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October housing starts up 14% over 2019

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The number of newly issued permits to build fresh housing remained steady in October.

Housing starts rose 4.9%, and are up 14% higher than a year ago, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday, to an annualized rate of 1.53 million.

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Building permits remained at a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.55 million annualized units, effectively unchanged from September. The figure remains up 2.8% from a year earlier, showing how strong the housing market did over the summer despite the pandemic.

Lowe’s sales surge during 3rd quarter

Lowe’s sales surged in the third quarter more people took on projects at home during the epidemic. Revenue increased to $22.3 billion from $17.4 billion a year ago. That beat the $21.08 billion that analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research were calling for.

Online sales soared 106%, while sales at stores open at least a year climbed 30.1%. Sales at U.S. stores open at least a year rose 30.4%.

Lowe’s earned $692 million, or 91 cents per share, for the period ended Oct. 30. That included a $1.1 billion pre-tax loss on extinguishment of debt related to its third-quarter $3 billion cash tender offer. A year earlier, the Mooresville, N.C.-based company earned $1 billion, or $1.36 per share.

Removing the charge, earnings were $1.98 per share, which was a penny better than Wall Street’s expectations.

Target’s results mirror Walmart, Home Depot

NEW YORK — Target is the latest big U.S. retailer to show that it’s prospering during the pandemic.

The Minneapolis company reported its online sales surged 155% in the three months that ended Oct. 31. Sales at its stores opened for at least a year rose 10%. Customer traffic rose 4.5% and average dollars spent rose nearly 16%.

It joined Walmart and Home Depot in reporting strong sales for the retailers’ fiscal third quarter as shoppers consolidate their trips and focus on home-related activities.

The strong sales bode well for the holiday shopping season, while offering the latest evidence of a widening gap between the discounters and big box stores and mall-based retailers. Department store Kohl’s reported on Tuesday that its quarterly sales dropped 13%.

Target said it earned $1.01 billion, or $2.01 per share, for the quarter. That compares with $714 million, or $1.39 per share in the year-ago period. Adjusted earnings per share was $2.79.

Its total sales rose 21.3% to $22.34 billion.

Apple to cut its app store commissions

SAN RAMON, Calif. — Apple will cut its app store commissions in half for most developers beginning next year amid an intensifying debate about whether the iPhone maker has been using the fees to unfairly fatten its profits and stifle rivals competing against its own music, video, and other subscription services.

The concession announced Wednesday will lower Apple’s commissions for in-app subscriptions and other purchases from the 30% rate that has been in place since 2008 to 15%, effective Jan. 1.

But the discount will only apply to developers with app store revenue up to $1 million annually — a threshold that excludes the makers of some of the most popular apps downloaded on iPhones, iPads and other Apple devices.

That group includes two of Apple’s fiercest critics, music streaming service Spotify, and Epic, the maker of the popular Fortnite video game.

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