Business News in Brief

Posted: May 18, 2012

IN THE REGION

Philly Fed survey turns downward

A monthly reading of manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia area unexpectedly turned negative for the first time in eight months. Economists had forecast continued growth. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Business Outlook Survey for May found that the pace of growth in the manufacturing sector “fell back” from recent months. New orders slipped as pricing pressures moderated, Fed researchers said. Even manufacturing employment, which has been a bright spot, appeared to have tailed off. Survey respondents reported a slight decline in current employment after eight consecutive months of growth. About 54 percent of firms that were asked about their plans for the next six months said they expected to increase production. But only 21 percent of those that anticipate a bump in production intend to hire more workers to make that happen.— Mike Armstrong

N.J. jobless rate edges up

The jobless rate in New Jersey inched up to 9.1 percent in April even as the state added 2,600 jobs. The state Treasury Department’s chief economist attributes the increase of 0.1 percentage point to more people actively looking for work. Charles Steindel said the number of New Jersey residents working is at a three-year high of nearly 3.9 million, with 2,600 jobs added in April. He says the numbers are consistent with continuing job growth. — AP

Spirit flights resumed, added in A.C.

Spirit Airlines on Thursday resumed seasonal non-stop flights between Atlantic City and Atlanta and added a second daily non-stop from Atlantic City to Boston. Spirit, the only scheduled carrier operating from Atlantic City International airport, also flies from that airport to Chicago, Detroit, Myrtle Beach and several South Florida cities. The seasonal flights to Atlanta will end Nov. 7. The seasonal flights to Boston and Chicago will end Sept 4. — Paul Nussbaum

NBC Sports details Olympic coverage

Comcast Corp.-owned NBC Sports Network will air 292.5 hours of Olympic events from London, the most ever for a cable channel, as it seeks to boost ratings and per-subscriber fees. NBC Sports also will broadcast Olympic games on the Bravo, CNBC and MSNBC cable channels, in addition to NBC broadcast-TV. NBC Sports Network has added three million new subscribers to 80 million households in the past year. — Bob Fernandez

Sites listed fore Peco tree pruning

Peco Energy Co. announced it would prune the trees along 300 miles of aerial electric lines in Philadelphia and Delaware Counties to improve electric service reliability for about 80,000 customers. The work, which will cost $1.4 million, will continue through early September. Pruning will be performed in the Philadelphia neighborhoods of Bartram Village, Cedar Park, Eastwick, Elmwood Park, Girard Estates, Kingsessing, Packer Park, Paschall, Passyunk Square, Pennsport, Southwest Schuylkill, Spruce Hill, Tasker and Whitman. Work also will be performed in the Delaware County townships of Nether Providence, Ridley and Tinicum, and the boroughs of Colwyn, Darby, Eddystone, Parkside, Ridley Park, Upland, Yeadon, as well as the city of Chester.— Andrew Maykuth

ELSEWHERE

Buffett buys newspaper chain

Billionaire Warren Buffett’s company is making another foray into newspapers, agreeing to buy 63 newspapers from Media General Inc. for $142 million. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is also extending a loan to Media General and taking a 19.9 percent stake in the company, which will still own 18 TV stations. Media General said the deal includes all of its newspapers except the Tampa Tribune of Florida and smaller newspapers in that market. It is in talks to sell those newspapers to other buyers. Berkshire Hathaway has owned the Buffalo News of New York for decades and bought its hometown paper, the Omaha World-Herald, in December. The company is also the largest shareholder of Washington Post Co., with a 23 percent stake. Shares of Media General closed up 33 percent on the news. — AP

Senate confirms Fed board nominees

The Senate confirmed President Obama’s two nominees to the Federal Reserve Board. The Senate voted 70-24 to confirm the nomination of Jeremy Stein, a Harvard University professor, and 74-21 to confirm Jerome Powell, a lawyer and private equity investor who was a Treasury undersecretary for President George H.W. Bush. Powell and Stein gained approval in March from the Senate Banking Committee over the opposition of Republican senators James DeMint of South Carolina and David Vitter of Louisiana. Vitter demanded a vote on the nominees in the full chamber, saying Thursday on the Senate floor that Powell and Stein would probably back the “very dangerous” Fed policy of keeping interest rates near zero. — Bloomberg News

Trade group sees smart-meter growth

The Institute for Electric Efficiency, a utility industry trade group, said Thursday that 36 million smart meters are now installed, up from 27 million in September, and that 65 million households will have the devices by 2015, about half the American households. In a report, the institute estimates that 22 electric utilities in 16 states will have smart meters fully deployed by the end of this year, including PPL Electric Utilities, Allentown, which rolled them out in 2004. Peco Energy Co. in March began installing the first of 1.6 million smart meters. Energy efficiency advocates say the smart meters, which provide readings at least hourly and allow for two-way communication, will modernize the electrical grid and allow customers to better manage their power consumption. Critics have decried smart meters because of concerns about health effects from the radio transmissions and a loss of privacy. — Andrew Maykuth

Index of economic indicators slips

A measure of future U.S. economic activity fell in April after six months of increases. The drop reflected fewer requests for building permits and a temporary spike in applications for unemployment benefits. The Conference Board said its index of leading economic indicators declined 0.1 percent in April from March. The index now stands at 95.5. That’s down slightly from a March reading of 95.6, which had been the highest level since mid-2008. Before the recession began in December 2007, the index routinely topped 100. The weakness in April came mostly from a drop in applications for building permits for homes and an increase in the number of people applying for unemployment benefits. Other components of the leading index showed strength. The index is designed to anticipate conditions three to six months out. — AP

Big jump in homeowner premiums

The 2011 HomeInsurance.com RateReport showed a considerable increase in average 12-month homeowners insurance premiums for new policies in December 2011, the website reported this week. HomeInsurance.com’s data represents about 15,000 policies sold across the United States. HomeInsurance.com’s RateReport shows 12-month home insurance premiums in December 2011 were $810 nationwide, a 19 percent increase from January 2011, at $682. RateReport shows that nationwide, homeowners are paying, on average, $128 more per year for new homeowners insurance policies than they were at the beginning of the year. HomeInsurance.com offers online comparison shopping for home and auto insurance. — Alan J. Heavens

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