The week that was: Vote of no confidence

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Vote of no confidence

While most companies were rebounding from the recession, consumers weren't sharing the joy. Consumer confidence tumbled in December, according to the Conference Board, which reported its consumer confidence index fell to 65.1, down from 71.5 in November. That's the lowest level since August. Consumers were worried about sharp tax increases and government spending cuts associated with (you guessed it) the fiscal cliff.

It's the thought that counts

Consumers spent more this year over the all-important holiday season than in 2011 -- but not much more. Consumer malaise translated to a meager 0.7 percent growth in spending, according to MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse. Sales grew at an anemic 2 percent pace in the same period a year ago. Industry trade groups are clinging to earlier (slightly more optimistic) forecasts and awaiting their final numbers.

Decision delayed

In a move that surprised nobody, Royal Dutch Shell got another six months to decide whether to build the much heralded ethane cracker plant in Monaca. Horsehead Corp., which owns a zinc plant on the 300 acres where the proposed petrochemical facility would be located, agreed to an extension on the land purchase agreement, which was slated to expire at the end of this year.

CMU cleans up

Carnegie Mellon University won the first round in a patent case when a jury in U.S. District Court ruled against Santa Clara, Calif.-based Marvell Technology Group and Marvell Semiconductor Inc. The jurors awarded $1.17 billion in damages to CMU, which was represented by Pittsburgh-based law firm K&L Gates. Marvell is expected to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C.

WPAHS taken to the cleaners

West Penn Allegheny Health System officials failed to post a required audited financial report for fiscal year 2012 on Friday, giving the health system only 30 days until it is in default on its $726 million Series 2007 bond offering. WPAHS is working with insurer Highmark Inc. to negotiate a financial restructuring with bondholders. In its unaudited financial disclosure released Oct. 29, the health system reported a $112.5 million operating loss for fiscal 2012 and a net $37.8 million loss for the year.

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Brian Hyslop: or 412-263-1936.


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