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Assessor assessed

(AP) -- Authorities are investigating whether Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez gave favors to donors who poured more than $100,000 into a fund he controlled.

The Los Angeles Times said the money from downtown Los Angeles business owners went into a Huntington Park City Council fund two years ago.

At the time, Noguez was on that council and running for county assessor.

The Times said after winning office, Noguez knocked at least $36 million off the assessed property values of the donors, lowering their taxes by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Several donors say there was no political deal.

It's the latest problem for Noguez, who's already charged with taking $185,000 in bribes to lower taxes on certain properties.

A judge Wednesday refused to reduce his $1.6 million bail.
Arizona foreclosures

(AP) -- The number of Arizona homes in some stage of the foreclosure process dropped again in October compared to a year ago, and homes actually repossessed by banks also dipped.

Data released Thursday by foreclosure tracking firm RealtyTrac shows lenders actually repossessed nearly 2,821 Arizona homes in September, 600 fewer homes than in September.

New foreclosure filings rose slightly to about 3,900 last month.

October saw a 36 percent drop in homes being repossessed or receiving initial foreclosure filings compared to October 2011.

RealtyTrac said one in every 420 Arizona homes was in some stage of the foreclosure process last month.

The state dropped one position to No. 5 for foreclosure activity rate in the nation. Florida is No. 1 and Nevada No. 2.
Nevada foreclosures

(AP) -- Nevada's foreclosure rate has climbed to second in the nation even after activity dropped significantly year-over-year.

RealtyTrac reported Thursday that Nevada's October foreclosure rate is down 47 percent year-over-year, but up 41 percent compared with September. The state jumped from its No. 5 ranking in September.

One in every 352 properties in Nevada saw some sort of foreclosure filing last month. That rate was behind only Florida.

Nevada's numbers are a magnified version of the national foreclosure picture for the month of October.

RealtyTrac reports foreclosure filings nationwide were up 3 percent from September, but down 19 percent year-over-year.

The state's rate foreclosure rating has been down for the past year after a state law took effect last October requiring more paperwork for lenders to launch a foreclosure.
Tax-exempt suit

(AP) -- A Madison, Wis.-based group of atheists and agnostics argues in a federal lawsuit that the Internal Revenue Service is violating the U.S. Constitution by allowing tax-exempt churches and religious organizations to get involved in political campaigns.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation filed the lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Madison. It cites full-page ads run this fall in The New York Times and other newspapers by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and a letter that Illinois Bishop Daniel Jenky required to be read in churches the weekend before the presidential election.

The lawsuit argues that not enforcing the law prohibiting tax-exempt religious organizations from electioneering results in preferential treatment not provided to other tax-exempt organizations, including the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
Windy Google

(AP) -- Google Inc. is investing $75 million in an Iowa wind farm as part of its effort to encourage development of cleaner energy sources.

The deal announced Thursday gives Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) a stake in the Rippey Wind Farm in Greene County, Iowa. RPM Access LLC is the primary owner.

The wind farm is located about 130 miles northeast of Council Bluffs, Iowa, which is home to one of the eight data centers that power Google's Internet search engine and other services.

The Iowa data center won't be getting power from the wind farm.

The high electricity demand of Google's massive data centers is one of the reasons the company backs energy projects that cause less pollution than traditional power plants.

Google's investments in renewable energy now exceed $990 million.
FHA hole

(Bloomberg) -- The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) may need billions of dollars in aid from the U.S. Treasury to fill a financial hole caused by defaults on mortgages it insures, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus said Thursday.

The agency, facing mounting defaults on loans it insured during the housing bubble, will ask for the financial backstop within a month, Bachus said.

“Within a month because of the number of foreclosures, they've indicated they will have to come to the American people and ask for money,” the Alabama Republican said during a press conference in Washington.

FHA, which has supported itself for the past 78 years with revenue from the insurance premiums it charges, is scheduled to release an annual report detailing its finances Friday. The aid request would be the first in its history.
Farmland values

(Bloomberg) -- Farmland values in the Great Plains jumped 24 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier as higher commodity prices more than made up for drought losses, a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City showed.

Nebraska, the biggest U.S. corn grower after Iowa and Illinois, saw appreciations on non-irrigated land of 30 percent, the most among seven states in the region, according to the survey of 241 banks released Thursday.

The gain in Missouri was 23 percent while Kansas had 22 percent.

Oklahoma had the smallest increase at 13 percent. Irrigated land in the region gained 22 percent, and ranch land for cattle grazing rose 14 percent from a year earlier.
Canadian resales

(Bloomberg) -- Canadian existing home resales slipped in October from the previous month while prices were little changed on the year, adding to evidence of a cooling in the country's real estate market, the Canadian Real Estate Association said.

Sales fell 0.1 percent during the month to 36,492 units, the Realtor group said. Home resales fell 0.8 percent from the same month last year.

“Little has changed since national activity geared down in the wake of mortgage rules that came into force in July,” Gregory Klump, the Realtor group's chief economist, said in the statement.

Monthly sales are down 5.4 percent since June, according to the association's data.

The average national price for existing homes was little changed from a year earlier, and rose 0.1 percent from September to C$363,299 ($362,900).
Canadian solar

(Bloomberg) -- Canadian Solar Inc., the third-largest maker of solar panels, fell to the lowest in 11 months after third-quarter sales slumped and the company reduced its shipment forecast for 2012.

The company reported third-quarter revenue of $326 million, down 35 percent from a year earlier. The net loss was $43.7 million, or $1.01 a share.

Canadian Solar (Nasdaq: CSIQ) expects to ship 1.5 gigawatts to 1.6 gigawatts of panels this year, down from an earlier forecast of 1.8 gigawatts to 2 gigawatts.

The solar company, which is based in Kitchener, Ontario, and manufactures most of its products in China, shipped 384 megawatts in the third quarter, compared with 355 megawatts a year earlier and 412 megawatts in the second quarter of 2012.
Canadian bonds

(Bloomberg) -- Sales of Canadian project-finance bonds are lower this year as an ongoing investigation of alleged corruption in the Quebec construction industry makes the debt more expensive to issue.

The number of so-called public-private partnership deals fell this year to eight, from 14 last year, according to data from Jason Parker, head of Canadian fixed-income research at Bank of Montreal (NYSE: BMO).

An inquiry into corruption in the Quebec construction industry, which led to the resignation of Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay on Nov. 5, is souring sentiment among investors in private-public partnership bonds linked to projects for hospitals and universities in Canada's second-largest province.

Public-private deals transfer the obligation to design, build, finance and operate infrastructure in exchange for government payments.
Spanish evictions

(AP) -- Spain has passed a decree curbing evictions of lower income homeowners unable to pay their mortgage, a bid to ease a trend that has seen hundreds of thousands of people lose their homes because of the brutal economic crisis.

Thursday's decree stops evictions for two years of people who are unemployed or who earn less than (euro) 1,200 ($1,527) a month after tax.

It also suspends evictions of the elderly or disabled residents.

Spanish homeowners unable to make monthly payments may be evicted but remain liable to repay whatever value is left on the mortgage.

Spain's government also plans to create a stock of homes that can be rented out cheaply.

The government will also negotiate with banks, including state-controlled lenders to “make available” foreclosed homes they own to a facility that will let them at affordable rents to people who have lost their homes, Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said.

He gave no more detail on the so-called social-housing fund.

Banks in Spain have more than 600 billion euros of mortgage loans outstanding.
UK photovoltaic

(Bloomberg) -- Lark Energy, a unit of the homebuilder Larkfleet Ltd., won planning permission to develop a 32-megawatt solar park that will become the United Kingdom's largest photovoltaic plant.

The company intends to complete the 35 million-pound ($55 million) plant before April, when subsidies are due to be reduced, according to a statement Thursday.

It will install 125,000 solar panels on 150 acres between the runways of a former military airfield in Wymeswold, which is between Leicester and Nottingham in central England.

The project covering the equivalent to about 87 soccer fields has more than six times more capacity than any U.K. solar park in operation.

Its development is an indication the cost of solar panels has fallen so much that developers are working on utility-scale plants too big to qualify for the most lucrative subsidies in Britain.

While the scale of the facility is big for Britain, it's less than half the size of the largest plants in Germany and Italy, which are the leading markets worldwide for solar power.

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