Business news briefs: $8M for alternative fuel grants

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$8M for alternative fuel grants

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has pledged $8 million in grants for school districts, corporations and municipal organizations for the purchase of or conversion to alternative fuel vehicles. The DEP is reviving its Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant, which awarded $5 million last year. Applications will be accepted between March 1 and May 30. For more information, visit www.dep.state.pa.us.

U.S. Steel results improve

U.S. Steel said tax benefits related to the liquidation of a non-U.S. entity that is a holding company for most of its non-U.S. operations reduced the size of its 2013 loss to $1.67 billion, or $11.56 per share. The company previously reported a loss of $2.06 billion, or $14.27 per share. U.S. Steel said it expects more than $300 million in additional aftertax cash flow from the tax benefits in 2014.

Earnings

* Cold weather helped boost fourth-quarter earnings for FirstEnergy Corp., which reported $142 million in net income, compared to a $148 million loss in the fourth quarter of 2012. West Penn Power, which serves 740,000 customers in 24 Pennsylvania counties, is a subsidiary of the Akron, Ohio-based company. FirstEnergy increased revenue to $3.65 billion in the quarter, up from $3.49 billion the previous year. The company also managed to narrow losses from "special items," such as regulatory charges, plant deactivation fees and transfer charges, which hurt the company in 2012. Such expenses dropped per share earnings from 75 cents to 34 cents in the fourth quarter of 2013 and from an 80-cent gain to a 35-cent loss in the fourth quarter of 2012.

* Horsehead Holding reported losses for the fourth quarter and all of 2013, weighed down by the costs of closing its Monaca plant and other items. The Robinson zinc producer lost $12.4 million, or 26 cents per share, during the quarter. Sales fell 3 percent to $103.6 million. For the year, Horsehead lost $14 million, or 31 cents per share, on sales of $441.9 million vs. a 2012 loss of $30.4 million, or 69 cents per share, and sales of $435.7 million.

FirstEnergy, Eaton sign deal

Eaton Corp. will provide engineering and electrical equipment to FirstEnergy Corp.'s Eastlake, Ohio, power plant so that after a scheduled shutdown later this year the facility can be used to help stabilize power flows on the regional grid in northeast Ohio. Terms of the contract were not disclosed. Eaton's electrical unit is based in Moon.

HyperActive buys firm's assets

Green Tree-based HyperActive Technologies Inc. has agreed to buy the assets of Axoro -- a Newport Beach, Calif.-based digital signage and communication solutions company -- for an undisclosed amount. HyperActive, which serves the restaurant industry, also said it had seen a 35 percent increase in revenue last year, although it did not release specific financial data.

FTC halts work-at-home 'scam'

"Make $379/day from home! ... Certified, proven and guaranteed." Or maybe not. The Federal Trade Commission said it has temporarily halted "a massive scam" that bilked consumers out of millions of dollars for useless work-at-home kits and business coaching services costing from $37 to $12,000. The business operated under a variety of names, the FTC said, such as Essent Media, Net Training, YES International and Apply Knowledge. The agency is seeking to permanently shut down the operation and recover money for victims.

Consumer Reports lauds Tesla

The $89,650 Tesla Model S electric sedan is Consumer Reports' top pick in this year's automotive rankings. For less than a third of that price, the Toyota Prius hybrid got the nod as Consumer Reports' top green car. Other category leaders: Honda Accord, midsize car; BMW328i, sports sedan, Subaru Impreza, small car; Subaru Forester, small SUV; Hyundai Santa Fe, large SUV; Audi A6, luxury sedan; Honda Odyssey, minivan; Chrysler Ram 1500, pickup truck.

Consumer optimism declines

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its confidence index dipped to 78.1 in February, down from 79.4 in January. In the expectations category, consumer views about the labor market were a bit more pessimistic than they have been, possibly reflecting two months of weak job gains.

Home price index dips

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index declined 0.1 percent from November to December, matching the previous month's decline. For all of 2013, however, prices rose by a healthy 13.4 percent, mostly because of gains earlier in the year. The Case-Shiller index does not include Pittsburgh.

Taco Bell unveils breakfasts

Meet Waffle Taco. Taco Bell will start serving breakfast March 27, featuring various wraps and that Waffle Taco, which is a waffle wrapped around a sausage patty or bacon, with scrambled eggs and cheese. The chain says breakfast will be available until 11 a.m. -- a half-hour later than McDonald's offers its Egg McMuffins.


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