Business news briefs: Pittsburgh-area construction contracts fall in June from year ago

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Pittsburgh-area contracts fall in June from year ago

The value of future contracts for construction in the Pittsburgh region fell by 22 percent in June, McGraw Hill Construction reported. Total value of residential and nonresidential contracts was $119.5 million, down from $153.4 million in June 2012. Nonresidential contracts dropped by 45 percent while residential contracts slipped by 3 percent. For the year to date, total contracts rose 3 percent compared with the first six months of 2012. The six-month total was $904.8 million, up from $879.6 million in the same period last year. The region includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, Beaver, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

Chicago developer buys Federal Reserve building

The vacant Federal Reserve Bank building on Grant Street, Downtown, has been sold to a Chicago developer for $3.75 million. An affiliate of M&J Wilkow Ltd. closed on the purchase at the end of last month, according to documents filed with the Allegheny County Department of Real Estate. June Gates, a Federal Reserve spokeswoman, confirmed that the building had been sold to the firm. Martin Sweeney, M&J Wilkow's vice president of acquisitions, could not be reached for comment. During an appearance in Pittsburgh in May, he said that the firm was interested in converting the building to office or boutique hotel space.

Bank of America to lay off 209 in Upper St. Clair

Bank of America Corp. is laying off 209 people from its legacy asset servicing unit on Boyce Road in Upper St. Clair, according to a notice released by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor. The layoffs at the unit, which services troubled mortgages, are effective Sept. 30.

Icahn raises his stake in Dell by 4 million shares, to 9%

Carl Icahn's stake in Dell now stands at close to 9 percent, buttressing his vow that the fight for the embattled computer company will go on. The billionaire investor disclosed in a regulatory filing late Monday that he's purchased an additional 4 million shares in Dell Inc. Mr. Icahn opposes a bid by founder CEO Michael Dell to take the company private. A shareholder vote on the offer is scheduled for Sept. 12.

Late mortgage payments drop to 4.09% in June

Homeowners are doing a better job of making timely mortgage payments, a trend that brought down the national late-payment rate on home loans in the second quarter to the lowest level in five years. The percentage of mortgage holders at least two months behind on their payments fell in the April-June quarter to 4.09 percent from 5.49 percent a year earlier, credit reporting agency TransUnion said Tuesday.

Neville Venture signs pact for resin production in Italy

Neville Venture, a joint venture of Neville Chemical Co. of Pittsburgh and GTC Technology of Houston, Texas, said it has an agreement to produce hydrocarbon resins at the Versalis Priolo plant in Sicily, Italy. The resins are used in adhesives, rubbers, coatings and inks.

Sale of Harry's Fresh Foods to Joshua Green Corp. is done

Pittsburgh private equity firm Main Street Capital Holdings and Boca Raton, Fla.-based private investment firm Sun Capital Partners Inc. said an affiliate completed the sale of Portland, Oregon-based Harry's Fresh Foods, which makes soups, entrees and desserts for retailers and foodservice companies. Joshua Green Corp. bought Harry's for an undisclosed amount.

Shares drop steeply after AEO says it will miss expectations

Shares of American Eagle Outfitters ended the trading day Tuesday down about 12 percent, closing at $17.57, a drop of $2.40. The plunge followed the South Side teen clothing retailer's post-market announcement on Monday that its second quarter earnings would come in much lower than expected after tough competition and slow sales in its women's line forced higher markdowns than planned. The news also hit rival retailers' stock, with Abercrombie & Fitch shares down 4 percent on Tuesday, Aeropostale down just over 2 percent and Pacific Sunwear down more than 5 percent.

Earnings

• Calgon Carbon Corp. reported a profit of $13 million in the second quarter, up from $10.9 million during the same quarter a year ago. The Robinson environmental products and services firm beat analysts expectations with earnings per share of 24 cents, up from 19 cents a year earlier. Analysts had been looking for 21 cents per share. Sales of $140.4 million for the three months ended June 30 compared to $148.4 million during the same period a year ago, with the impact of currency exchange rates putting a $3.2 million drag on the results.

• L.B. Foster Co. reported second-quarter profit of $7.3 million, or 71 cents per share, compared to a loss of $2 million, or 33 cents per share, for the same quarter in 2012. Sales for the second quarter were $150 million compared to sales of $163 million for the second quarter last year. Green Tree-based L.B. Foster makes and ships construction and transportation materials.

Trade deficit slimmed in June

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed sharply in June to its lowest level in more than 3 1/2 years. Exports rose 2.2 percent to $191.2 billion, an all-time high, and imports declined 2.5 percent to $225.4 billion. The Commerce Department said Tuesday that the deficit fell 22.4 percent to $34.2 billion, the lowest since October 2009.

GM cuts price of Chevy Volt

General Motors Co., facing disappointing Chevrolet Volt sales, cut the starting price of the plug-in hybrid sedan by $5,000 to compete against the less-expensive and better-selling Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf. The 2014 Volt will start at $34,995. The Prius and Leaf start, respectively, at $25,010 and $29,650.

Also in business...

General Motors plans to spend another $167 million at its Spring Hill, Tenn., factory so it can build two new midsize vehicles. The assembly plant now makes the Equinox.

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