Business news briefs: Grants for heating crises available starting next week

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The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program will make money available to residents who have heating emergencies, such as broken equipment, lack of fuel or utility service termination. Crisis grants of $25 to $500 will be available starting Thursday. Allegheny County residents can apply at 914 Penn Ave. or by calling 800-622-3527.

Big bargains help increase retail sales by 3.5 percent

U.S. retail sales rose 3.5 percent during the holiday season this year, helped by deep discounts at malls and purchases of children's apparel and jewelry, MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse said Thursday. SpendingPulse tracks U.S. sales at stores and online via all payment forms. Falling store traffic in recent weeks and uneven demand, especially for apparel, spurred chains to risk earnings by pouring on the discounts to generate sales.

Problems at UPS, FedEx delay some holiday packages

Santa's sleigh didn't make it in time for Christmas for some this year due to shipping problems at UPS and FedEx. The delays were blamed on poor weather earlier this week in parts of the country as well as overloaded systems. Neither company said how many packages were delayed. has been notifying some customers affected by the UPS delays that it will refund any shipping charges and is giving them a $20 credit toward a future purchase.

Critics prompt McDonald's to close website for workers

McDonald's Corp. has shut down a website intended to provide employees with work and life guidance after it generated negative publicity for the fast-food company. The McResource program has been criticized for creating unrealistic budgets and offering advice that was out of touch with its workers' pay. The website, which was run by an outside company, also reportedly discouraged workers from eating fast food.

Lawsuit filed over shares in Empire State Building

Thousands of stakeholders in the Empire State Building lost more than $400 million in potential profits when the managing owners rebuffed potential buyers in order to sell public shares in the iconic skyscraper, a new lawsuit says. By spurning all-cash offers for the tower and instead packaging it with lesser-known office properties into a publicly traded stock, father-and-son real estate magnates Peter and Anthony Malkin put their interests ahead of those of the building's longtime investors, lawyer John Rizio-Hamilton said Thursday. He represents one of those investors, who filed the suit seeking class-action status on behalf of roughly 3,000 people who hold Empire State Building shares that were sold privately in 1961.

Delta to honor lower prices incorrectly displayed on Web

Delta Air Lines Inc. said some ticket prices were incorrectly displayed for a short while Thursday on its website and other booking channels, resulting in customers purchasing flights at lower than usual fares. Delta will honor any fares purchased at the incorrect price, the airline said in an emailed statement. Delta, based in Atlanta, said the low fares were displayed "for a portion of the morning" and it is investigating what happened.

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