Report: House prices up about 5 percent

House prices in the Twin Cities metro posted a 4.8 percent increase during November, according to the latest S&P/Case-Shiller home price report.

For the Twin Cities, it was a better-than-average gain, but it was slightly below the national average of 5.3 percent. It puts house prices about 30 percent above a 2012 trough and still slightly below peak, again almost precisely the same gain as the national average.

The report is based on repeat sales of the same property using public records. That's a contrast to data from the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors, which tracks the median price of all sales during the month. Based on early indications, sales during the month are expected to show unusually strong gains in home sales and price gains.

David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee for S&P Dow Jones Indices, said continued low mortgage rates, tight supplies and an improving market all affect house sales positively. He said the numbers show it is a "seller's market." However, he warned that a strong housing market can't offset weak spots in the economy such as the oil and energy sector.

Bill Banfield, a Quicken Loans vice president, said the "stubbornly low" home inventory in many markets is pushing up prices, but some markets are starting to see an "affordability problem."


Cargill salt mine in New York still closed

A Cargill salt mine in central New York remains closed three weeks after 17 miners were trapped in an elevator 900 feet below ground.

The miners were rescued and suffered no injuries from the elevator malfunction.

Minnetonka-based Cargill, one of two big U.S. road salt manufacturers, continues to analyze the incident, scrutinizing 2,300 feet of the elevator's shaft.

The miners were descending for the night shift when the elevator car stopped more than 80 stories below ground. The workers were stuck for 10 hours before being plucked to safety — a few at a time — by a crane.

Cargill doesn't have an estimate as to when the mine, located near Ithaca, will reopen.

Some of the mine's aboveground operations are continuing.

"We had some good supplies above ground and have been shipping by truck since just after the incident," said Mark Klein, a Cargill spokesman.

The mine employs about 200, some of whom continue to work. Those who aren't working are still being paid and receiving health insurance benefits, Klein said.

Cargill operates two other U.S. salt mines, one in southern Louisiana near the Gulf Coast and the other in Cleveland, below Lake Erie.