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Roundup: Economists upbeat; Toomey gets manufacturers' award; more

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Economists growing more upbeat about year ahead

Economists are increasingly, but still cautiously, optimistic about growth in the year ahead, with hiring expected to pick up in coming months. A quarterly survey by the National Association for Business Economics released on Monday shows half of the economists polled now expect real gross domestic product — the value of all goods and services produced in the United States — to grow between 2 and 4 percent in 2013. That's up from 36 percent of respondents who felt the same way three months earlier. About half expect sluggish or negative performance, down from 65 percent in October. The latest survey found that 34 percent of firms now expect to expand their payrolls in the next six months, the highest percentage since April of last year.

DeLuca's to open spot in Robinson

DeLuca's Restaurant, a popular Strip District restaurant that offers breakfast and lunch, will open its second location this spring at Robinson Town Centre. DeLuca's has leased a vacant storeroom, with seating up to 100, according to Zamagias Properties. The restaurant has a breakfast menu that includes ice cream sundae pancakes, carved ham, home fries, bagel sandwiches and Italian raisin French toast. Lunches offer milk shakes; on Sunday, there's a brunch.

Toomey tours U.S. Steel Irvin plant

Sen. Pat Toomey said on Monday his role as an advocate for business includes keeping a constant eye on the Environmental Protection Agency. “EPA has an important function ... but sometimes they get a little unreasonable,” Toomey said in West Mifflin, where he received a National Association of Manufacturers legislative excellence award during a visit to U.S. Steel Corp.'s Irvin Plant. Toomey, 51, a Lehigh Valley Republican, said lawmakers “need to make sure the EPA takes a balanced approach.” This is the fourth time the association has honored Toomey.

Hess to sell terminals, close refinery

Hess Corp. said on Monday that it plans to sell its terminal network and close its New Jersey refinery, completing its exit from the refining business and continuing its shift in focus toward exploration and production. CEO John Hess said the shift is part of a multi-year strategy to boost value for its shareholders. The terminal network is along the East Coast and has a total of 28 million barrels of storage capacity in 19 terminals. The Port Reading, N.J., refinery will close by the end of February.

Hostess sells several brands

Hostess Brands Inc. said McKee Foods Corp., maker of Little Debbie snacks, agreed to pay $27.5 million for its Drake's brand and United States Bakery Inc. offered to buy certain bread brands for $28.9 million. United States Bakery agreed to buy the Sweetheart, Eddy's, Standish Farms and Grandma Emilie's bread brands, four bakeries and 14 depots, plus certain equipment, according to court papers. Drake's products include Devil Dogs, Ring Dings, Yodels, Yankee Doodles, Sunny Doodles, Funny Bones and Drake's Coffee Cake. McKee, based in Collegedale, Tenn., will buy the brands and specific equipment. Flowers Foods Inc., based in Thomasville, Ga., will serve as the lead bidder for Hostess' Wonder, Butternut, Home Pride, Merita and Nature's Pride brands, 20 bread plants, 38 depots and other assets. Flowers is offering $360 million, plus $30 million for the Beefsteak brand. An auction is set for Feb. 28.

— From staff and wire reports

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