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Trulia surge

(Bloomberg) -- Trulia Inc., the operator of a residential property listings website, surged to a record high on optimism that gains in U.S. home prices would help boost advertising revenue.

Though Tuesday, San Francisco-based Trulia's shares had increased 38 percent since a 6 million share, $17 million initial public offering in September.

Trulia (NYSE: TRLA) is taking on larger rival Zillow Inc. (Nasdaq: Z), which sold shares to the public in July 2011, by developing smartphone applications designed to reach prospective homebuyers on the move.

Sales may be bolstered by U.S. home prices, which climbed 5.6 percent in the 12 months through November as buyers competed for a dwindling inventory of properties, according to a report Wednesday from the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

“Sellers want to reach consumers in every way,” said Kerry Rice, an analyst at Needham & Co. “That means more agents will advertise on Trulia.”

Real estate professionals subscribe to Trulia's service as a way to reach potential homebuyers, and they can also place ads on the company’s website and mobile application.

Shares of Trulia may also be gaining on speculation that Zillow could be acquired by Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG), operator of the world's largest search engine, Rice said.

Riverside land sale

(AP) -- The Riverside City Council has voted to sell the public land around a cross to avoid a lawsuit on its constitutionality.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise reported the vote was unanimous Tuesday to auction off the land on Mount Rubidoux, after a meeting where many residents urged them not to.

A coalition of non-profit groups said previously they'd bid on the land to save the cross.

There has been a cross on the mountain since 1907, the current structure since 1963.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State last year threatened a lawsuit, claiming a religious symbol on public land is unconstitutional.

Religious symbols on public lands have drawn lawsuits and complaints around California in recent years, including Christmas displays in Santa Monica and mountain-top crosses in San Diego County.

Mortgage applications

(Bloomberg) -- Mortgage applications in the United States increased for a third straight week as purchasing and refinancing advanced.

The Mortgage Bankers Association's (MBA) index rose 7 percent in the week ended Jan. 18 after a 15.2 percent increase in the prior week, the group reported Wednesday.

The refinance gauge went up 7.7 percent and the purchase index climbed 2.5 percent.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed loan increased to 3.62 percent from 3.61 percent.

The cost of a 15-year mortgage fell to 2.87 percent from 2.88 percent.

The share of applicants seeking to refinance a loan was little changed at 81.6 percent, the MBA report showed.

Boardwalk dispute settled

(AP) -- A bitter dispute between a popular Jersey shore resort and its boardwalk bars over measures to combat rowdy late-night revelers has been largely laid to rest, thanks in part to Superstorm Sandy.

Point Pleasant Beach has reached an agreement with the owners of Jenkinson's Boardwalk to drop a proposed midnight bar closing law in return for the company dropping lawsuits against the town.

Jenkinson's also will contribute up to $1 million to help rebuild the storm-damaged boardwalk.

The town last summer tried to close bars two hours earlier than normal to cut down on disruptions to neighborhoods by bar patrons returning to their cars. But the bars sued and a state agency put the matter on hold.

Rhode Island resales

(AP) -- The Rhode Island Association of Realtors said there's a lot of good news about the state's housing market.

New figures released Wednesday show single-family home sales increased 25 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared with the previous year's fourth quarter, while the median price was up 5 percent.

There were 2,137 sales of single-family homes in the last three months of last year, compared with 1,716 during the same period in 2011.

The median sale price of a single-family home rose to $195,000 in the fourth quarter of 2012 from $185,000 in the previous year's fourth quarter.

NH resales up

(AP) -- New Hampshire home sales have gone up over the past year.

The New Hampshire Association of Realtors said the nearly 13,000 sales of single-family residential properties last year was a 21 percent increase over sales in 2011.

Last year brought in $3.2 billion in sales, also a 21 percent increase over the year before.

Home prices remained below 2011 levels for the first seven months of the year.

In August, the median price of $210,000 was equal to that of August of 2011.

The median price at the end of the year was $202,000, slightly ahead of the year before.

Volkswagen goes solar

(Bloomberg) -- Volkswagen AG switched on its largest photo-voltaic installation worldwide as Europe's biggest carmaker builds on its U.S. auto factory’s recognition by an environmental group for sustainable operations.

The solar park occupies 33 acres next to the plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., where VW produces the Passat mid-size sedan for the U.S. market, and provide 13 percent of energy needs during production hours, the manufacturer said.

The 9.5-megawatt solar setup will supply all the plant's electricity needs when manufacturing lines aren’t operating, Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen (PNK: VKLAY) said.

The car plant, which opened in May 2011, is the first in the industry with top-level platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, which rates properties on how well they limit effects on the environment.

Silicon Ranch Corp., based in Nashville, will own the solar park and sell the electricity to Volkswagen under a 20-year supply contract, the carmaker said. German manufacturer Phoenix Solar AGbuilt the system, it said.

Other VW plants using solar power include the main plant at Wolfsburg and a factory in Emden, Germany.

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