Airlines match third airfare hike of 2016

Despite slumping fuel costs that are boosting profits for airlines, the nation's largest carriers are increasing their fares $10 per round trip, the third increase of the year. The fare hike on most U.S. routes was initiated Friday by Southwest Airlines, the nation's largest domestic carrier, and matched soon after by Delta, United and American Airlines. As of Tuesday, the increase remained in place, according to Rick Seaney, founder of travel site, which has been monitoring fare increases. The latest hike, combined with prior increases in January and February, combined to raise airfares $22 for round-trip flights. New York-based JetBlue and Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines initiated two other fare increases, both in February, but the carriers rolled the increases back when they were not matched by other carriers.

Consumer confidence tumbles in February

Consumer confidence fell in February to the lowest level in seven months as worries about a slowing economy and tumbling stock prices took a toll. The Conference Board said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index dipped to 92.2 this month, down from a reading of 97.8 in January, which had been a three-month high. The February reading was the lowest since confidence stood at 91.0 in July. Consumers' assessment of current conditions weakened due to less favorable views about business conditions and the labor market. The percentage of people saying business conditions were good fell to 26 percent, down from 27.7 percent, while the percentage that said business conditions were bad increased to 19.8 percent from 18.8 percent.

House sales rise, but market remains tight

Sales of existing homes rose 0.4 percent in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.47 million, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday. Those gains build on a strong 2015. Sales last year reached a nine-year peak, evidence of healthy demand that has led some economists to predict that the real estate sector will keep improving. But the report also showed a shortage of available homes. The number of home listings in January fell 2.2 percent from a year ago. The result is that those shopping for homes have fewer options and must pay elevated prices. The median home sales price was $213,800 in January, an 8.2 percent annual increase from a year ago.

Investors interested in Paramount Pictures

Viacom Inc., under fire over its declining stock price, has been approached by investors who want to buy a stake in Paramount Pictures and is aiming for a deal by the end of the third quarter, Chief Executive Philippe Dauman said. The company has hired PJT Partners to help with discussions toward a possible transaction, Dauman said Tuesday at an investor conference. Viacom's stock has been under pressure amid struggles to boost ratings at its cable business and increase box office returns for the movie studio. Paramount ranked last among the six largest film studios in 2015, with its U.S. market share under 6 percent and less than a third that of leader Universal Studios. In the fiscal first quarter, the company didn't have hits to match the prior year's blockbuster "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

Tribune Publishing replaces CEO

Tribune Publishing Co., the troubled owner of the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers around the country, announced Tuesday that it is replacing Jack Griffin as chief executive less than two years after he joined the company. The change came less than three weeks after the company named Chicago investor Michael W. Ferro Jr. as its nonexecutive chairman following a $44.4 million cash infusion from Ferro's Merrick Media. Merrick also has a stake in the crosstown rival Chicago Sun-Times. Tribune Publishing named Justin Dearborn to be its new CEO. He most recently was CEO of Merge, a publicly traded health care technology company that IBM acquired in October.

Google closing insurance comparison site

Google Compare, a website started last year to help consumers shop for car insurance and other financial products, will shut down by the end of March. The search engine giant initially offered the site to consumers in its home state of California in early 2015. More states were eventually added. In car insurance, Google Compare provides quotes from insurers including Liberty Mutual, First Chicago Insurance, MetLife, Elephant Auto Insurance, General Insurance, Freedom National, Titan Insurance and Safe Auto. Some of the biggest carriers, including State Farm, Geico, Allstate and Progressive, haven't participated. In an e-mail to its partners, Google Compare said that beginning Feb. 23 it would start "ramping down" the site. It will be completely inoperable as of March 23.