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Roundup: Home sales climb; Intel CEO to retire; PMC adds another Downtown building; more

| Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Sales of existing homes increase unexpectedly

Sales of previously owned homes unexpectedly climbed in October, showing record-low mortgage rates are helping to spur the economy. Purchases of existing houses increased 2.1 percent to a 4.79 million annual rate, exceeding the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed. Property values rose over the past 12 months by the most in seven years as inventories dropped to the lowest level in almost a decade. “Housing's cheap, borrowing is cheap and, if you can get credit, it's a great time to buy,” said Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies & Co. Inc. in New York, who projected a 4.8 million annual rate for October sales. Pittsburgh-area home sales for Howard Hanna Real Estate Services also improved. Closed sales in October numbered 991 compared to 807 for the month last year, a 22.8 percent increase, Hanna spokeswoman Deborah Donahue said.

CEO to retire in surprise move

Intel CEO Paul Otellini is retiring in May, giving the world's largest maker of microprocessors six months to find a new leader as it confronts two major challenges: a shaky economy and a shift toward mobile devices that is reducing demand for its PC chips. Otellini's impending departure was announced Monday. The decision surprised Intel's board of directors, which had been expecting Otellini to remain CEO until the company's customary retirement age of 65. Otellini is 62. “The decision was entirely Paul's,” said Intel spokesman Paul Bergevin. “The board accepted his decision with regret.”

Horsehead acquires zinc producer

Horsehead Holding Corp., a Crafton-based zinc producer, said it has acquired Mitsui Zinc Powders LLC, a manufacturer of zinc powders for the alkaline battery industry. Mitsui, which has 15 employees, manufactures zinc powders on the site of Horsehead's zinc smelter in Monaca. Mitsui, which has been renamed Horsehead Zinc Powders LLC, had sales of $25 million in 2011. The acquisition price was not disclosed. Horsehead said the deal would add to cash flow in the first year. Horsehead, which will move its operations to a new manufacturing facility in North Carolina next year, said it may move the zinc powders business there.

Nova Chemicals calls off deal

Nova Chemicals Corp. called off a deal to sell its styrenics business, including a plant in Monaca, to a Canadian building-products maker. Nova, based in Calgary, Alberta, announced in May that it would sell the business to PFB Corp. for an undisclosed price. “It had become apparent to both Nova Chemicals and PFB that PFB would be unable to complete certain steps necessary to consummate” the deal, Nova said in a statement. The Monaca plant, which makes expandable polystyrene, employs about 250 workers. On Nov. 12, Nova said it was selling its Leetsdale-based subsidiary Syntheon Inc. to Headwaters S.C., a Franklin Park investment consulting firm. That deal is expected to close by the end of this month.

Hoey says cliff will be averted

The so-called fiscal cliff will be fixed by Congress in the last few days of the year or the first few days of 2013, according to Richard Hoey, chief economist at Bank of New York Mellon Corp. The fiscal cliff refers to the automatic steep tax hikes and spending cuts that will take place in early 2013 if Congress does not adopt alternate measures to help balance the federal budget. Hoey said that given the likelihood that automatic drastic steps would trigger a recession in 2013, legislators will take steps to “ameliorate” the effects of automatic spending cuts and tax hikes either at year's end or shortly after the New Year.

Developer increases holdings

PMC Property Group of Philadelphia is now the owner of the 10-story Jackman Building, which it acquired for $1.5 million. The purchase from Stabile & Associates is the fifth building PMC has acquired Downtown, all but one a former office building that will be converted primarily into rental apartment. The building at 526 Penn Ave. is expected to be converted into about 70 residential units. PMC owns 201 Stanwix St. (the former Verizon Building), the Regional Enterprise Tower and the Reed Smith Building, all Downtown. It purchased the Penn-Garrison apartments and is the apparent future developer of the John Robin Civic Building at 200 Ross St., Downtown.


• Lowe's Cos. said Monday that its third-quarter net income surged 76 percent, helped by lower costs and higher revenue, as the company's efforts to revamp its merchandise and prices appeared to be gaining traction. Lowe's earned $396 million, or 35 cents per share, for the three months ended Nov. 2. That compares with $225 million, or 18 cents per share, a year ago. Revenue rose 2 percent to $12.07 billion from $11.85 billion. That beat Wall Street's estimate of $11.93 billion.

Other business news

• Calgon Carbon Corp., a water-purification and ultraviolet technology products provider for municipalities and industries, announced a share buyback plan for as much as $100 million of stock. Board approval of the repurchase program demonstrates “its confidence in the company's opportunities for long-term growth,” CEO Randy Dearth said in a statement.

• Law firm K&L Gates, Downtown, said it received approvals to open an office in Seoul in January. The new office will be the firm's seventh in Asia and its 42nd office worldwide.

— Staff and wire reports

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