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Business

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Briefs

New-home sales slip in November

New-home sales dipped in November, but the government released more positive figures for the previous three months, a sign that housing may be regaining strength after a summer lull.

Sales slipped 2.1 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 464,000, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. The slight drop occurred after sales had surged to a rate of 474,000 in October. That was the fastest pace since 2008 and was 17.6 percent above the September level – the biggest one-month jump in 21 years.

The annual pace of new-home sales remains well below the 700,000 generally consistent with a healthy market. But economists are encouraged by a pickup in sales after a slowdown likely caused by higher mortgage rates.

AmEx settlement may cost $75.7 million

American Express has agreed to pay at least $75.7 million to end an investigation into what regulators said was misleading marketing of some discontinued card products.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Tuesday that American Express led consumers to believe that an account protection product would work for up to two years when the benefits usually lasted no more than three months, and it didn’t properly explain the enrollment process for a product intended to protect against identity theft. It said 85 percent of consumers who signed up didn’t complete the enrollment process, but they were billed anyway.

The FDIC says the programs were marketed to customers between 2004 and 2012. It said American Express will pay restitution to 335,000 customers.

The company said it agreed to pay $16.2 million in fines and repay at least $59.5 million to customers.

Shareholder may make Cracker Barrel bid

Cracker Barrel’s largest shareholder says he is considering a bid for the restaurant chain as part of his efforts to change the company.

Sardar Biglari, through his investment firm Biglari Holdings, owns nearly 20 percent of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc.’s shares. He has tried and failed multiple times to win a seat on the board. Shareholders also recently rejected his proposal for a $20-per-share special dividend.

Biglari said in a letter Tuesday that the company’s earnings power is “far too low” under current management and urged Cracker Barrel to consider selling itself. He said he could lead the process by submitting a bid and was talking with an investment bank about funding, but he gave no further specifics. He said he would need to change Tennessee state law in order to make a successful bid for the company.

Lebanon, Tenn.-based Cracker Barrel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Feds expand probe in Mercedes taillight

U.S. safety regulators have expanded an investigation into rear light failures in Mercedes-Benz C-Class luxury vehicles.

The probe now covers nearly 253,000 cars from the 2008 through 2011 model years.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the stop, tail and turn-signal lights can fail because of a melted electrical connector. The agency and Mercedes have received 402 complaints, which involved five fires and one injury.

Mercedes also reported more than 23,000 warranty claims that could be tied to the problem.

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