Business news briefs: Average home price, sales rise in Pittsburgh area

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Average home price, sales rise in Pittsburgh area

The average price for all home sales in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area rose 6.9 percent to $170,067 in October from $159,096 the same month last year, according to RealStats, a South Side-based real estate information service. The number of existing and new home sales during that same time frame increased 28.5 percent in the five-county region that includes Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties. RealStats reports the total dollar amount homebuyers spent on homes in the five-county region jumped 37.3 percent last month to $433 million from $315 million in October last year.

CMU neuroscience startup moves to Silicon Valley

Carnegie Mellon University startup Neon, a company that uses neuroscience to improve online video clicks, has moved to the Oakland university's Silicon Valley campus to be closer to industry opportunities and work with students at CMU's Master of Entertainment Industry Management program there. Neon co-founder and senior technical adviser Michael J. Tarr will continue to work out of Pittsburgh.

Latrobe bank declares quarterly, special dividends

Commercial National Financial declared a 26 cent per share quarterly dividend and a $1 per share special dividend, citing strong earnings over the last two years. The Latrobe bank said the dividends are payable Dec. 7 to shareholders of record Nov. 30.

Economic conditions index sees smaller gain

The Conference Board said Wednesday that its index of leading indicators increased 0.2 percent in October after a 0.5 percent gain in September. The index is intended to anticipate economic conditions three to six months out. The strength in October came from lower interest rates, a drop in applications for unemployment benefits and an increase in demand for large manufactured goods. The major areas of weakness were a decline in building permits, a drop in consumer confidence, a decline in the Institute for Supply Management's new orders index and lower stock prices.

Unemployment aid applications still up

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid remained elevated for a second straight week because Superstorm Sandy forced many people to seek temporary benefits. The Labor Department said Wednesday that first-time applications for benefits fell by 41,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 410,000. That offset only part of the previous week's surge. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose by 9,500 to 396,250.

Average 30-year loan rate dips, Freddie Mac says

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Wednesday that the average rate on the 30-year loan dipped to 3.31 percent, the lowest on records dating back to 1971. That's down from 3.34 percent last week, the previous record low. The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage also dropped to 2.63 percent. That's down from 2.65 percent last week and also a record.

U of M consumer sentiment index ticks up in November

The University of Michigan says its consumer sentiment index ticked up to 82.7 this month from 82.6 in October. The index has increased 19 percentage points in the past year.

Judge advises 'liquidation scenario' for Hostess

Hostess Brands Inc. must return to a "liquidation scenario" after mediation with its bakers' union failed to avert a shutdown that may eliminate more than 18,000 jobs, the judge overseeing the Twinkie maker's bankruptcy said. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain said Hostess, based in Irving, Texas, and union officials acted in good faith in talks. Hostess sought court protection in January, its second time in bankruptcy, listing assets of $982 million and debt of $1.43 billion.

Earnings

• Fidelity Bancorp reported a fourth-quarter loss and sharply lower earnings for its most recent fiscal year, citing lower net interest income, heftier provisions for loan losses and increased operating expenses. The West View parent of Fidelity Bank said it lost $51,000, or 5 cents per share, during the quarter ending Sept. 30 versus net income of $597,000, or 16 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

For the year, Fidelity earned $806,000, or 12 cents per share, versus earnings of $1.5 million, or 37 cents per share, the previous year. The higher operating costs included expenses related to Fidelity's pending merger with WesBanco, a Wheeling, W.Va., bank. Fidelity shareholders are expected to vote on the merger proposal Tuesday.

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