Business Briefs: Fewer homes for sale in February than year ago

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Fewer homes for sale here

There are fewer homes for sale in the metropolitan Pittsburgh region compared to this time last year, according to the West-Penn Multi-List, Inc. New listings in the 13-county area declined nearly 7 percent from 2,746 homes to 2,555 last month from February 2012. Meanwhile, residential homes placed under agreement increased 18 percent to 3,113 homes from 2,633 homes in February 2012. During the same time period, the average home sale price increased 6 percent to $149,424 last month from $140,861 in February 2012.

Tough Q4, 2012 for Baker

Michael Baker reported a fourth quarter loss and sharply lower earnings for all of 2012, citing one-time costs, a weak economic climate, and the lack of funding for infrastructure projects. The Moon engineering services firm also raised its quarterly dividend 2 cents to 16 cents per share. Fourth quarter losses totalled $2.3 million, or 24 cents per share vs. earnings of $4.4 million, or 47 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Revenue declined 10 percent to $141.2 million. For all of 2012, Baker reported net income of $2.8 million, or 29 cents per share, vs. $17.3 million, or $1.85 per share, in 2011. Revenue increased 10 percent to $593.4 million.

IRS now processing all returns

As of Monday, the IRS had completed updating its tax processing systems and began accepting all individual and business federal income tax returns for 2012. The agency had been accepting 2012 returns in phases as it updated forms, instructions and computer systems.

Shell will double natural gas

Royal Dutch Shell Plc plans to double the amount of liquefied natural gas available for trucks and marine vessels in North America after retail diesel prices reached a record. Shell will build units in Ontario and Louisiana capable of producing about 500,000 tons a year, said James Burns, general manager of the company's LNG for transport unit in the Americas.

Service strong in February

The service sector, the major driver of the U.S. economy, expanded in February at its fastest pace in a year, according to the Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing index released Tuesday. Last month's reading of 56 was the highest since the index registered 56.1 in February 2012. A figure above 50 indicates expansion.

Frito-Lay loses lawsuit

A Texas jury has sided with St. Louis-based Ralcorp Holdings in its fight with Frito-Lay over the right to produce bowl-shaped tortilla chips. Frito-Lay sued, saying Ralcorp's Bowlz corn chips were too similar to its Tostitos Scoops! chips. Frito-Lay said in a statement it was disappointed in the ruling and weighing its options.

Playboy starts Israeli edition

Israelis can now read Playboy in Hebrew. Playboy has been widely available in Israel for years but Tuesday marked the first local edition of the magazine. It features Israeli models and articles by Israeli writers.

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