Business news briefs for 6/18/10

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U.S. cars sit atop survey for first time

A year after a crisis that ravaged the industry, American automakers as a group have surpassed imports on the initial quality of their new cars and trucks for the first time since J.D. Power and Associates started tracking their performance a quarter-century ago. Among mainstream brands, Ford led the survey, followed by Honda and Hyundai. GM and Chrysler posted mixed results, with some improvements, and Toyota fell to below-average.

First-time buyers lift housing market

In the frenzy to beat the April 30 deadline to qualify for tax credits, first-time home buyers lifted the Pittsburgh residential real estate market out of its deepest slump in more than 20 years in the first five months of 2010, according to RealSTATs, a local real estate information service. Buyers spent $1.32 billion on 9,047 homes in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler and Westmoreland counties, a 27.8 percent jump in dollars spent and a 23.4 percent rise in number of homes sold compared with the first five months of 2009.

Mortgage fraud effort nets nearly 500 arrests

The Justice Department announced Thursday that investigators had made nearly 500 arrests since March in a major crackdown on mortgage fraud. The initiative involves 1,215 criminal defendants in cases that uncovered more than $2.3 billion in losses. The Justice Department also has engaged in civil enforcement actions to recover more than $147 million in the operation.

Swiss lawmakers OK agreement on tax cheats

Swiss lawmakers on Thursday approved a treaty with the United States that will hand Washington thousands of files on suspected tax cheats, agreeing to drop plans to allow a referendum on the issue. The deal means the country's biggest bank, UBS AG, will have to divulge the names of 4,450 American clients suspected of tax evasion, ending the bank's three-year battle with U.S. tax authorities.

AGH hires transplant surgeon from Penn State

Transplant surgeon Akhtar S. Khan will be joining the Division of Transplantation Surgery at Allegheny General Hospital. Dr. Khan comes to AGH from the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, where he was director of the kidney and pancreas transplant program. He also previously was a surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute.

UPMC to restore 401(k) contributions

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center officials told employees Thursday that, beginning Jan. 1, they will be resuming the previous level of employer matching contributions to the UPMC Savings Plan. A 1 percent reduction has been in effect since July 2009. Also beginning Jan. 1, the officials said the pool of funds for merit-based raises would be increased, though they didn't say by how much.

Also in business ...

The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage rose to 4.75 percent, up from 4.72 percent last week, according to mortgage giant Freddie Mac. ... PPG Industries said its aerospace division won a five-year, $50.1 million federal contract to supply windshields for the military's Black Hawk helicopters. The windshields will be made at PPG's facility in Huntsville, Ala. ... Mylan Inc. said it received regulatory approval to market hydroxyzine hydrochloride tablets, an antihistamine used to treat anxiety and relieve itching.



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