Roundup: Small business loans rising: Ansys buys Swiss firm; more
Small business loans up, 1st gain since 2010
Small business lending is showing small signs of growth, according to data compiled by the government. The total amount of small business loans outstanding at the end of the fourth quarter came to $586 billion, up from $584 billion in the third quarter, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. That was the first quarterly gain in small business lending since the FDIC began tracking loans on a quarterly basis at the start of 2010. The FDIC is a government agency that insures bank deposits and oversees financial companies. Despite the yearend improvement, the lending environment for small business remains weak. The December number was down from $598 billion in the final quarter of 2011 and $626 billion at the end of 2010. Separately, community banks participating in the government's Small Business Lending Fund provided $1.5 billion in small-business loans in the October-December quarter, the Treasury Department said Wednesday. The 332 participating banks in the program floated about 38,000 small-business loans in the fourth quarter, including 3,900 in Mid-Atlantic states such as Pennsylvania.
Ansys buys engineering firm
Ansys Inc. said it acquired a Zurich, Switzerland company that simulates the composition of composite materials for a range of industrial uses. Cecil-based Ansys did not disclose the purchase price for Even-Evolutionary Engineering AG, which was renamed Ansys Switzerland and has 12 employees. Ansys said the two companies previously have collaborated on projects to design, analyze, optimize and simulate composite materials for automotive, aerospace, energy and other industries.
Nearly half of Americans expect to sock away tax refund
Nearly half of American taxpayers expecting a federal income tax refund this year plan to sock away the money as savings, according to a poll released on Wednesday. Of about 1,000 adults surveyed last month by Harris Interactive, 46 percent said they would save the money, 37 percent said they would spend it on day-to-day expenses, and 33 percent said they would use the money to reduce debt. The survey allowed for multiple responses. The Treasury Department sent nearly $310 billion in taxpayer refunds in 2012. The survey was commissioned by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants to highlight April as National Financial Literacy Month.
Amazon offers digital songs to vinyl record buyers
In an odd combination of old and new, Amazon says that every time a person buys a vinyl record from its online store, it will give that customer a digital version of the songs for free. The feature, called AutoRip, was launched in January for CDs. The company has said it has boosted music sales. Digital songs are stored in the customer's online storage account with Amazon. Songs received this way don't count against that customer's storage limit. The new offer, announced Wednesday, extends to any physical albums bought on Amazon since 1998. The digital songs can be played on a variety of devices, including Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle Fire tablets, Android phones and tablets, and Apple Inc.'s iPads and iPhones.
Hyundai, Kia recalling nearly 1.9M vehicles for air bags, lights
Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia are recalling almost 1.9 million vehicles to fix problems with air bags and brake light switches. The switch recall covers almost 1.7 million vehicles — most of the automakers' model lineups from the 2007 through 2011 model years. In addition, Hyundai Motor Co. is recalling about 194,000 Elantra compacts from 2011 to 2013 to fix an air bag problem. A faulty switch can stop the brake lights from illuminating when drivers press on the pedal, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in documents posted Wednesday on its website. Also, the cruise control may not turn off when a driver steps on the brake, push-to-start buttons may not work, and a feature that stops the driver from shifting out of park without a foot on the brake may fail. Spokesmen for Hyundai and Kia Motors Corp. said Wednesday that there haven't been any crashes or injuries due to the problem. Both pointed out that the malfunctions don't occur all the time, and they don't affect performance of the brakes.
Other business news
• The state Insurance Department has begun a website to help Pennsylvanians learn more about how health insurance works and what their options are. The site, PAHealthOptions.com, was designed to help consumers understand their health insurance needs, answer questions about insurance, file a complaint and appeal a denied claim.
• Omnyx, a joint venture of GE Healthcare and UPMC, completed the first sale of its digital pathology system and has shipped the system to a European health care customer in Switzerland. The system is meant to digitize disease diagnosis that has traditionally been performed by viewing tissue samples mounted on glass slides through a microscope. North Shore-based Omnyx was formed in 2008 and employs about 100 people.
• Mylan Inc. said it received final approval from the Food and Drug Administration for a generic version of an ointment used to manage genital herpes. Cecil-based Mylan has started shipping Acyclovir Ointment, the first generic version of Valeant International's Zovirax Ointment. The product had U.S. sales of $230 million for the 12 months ended Dec. 31.
• Drivers may feel like they're paying higher gasoline prices at the pump, but GasBuddy.com on Wednesday said the average price during the January-March quarter this year was lower than the same period a year ago. The national average in the first quarter was $3.548 a gallon, compared with $3.584 during the first quarter last year. But prices remain high compared with averages in previous year. The first quarter average 10 years ago was $1.59 a gallon.
— Staff and wire reports