Small-business loans were up in 4th quarter

Small-business lending is showing signs of growth, according to data compiled by the government.

The total amount of small-business loans outstanding at the end of the fourth quarter came to $586 billion, up from $584 billion in the third quarter, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. That was the first quarterly gain in small-business lending since the FDIC began quarterly tracking of loans at the start of 2010.

Despite the year-end improvement, the lending environment for small business remains weak. The December number was down from $598 billion in the final quarter of 2011 and $626 billion at the end of 2010.

The FDIC numbers included commercial and industrial loans, along with commercial real estate loans under $1 million.

Surveys have shown that small business owners remain cautious about borrowing. Low demand has been one of the factors behind weak lending since the recession ended.

A new survey released this week by Thomson Reuters and PayNet showed that small businesses grew more reluctant to take out loans to buy equipment or expand in February as federal budget cuts approached.

Feb. home prices rose by most in 7 years

U.S. home prices jumped in February by the largest amount in seven years, ahead of the all-important spring-buying season.

Home prices rose 10.2 percent in February compared with a year earlier, CoreLogic, a real estate data provider, said Wednesday.

Prices have now increased on an annual basis for 12 straight months.

Prices rose in 47 of 50 states (all but Delaware, Alabama and Illinois) and in all but four of the nation's 100 largest metro areas.

The states with the biggest price gains were Nevada, where prices rose 19.3 percent, followed by Arizona, with 18.6 percent, and California, 15.3 percent.

The cities with the biggest gains were Phoenix and Los Angeles.

Nationwide, home values were still down more than 26 percent from their peak in April 2006 through February, CoreLogic said.

Boeing: 787 testing more than half done

Boeing said it has finished more than half of the testing on its proposed battery fix for the 787, with the rest of the ground and flight tests coming in the next several days. The results so far have been in line with the testing Boeing did when it was developing the fix, spokesman Marc Birtel said Wednesday.

The Associated Press