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Today in business: 5 things you need to know
Home prices soar, Sony's insurance business booms, and more
 
Home prices increased more than 10 percent from March 2012 to March 2013.
Home prices increased more than 10 percent from March 2012 to March 2013. Thinkstock/Creatas

1. HOUSE PRICES ARE SOARING
Case-Shiller's 20-city home price index showed year-over-year gains of 10.9 percent through March 2013, the highest 12-month gain since April 2006. Cheap loans and low supply have helped to drive up home prices. "Higher prices help support future housing activity by making people feel safer borrowing money to buy homes, and by raising aggregate wealth," a representative from Pantheon Macroeconomic Advisors told the Wall Street Journal. [Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal]

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2. SHELL GIVES UP ON EAST AFRICA
Buying a share of a massive gas discovery off the coast of Mozambique has proved too expensive for Shell, which is shifting focus to Africa's west coast, setting up deep water drills off Benin and Gabon, and planning another off South Africa's northwest coast. Overall, state-backed Chinese oil and gas companies spent the most on acquisitions in 2012, while international companies spent their lowest total in eight years. [Wall Street Journal]

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3. SONY IS REALLY AN INSURANCE COMPANY
"Electronics is [Sony's] Achilles' heel and, in our view, it is worth zero," an analyst for the investment banking firm Jeffries told the New York Times. So how does Sony, known mostly as an electronics company, make most of its dough? Selling life, auto, and medical insurance policies in Japan, it turns out. Nearly two-thirds of Sony's total operating profit last year came from its insurance arm. Its second biggest breadwinner is entertainment, which contributed $7 billion to earnings in the last decade, compared to the electronics division, which lost $8.5 billion. [New York Times]

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4. SENIORS ARE STRAPPED WITH DEBT
More seniors than ever are struggling with high mortgage and credit card debt, says the Federal Reserve. The average senior has $50,000 in debt, up 83 percent from 2001, and 45 percent of seniors have mortgages, up from 25 percent in 1992. "Money was easily available before the credit crisis in 2008 and it was cheap," says CNN, and many seniors were using it to make home repairs, take vacations, help their children, and invest in stocks. [CNN]

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5. GE IS INVESTING IN FRACKING
The U.S.'s sixth largest corporation is investing billions of dollars in the natural gas boom, says the Associated Press. Though GE doesn't drill wells or produce oil or gas on its own, it plans to open a new lab in Oklahoma, purchase related companies, and invest in science to improve profits and cut down on environmental and health risks associated with fracking. An environmentalist told the Associated Press, "It's exciting to see. I think it is a positive response to legitimate public concerns about the environmental impacts." [Associated Press]

 
Carmel Lobello is the business editor at TheWeek.com. Previously, she was an editor at DeathandTaxesMag.com.

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