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Wednesday's Daily Pulse

Strongest growth in home prices since 2006

Home prices in the U.S. increased in January by the strongest margin in seven years, according to CoreLogic. In January, national home prices, including distressed sales, increased 12 percent from the previous year, marking the 23rd consecutive month of yearly increases. More from World Property Channel and the Jacksonville Business Journal.

See also:
» Double-digit increase in Southwest Florida housing prices
» Miami area home prices rose 15.3 percent in January
» Southwest Florida home prices again rise by single digits

Florida Health Choices launches state exchange

After years of delay -- and some last-minute website concerns that slowed things down a few more weeks --- Florida's state-based health exchange has finally launched at www.myfloridachoices.org. More at the Tampa Bay Times and the AP.

U.S. House overwhelmingly passes flood insurance relief bill

The House on Tuesday night voted to undo major provisions of a 2012 law that has caused sharp flood insurance rate increases, signaling possible relief after months of rising tension among homeowners in Florida and other states. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]

Reactions mixed to Gov. Scott's State of the State address

Gov. Rick Scott's State of the State speech Tuesday was a marvelous statement of success, according to the faithful, and a beginning stump speech for his re-election campaign, according to the skeptics. In the speech, the governor declared the state a lot better off and took credit for it. [Sources: Lakeland Ledger and the New York Times]

» Full text of speech is here.

Long-term jobless without benefits tops 2 million nationally

The number of long-term unemployed without access to federal benefits crossed 2 million this week, just a few weeks after crossing the 100,000 threshold in Florida. Beginning in January, the maximum payout of unemployment benefits in Florida decreased from 19 weeks to 16 weeks under a formula tied to its unemployment rate. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]


› SunRail commuter train gets $63 million in Obama's 2015 budget
The SunRail commuter train is slated to receive $63 million from President Obama's 2015 budget to extend the system south into Osceola County, confirmed U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. SunRail had sought $83 million, but supporters say the amount of federal money marked is not as important as simply being in the budget.

› World's tallest roller coaster coming to Florida
So far, it's billed as the biggest attraction yet in central Florida: The Orlando Eye. You can see the supports for the massive, 425-foot tall observation wheel are in place, and plans are for the attraction to be open by New Year's. But the Orlando Eye could soon be overshadowed.

› St. Pete leaders see potential in port, but challenges too
The city's port has befuddled officials for years. Despite its downtown location, it is small and often overshadowed by its big sister across the bay. Officials have tried various ideas to jump-start economic development at the site, ranging from attempts to woo cruise ships to a fresh seafood market.

› Estonia now has its own consul in Miami
To better link the Republic of Estonia with South Florida, the ministry of foreign affairs in the Northern European nation recently appointed an honorary consul for its new Miami office.

Go to page 2 for more stories ...

› The Gainesville Fine Arts Association works to bring artists together
In its 91st year, the Gainesville Fine Arts Association is putting on a new face and rolling out new programs in an effort to bring the local art community together like never before.

› Fantasy of Flight attraction to close
Fantasy of Flight, an aviation-themed attraction in Polk County, will close to the public effective April 6. It will concentrate on the private-event business, owner Kermit Weeks told employees on Tuesday.

› Sun Hydraulics' profit up 25%
Sun Hydraulics reported a 25 percent increase in fourth-quarter profits while sales rose 13 percent. The Florida maker of hydraulic valves reported profits of $8.3 million, or 32 cents per share.

› N.C. appeals court upholds Duke-Progress Energy merger
A North Carolina appeals court on Tuesday upheld the 2012 regulatory decisions that approved Duke Energy's purchase of Progress Energy, making Charlotte-based Duke the country's largest electric company and a major utility in west-central Florida.