Business news in brief

Clothing retailer Gap Inc. says that July sales at stores open at least a year jumped 10 percent, easily surpassing analysts' expectations, and that second-quarter earnings would rise from last year's results. Americans shoppers proved resilient in July, driving up the same-store sales figures in July. Summer clothing purchases drove the increase.
Clothing retailer Gap Inc. says that July sales at stores open at least a year jumped 10 percent, easily surpassing analysts' expectations, and that second-quarter earnings would rise from last year's results. Americans shoppers proved resilient in July, driving up the same-store sales figures in July. Summer clothing purchases drove the increase. (ELISE AMENDOLA / AP)
Posted: August 03, 2012

IN THE REGION

Small slot-revenue drop in Pa.

Gross slots revenue at the 11 Pennsylvania casinos fell 2.5 percent last month to $212.9 million, compared with July 2011. Every casino, with the exception of SugarHouse - which was up 6.1 percent - reported decreases, led by a 15.1 percent revenue decline at Presque Isle Downs and Casino in Erie. Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs had the smallest decrease, at 0.98 percent. July 2011 had an extra weekend compared with July 2012, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board noted Thursday. "Take out that extra weekend factor, and the numbers are amazingly steady," said board spokesman Doug Harbach. Last month's revenue decline marked just the third decrease since the first casino opened in the state in late 2006. The previous decreases were in January and October of last year. - Suzette Parmley

Teva posts higher earnings

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.'s second-quarter profit rose 14 percent as new generic medicines boosted sales and revenue climbed from the company's biggest-selling product, the multiple-sclerosis drug Copaxone. Teva, based in Petach Tikva, Israel, has major operations in the Philadelphia area. Earnings excluding some costs climbed to $1.1 billion, or $1.28 a share, from $984 million, or $1.10, a year earlier, the company said in a statement. Analysts predicted $1.29 a share, the average of 23 estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales rose 19 percent to $5 billion, missing the average estimate of $5.09 billion. Revenue from generic drugs in North America rose 16 percent to $1.05 billion. In Europe, generic sales fell 12 percent to $884 million, mostly due to a weakening of the euro, Teva. - Bloomberg News

Aqua America raises dividend

Aqua America Inc., the Bryn Mawr water purveyor, said it would increase its quarterly dividend 6.1 percent on Dec. 1 from 16.5 cents per share to 17.5 cents per share. The boost was the utility's 22d dividend increase in 21 years. At current share prices - Aqua America closed Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange at $25.72, up 4 cents - the annual yield on the company's shares would amount to about 2.7 percent. Aqua America serves almost three million residents in 10 states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey. - Andrew Maykuth

Accenture to buy Wayne company

Accenture said it had agreed to buy Octagon Research Solutions Inc., a Wayne software company focused on helping drug developers to submit documents required by the Food and Drug Administration and similar agencies worldwide, for an undisclosed price. Octagon, founded in 1999, employs 380 in Wayne; Mountain View, Calif.; London; and Bangalore, India, Accenture said. - Harold Brubaker

Financial firm to raise $12M

Delaware Valley Financial Group Inc., a King of Prussia provider of investment and insurance services, filed a notice with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it was trying to raise $12 million in equity and debt. Privately held Delaware Valley Financial Group did not disclose what it planned to do with the money. - Harold Brubaker

L&I issues guidelines

The Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections has issued guidelines to comply with legislation passed by the General Assembly extending deadlines for commercial and residential construction permits and approvals until July 1, 2016. The Assembly approved an amendment to an act passed in 2010 extending for three more years all permits and approvals of building projects received between Jan. 1, 2009, and July 1, 2013. The amendment was passed in part to provide additional time for projects throughout Pennsylvania affected by the economic downturn. For information, call 215-686-8686. - Alan J. Heavens

ELSEWHERE

IRS missing billions in ID theft

The Internal Revenue Service may have delivered more than $5 billion in refund checks to identity thieves who filed fraudulent tax returns for 2011, Treasury Department investigators said. The IRS is detecting far fewer fraudulent tax refund claims than actually take place, according to a government audit. Although the IRS detected about 940,000 fraudulent returns for last year claiming $6.5 billion in refunds, there were potentially another 1.5 million undetected cases of thieves seeking refunds after assuming the identity of a dead person, a child or someone else who normally wouldn't file a tax return. Taxpayers can start filing their returns in mid-January, while employers and financial institutions don't have to submit withholding and income documents for taxpayers to the IRS until the end of March. That means the IRS often issues refunds long before it can confirm the veracity of what's listed on taxpayer returns. - AP

Jobless claims up; data likely skewed

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose last week, though the data were likely skewed higher by seasonal factors. Weekly applications increased by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 365,000, the Labor Department said. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell for the sixth straight week to 365,500, the lowest since March 31. Economists view last month's figures with caution because the government struggles every July to account for temporary summer shutdowns in the auto industry. This year was even more complicated because some automakers skipped the shutdowns, resulting in fewer layoffs. Weekly unemployment applications are a measure of layoffs. When they consistently fall below 375,000, it suggests hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate. - AP

Executive accused of insider trading

A Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. executive is being held on $250,000 bail after his arrest on insider-trading charges. New Jersey's U.S. attorney said Robert Ramnarine, 45, bought and sold stock in companies that his pharmaceutical firm was considering buying. The Securities and Exchange Commission also has filed civil insider-trading charges against him. Prosecutors allege Ramnarine made about $310,000 in profits buying and selling stock. They say he based trades on inside information from his job checking out the pension plans of firms Bristol-Myers was considering buying. A company spokesman says the East Brunswick resident has been placed on administrative leave. Ramnarine declined to comment through a court-appointed attorney. - AP

Mortgage rates up from lows

The average U.S. rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage rose this week after falling to new record lows in each of the last four weeks. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the rate on the 30-year loan jumped to 3.55 percent. That's up from 3.49 percent last week, which was the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s. - AP

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