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Business digest

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - 8:29 am

New Zealand airline plans Antarctic ice landings

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – New Zealand's flagship airline plans to fly planes to Antarctica that pilots would land on an ice runway.

But tourists wanting to travel to the frozen continent will need to keep their hopes in check. The chartered Air New Zealand flights would be for scientists and their support crews, and the airline said Tuesday it has no plans to begin commercial trips.

Many countries already fly scientists to Antarctica. But those flights are typically run by government or military agencies, or by specialized companies.

Air New Zealand plans to use one of its regular passenger jets for the Antarctic flights, a Boeing 767-300.

Airline spokeswoman Marie Hosking said the jet doesn't need any modifications and that the Antarctic ice runway has the characteristics of a regular runway that's covered in dry snow, much like the airline's pilots might expect to encounter at an airport like Tokyo.

The airline plans an Oct. 5 trial run. If successful, it would operate two more charter flights during the upcoming Antarctic summer season.

US consumer confidence dips

WASHINGTON – Americans' confidence in the economy fell slightly in September from August, as many became less optimistic about hiring and pay increases over the next six months.

The Conference Board, a New York-based private research group, said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index dropped to 79.7 in September.

That's down from August's reading of 81.8, which was slightly higher than previously estimated.

Consumers' confidence is closely watched because their spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.

The September reading was only slightly below June's reading of 82.1, the highest in 5 1/2 years.

US home prices rise is most in 7 1/2 years

WASHINGTON – U.S. home prices rose 12.4 percent in July compared with a year ago, the most since February 2006. An increase in sales on a limited supply of available homes drove the gains.

The Standard &Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index reported Tuesday improved from June, when it rose 12.1 percent from a year ago.

All 20 cities posted gains in July from the previous month and compared with a year ago.

Still, the month-over-month price gains shrank in 15 cities in July compared with the previous month, indicating prices may be peaking.

Month-over-month gains in the 20-city price index have slowed for three straight months.

–From wire reports