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Roundup: Visa, MasterCard offer more payment options; U.S. housing construction down 16 percent; more

| Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Visa, MasterCard offer more phone payment options

Visa and MasterCard are introducing Internet-based technologies to make it easier for shoppers to buy things at retail stores without pulling out a credit card. The two technologies were announced separately on Wednesday. They will give merchants and banks more options for incorporating so-called contact-less payment systems into their mobile apps. The customer uses the app to make purchases by tapping the phone to a store's card reader. The technologies tap a new feature in Google's Android operating system. Before, card information had to be stored on a secured part of the phone. Now, it can be stored remotely instead. A retail or banking app on the phone then retrieves what's needed to complete the transaction.

Producer price index rises slight 0.2%

The cost of producing goods and services in the United States rose slightly in January, with higher food prices partly offset by cheaper gas. Overall, inflation remains mild. The Labor Department said Wednesday that the producer price index, which tracks prices before they reach consumers, rose 0.2 percent in January. That followed a 0.1 percent increase in December and a flat reading in November. In the past year, producer prices have risen just 1.2 percent, below the Federal Reserve's preferred target rate. Excluding the cost of food, energy and markups by wholesalers and retailers, so-called core prices ticked up just 0.1 percent.Housing construction down 16% in January

Home construction fell in January for a second month but the weakness in both months reflected severe winter weather in many parts of the country. The expectation is that housing will deliver another year of solid gains, helped by an improving economy. Builders started work at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 880,000, down 16 percent from December, the Commerce Department reported on Wednesday.

Other business news

• Profit iWabtec Corp. boosted profit by 13 percent in the fourth quarter on record sales, the Wilmerding-based supplier of rail products said. Wabtec reported net income of $74 million, or 76 cents a share, in the October-December quarter, compared with $64.8 million, or 67 cents a share, in the same period the prior year. Sales rise to $681.5 million from $610.4 million. Wabtec said it expects to earn $3.45 a share this year, up from $3.01 in 2013.

• Calgon Carbon Corp.'s profit increased in the fourth quarter despite lower sales. The Robinson-based maker of carbon products used to purify water and air reported net income of $11 million, or 20 cents a share, in the October-December quarter, compared with $9.1 million, or 16 cents a share, in the same period a year ago. Sales fell to $133.1 million from $141.8 million, a decline the company attributed to reduced sales in Asia.

• Duolingo Inc. received $20 million from investors in a fundraising round led by venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the Shadyside technology company said. Duolingo, which has more than 10 million active users of its free language-learning app, previously raised $3.3 million in 2011 and $15 million in 2012.

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