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Top U.S., Turkish generals hold phone call By Reuters

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States’ top general spoke with his Turkish counterpart on Wednesday, the U.S. military said, as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey’s air operations against a Kurdish militia in northern Syria were only the beginning and it would launch a land operation when convenient.

The U.S. military statement did not mention Syria by name, but said U.S. General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “discussed several items of mutual strategic interest.”

The statement added that Turkey was a key NATO ally and “the

U.S. values its strategic bilateral relationship.”

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Home sales could plunge in 2023. These cities may see the worst.

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Home sellers should brace themselves for a tough year ahead, with one real estate group forecasting that property sales could tumble in 2023 as more buyers are sidelined by rising mortgage rates and out-of-reach home prices.

The number of homes sold will likely plunge 14.1% to 4.53 million homes, representing the lowest number of property transactions since 2012, when the U.S. was still recovering from the housing crash and Great Recession, according to according to Realtor.com’s 2023 Housing Forecast.

The pandemic triggered a massive boom in real estate sales, bolstered by a combination of record-low mortgage rates and work-from-home-orders from many employers. Since early 2020, home prices have surged almost 40%, while mortgage rates have more than doubled since year-start, a double-whammy that has priced many buyers out of the market.

Sellers may feel the brunt of that impact next year, according to the new Realtor.com forecast.

“High home prices and mortgage rates [will] limit the pool of eligible home buyers” in 2023, it said.

Home sales are expected to dip the most in California and Florida. The biggest decline in sales volume will be in these cities, Realtor.com forecasted:

Ventura, California: A decline of -29.1%San Jose, California: -28.8%Bradenton, Florida: -28.7%San Diego, California: -27.3%Palm Bay, Florida: -18.3%Los Angeles, California: -15.8%Tampa, Florida: -15.6%Tucson, Arizona: -14.7%Fresno, California: -13.7%San Francisco: -13.3%Possible bright side for sellers

If there’s a bright side for sellers, it’s that the average sales price in the nation’s top 100 markets is likely to increase next year by an average 5.4%, according to Realtor.com’s 2023 Housing Forecast.

Not everyone’s outlook on home prices in 2023 is as sunny. Some economists are predicting that real estate values could plunge by as much as 20% next year due to the surge in mortgage rates and economic uncertainty.

Even though Realtor.com is forecasting higher housing prices next year, the pace of escalation represents a slower rate than the blistering increases of the past two years. Prices will be elevated during the first half of 2023, but are likely to fall or stay flat during the second half of next year, Realtor.com’s Chief Economist Danielle Hale told CBS MoneyWatch.

“We expect, for the year as a whole, 2023 is going to be higher,” Hale said. “Shoppers who want to buy might have to wait a little bit.”

The elevated prices will be more dramatic in some cities than others, Realtor.com predicted. Metro areas that could see the sharpest increases are:

Worcester, Massachusetts: 10.6%Portland, Maine: 10.3%Grand Rapids, Michigan: 10%Providence, Rhode Island: 9.8%Spokane, Washington: 9.6%Springfield, Massachusetts: 8.9%Boise, Idaho: 8.7%Chattanooga, Tennessee: 8.2%Indianapolis, Indiana: 7.8%Milwaukee, Wisconsin: 7.7%

Those higher prices could be discouraging for buyers who have already faced sharply higher real estate valuations in 2022. Some cities in particular — like Boise, Idaho; and Austin, Texas — saw double-digit percent increases this year.

The rising cost of homeownership deterred many aspiring buyers, who have opted instead to continue renting. In a recent survey from LendingTree, nearly half of respondents said they were postponing major decisions, either renting for longer period of time or putting off major home renovations.

Home prices have fallen in some areas during the tail end of 2022, but mortgage rates have continued to climb. The average interest rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage was about 6.6% this week, more than double what the rate was at the start of the year.

Realtor.com expects mortgage rates to climb even further at the beginning of next year as the Federal Reserve continues to raise its benchmark interest rate. Mortgage rates could reach as high as 7.4% in the first half of 2023 before settling down to around 7.1% toward the second half of the year, the company said.

The combination of higher home prices and mortgage rates in 2023 could push the typical monthly mortgage payment in 2023 to $2,430, or 28% higher than this year, Realtor.com predicted.

Mortgage rates rose so quickly this year that it was at times difficult for buyers to figure out how much home they could afford, Hale said. In 2023, interest rates probably won’t fluctuate as much, she said.

“Having more stability will make it easier for buyers when setting the right budget,” she said. “And that should help encourage people to get back into the housing market.”

With buyers sitting on the sidelines, the number of homes available for sale is expected to climb nearly 23% next year. The upside for buyers is a greater variety of choices, while sellers will be facing more competition.

To be sure, all of these predictions could change depending how the Fed handles its fight against inflation next month and early next year, Hale said. The Fed has raised its benchmark rate six times this year, and with each hike mortgage rates have climbed as well. Hale and other economists expect the Fed to raise its rate again next month, but perhaps by not as much as previous increases.

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China’s economy will keep growing at reasonable speed: finance minister By Reuters

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© Reuters. Chinese Finance Minister Liu Kun attends a news conference in Beijing, China February 22, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Files

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s economy will keep growing at a reasonable speed with stable employment and prices, finance minister Liu Kun said in a speech at the ASEAN plus Three Economic Cooperation and Financial Stability Forum in a video on Friday.

The Chinese government will continue to implement the policy package and strive to realise the goal of creating 11 million new urban jobs, Liu said.

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Big Las Vegas property owner to take full ownership of two casinos

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The largest property owner on the Las Vegas Strip is doubling down and taking full ownership of the MGM Grand Las Vegas and Mandalay Bay, which the deal values at $5.5 billion.

VICI Properties, a real estate investment trust based in New York, has agreed to buy Blackstone’s 49.9% stake in the two Las Vegas casino resorts. VICI currently owns a 50.1% stake in the property, which it acquired when it bought MGM Growth properties in May.

The transaction is expected to close in early 2023.

Appearing on CNBC’s Power Lunch, VICI Properties CEO Ed Pitoniak said Blackstone approached him just a couple weeks ago, and that the deal came together quickly.

“We were very excited about the opportunity. Obviously it simplifies our structure, but it gives us total ownership of two of the most iconic assets on the Las Vegas strip the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay,” Pitoniak said.

Blackstone Real Estate Investment Trust, known as BREIT, said Thursday that it decided to limit withdrawals after it saw redemptions in October that exceed their monthly limits. Blackstone shares dropped almost 10% on the news.

But what was a problem for Blackstone may be a piece of good luck for VICI.

“We like the deal as it simplifies VICI’s structure and highlights VICI’s multiple paths for growth despite the company’s larger base and a rising interest rate environment,” Truist analyst Barry Jonas wrote in a client note.

Gaming REITS such as VICI own the buildings and the land of casinos and resorts. Gambling companies, such as Caesars and MGM Resorts − both tenants of VICI − own the operations.

MGM Grand Las Vegas and Mandalay Bay, located on the south end of the Strip, include more than 11,000 hotel rooms, 321,000 square feet of gaming floor, and 3 million square feet of meeting facilities.

VICI is putting in more than a $1 billion in cash, and assuming more than $3 billion of Blackstone debt at a 3.56% rate through 2032. Pitoniak called that a good deal at a time when VICI might have expected to pay 6%.

VICI’s CEO says he’s bullish on Las Vegas’s continued growth, pointing to a packed convention and entertainment calendar next year, and attention-getting sports events including F1 in November 2023.

Despite the sale, Blackstone COO Jay Gray said Las Vegas continues to be a high conviction market for Blackstone, which also owns the physical property of the Cosmopolitan and Bellagio.

Many analysts and investors are also bullish on the opportunities for growth in Las Vegas.

October marked the 20th straight month of $1 billion or more in state gaming revenue, according to figures released by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Strip casinos are seeing a 20% surge in revenue through October to $6.8 billion in gaming revenue from a year ago.

Las Vegas is also attracting a record number of visitors. Harry Reid International saw more than 5 million passengers for the first time ever in October.

“It’s further evidence that Las Vegas remains amongst the most in-demand destinations in the world,” said Rosemary Vassiliadis, Clark County’s director of aviation.

And hotel revenue in Las Vegas was up 51% in October compared with October 2019, before the pandemic, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Deutsche Bank, which has a “buy” rating on the stock, raised its price target to $38 following news of the transaction.

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