Business news in brief

Posted: May 13, 2011

In the Region

Jersey Shore home prices stabilize

After five years of declines in values exceeding those of Philadelphia and its suburban counties, most Jersey Shore towns had flat or positive price changes in this year's first quarter, economist Kevin Gillen of Econsult Inc. said Thursday. He found that the typical Shore home declined in value by just 0.1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis in the quarter. From the peak of the housing boom in 2006, the average Shore home has dropped 32 percent in value, Gillen said. The average U.S. home has fallen 21 percent, the average Philadelphia home

16 percent, and the average New Jersey home 14 percent. - Alan J. Heavens

Malvern firm sells off 14 properties

Liberty Property Trust, Malvern, said it had sold 14 office properties in the Richmond, Va., area for $97 million. The company said it was seeking to reduce its holdings of suburban office sites in that market and would focus there on industrial properties. The buyer was Lingerfelt Development. Liberty still owns about four million square feet of office and industrial sites in the area. - Paul Schweizer

N.J. medical-practice jobs up 20%

Medical practices in New Jersey employed nearly 70,000 people in 2009, about 20 percent more than in 2001, a study by the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy found. It said the state's 9,100 private physicians' practices had contributed directly and indirectly $334 million in annual state tax revenue and $353 million in local tax revenue and added $10.7 billion to New Jersey's annual gross domestic product (the sum of all goods and services produced in the state). The school is part of Rutgers University. - Paul Schweizer

Plosser: Fed stimulus nears end

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia president Charles Plosser said the U.S. economic recovery was nearing a point at which the central bank should begin pulling back its record stimulus. "While my expectation is that oil-price increases will level off and that the currently elevated inflation measures will reverse, the risks to the inflation outlook are tilted to the upside," requiring the Fed to have a plan for tightening credit, Plosser said in a speech in Aventura, Fla. The Fed already plans to end its bond-buying program in June, but it has not set a timetable for cutting its $2.7 billion balance sheet. - Bloomberg News

Elsewhere

Texas leads way on drilling disclosure

Texas is poised to become the first state to require natural gas drillers to disclose the chemicals they use in the hydraulic fracturing process that helps release minerals from tight rock formations. The Texas House passed the bill on a final reading Thursday. The bill goes to the Senate, which is expected to approve it. Fracturing is used in Marcellus Shale drilling in Pennsylvania. - AP

DOT official: Air controller errors up

The U.S. Transportation Department's in-house watchdog said that it wasn't clear why air-traffic controller errors soared 53 percent last year, but that inexperience could largely explain it. Inspector General Calvin L. Scovel III told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that the Federal Aviation Administration had placed large numbers of inexperienced controllers at some of the nation's busiest and most complex air-traffic facilities. The agency plans to hire 11,000 controllers by 2019 to make up for a wave of retirements, he said. - AP

New unemployment claims drop

Far fewer people sought unemployment benefits last week, a sharp reversal from big gains in previous weeks that suggests recent increases in layoffs may prove temporary. The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell 44,000 to 434,000, the Labor Department said. That was the biggest weekly drop since February 2010. - AP

Disney unit to pay $3M in privacy case

An online-game firm owned by Walt Disney Co. will pay $3 million to settle federal charges that on 20 websites it illegally collected and disclosed personal information from hundreds of thousands of children younger than 13 without parental consent. The Federal Trade Commission said the settlement with Playdom Inc. was the largest civil penalty ever for a violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. - AP

Allstate: Tornado losses at $1.4B

Allstate Corp., the home and auto insurer, said tornadoes that ripped through the South and Midwest caused the bulk of about $1.4 billion in catastrophe losses last month in the United States and Canada. More than 100,000 claims have been reported to Allstate, the company said. Severe weather has become a growing concern for Allstate in recent years. - AP

Under fire, Yunus quits Grameen Bank

Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus resigned as managing director of Bangladesh's Grameen Bank a week after the nation's Supreme Court dismissed his appeal to remain head of the microlender he founded. Differences between Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for founding Grameen, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government surfaced in December when Norwegian television reported misuse of aid to the lender. Grameen denied any wrongdoing. - Bloomberg News

White House maps cybersecurity plan

Companies that run critical U.S. industries such as power plants would get government incentives to make sure their systems are secure from computer attacks, the White House said in detailing its broad proposal to beef up the country's cybersecurity. The Department of Homeland Security would have the authority to work with industry to come up with ways to secure computer systems and protect against threats. If a company failed to do so, or came up with an inadequate plan, DHS would be able develop its own security framework for that firm. - AP

Germany may back new aid for Greece

Germany could back more aid if Greece still cannot raise money by selling bonds, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said. That was the clearest official admission yet that the 2010 international bailout and austerity plan intended to restore confidence in Greece was failing. - AP

Ford CEO has no plans to leave job

Ford Motor Co. chief executive Alan Mulally said at the annual shareholders meeting in Wilmington that he hadn't thought about retiring. His retirement is the subject of frequent speculation because he will turn 66 in August. Ford does not have a mandatory retirement age. - AP

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