Business news in brief

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The Ford Fusion has been named 2013 Green Car of the Year by Green Car Journalat the L.A. Auto Show. The winner is chosen based on environmental performance and accessibility and affordability to make a "green" difference. It has five powerplant choices, a top safety rating, and a point-of-entry price of $21,700.

In the Region

Sandy a blow to November retail

Major retailers from Target to Macy's reported weak November sales as the strong start to the holiday shopping season wasn't enough to fully offset the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy earlier in the month. The storm stunted enthusiasm among shoppers during the first half of November just as stores were preparing for the busiest shopping period of the year. Eighteen retailers on Thursday reported that November sales at stores open at least a year - an indicator of a retailer's health - through last Saturday were up 1.7 percent compared with the year-ago period, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. That's well below the group's anticipated forecast for a 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent gain. Sandy hit the Northeast on Oct. 29 and disrupted business activity and households for several days. MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse, which tracks spending, said that Sandy knocked off nearly $4 billion in retail sales during the first week in November in the hard-hit Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions. - AP

 

Peco gas bills to rise Saturday

Peco Energy Co. said an increase in natural gas prices, effective Saturday, will raise the average residential customer bill by 3.2 percent, or $5.15, to $164.83. Peco adjusts gas rates quarterly and it noted that the new rate will still be 4.4 percent below last winter's charges. The Dec. 1 increase reflects an additional charge of 3.228 cents per 100 cubic feet of gas usage due to an expected rise in gas supply costs, combined with a decrease in other charges on customer bills, Peco said. The average commercial customers will see a 3.3 percent increase, Peco said. - Reid Kanaley

 

Balfour announces Fort Bliss project

Balfour Beatty Communities L.L.C.

of Newtown Square said it will build and manage 500 townhouses for military families at Fort Bliss, Texas. Development and construction costs are funded through a $141 million loan. Construction will begin in the first quarter of 2013, with completion in January 2016, said the company, which manages housing at 48 military facilities in 24 states. - Reid Kanaley

 

Gov't: Home to 'enhance' care

Cathedral Village, a retirement community in the Andorra section of Philadelphia, under an unusual agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia, "is further enhancing the care that it provides to residents of its Bishop White Lodge nursing home and the Alzheimer's patients in its Dementia Unit," the government said. For at least three years, Cathedral Village agreed to maintain and enforce at Bishop White Lodge revised policies and procedures on areas including medical documentation, falls, training of workers in the dementia unit, nutrition, and recreation. "It's been a very positive, cooperative process," said David M. Laigaie, a Dilworth Paxson attorney representing Cathedral Village. The agreement grew out of complaints by the spouse of a short-term resident four years ago, Laigaie said. - Harold Brubaker

 

Unisys wins U.S. agency contract

Unisys Corp., the Blue Bell information-technology provider, said it won a contract worth up to $7.2 million to transition 4,500 users at the National Archives and Records Administration to Google Apps for Government, cloud-based e-mail and collaboration software. The five-year contract includes one base year valued at $2.8 million followed by four one-year option periods. - Inquirer staff

Firm halts making generic Lipitor

Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals halted productions of its generic version of the cholesterol drug Lipitor after recalling a second batch of tablets in the 10mg, 20mg, and 40mg dosage strengths. The lots of atorvastatin (the chemical name) are packaged in bottles of 90 and 500 tablets, and are being recalled due to "possible contamination with very small glass particles similar to the size of a grain of sand (less than 1 mm in size)," according to the Food and Drug Administration. Ranbaxy, which is among the biggest sellers of generic Lipitor, is based in India but has its U.S. headquarters in Princeton. The FDA said it was working with other manufacturers of atorvastatin to ensure adequate supplies and avoid a shortage. The company said it had no reports of patients experiencing adverse effects, but it could not rule out the possibility. - David Sell

 

Grant for Temple's 'Apps and Maps'

Temple University received a $635,000 grant to train high school and college students in the university's Urban Apps and Maps Studios. The grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is aimed at training young adults from Philadelphia's underserved communities in the basics of digital design and business skills. The program will involve 300 youths in summer training, the foundation and Temple said. - Inquirer staff

Elsewhere

U.S. GDP revised upward

The U.S. economy grew at a 2.7 percent annual rate from July through September, much faster than first thought. The strength is expected to fade in the final months of the year because of the impact of Hurricane Sandy and uncertainty about looming tax increases and government spending cuts. The Commerce Department said growth in the third quarter was significantly better than the 2 percent rate estimated a month ago. And it was more than twice the 1.3 percent rate reported for the April-June quarter. GDP measures the nation's total output of goods and services - from restaurant meals and haircuts to airplanes, appliances, and highways. Most economists say economic growth is slowing to below 2 percent in the October-December quarter. - AP

China-Japan dispute hits carmakers

Chinese vehicle production from Toyota Motor Corp. and other major Japanese automakers tumbled in October amid a territorial dispute between the two Asian powers. Toyota said its Chinese output plunged 61 percent to 30,591 vehicles. Chinese output of Nissan Motor Co. sank 44 percent to 61,360 vehicles, while production from Honda Motor Co. declined 54 percent to 26,302 vehicles. The Japanese government in September nationalized a cluster of tiny islands in the East China Sea that are controlled by Tokyo but also claimed by Beijing. The purchase set off violent demonstrations in China and a call to boycott Japanese goods. - AP