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State and Nation Business

U.S. housing starts rise, permits at 4½-year high

WASHINGTON – U.S. builders started more houses and apartments in February, while requesting permits for future construction at the fastest pace in 4½ years. The increases point to a housing recovery that is gaining strength.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that builders broke ground on homes last month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 917,000. That’s up from 910,000 in January. And it’s the second-fastest pace since June 2008, behind December’s pace of 982,000.

Single-family home construction increased to an annual rate of 618,000, the most in 4½ years. Apartment construction also ticked up, to 285,000.

The gains are likely to grow even faster in the coming months. Building permits, a sign of future construction, increased 4.6 percent to 946,000. That was also the most since June 2008, just a few months into the Great Recession.

Twinkies sale approved by bankruptcy judge

NEW YORK – A bankruptcy judge has approved the sale of Twinkies to a pair of investment firms.

Hostess Brands Inc. is selling the spongy yellow cakes, along with other snacks including Ding Dongs and Ho Hos, to Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Co. for $410 million.

Metropoulos, which owns Pabst beer, has said it hopes to have the cakes back on shelves by this summer.

The judge also approved the sale of Wonder and other breads to Flowers Foods, which makes Tastykakes. Flowers will also get Nature’s Pride, Butternut, Home Pride and Merita as part of the $360 deal.

– From wire services

The sale of Beefsteak, a regional bread brand, to Grupo Bimbo for $31.9 million was also approved.

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