A Lowe's employee helps a customer buying windows and window molding at Lowe's home improvement store on April 11, 2011 in Burbank, Calif. - 

The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes rose in January to the highest level in nearly two years, supporting the view that the housing market is gradually coming back. A gallon of gas here in the U.S. will set you back $0.18 more than it did just a couple weeks ago. Home improvement store Lowe's was helped along by a warm winter -- the weather made those fix-its a little easier to get to.

Those rising gas prices are partly responsible for a change in bathroom-break policy in North Providence, R.I. The mayor of the town wants city maintenance workers to go when they need to -- where they are. According to the Providence Journal, workers were driving back to headquarters for their bathroom breaks. Instead, the mayor suggests fire stations, the library or maybe a senior center.

BP's "trial of the century" is being postponed for one week, and the oil giant seems to be scrambling to quickly settle out-of-court.

Nearly 10 percent of customers of U.S. banks moved their accounts last year, often after they became frustrated with fees and the quality of service, market research firm J.D. Power and Associates said on Monday.

The Oracle of Omaha has tongues wagging after Berkshire Hathaway announced it had found a successor to Warren Buffett -- but the popular billionaire isn't revealing who it is.

The Group of 20 finance ministers are pushing back a decision on boosting the fund used to fight the eurozone financial crisis.

Word this morning that Rupert Murdoch's company is paying nearly $1 million to a British singer who said News Corp. journalists hacked her cell phone. Charlotte Church gets the equivalent of $951,000, about half of it for legal costs. The settlement includes an apology.

One reason a fellow watches the Oscars is to get a respite from business news -- yet there was Billy Crystal last night, making reference to the always hilarious United States bankruptcy code. "Welcome to the Chapter 11 theater!" he said as soon as he took the stage. It was one of those jokes where you kind of had to be there -- "there" being the auditorium formerly known as the "Kodak" Theater. Back in 2000, Kodak paid $74 million for naming rights for the Oscar venue. Kodak was able to get out of the deal after it filed for bankruptcy last month. The plan was to say the "Hollywood and Highland Center" last night. Instead, Crystal called it the "Your Name Here Theatre."