Business news in brief

IN THE REGION

Amazon to begin collecting Pa. sales tax

Beginning Saturday, Amazon.com Inc., which has six fulfillment centers in Pennsylvania, will start collecting sales tax on orders that are shipped to the state, a spokesman said. The online retail giant had previously refused to register to collect Pennsylvania's 6 percent levy on orders. Spokesman Scott Stanzel said the company reversed itself because a state directive requiring it takes effect Saturday. The Seattle-based company currently collects sales taxes on orders shipped to six other states: Kansas, Kentucky, North Dakota, New York, Texas and Washington. It plans to add California to the list on Sept. 15, Stanzel said. - AP

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Hyundai Motor Co.'s showroom in Seoul, South Korea. Hyundai and its labor union reached a tentative agreement to cut out night shifts and increase wages, moving one step closer to ending the company's first strike in four years, which was held intermittently since July. The company, South Korea's largest carmaker, said the strike has resulted in $1.4 billion of lost output. Hyundai will invest $264 million to help maintain the current level of output.

 

Wayne firm says Ford infringed its patent

TMC Fuel Injection System L.L.C., of Wayne, sued Ford Motor Co., accusing the truck maker of infringing a 2008 patent covering a fuel-injection system in its F-150 pickups. Ford allegedly began selling vehicles, including the F-150, that incorporated the patent's fuel system design after telling the inventor the company had no interest in the technology, according to the complaint filed in federal court in Philadelphia. TMC is seeking a court order barring Ford's conduct, in addition to unspecified damages. Ford spokesman Mike Levine said he wasn't aware of the complaint and had no immediate comment. - Bloomberg News

 

Airgas raising prices, cites inflation

Citing "sustained inflationary pressures" and supply chain disruptions for some of its products, Airgas Inc., of Radnor, said it is raising prices on bulk and packaged industrial, medical and specialty gases by 8 percent to 10 percent, on average, and on helium and argon by 10 percent to 18 percent beginning Oct. 1. The company also said bulk tank rental rates will increase 6 percent to 12 percent, effective Sept. 1. - Reid Kanaley

 

Carpenter to build China plant

Specialty-metals maker Carpenter Technology Corp., of Wyomissing, said it will spend $20 million to build a bar finishing facility in China to meet increased customer demand in Asia. It said a final location for the facility had not been determined. - Reid Kanaley

 

Trump Plaza closing A.C. beach bar

Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino is shutting down its beach bar permanently, saying it can't compete against nonunion beach bars at two other Atlantic City casinos. The casino's parent company, Trump Entertainment Resorts, said the bar's last day will be Sept. 16. Spokesman Brian Cahill said the company can't compete with cocktail service on the beach for guests of the newly opened Revel, as well as the Margaritaville beach bar coming in May at Resorts Casino Hotel, which he also expects to be nonunion. - AP

 

Two flight attendant unions support airline merger

The flight attendant unions at American Airlines and US Airways Group Inc. said the two unions will work together to support a merger between the two carriers. It was the first endorsement of a merger by US Airways flight attendants, and 2,092 are based in Philadelphia. The Association of Flight Attendants (US Airways) and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (American) said in a joint statement: "Both unions firmly believe that an American Airlines/US Airways merger is in the best interest of the flight attendants at both carriers, and are committed to working to further the goal of that merger." - Linda Loyd

 

ELSEWHERE

Amazon: Kindle Fire tablet is sold out

Amazon.com Inc. says it has sold out of its Kindle Fire tablet computer amid expectations of a new model for the holiday season. The retailer's website now directs customers to used Fires available from other merchants. The Internet retailer has a major news conference scheduled for next Thursday when it's widely expected to reveal a new model of the Fire. So the announcement that the first model is "sold out" suggests that Amazon halted production to retool for a new model. Amazon launched the $199 tablet last November. It was the first Kindle with a color screen and the ability to run third-party applications, placing it in competition with Apple Inc.'s iPad, at half the price of the cheapest iPad. Amazon doesn't say how many Fires it has sold, but says it captured 22 percent of U.S. tablet sales over nine months. - AP

 

Mortgage rates near record lows

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said that the rate on the 30-year loan declined to 3.59 percent, down from 3.66 percent last week. Five weeks ago, the rate fell to 3.49 percent, the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s. The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, slipped to 2.86 percent. That's down from 2.89 percent last week and from the record low of 2.80 percent five weeks ago. - AP

 

Consumer spending up 0.4 percent in July

Americans spent at the fastest pace in five months in July after earning a little more. The increase in income and consumer spending could help boost an economy mired in subpar growth. Consumer spending rose 0.4 percent in July from June, the Commerce Department said. That followed no change in June and a slight decline in May. Income grew 0.3 percent, matching the gains from May and June. Americans also earned 0.3 percent more after paying taxes. The savings rate after taxes dipped to 4.2 percent in July. That's down slightly from 4.3 percent in June, the highest in a year. - AP

 

Unemployment applications flat for the week

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits was unchanged last week at a seasonally adjusted 374,000, suggesting slow improvement in the job market. The Labor Department said that the four-week moving average, a less volatile measure, increased to 370,250. Applications for unemployment benefits reflect the pace of layoffs. They have risen slightly over the past three weeks, though they remain lower than in spring, when hiring nearly stalled. Last week's number was revised upward to 374,000 from the 372,000 reported initially. Still, when applications fall consistently below 375,000, it generally indicates that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate. - AP

EU official: Euro banks need central supervision

A top European Union official is calling for all eurozone banks to be centrally supervised and for the European Central Bank to do the job, according to a published interview. The European Commission will make proposals for EU-wide banking supervision next month after European leaders in June called for it as part of efforts to tackle the debt crisis in the 17-nation eurozone and restore confidence. EU internal market commissioner Michel Barnier was quoted as telling German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung's Friday edition that the plan is for more than 6,000 banks in eurozone countries to be supervised by the ECB "in close cooperation with national supervisors." - AP