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Whole Foods Market Inc., the nation's largest retailer of natural and organic foods, has agreed to pay $800,000 in penalties after officials in California determined that the store was overcharging customers in the state. The charges were initially made by city attorneys in San Diego, Santa Monica and Los Angeles, accusing the retailer of inaccurate pricing practices. Among the charges is that Whole Foods was selling bulk items without subtracting the weight of containers, and was selling many items by item that should have been sold by weight. In addition to the fines, the company has agreed to hire pricing accuracy managers, and each of its 74 stores in California will be subject to random audits for the next five years. The company issued a statement declaring it had cooperated with the investigation and will take steps top ensure more accurate pricing moving forward.
The Mortgage Bankers Association reported Thursday that demand for home loans rose 1.2 percent in the week ended May 23rd thanks to a surge in purchase applications. According to the group's Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey, requests for purchase loans gained 1 percent, offsetting an identical 1 percent slide in applications for refinancing loans. The boost in purchase loan demand came just as average mortgage rates reached their lowest levels this year.
Mortgage insurer Freddie Mac reported last week that the average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate home loan, the mortgage type most utilized in home purchases, fell to 4.13 percent. Despite last week's gain in demand for home purchase loans, however, the MBA's mortgage purchase index is still down about 15 percent on a year-over-year basis. The group's refinancing index, meanwhile, has plunged 73 percent from a year ago as interest rates have been rising steadily since the government began unwinding stimulus programs that were launched at the height of the recession.