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In brief

November 26. 2013 10:16PM
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Home prices jump

in largest US cities

Home prices in the nation’s largest metro regions posted strong gains in September, although the pace of those increases slowed in most cities, according to a leading gauge.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index of 20 U.S. cities, released Tuesday, rose 0.7 percent from a month earlier and 13.3 percent from September of last year.

Western cities saw the largest annual price gains. Prices in Las Vegas rose 29.1 percent; San Francisco, 25.7 percent; Los Angeles, 21.8 percent; and San Diego, 20.9 percent.

Confidence drops

in September

U.S. consumers’ confidence in the economy fell in November to the lowest level in seven months, dragged down by greater concerns about hiring and pay in the coming months.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its index of consumer confidence dropped to 70.4 from 72.4 in October. The October reading was higher than initially reported, but still well below the 80.2 reading in September.

November’s drop comes after the 16-day partial government shutdown caused confidence to plunge in October. The declines in both months were driven by falling expectations for hiring and the economy over the next six months.

Some economists also attributed the weakening confidence to Americans’ frustrations and worries about the implementation of the Obama administration’s health care reform.

Pecans expected

to be scarce

If you haven’t gotten pecans for the holidays, you had best get cracking.

Heavy rains earlier this year have put a big dent in South Carolina’s pecan crop, and, as demand increases, including from China, prices for the prized holiday nuts are likely to rise.

Perry Arant, whose OMC Feeds company shells the sweetmeats for small growers, says his storeroom should be bursting this time of year.

“We’ve hardly seen any nuts yet,” said Arant during a recent tour of his “Nut House” in Orangeburg.

The small building, located on the grounds of the OMC Feeds operation he co-owns, encloses a storeroom and several processing machines that would normally be clanging as the pecans and their shells are cracked and separated.

“By now, we should have been almost 100 percent full,” Arant said of his empty store room. Arant said a few growers have trickled in as Thanksgiving has approached, but only about three or four a day at most.

South Carolina Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture Martin Eubanks said heavy rains this past spring came when the nut trees were pollinating, harming the formation of the nutmeats inside the shells. And besides, the pecan trees appeared to be in a year to yield less, even without the rains, Eubanks said.

While the proper use of fertilizers can help crops produce a higher yield in an alternate year, this year’s rainfall and crop cycle became a one-two punch that seems to have hit South Carolina pecan growers particularly hard.

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