Slowdown seen in smartphone sales growth

Worldwide sales growth for smartphones is slowing down, thanks to maturing markets, but remains strong, according to International Data Corp.'s quarterly mobile phone tracking report. The market intelligence forecaster expects global smartphone shipments to grow 10.4 percent in 2015 to 1.44 billion units, down from 27.5 percent growth in 2014. IDC had previously forecast 11.3 percent year-over-year growth for 2015. The firm attributed the downturn to China joining North America and Western Europe in a "more mature growth pattern," which is to say the market is getting saturated. Shipments to the region are expected to grow just 1.2 percent year over year, compared with 19.7 percent in 2014.

Consumer confidence up before stock slide

U.S. consumer confidence rebounded in August to the strongest reading in seven months after having fallen sharply in July. The Conference Board said that its index of consumer confidence increased to 101.5 in August, up from a revised July reading of 91.0. It was the best showing since January. Conference Board economist Lynn Franco says that consumers' assessment of current conditions was considerably more upbeat in August, primarily due to a more favorable view of the labor market. The cutoff for responses to this survey was Aug. 13, a week before the deep plunge in stocks that began Thursday.

New home sales rose 5.4% last month

Americans stepped up their purchases of new homes in July, with sales surging in the Northeast. The Commerce Department said new home sales rose 5.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 507,000, recovering from a slide in purchases in June. Buyers have crowded into the housing market this year. Backed by solid job growth over the past two years and relatively low mortgage rates, sales of new homes jumped 21.2 percent through the first half of 2015, although the government sales report is volatile on a monthly basis. New home purchases climbed 23.1 percent in the Northeast, with smaller gains in the South and West. Sales slumped in the Midwest.

New Jersey deal with Exxon Mobil OK'd

A New Jersey judge approved a $225 million deal between Gov. Chris Christie's administration and ExxonMobil over dozens of polluted sites and nearly 2,000 retail gas stations, ending an 11-year legal battle that the state calls historic and opponents call a sellout. Superior Court Judge Michael Hogan ruled that while the deal is much less than the $8.9 billion the state originally sought, it is a "reasonable compromise" considering "substantial litigation risks" faced by the state in the case that spanned both Democratic and Republican governors. New Jersey sued ExxonMobil for natural resources damage in 2004. The idea was to hold the company responsible not only for cleaning up polluted areas but to compensate the public for the alleged harm to groundwater, surface water and other ecological resources.

Student pleads guilty in Android hack

A Carnegie Mellon University student who hoped to sell enough malicious software to infect 450,000 Google Android smartphones pleaded guilty to a federal law meant to prevent hacking of phones and computers. But how many phones were actually infected by Morgan Culbertson's malicious creation remained a mystery after his court appearance before a federal judge in Pittsburgh. Infected phones could be remotely controlled by others and used to spy and secretly take pictures without the phone owner's knowledge, as well as to record calls, intercept text messages and otherwise steal information the owners downloaded on the devices. Culbertson, 20, of Churchill, faces up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines when he's sentenced Dec. 2. But he'll likely face probation or a short prison term under sentencing guidelines that will take into account his lack of a criminal record.

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