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US home prices up in October

US home prices rose in most major cities in October compared with a year ago, pushed up by rising sales and a decline in the supply of available homes. Higher prices show the housing market is improving even as it moves into the more dormant fall and winter sales period.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller national home price index released Wednesday increased 4.3 percent in October compared with a year ago.

That’s the largest year-over-year increase in 2 1/2 years, when a homebuyer tax credit temporarily boosted sales.

Prices rose in October from a year ago in 18 of 20 cities. Phoenix led all cities with a 21.7 percent gain.

Prices declined in Chicago and New York.

Popcorn maker to reduce chemical use

An Indianapolis company has agreed to reduce its use of a popcorn-flavoring chemical that has been linked to lung disease and pay a reduced fine as part of a settlement with state regulators.

As part of the deal signed last week, Sensient Flavors LLC also agreed to drop a federal lawsuit accusing the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration of harassment.

An attorney for Sensient didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.

The dispute involved Sensient’s use of diacetyl, a chemical compound used to create a buttery flavor for microwave popcorn and other foods, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported.

Diacetyl is a naturally occurring chemical compound that gives butter its flavor, and it has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a flavor ingredient.

But for several years, diacetyl has been linked to a rare, irreversible lung disease often called popcorn lung.

Japan regulators OK anti-clotting Eliquis

Regulators in Japan have approved sales of an anti-clotting drug called Eliquis, developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Pfizer Inc., that’s a potential blockbuster in a new category of medicines to prevent strokes and heart attacks.

But that’s only if it can win U.S. approval, as two rival drugs have done.

Pfizer and Bristol-Myers said Wednesday that Japan approved use of Eliquis for treating the most common type of irregular heartbeat, atrial fibrillation, in patients at risk for strokes or dangerous clots called systemic embolisms. Already approved for sale in Canada and the European Union, Eliquis has twice been rejected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

About a quarter of all people 40 and older develop atrial fibrillation, a condition in which the heart’s two upper chambers contract irregularly and don’t pump blood efficiently.

Berkshire sells 2 short-line railroads

Warren Buffett’s company has sold two short-line railroads it recently discovered it owned, to satisfy regulators who might have reviewed Berkshire Hathaway’s 2010 acquisition of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad.

Berkshire told the Transportation Department’s Surface Transportation Board this month that it had completed the sale of both short-line railroads ahead of schedule.

If Berkshire had reported owning those railroads when it bought BNSF, the Surface Transportation Board would have had to scrutinize the deal.

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