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Home Sales and Prices Fall Sharply

Sales of new homes plunged in August to their slowest pace in more than seven years as tighter credit and rising inventories continued to weigh down the housing industry. The grim statistics could foreshadow further economic weakness in the fourth quarter, analysts said.

Purchases of new homes fell to an annual pace of 795,000, an 8.3 percent decline from July, as the number of months needed to sell off builders’ inventories rose to the highest level since March, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. The median price for a new home was down 7.5 percent from a year earlier, to $225,700, the steepest monthly price drop since December 1970.

The sales figures were released as KB Home, a large Los Angeles builder, reported a $35.6 million loss in the third quarter, or 46 cents a share, in contrast to a profit of $153.2 million, or $1.90 a share, in the period a year earlier. KB Home had a 32 percent drop in revenue, to $1.54 billion.

Mexico’s Former President Is Under Investigation on Allegations Of Financial Abuse

If former President Vicente Fox thought his retirement would be peaceful at his ranch, swimming in the pool or strolling by the artificial lake and sumptuous gardens, then events this week have proved him wrong.

Congress started an investigation into his personal finances after a former campaign aide charged that Fox had used campaign money to renovate the ranch.

The accusations from Lino Korrodi, the finance chairman for Fox’s 2000 campaign, with photographs of the former president’s relatively luxurious ranch published recently in a magazine, have fueled speculation among politicians about where Fox got the money.

The frenzy has reached a fever pitch in Congress, where members of opposition parties have pushed through a measure to set up a commission to investigate Fox’s finances, a move unheard of in Mexico, where former presidents are generally treated with tremendous deference.

“It’s important to clear up all these doubts,” said one of the prime proponents of the investigation, VÌctor Leopoldo Valencia de los Santos, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. “He has provoked this.”

The investigation has put Fox on the defensive. This week, he declared he had nothing to hide from investigators.

At Its Session on Warming, U.S. Is Seen to Stand Apart

The White House convened a two-day conference of the world’s major greenhouse-gas-emitting nations here on Thursday that served to highlight how isolated the Bush administration is on the issue of global warming.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged that climate change is a real global problem, and that the United States is a major contributor. She said the United States was willing to lead the international effort to reduce emissions of gases that have led to the warming of the planet, with the attendant ill effects.

But she repeated President Bush’s insistence that the solution cannot starve emerging economies of fuel or slow the growth of the advanced nations. “Every country will make its own decisions,” she said, “reflecting its own needs and interests.”

Bush is scheduled to address the meeting Friday.