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Business news in brief

In the Region

Pa. pension fund loses in quarter


Pennsylvania Public School Employees Retirement System

said its portfolio lost 9.63 percent in the first quarter this year, a reflection of the sharp downturn in investment markets during the winter. Besides its stock holdings, the system said its real estate and private investments suffered. The real estate investment dropped 25.4 percent, while private investments were down 15.4 percent. The pension fund said, however, that its long-term returns - for the latest five-year, seven-year, and 10-year periods - remained positive.

- Paul Schweizer

Penn Va. offering $300M in notes

Penn Virginia Corp.

, a Radnor producer of natural gas, is making its debut in the fixed-income market, agreeing to the sale of $300 million in seven-year senior notes with an interest rate of 10.375 percent and a yield of 11 percent, the company said. The sale is expected to close Monday. The anticipated proceeds of $282 million will be used to pay most of the $325 million it has outstanding on a revolving credit facility. The interest rate on the credit line is lower, at 4 percent to 5 percent now, but the terms of the line can change twice a year, James W. Dean, Penn Virginia's vice president of investor relations said. "You pay extra for the longer term," Dean said. Last month, Penn Virginia raised $64.9 million by selling shares.

- Harold Brubaker

Orchestra, library events online

SpectiCast L.L.C.

, a Philadelphia telecom company, has signed content agreements with the Free Library and the Philadelphia Orchestra. SpectiCast broadcasts live events over the Internet in standard and high-definition format to big TV screens in assisted-living facilities, nursing homes, and other venues. SpectiCast says it will broadcast the library's live author events. The company also has an agreement to broadcast orchestra performances.

- Bob Fernandez

EyeIC gets approval on device

A Narberth ophthalmology-device-maker has received government clearance for technology that allows for better tracking of glaucoma.


said the Food and Drug Administration had approved MatchedFlicker, a software-based program that allows retinal photos to be annotated and archived to track the progression of the eye ailment that can lead to blindness because of damage to the optic nerve. The FDA's fast-tracked 510(k) clearance is designed for devices that are basically equivalent to something already on the market. EyeIC was founded in 2004 with a portfolio of intellectual property from the University of Pennsylvania.

- Inquirer staff


BlackRock to buy Barclays unit

Investment manager

BlackRock Inc.

says it will buy the asset-management arm of British investment bank

Barclays P.L.C.

, including its iShares division, for $6.6 billion in cash plus 37.8 million shares now worth about $6.9 billion. BlackRock says its takeover of Barclays Global Investors will create a firm with combined assets under management of more than $2.7 trillion. Barclays had agreed to sell iShares to

CVC Capital Partners Ltd.

for $4.4 billion. CVC now has five business days to match BlackRock's terms or walk away from the deal.

- AP

Mortgage rates rise again

Rates for 30-year home loans jumped to the highest level in seven months this week, leading to a slowdown in refinancing activity,

Freddie Mac

said. The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage was 5.59 percent this week, up from 5.29 percent last week, Freddie Mac said. The last time the average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was higher was the week ended Nov. 26 of last year, when it averaged 5.97 percent. Rates on one-year, adjustable-rate mortgages rose to 5.04 percent from 4.81 percent.

- AP

American to cut 1,600 jobs

American Airlines

plans to shed at least 1,600 jobs while deepening cuts in seating capacity to match dwindling demand. The payroll reduction, which include 1,200 flight attendants, stems from plans announced yesterday to pare flying by 1 percentage point more than projected for a full-year cut of 7.5 percent, American said.

- Bloomberg News

Robes recalled after death reports

Consumers are being urged to stop wearing a chenille robe made by

Blair L.L.C.

because of a fire hazard that is believed to have killed at least six people. The robes have the following item numbers: 3093111, 3093112, 3093113, 3093114, 3093115, and 3093116. They are made of plush sculpted chenille, a shaped stand collar, and horizontal chenille front and back yolks and cuffs. Consumers may return the robe to Blair and receive a refund or a $50 gift card by contacting the company at 1-877-392-7095 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, through the firm's Web site at


, or by e-mail at



- AP

New jobless claims drop

The number of newly laid-off Americans filing jobless claims fell more than expected last week. But a rise in the number of people continuing to receive jobless aid signaled that an economic recovery is still far off. The

Labor Department

said initial claims for jobless benefits fell last week by 24,000 to a seasonally adjusted 601,000. That was below analysts' estimates of 615,000. Still, the number of people claiming benefits for more than a week rose 59,000, to more than 6.8 million, the highest on records dating to 1967.

- AP

Retail sales climb 0.5 percent in May

Retail sales rose the largest amount in four months in May, as a rebound in demand at auto dealerships and gas stations helped to offset continued weakness at department stores. The

Commerce Department

said retail sales rose 0.5 percent last month, in line with economists' expectations. It was the largest increase since sales surged 1.7 percent in January after six straight declines.

- AP

Judge to reopen bankruptcy auction

Filene's Basement Inc.

will reopen an auction to sell itself to the highest bidder today after prematurely declaring a

Men's Wearhouse Inc.

affiliate the winner. Filene's Basement, which is operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, held a nine-hour auction last Friday and said on Sunday that a Men's Wearhouse affiliate had won with a $67 million bid. Two other bidders -

Crown FB L.L.C.

and discount store

Syms Corp.

- objected to the result and accused Men's Wearhouse of failing to meet the auction requirements. A judge directed Filene's on Wednesday to reopen the process.

- AP