The board of Northwest Bancshares said Thursday the Warren, Pa.-based bank would pay its 12-cent, first-quarter dividend in December instead of February, joining a growing list of companies accelerating dividend payments or declaring special dividends in anticipation of higher tax rates on dividend income in 2013. Northwest, parent company of Northwest Savings Bank, said the dividend was payable Dec. 24 to shareholders of record Dec. 17.
The value of contracts for future construction in the Pittsburgh region fell by 53 percent in October as a result of a huge drop in nonresidential contracts, which include commercial and manufacturing facilities. According to McGraw-Hill Construction, nonresidential contracts for the month declined by 59 percent to a value of $282 million while residential contracts grew by 39 percent to $59 million. For the year to date, total contracts are down 21 percent, to $1.58 billion, compared with $2 billion for the first 10 months of 2011. The region includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties.
Sales of U.S. homes facing foreclosure are on the rise and outpacing sales of bank-owned homes, a reflection of stepped up efforts this year by lenders to avoid foreclosing on homes with mortgages gone unpaid. In the third quarter, sales of homes already in the foreclosure process jumped 22 percent compared to the previous quarter and a year earlier, foreclosure tracker RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday. Short sales, when a lender agrees to accept less than what the homeowner owes on their mortgage, accounted for 65 percent of those so-called preforeclosure sales in the quarter, the firm said.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan ticked up to 3.34 percent, above last week's rate of 3.32 percent. Two weeks ago, the rate dipped to 3.31 percent, the lowest on records dating to 1971. The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage rose to 2.67 percent from 2.64 percent last week. The rate declined to 2.63 percent two weeks ago, also a record low.
The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid fell sharply last week as a temporary spike caused by Superstorm Sandy has faded. The Labor Department said Thursday that applications dropped 25,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 370,000. The early impact of Sandy can still be seen in the four-week average. It rose to 408,000 last week.
BMW is recalling nearly 250,000 X5 SUVs from the 2009 through 2012 model years because a bolt can break and cause the loss of power-assisted steering. BMW dealers will replace the bolt and tighten it to the proper specifications. U.S. owners will be notified about the recall in January.