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Business news in brief

In the Region

Beneficial buys St. Edmond's

Beneficial Mutual Bancorp Inc. is buying SE Financial Corp., which operates as St. Edmond's Federal Savings Bank, for $30.6 million in cash, the two Philadelphia banks said. The deal, approved by the boards of both companies, valued SE Financial at $14.5 per share, more than three times its $4.15 value on the OTC Pink Sheets Monday. St. Edmond's, founded in 1912, has $268.75 million in deposits and branches in Ardmore, Deptford, Drexel Hill, Roxborough, and South Philadelphia. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of next year. The purchase of St. Edmond's is Beneficial's first bank acquisition since buying FMS Financial Corp. in 2007, the year it went public. Beneficial, with $4.6 billion in assets, is the biggest bank headquartered in Philadelphia. Its shares closed at $8.72, up 9 cents. - Harold Brubaker

Pa. hires firm that employs ex-Gov.

Pennsylvania hired investment bank Greenhill & Co. to help convert government assets and services into cash. The New York-based firm employs Republican Gov. Corbett's Democratic predecessor, Ed Rendell, as well as a banker who advised the state during Rendell's unsuccessful effort to sell the Pennsylvania Turnpike in 2008. Greenhill will review all Pennsylvania functions and services except the liquor system, according to the state's request for companies to submit proposals. Parks and prison health care might be run privately, Corbett has said. - Bloomberg News

Ballard hires for new group

Ballard Spahr L.L.P, the Philadelphia law firm, has hired four mortgage-finance lawyers away from Patton Boggs L.L.P., the Washington law firm, to create a new Mortgage Banking Group, Ballard chair Mark Stewart said in a statement. Richard J. Andreano Jr., John D. Socknat, and Michael Waldron, partners, and associate Reid F. Herlihy will be part of Ballard's Mortgage Banking Group, headed by Philadelphia-based Alan S. Kaplinsky. - Joseph N. DiStefano

J&J Snack boosts dividend

J&J Snack Foods Corp., Pennsauken, boosted its quarterly dividend 10.6 percent, to 13 cents per share, from 11.75 cents per share, the company said. The new dividend is payable Jan. 5 to shareholders of record on Dec. 15. J&J's products include Superpretzels, Luigi's Italian ices, and Daddy Ray's fig and fruit bars. - Harold Brubaker

USA Technologies names CEO

USA Technologies Inc., of Malvern, said its board named Stephen P. Herbert as the new chief executive officer, effective immediately. Herbert, 48, replaces George R. Jensen Jr., who resigned Oct. 14 over comments the board determined he had posted on a Yahoo Finance message board. Herbert joined USA Technologies in 1996, and has been president and chief operating officer since 1999. USA Technologies develops electronic payment systems for vending machines. - Reid Kanaley


Employment index jumps

A measure of job prospects in the U.S. climbed in November to a three-year high, helped by growth in the world's largest economy. The Conference Board's Employment Trends Index jumped 1.2 percent to 103.7, the highest level since September 2008, from 102.4 the prior month that was more than initially estimated, figures from the private research group showed. The measure rose 6.4 percent from November 2010. - Bloomberg News

CFTC tightens rules after MF Global

A new federal rule places tighter restrictions on how U.S. trading firms can invest their customers' money. The action comes amid a federal investigation into whether MF Global illegally tapped its clients' accounts before filing for bankruptcy. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission voted to finalize the rule. It prohibits firms from using money from customer accounts for certain investments, including purchases of foreign debt. It also limits how much of their money can be invested in others, such as money-market mutual funds. MF Global filed for bankruptcy protection on Oct. 31 after making a disastrous bet on European government debt. An estimated $1.2 billion or more may be missing from customer accounts. - AP

Subaru, Honda announce recalls

Subaru of America, based in Cherry Hill, is recalling three of its car models and Honda Motor Co. is recalling some motorcycles, all because the brakes can malfunction. The Honda recall covers 126,000 GL-1800 motorcycles from the 2001 to 2012 model years. The Subaru recall involves nearly 32,000 Legacy, Outback and Impreza models from the 2012 model year. - AP

Saab maker in sale talks

Swedish Automobile, the owner of Saab, said it is in talks with an unnamed Chinese bank and auto company Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile about selling stakes in the troubled car brand. Saab has been fighting for survival since CEO Victor Muller took over the loss-making brand from General Motors Co. in 2010 through his Dutch company Spyker Cars. Swedish Automobile entered bankruptcy protection in September. - AP

Factory orders fall

Companies decreased their overall orders to U.S. factories in October for the second straight month, evidence that the economy remains weak despite other signs of improvement. The Commerce Department said total factory orders fell 0.4 percent. September's modest 0.3 percent increase was also revised to show a 0.1 percent drop. Demand for so-called core capital goods, a good proxy for business investment plans, fell 0.8 percent, after two months of increases. - AP

T-bill rates fall at auction

The Treasury Department auctioned $29 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 0.005 percent, down from 0.03 percent last week. Another $27 billion in six-month bills was auctioned at a discount rate of 0.05 percent, down from 0.07 percent last week. The discount rates reflect that the bills sell for less than face value. For a $10,000 bill, the three-month price was $9,999.87 while a six-month bill sold for $9,997.47. Separately, the Federal Reserve said the average yield for one-year Treasury bills, a popular index for making changes in adjustable-rate mortgages, edged up to 0.13 percent last week from 0.12 percent the previous week. - AP