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Roundup: Pa. high court settles shale gas rights question; Federal agency, lab to study natural gas emissions; BNY Mellon Mus...

| Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
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This image provided by the US Treasury Department April 24, 2013 shows the new face of the US $100 dollar note. The Federal Reserve Board on Wednesday announced that the redesigned $100 note will begin circulating on October 8, 2013. This note, which incorporates new security features such as a blue, 3-D security ribbon, will be easier for the public to authenticate but more difficult for counterfeiters to replicate. The new design for the $100 note was unveiled in 2010, but its introduction was postponed following an unexpected production delay. AFP PHOTO / US Treasury Department == RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE / MANDATORY CREDIT: 'AFP PHOTO / US Treasury Department / NO SALES / NO MARKETING / NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS / DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS == HO/AFP/Getty Images

Top court settles shale rights question

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court is reinforcing long-standing case law on mineral rights that has guided the natural gas industry since it began exploring the Marcellus Shale formation. The state's high court ruled Wednesday in favor of a Susquehanna County couple, saying it stands by a 130-year-old ruling that separates mineral rights from gas rights. The case stems from a dispute between John and Mary Josephine Butler, and a man named Charles Powers and his heirs. The deed for the Butler's 244 acres in Apolacon Township splits “minerals and petroleum oils” between the parties. The Butlers contend it didn't mention natural gas rights, so the gas should still belong to their property. But a Superior Court panel said in 2011 it wasn't certain that Powers' heirs had no claim to the gas.

Federal agency, lab to study natural gas emissions

A federal agency and laboratory will conduct research on air emissions at natural gas drilling sites, and on possible hazards to workers. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says in a release that they've signed an agreement to collaborate with the National Energy Technology Laboratory, which is based in Morgantown, W.Va. Washington-based NIOSH says the research will support ongoing efforts to address worker health and safety issues in the oil and gas industry, which has seen booming production in recent years. The new research will conduct exposure assessments on emissions at natural gas drilling sites. The agency says the research may lead to new recommendations for personal protective equipment for workers. NIOSH is the federal agency that makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths.

Earnings increase 63% at Mastech

Mastech Holdings Inc., Findlay Township, reported quarterly earnings increased 63 percent to $575,000, or 17 cents a share, compared with $352,000, or 10 cents a share, the year earlier. Revenue increased 11 percent to $27 million from $24 million. The company provides in formation technology staffing services to hospitals and other health care providers, as well as other types of businesses. Results were driven by more health care staffing services and IT consulting.

BNY Mellon must face fraud case over trading

Bank of New York Mellon Corp. must face a federal lawsuit that accuses the world's largest custody bank of defrauding clients in foreign exchange transactions, a federal judge in New York ruled Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan said the government could proceed with its claim that BNY Mellon misled institutional clients by offering the most advantageous market price of the day but not delivering the best price for them. The government sued the New York-based bank in late 2011, seeking more than $1.5 billion in damages. BNY Mellon denies the allegations and sought to have the lawsuit dismissed. The bank claimed the government could not use a 1989 law passed after the savings and loan crisis designed to protect banks by penalizing third parties. But the judge disagreed, saying the law was meant to deter fraudulent conduct that could put federally insured deposits at risk.

Groups get $80M in credits for low-income work

The Treasury Department awarded $80 million in tax credits to two Pittsburgh community development organizations for projects in low-income neighborhoods. The PNC Community Partners Inc. will receive $45 million in credits, and the remaining $35 million will be awarded by the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority through its Pittsburgh Urban Initiatives program. A spokeswoman for the URA did not respond for comment on where the money might go. Since February 2011, Urban Initiatives has received $90 million in tax credits that have helped to finance several Pittsburgh developments, including Highmark Stadium at Station Square and The Gardens at Market Square in Downtown. The PNC Community Partners Inc. will receive $45 million in credits. Among those receiving loans or investment from PNC, are commercial real estate projects, charter school facilities, early child-care facilities and for-sale housing.

Orders for durable goods fall 5.7% in March

Orders for long-lasting factory goods fell sharply last month, dragged lower by a steep drop in volatile commercial aircraft demand. But orders that reflect business investment plans rose slightly. The Commerce Department says orders for durable goods declined 5.7 percent in March, after a 4.3 percent gain the previous month. February's figure was revised lower. Durable goods are items expected to last at least three years. Orders fluctuate sharply from month to month. The steep March decline was exacerbated by a 48.2 percent fall in commercial aircraft orders. Still, even excluding aircraft, cars and transportation equipment, orders dropped 1.4 percent, the second straight decline. One positive sign: So-called core capital goods, which signal companies plans to expand and modernize their operations, ticked up 0.2 percent.

Fed: Redesigned $100 bill to be ready in October

The Federal Reserve announced Wednesday that it will begin circulating a redesigned $100 bill this fall, more than two years after its initial target. The Fed has set a new target date of Oct. 8. The redesigned note incorporates added security features, such as a blue, 3-D security ribbon and a disappearing Liberty Bell in an inkwell. The features are designed to thwart counterfeiters. The revamped bill had been expected to go into circulation in February 2011. But in December 2010, officials announced an indefinite delay. They said they needed more time to fix production issues that left unwanted creases in many of the notes.

MSA posts drop in quarterly earnings

Mine Safety Appliances Co. reported a 19 percent drop in quarterly earnings primarily from decreased sales in international markets. The Cranberry-based safety products company earned $19.29 million, or 51 cents per share, in the first three months of 2013, compared with $23.91 million, or 64 cents per share, during the same period a year ago. Revenue fell to $283.24 million from $293.49 million. European industrial customers made fewer large orders of stationary gas and flame detection systems while sales dropped across several product groups in international mining markets, the company said.

Best Buy CEO makes $19.6M in difficult year

The CEO of Best Buy, turnaround expert Hubert Joly, earned compensation worth $19.6 million in his five months on the job in 2012. The company went through three CEOs in that period, and Chairman Harim Tyabji called it a “tumultuous” period in a Tuesday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Joly stepped into the role in September. Former CEO Brian Dunn exited abruptly in April when a board investigation found that Dunn violated company policy by having a “close personal relationship” with a female staffer. Board member Mike Mikan was interim CEO before Joly was hired. The CEO turnover came as Best Buy worked to improve its results. The Minneapolis company faces tough competition from online retailers and discounters. It has cut jobs, invested in training employees and started matching online prices. Joly, 53, received a base salary of about $490,000 and a $3.5 million bonus for the year ended Feb. 2, 2013. The bulk of his pay came from stock and option awards valued at $15.6 million on the date that they were granted.

Wabtec quarterly profit rises 17%

Wabtec Corp. reported a 17 percent jump in quarterly earnings to $70 million, or $1.44 a share, largely due to an increase in sales from its passenger rail business. A year ago the Wilmerding company earned $59 million, or $1.22 a share. Sales rose 5.7 percent to $616 million, from $583 million. Wabtec also affirmed its 2013 full-year earnings guidance of about $5.85 a share, and said revenue is expected to increase between 8 percent and 10 percent this year. The company provides products and services to the freight and passenger railroads, as well as other industries.

Poll: Small businesses back minimum wage rise

Small business owners support raising the federal minimum wage because they believe it will help the economy and, in turn, enable small companies to hire more workers. That's the finding of a survey released Wednesday by the Small Business Majority, a group that advocates on behalf of small businesses. Two-thirds of the 500 owners in the survey supported an increase from the current minimum hourly wage of $7.25, coupled with an annual adjustment for inflation. Eighty-five percent said they pay their employees more than the minimum. The survey's findings were at odds with the stand against a higher minimum wage taken by small business advocacy groups including the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Small Business Association. Retailers, fast-food restaurants and other small businesses that pay the minimum wage say an increase would cut into their profits. Some say that would prevent them from hiring or expanding. Nearly two-thirds of the owners in the Small Business Majority survey said a higher minimum wage would benefit small businesses by increasing consumer spending and, in turn, allowing small companies to retain or hire more employees.

Other business news

• Ampco-Pittsburgh Corp. said quarterly earnings dropped 94 percent to $126,000, or 1 cent a share, from $2 million, or 19 cents a share, the year earlier. Sales decreased 5.4 percent to $70 million from $74 million. Based Downtown, the company produced various metals products. Earnings fell mainly because of lower profit margins stemming from global pricing pressures.

• AmeriServ Financial Inc., Johnstown, said it reinstated a quarterly dividend after suspending its 2.5 cent quarterly dividend in fourth-quarter 2008, amid the financial crisis. The bank, which operates three branches in Western Pennsylvania, declared a 1 cent quarterly dividend will be paid May 20 to shareholders of record May 6.

• Citizens Bank has hired 10 personal bankers to expand its wealth management services, called Premier Banking, in the Pittsburgh region. The business offers personalized financial advice, investments and insurance to customers with between $500,000 and $2 million in assets.

• The first Hyatt House hotel in Pittsburgh opened Wednesday at the SouthSide Works, with 30 employees and a mix of 136 studio, one- and two- bedroom kitchen units. Co-developer Concord Hospitality plans another Hyatt House at the former Don Allen AutoCity showroom in Bloomfield.

— Staff and wire reports

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