (pre-interest and pre-impairments) of approximately 26%, which is consistent with FY 2014 results, excluding charges.
     
  • In FY 2015's first quarter, Gibraltar Capital and Asset Management, the Company's wholly owned subsidiary that invests in distressed loans and real estate, reported pre-tax income of $1.0 million, compared to $3.3 million of income in FY 2014's first quarter.
     
  • At FY 2015's first-quarter end, the Company had five rental apartment projects under construction totaling approximately 1,900 units through joint ventures in which the Company's ownership ranges from 25% to 50%. The Company has begun leasing units in two of these projects.

Home Depot Reports

Home Depot ®, the world's largest home improvement retailer, today reported sales of $19.2 billion for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2014, an 8.3 percent increase from the fourth quarter of fiscal 2013. Comparable store sales for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2014 were positive 7.9 percent, and comp sales for U.S. stores were positive 8.9 percent. http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnvar/20030502/HOMEDEPOTLOGO
Net earnings for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2014 were $1.4 billion, or $1.05 per diluted share, compared with net earnings of $1.0 billion, or $0.73 per diluted share, in the same period of fiscal 2013. For the fourth quarter of fiscal 2014, diluted earnings per share increased 43.8 percent from the same period in the prior year.
Fourth quarter of fiscal 2014 results reflect a pretax gain on sale of $111 million, or $0.05 per diluted share, related to the sale of a portion of the Company's equity ownership in HD Supply Holdings, Inc. Adjusting for the gain on sale, diluted earnings per share were $1.00 for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2014, up 37.0 percent from the same period in the prior year.
Fiscal 2014

Sales for fiscal year 2014 were $83.2 billion, an increase of 5.5 percent from fiscal year 2013. Total company comparable store sales for fiscal year 2014 increased 5.3 percent, and comp sales for U.S. stores were positive 6.1 percent for the year.
Earnings per diluted share in fiscal year 2014 were $4.71, compared to $3.76 per diluted share in fiscal year 2013, an increase of 25.3 percent.
Fiscal 2014 results reflect a pretax gain on sale of $323 million, or $0.15 per diluted share, related to the sale of a portion of the Company's equity ownership in HD Supply Holdings, Inc. Fiscal 2014 results also reflect a pretax net expense of $33 million, or $0.02 per diluted share, related to the Company's 2014 data breach, of which $5 million was recognized in the fourth quarter.
"We had a strong finish to the year, as strength across the store, the recovering U.S. housing market and solid execution aided our business in 2014," said Craig Menear, chairman, CEO and president. "I'd like to thank our associates for their hard work and commitment to our customers."
Capital Allocation Strategy
The Company today announced that its board of directors declared a 26 percent increase in its quarterly dividend to $0.59 cents per share. "The board increased the dividend for the sixth time in as many years, representing our commitment to create value for our shareholders," said Menear. The dividend is payable on March 26, 2015, to shareholders of record on the close of business on March 12, 2015. This is the 112th consecutive quarter the Company has paid a cash dividend.
The board of directors also authorized an $18.0 billion share repurchase program, replacing its previous authorization. Since 2002 and through February 1, 2015, the Company has returned more than $53 billion of cash to shareholders through repurchases, repurchasing approximately 1.2 billion shares.
Combined with today's announcements, the Company reiterated its capital allocation principles:
  • Dividend Principle: Targeting a dividend payout ratio of approximately 50 percent.
  • Share Repurchase Principle: After meeting the needs of the business, will use excess cash to repurchase shares, with the intent of completing $18.0 billion of share repurchases by the end of fiscal 2017.
  • Return on Invested Capital Principle: Maintain a high return on invested capital, with a goal of reaching 27 percent by the end of fiscal 2015.
Fiscal 2015 Guidance
Given the significant strengthening of the U.S. dollar, the Company provided a range of sales, comp sales and diluted earnings-per-share growth to reflect the difference between 2014 average exchange rates and current exchange rates. If currency exchange rates remain where they are today, this would cause a negative impact to fiscal 2015 net sales growth of approximately $1 billion, as well as a negative impact on diluted earnings per share of approximately $0.06 per share. The low-end of the Company's sales and diluted earnings-per-share growth guidance reflects this currency impact.
  • Sales growth of approximately 3.5 to 4.7 percent
  • Comparable store sales growth of approximately 3.3 to 4.5 percent
  • Six new stores
  • Flat gross margin
  • Operating margin expansion of approximately 60 basis points
  • Tax rate of approximately 37 percent
  • Share repurchases of approximately $4.5 billion
  • Diluted earnings-per-share growth after anticipated share repurchases of approximately 8.5 percent to 10 percent, or $5.11 to $5.17
  • Capital spending of approximately $1.6 billion
  • Depreciation and amortization of approximately $1.8 billion
  • Cash flow from the business of approximately $9.0 billion
The Company's fiscal 2015 diluted earnings-per-share guidance does not include an accrual for other reasonably possible losses related to the data breach. Other than the breach-related costs contained in the Company's fiscal 2014 earnings, at this time the Company is not able to estimate the costs, or a range of costs, related to the breach. Costs related to the breach may include liabilities to payment card networks for reimbursements of credit card fraud and card reissuance costs; liabilities related to the Company's private label credit card fraud and card reissuance; liabilities from current and future civil litigation, governmental investigations and enforcement proceedings; future expenses for legal, investigative and consulting fees; and incremental expenses and capital investments for remediation activities. Those costs may have a material adverse effect on the Company's financial results in fiscal 2015 and/or future periods.

Monday, February 23, 2015

4 pharma stocks analysts love

AbbVie Inc. (NYSE: ABBV) jumps to the top of the Jefferies list to become the new number one pick. The company was at the center of the issues that hit Gilead, and it was sold-off extremely hard, which the Jefferies analysts feel gives investors a perfect entry point to buy the stock. Pharmacy managers are taking sides on which hepatitis C drugs they will be offering to patients based on the discounts provided by the companies making the drug. In effect, it becomes somewhat of a price war, and price wars ultimately can evaporate earnings. The Jefferies team is very positive on the stock, citing numerous drivers, which they dub an “iceberg” of positive catalysts for the stock in 2015 and beyond, especially after the sell-off.
AbbVie investors are paid a very solid 3.2% dividend. The Jefferies price target for the stock is a whopping $80. The Thomson/First Call consensus price target is $68.64. AbbVie closed Friday at $61.30, up almost 4%.

Eli Lilly & Co. (NYSE: LLY) has faced some of the more negative stock coverage from Wall Street, and some analysts may have overfocused on patent expirations on key products, which has kept enthusiasm muted on the stock. Eli Lilly and partner Boehringer Ingelheim recently received FDA approval for Glyxambi (Jardiance/Tradjenta) tablets for use as an adjunct to diet and exercise to improve glycemic control in adults with type II diabetes. The FDA approval of Glyxambi helps to make up for the loss of revenues from the genericization of drugs like Cymbalta and Evista, which hurt fourth-quarter earnings.
Investors are paid a 2.8% dividend. The Jefferies price objective is raised to $87. The consensus is lower at $75.06. Eli Lilly closed Friday at $71.88 a share.

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) now moves down to the number two slot on the top picks list at Jefferies. The company rocked Wall Street recently by announcing a gigantic $15.2 billion purchase of Hospira. Hospira shareholders will be paid $90 a share. Hospira is a top provider of sterile injectable drugs, including those used for acute care and cancer treatment, as well as infusion technologies and biosimilars, which are subsequent versions of drugs with patents that have expired. In other recent solid news for Pfizer, the company’s drug Ibrance was approved for advanced breast cancer by U.S. regulators more than two months ahead of schedule, letting the drug maker proceed with one of its most promising new blockbusters, a turn-of-events the Jefferies team likes.
Pfizer investors are paid a solid 3.2% dividend. The Jefferies price target is raised to $42, and the consensus target is posted at $35.83. Pfizer closed Friday at $34.56.

Zoetis Inc. (NYSE: ZTS) focuses on the discovery, development, manufacture and commercialization of animal health medicines and vaccines for livestock and companion animals worldwide. The company has a top initial public offering two years ago and essentially traded sideways until breaking out back in November of last year. At the end of the year, it was one of the largest holdings in activist investor Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square hedge fund. The fund upped its stake in the company by 36.03 million shares to 41.57 million shares. Recently, the company announced that it completed the acquisition of the animal health assets of Abbott Laboratories.
Zoetis investors are paid a small 0.7% dividend. The Jefferies price target is $53, and the consensus price objective is $48.83. Shares ended the trading day on Friday at $45.60.
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Existing home sales---what you need to know

Existing-home sales rose in October for the second straight month and are now above year-over-year levels for the first time in a year, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
Total existing-home sales1, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 1.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.26 million in October from an upwardly-revised 5.18 million in September. Sales are at their highest annual pace since September 2013 (also 5.26 million) and are now above year-over-year levels (2.5 percent from last October) for the first time since last October.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the housing market this year has been a tale of two halves. “Sales activity in October reached its highest annual pace of the year as buyers continue to be encouraged by interest rates at lows not seen since last summer, improving levels of inventory and stabilizing price growth,” he said. “Furthermore, the job market has shown continued strength in the past six months. This bodes well for solid demand to close out the year and the likelihood of additional months of year-over-year sales increases.”
The median existing-home price2 for all housing types in October was $208,300, which is 5.5 percent above October 2013. This marks the 32nd consecutive month of year-over-year price gains.
Total housing inventory3 at the end of October fell 2.6 percent to 2.22 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 5.1-month supply at the current sales pace – the lowest since March (also 5.1 months). Unsold inventory is now 5.2 percent higher than a year ago, when there were 2.11 million existing homes available for sale.
“The growth in housing supply this year will likely prevent the drastic sales slowdown and coinciding spike in home prices we saw last winter due to low inventory,” says Yun. “However, more housing starts are needed to increase supply, meet current demand and keep price growth in check.”
All-cash sales were 27 percent of transactions in October, up from 24 percent in September but down from 31 percent in October of last year. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 15 percent of homes in October, up from 14 percent last month but below October 2013 (19 percent). Sixty-five percent of investors paid cash in October.
According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage in October dropped to 4.03 percent, its lowest level since June 2013 (4.07 percent), and down from 4.16 percent in September.
The percent share of first-time buyers in October remained at 29 percent for the fourth consecutive month; first-time buyers have represented less than 30 percent of all buyers in 18 of the past 19 months. A separate NAR survey released earlier this month4 revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers fell to its lowest level in nearly three decades.
Distressed homes5 – foreclosures and short sales – were in the single-digits for the third month this year, decreasing to 9 percent in October from 10 percent in September; they were 14 percent a year ago. Seven percent of October sales were foreclosures and 2 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 15 percent below market value in October (14 percent in September), while short sales were discounted 10 percent (14 percent in September).   
“Although distressed sales are trending downward, there are still areas (such as judicial states Florida, Maryland and New York) plagued by foreclosures, and homeowners faced with the awful choice between a tax bill they are unable to pay and losing their home,” says NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark. “Realtors® urge the U.S. House to schedule a vote on “The Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act,” as soon as possible. This bipartisan legislation would extend an expired provision that has helped millions of distressed American families by allowing tax relief when lenders forgive a portion of the mortgage debt they owe.”
Properties typically stayed on the market in October longer (63 days) than last month (56 days) and a year ago (54 days). Short sales were on the market for a median of 150 days in October, while foreclosures sold in 68 days and non-distressed homes took 61 days. Thirty-three percent of homes sold in October were on the market for less than a month.
Single-family home sales increased 1.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.63 million in October from 4.57 million in September, and are now 2.9 percent above the 4.50 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $208,700 in October, up 5.6 percent from October 2013.
Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 3.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 630,000 units in October from 610,000 in September, unchanged from the 630,000 unit pace a year ago. The median existing condo price was $205,400 in October, which is 4.5 percent higher than a year ago.
Regionally, October existing-home sales in the Northeast climbed 2.9 percent to an annual rate of 710,000, and are 4.4 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $246,900, which is 1.2 percent above a year ago.
In the Midwest, existing-home sales jumped 5.1 percent to an annual level of 1.24 million in October, and are 2.5 percent higher than October 2013. The median price in the Midwest was $164,100, up 6.8 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the South increased 2.8 percent to an annual rate of 2.17 million in October, and are now 5.3 percent above October 2013. The median price in the South was $178,000, up 5.1 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the West declined 5.0 percent to an annual rate of 1.14 million in October, and remain 3.4 percent below a year ago. The median price in the West was $296,800, which is 5.0 percent above October 2013.

Why is Apple spending $2 billion to build data centers?

Apple Inc (AAPL) is the greatest stock of our time. Now the company has said it would spend 1.7 billion euros ($1.9 billion) to build two data centers in Europe that would be entirely powered by renewable energy and create hundreds of jobs.

The company said the centers, in Ireland and Denmark, will power Apple's online services, including the iTunes Store, App Store, iMessage, Maps and Siri for customers across Europe.

The investment is set to be evenly divided between the two countries, with the Irish government confirming that 850 million euros would be spent in Ireland. The two data centers are expected to begin operations in 2017.
 
"This significant new investment represents Apple's biggest project in Europe to date," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.

"We’re thrilled to be expanding our operations, creating hundreds of local jobs and introducing some of our most advanced green building designs yet," he added.

The data center in Ireland will be located in Athenry, close to Galway on the west coast while in Denmark, it will be in Viborg, western Denmark.

In a sign of how important Apple's investment in Denmark was, the country's trade and development minister issued a statement mirroring that of the iPhone maker's, adding the two data centers would be among the largest in the world.

Ireland's government also reacted to the announcement, saying 300 jobs would be added in the county of Galway during the multiple phases of the project, a boost as it seeks to cut the unemployment rate below 10 percent this year.

"As the Government works to secure recovery and see it spread to every part of the country, today's announcement is another extremely positive step in the right direction,” Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said in a statement.

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