Home Loan Delinquencies Plunge

Morning Business Memo…

More signs of renewed strength for the housing market… Mortgage delinquency rates are down to their lowest level in five years. Credit reporting firm TransUnion says only 5 percent of people with home loans were at least two months behind with their payments in the final quarter of 2012. That's compared with 14 percent the year before. This finding means that in the future fewer foreclosure properties and short sales will be on the market. Home prices rose in nearly 90 percent of the nation's largest metropolitan areas in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Hostess Brands can go ahead with its bake sale. A federal bankruptcy court has given Hostess permission to auction Twinkies, Wonder Bread and several other popular brands. The company decided to liquidate its business late last year after a strike by a bakers union shut down production.

Rising gas prices are taking a bite out of consumer spending. The national average for a gallon of regular gas is now just over $3.60 a gallon, according to the US Energy Department - a rise of nearly 30 cents in the past month, and the highest gasoline price ever for this time of year. Global oil prices have been rising recently. "Generally, the kind of increases that we typically see in March and April and May are occurring earlier this year," says Tom Kloza of the Oil Price Information Service. Some refineries are closed for maintenance, but Kloza blames commodities speculators for some of the increase. "There's a lot of money, a lot of investment money that's been going in that's pushed crude oil prices higher."

Say it ain't so, Makers Mark! The producer of popular Kentucky bourbon is adding a bit more water to keep up with demand. The brand known for its red wax seal is cutting the alcohol volume from 90 to 84 proof. Rob Samuels, chief operating officer for Maker's Mark and grandson of the brand's founder, says the change doesn't alter the taste. He says the recipe and production process stays the same, except "a touch more water" will be added when the whiskey comes out of the barrel for bottling.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC NEWS Radio ABCNews.com twitter.com/daviesabc

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