Business news briefs: Highmark lays off scores

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Highmark lays off scores

Highmark Inc. has laid off 120 employees in its information technology area, and 12 more in sales and diversified businesses, all part of what spokesman Aaron Billger called "a restructuring to align resources in order to increase efficiencies and streamline operations." He said 58 of the 120 IT jobs and seven of the 12 sales jobs were in Pittsburgh, with the other layoffs occurring at Highmark's Camp Hill and other locations. Some positions were in management.

Highmark also intends to create close to 100 new IT jobs but, he said, those positions will require different skills and he does not expect the laid-off workers will be rehired. Highmark employs about 5,000 workers in Western Pennsylvania.

UPMC nurses strike for day

Hundreds of UPMC Altoona nurses made good on their threat to hold a one-day strike Tuesday, protesting what they said were unfair labor practices at the facility since UPMC acquired it last summer. The nurses, represented by SEIU Healthcare PA, have been without a contract since Dec. 31, and SEIU said it called the strike after UPMC walked away from the negotiating table Feb. 1. The primary issues in the stalled talks are staffing and pensions. UPMC Altoona had contracted with a firm to supply temporary Pennsylvania-licensed nurses during the strike. A UPMC Altoona spokesman said that 140 nurses of the 800 nurses represented by SEIU "chose not to strike and came to work for first shift."

Agency: Pa. exports up in '13

Pennsylvania's merchandise exports rose 5.4 percent in 2013 over 2012, reaching $40.9 billion last year, according to the International Trade Administration.

Stockpile growth loses pace

U.S. wholesale businesses increased their stockpiles in December at the slowest pace since last summer, another sign that the economy lost some momentum at the end of 2013. Wholesalers boosted stockpiles by 0.3 percent in December from November, the smallest gain since July, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. Sales growth slowed to 0.5 percent in December. Rising stockpiles boost economic growth because they reflect expanding production at factories.

TreeHouse files monopoly suit

TreeHouse Foods Inc., an Illinois food company that makes soup in the former Heinz plant on Pittsburgh's North Shore, has filed suit against Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Keurig, accusing them of unlawfully maintaining a monopoly over the cups used in single-serve brewing machines.

CVS reassures investors

CVS Caremark raised its earnings forecast for the start of 2014 and reassured investors that its business can absorb the financial hit coming from a decision to stop selling tobacco products. The Woonsocket, R.I., drugstore chain also reported fourth-quarter earnings that climbed more than 12 percent and edged past Wall Street expectations.

Also in business ...

Diagnostics company Cernostics, located in Uptown, has received two new patents related to its TissueCypher Technology Platform, which uses tissue analysis for diagnosing cancers ... Big Lots, based in Columbus, Ohio, has become the official Hostess thrift outlet chain, serving in the stead of Hostess thrift stores closed when the previous owner went bankrupt.

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