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Mortgage rates fall again

Rates on 30-year mortgages declined for a second consecutive week as low mortgages continued to fuel the country’s housing boom.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac reported Thursday that rates on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages fell to a nationwide average of 5.77 percent this week, down from last week’s 5.80 percent. Rates have fallen for two weeks after hitting a four-month high of 5.89 percent the week of Aug. 11.

Analysts said the continued low mortgage rates were helping to keep housing markets red hot. Sales of new homes hit a record level in July while sales of existing homes came in at the third-highest level in history.

Builder’s profit soars

Luxury home builder Toll Brothers said Thursday that earnings doubled in the fiscal third quarter from a year ago, because of strong sales and rising home prices.

Net income surged to $215.5 million, or $1.27 per share, from $106 million, or 66 cents per share, in the third quarter a year ago. Revenue climbed 54 percent to $1.56 billion from $1.01 billion last year.

The results beat analysts’ estimates for a profit of $1.19 per share on sales of $1.52 billion.

The number of homes sold in the Mid-Atlantic market — Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia — rose by 44 percent in the quarter, the second highest regional showing in the nation.

HealthSouth figure gets jail

A judge sentenced HealthSouth Corp.’s first finance chief to three months in prison Thursday for his role in a $2.7 billion earnings overstatement at the rehabilitation and medical services chain.

Aaron Beam, who helped Richard Scrushy found the company in a one-room office in 1984 and testified against the ousted chief executive officer earlier this year in his fraud trial, also will forfeit $275,000 under a deal worked out with prosecutors. The judge added a $10,000 fine, plus one year of probation.

Sobbing as he stood before the judge, Beam apologized and said he went along with the fraud out of fear of Scrushy.

A jury found Scrushy not guilty of criminal charges earlier this year. But during Thursday’s sentencing, U.S. District Judge Robert Propst said he had no reason to doubt the trial testimony of Beam, who said Scrushy ordered the fraud by telling him to “fix the numbers.”

While jurors acquitted Scrushy of all criminal charges, the Securities and Exchange Commission is pushing ahead with a lawsuit against him seeking $785 million in civil penalties.

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