In the Region

25 percent increase in Pennsylvania bankruptcies

Bankruptcy filings rose 25 percent in Pennsylvania last year, as rising monthly mortgage payments overwhelmed already shaky household finances and as tight credit markets hurt struggling businesses. The states with the biggest increase in bankruptcy filings were those where the real estate bust hit hardest, including California and Nevada. In Pennsylvania, where the foreclosure rate is relatively modest, the bankruptcy rate of 2.4 filings per 1,000 residents last year was below the national average and 26th overall. The numbers show that 29,962 Pennsylvania residents and businesses filed for bankruptcy in 2007, up 25 percent from 23,932 in 2006. The rate of increase in business filings far outpaced personal filings, up nearly 50 percent.

- AP

Rohm & Haas invests in Saudi Arabian acrylic plant

Rohm & Haas Co., Philadelphia, will invest $50 million in a joint venture with Tasnee Sahara Olefins Co. of Saudi Arabia to build and run an acrylic plant in Jubail, Saudi Arabia, as that oil-producing nation diversifies its petroleum-based manufacturing industries. It's the first plant of its kind in the Middle East, said Carol Eicher, Rohm & Haas vice president and director of the primary-materials business. Rohm & Haas will have a 25 percent interest in the venture, Saudi Acrylic Monomer Co., which is scheduled to produce 250,000 metric tons a year for use in regionally produced products when it opens in 2011.

- Joseph N. DiStefano

Plosser calls for greater financial literacy

Charles Plosser, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, said the subprime-mortgage crisis highlighted the need for increased economic education and financial literacy. "This episode should be a lesson in the importance of economic education - that both consumers and businesses alike would be better served if financial literacy were a greater priority," he said in a speech for delivery at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell.

- Bloomberg News

FDA approves Glaxo's new migraine drug

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a long-delayed migraine drug made by GlaxoSmithKline P.L.C. and Pozen. Glaxo has a U.S. headquarters in Philadelphia. The drugmakers said the FDA approved Treximet for the acute treatment of migraine attacks. Treximet is a combination of an anti-inflammatory drug and Glaxo's Imitrex, which is expected to begin competing against generics this year. The FDA had twice asked the companies for more data on Treximet since they first submitted it for approval in 2005.

- AP

Justice Department awards contract to Unisys

Unisys Corp. said it was one of four companies awarded a U.S. Justice Department contract with a total value of up to $445 million by the federal government to provide information technology and consulting services. Unisys, Blue Bell, will compete under terms of the 6½-year contract to help the Justice Department manage assets forfeited in the prosecution of criminals and criminal organizations. The contract is for six months, with six one-year options.

- Linda Loyd

Beneficial Mutual Bancorp changes pension plan

Beneficial Mutual Bancorp Inc., Philadelphia, said that it would freeze its defined-benefit pension plans to control costs. The move, effective June 30, covers the Beneficial Bank pension plan and the plan covering employees of the former Farmers & Mechanics Bank, which Beneficial bought last summer. Beneficial, which has $3.5 billion in assets, said it would enhance its 401(k) plan to compensate for the loss of pension contributions.

- Harold Brubaker

Mexicans in Philadelphia will receive labor help

Enrique Ruiz Sanchez, consul general of the Mexican Consulate of the United Mexican States in Philadelphia, and Corlis Sellers, regional administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division for the Northeast, announced a partnership to protect the rights of Mexican workers in the Philadelphia area. The two organizations will work together to develop materials to educate Mexican workers about their rights. The embassy will help locate Mexican nationals who have returned to Mexico to distribute back wage checks to those who are owed pay as a result of a Labor Department investigation.

- Jane M. Von Bergen


Fed announces another securities auction

The Federal Reserve announced it would auction an additional $25 billion in supersafe Treasury securities to big investment firms, part of an effort to provide relief to stressed credit markets. The auction - the fourth of its kind - will be held today. In exchange for the 28-day loan of Treasury securities, bidding firms can put up more risky investments, including certain shunned mortgage-backed securities, as collateral. In the three auctions held so far, the Fed has provided $133.95 billion worth of Treasury securities to financial firms.

- AP

Congress, White House embattled over farm bill

The House passed a one-week extension of current farm law, hoping to give Congress more time to finish a multibillion-dollar farm bill that is stalled by a dispute over tax breaks. Negotiations on the roughly $280 billion, five-year bill to expand agriculture and nutrition programs are in disarray, with lawmakers from the House and Senate squabbling over how to pay for it. The White House says both the current House and Senate versions are too expensive and has threatened a veto if either one reaches the president's desk with the spending intact. House members object to several tax breaks in the Senate bill, including provisions to help owners of racehorses, landowners who find endangered species on their property, and those involved in litigation over the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

- AP

FBI mortgage-fraud investigations on the rise

FBI Director Robert Mueller described a "tremendous surge" in mortgage-fraud investigations that he said has diverted agents from other cases and is expected to keep growing. At a Senate hearing, Mueller said the FBI was investigating an estimated 1,300 mortgage-fraud cases - including 19 into subprime-lending practices by U.S. financial institutions.

- AP

Dell closing in on rival Hewlett-Packard

Dell Inc.'s personal-computer shipments rose the most in almost two years in the first quarter as a new retail strategy helped narrow the gap with market leader Hewlett-Packard Co. Dell shipped 10.9 million units, up 22 percent from a year earlier, research firm IDC said in a statement. Hewlett-Packard's shipments climbed 17 percent to 13.3 million. Data released by another research company, Gartner Inc., showed similar gains for Dell, which is based in Round Rock, Texas.

- Bloomberg News

Income from money market funds suffering

The average seven-day yield on taxable money market funds fell to 2.13 percent this week from 2.21 percent last week, according to iMoneyNet Inc. A seven-day yield is an annual yield that is based on the preceding seven days' level of income by the fund. The average yield on tax-free funds fell to 1.44 percent from 1.58 percent last week.

- Rhonda Dickey