Business News in Brief

A shopper at a Costco Wholesale store in Portland, Ore. U.S. wholesale companies added modestly to their stockpiles in May. But sales at the wholesale level dropped by the largest amount in three years, a troubling sign for future growth. RICK BOWMER / AP file photo
A shopper at a Costco Wholesale store in Portland, Ore. U.S. wholesale companies added modestly to their stockpiles in May. But sales at the wholesale level dropped by the largest amount in three years, a troubling sign for future growth. RICK BOWMER / AP file photo
Posted: July 12, 2012

IN THE REGION

Acme parent suspends dividend

Acme Markets owner Supervalu Inc. said Wednesday it would suspend its quarterly dividend, cut $250 million in expenses over the next two years, and review strategic alternatives as the company reported reduced net sales of $10.6 billion and net earnings of $41 million, or 19 cents a share, for the quarter ended June 16. Sales the same period a year earlier were $11.1 billion with earnings of $74 million, or 35 cents a share, the company said. "These are bold but necessary moves, which will position Supervalu for success in this increasingly competitive environment," president and chief executive Craig Herkert said in a statement. The Minneapolis-based corporation, with divisional offices in Malvern for Acme Markets, said Goldman Sachs and Greenhill & Co. had initiated a review of strategic alternatives to create value for Supervalu shareholders.

 — Maria Panaritis

OSHA cites Arkema plant

Regulators have cited the U.S. operations of French chemicals maker Arkema S.A. for safety violations at the Houston plant where it produces organic chemicals. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed penalties of $117,100 for 12 serious, one repeat and one other-than-serious violations following a January inspection. "It's vital that Arkema ensure that safeguards are in place to protect the safety of workers at this facility," said David Doucet, director of OSHA's Houston North Area Office. Arkema, with its U.S. headquarters in King of Prussia, has 15 business days to respond to the regulatory action. The company employs about 2,400 at its 32 factories in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Brazil. — Mike Armstrong

Shire changes ticker symbol

Drugmaker Shire P.L.C.'s American depositary shares began using a new ticker symbol on the Nasdaq exchange on Wednesday, switching from SHPGY to SHPG. Shire's regular shares are sold on the London Stock Exchange using the symbol SHP. Shire, which has a facility in Wayne, Pa., said each ADS continues to represent three ordinary shares of Shire P.L.C. — David Sell

Assistance center is Horizon Connect

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is naming its Moorestown walk-in consumer assistance center Horizon Connect. The insurer said in May that it had signed a lease to open a retail center in the East Gate Shopping Center on Route 38 in Moorestown. — Inquirer staff

ELSEWHERE

SIPC won't cover Peregrine losses

Peregrine Financial Group Inc. futures customers won't have their losses covered by the Securities Investor Protection Corp. even if they were defrauded, the fund's chief said. The Securities Investor Protection Act provisions make customers of a futures commission merchant like Peregrine ineligible for payment, SIPC chief executive officer Stephen P. Harbeck said. Harbeck said SIPC, an industry fund that covers losses from brokerage firm failures, had been told Peregrine's futures business is in a company separate from the registered broker-dealer that's covered by SIPC. Peregrine's securities broker traded on a so-called fully disclosed basis where the accounts are held by a unit of Sterne Agee Group Inc., Harbeck said. While securities customers can look to Sterne Agee, futures customers aren't covered, he said. Peregrine filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation Tuesday after being sued by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which accused the firm and founder Russell R. Wasendorf Sr., who remains in a coma after a suicide attempt, of misappropriating at least $200 million. In its bankruptcy filing, Peregrine reported it had more than $500 million in assets, more than $100 million in liabilities and at least 10,001 creditors. — Bloomberg News

Trade deficit shrinks in May

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in May from April, helped by cheaper oil that lowered imports and an increase in American exports to Europe and China. But economists cautioned that the global economy has weakened since then. And they noted that the decline in the deficit wasn't enough to alter their growth forecasts for the April-June quarter. The Commerce Department said the trade deficit fell 3.8 percent to $48.7 billion in May, down from $50.6 billion in April. Exports rose 0.2 percent to $183.1 billion. The increase reflected stronger sales of telecommunications equipment and heavy machinery. Imports dropped 0.7 percent to $231.8 billion. — AP

SEC OKs uniform-tracking rule

U.S. stock exchanges must establish a uniform system to track all orders and trades under a rule approved Wednesday. The Securities and Exchange Commission said the requirement is intended to make it easier for the government to investigate market disruptions, such as the "flash crash" two years ago that sent the Dow Jones industrial average down nearly 600 points in five minutes. The SEC voted to have all U.S. exchanges keep the same form of audit trails covering trading orders from start to routing to execution. Now, audit trails vary among exchanges. Regulators say that has made it harder to get their hands on current order data.  — AP

Money-fund rates unchanged

The average seven-day yield on taxable money-market funds was 0.03 percent this week, unchanged from last week, according to iMoneyNet Inc. The average yield on tax-free funds was 0.01 percent this week, unchanged from last week.   — Rhonda Dickey

Wholesale stockpiles increase in May

U.S. wholesale companies added modestly to their stockpiles in May. But sales at the wholesale level dropped by the largest amount in three years, a troubling sign for future growth. The Commerce Department said wholesale stockpiles rose 0.3 percent in May. That followed a 0.5 percent increase in April. But sales at the wholesale level fell 0.8 percent in May, the biggest decline since March 2009. Greater restocking means companies ordered more goods, which increases factory production. But the broader economic benefits from faster restocking were likely offset by the decline in sales, which could prompt wholesalers to restock more slowly.   — AP

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