Business news briefs: Shoppers boost sales higher than expected

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Shoppers boost sales higher than expected

American shoppers proved resilient in July, driving a key sales figure up at retailers across the country, despite persistent worry about jobs and the global economy. Results were boosted by hot weather and summer clearance sales. A preliminary tally by the International Council of Shopping Centers of 20 retailers found revenue in stores open at least a year rose 4.6 percent in July, higher than the 3 percent to 3.5 percent the ICSC expected.

Major airlines raise fares again within two weeks

For the second time in less than two weeks, major U.S. airlines are raising fares. United Airlines confirmed Thursday that it increased prices on many U.S. flights by $10 per round trip. J.P. Morgan airline analyst Jamie Baker says, however, that he'll be surprised if Southwest follows suit, coming only two weeks after airlines raised base fares by $4 to $10 per round-trip ticket. If discount airlines such as Southwest refuse to go along, United could be forced to retreat.

Jobless benefit applications rise

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose last week, though the data was likely skewed higher by seasonal factors. Weekly applications increased by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 365,000, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Factory orders declined again in June

The Commerce Department said Thursday that factory orders fell 0.5 percent in June, the third decline in four months. Orders for core capital goods, considered a good proxy for business investment, dropped 1.7 percent.

Average mortgage rate moves upward to 3.55%

The average U.S. rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage rose this week after falling to new record lows in each of the past four weeks. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan jumped to 3.55 percent. That's up from 3.49 percent last week. The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, increased to 2.83 percent.

Earnings

• TMS International Corp. reported a second quarter profit of $9.7 million, or 25 cents per diluted share, up from $5.7 million, or 13 cents per share, in the same quarter last year, but still below Bloomberg analyst estimates of 27 cents per diluted share. Revenue for the Glassport-based steel industry supplier increased to $153.6 million from $137 million in the second quarter of 2011.

Earnings

• II-VI Inc., a Saxonburg-based laser and optics company, reported fourth quarter net earnings of $14.4 million, or 22 cents per share, down from $22 million, or 34 cents per share, last year during the same period. Fourth quarter revenues were $136.9 million, a 4 percent increase from $131.7 million the same period last year. Net earnings for the fiscal year ending June 30 were $60.3 million, or 94 cents per share, down from $82.6 million, or $1.30 per share last fiscal year.

• Ansys Inc., a Canonsburg-based simulation technology company, reported net income of $50.3 million, or 53 cents per share, up from $45.4 million, or 48 cents per share the same period last year. Second quarter revenues were $195 million, up from $162 million the same time last year.

Also in business...

Greentree-based L.B. Foster won a contract to provide 89,175 of its CXT Concrete Ties for the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit project, part of the San Francisco Bay Area passenger rail system. Delivery is expected to be complete in the second quarter of 2013. ... Mylan Inc. said it licensed the rights to produce and market generic versions of Gilead Sciences Inc.'s HIV/AIDS therapies containing emtricitabine. ... Allegheny General Hospital has added 11 physicians to its Division of Cardiology and the Cardiovascular Institute. The doctors will practice primarily at AGH, but also at Canonsburg General Hospital, Forbes Regional Hospital and West Penn Hospital.

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