Region's economy growing slowly

The Philadelphia regional economy is growing slowly with employment levels not expected to return to prerecession levels until the second half of 2013, according to the latest quarterly indicators released by Select Greater Philadelphia, the economic development arm of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. A comparison of regional and national leading indicators shows the national economy continuing to recover more quickly than the Philadelphia area, the organization said. Select and IHS Global Insight, an economic forecasting firm that helped produce the data, said a separate set of coincident indicators shows that as of January, the most recent month covered by the report, the Philadelphia region was exhibiting a "gradual rate of economic recovery." — Mike Armstrong

Federal ruling helps Atlantic Wind

The U.S. Department of Interior made a critical determination Monday that benefits Atlantic Wind Connection, the Google-funded company that wants to build a sea-floor transmission system to connect offshore wind turbines to the electrical grid. The Interior Deparment's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management declared there to be no competitive interest for the use of certain areas of the outer continental shelf, allowing the government to grant the project a right-of-way once its environmental impact is reviewed. The lack of competitive interest means that delays are avoided. The project aims to connect up to 7,000 megawatts of wind farms planned off the New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware coasts. The 300-mile-long subsea transmission system will be built 12 to 15 miles offshore over about 10 years. — Andrew Maykuth

Four Pa. nursing homes honored

Just four of the 713 nursing homes regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Health went three years with no state citations on annual health survey inspections, thereby qualifying for the department's new Award for Excellence in Health Care Compliance, the department said. The winners were Foulkeways at Gwynedd in Gwynedd, the Meadows at Shannondell in Audubon, the Schuylkill Center in Pottsville, and Pennsylvania Hospital Skilled Care Center in Philadelphia. All Pennsylvania nursing homes were automatically eligible for the award. The number of awardees could grow next year, based on the number of homes that have gone two years without a citation, department spokeswoman Christine Cronkright said.

— Harold Brubaker

SEPTA signs consultant contract

SEPTA has signed a three-year $316,560 contract with a Boston company to provide energy consulting services to the regional transit agency. SourceOne, a subsidiary of Veolia Energy North America, will advise SEPTA on strategies for the purchase and management of all SEPTA utilities, including natural gas, water and sewer, electricity, heating oil, and propane, said Frank Gormley, SEPTA's operating budget director. SourceOne will also evaluate the viability of alternative energy projects. SEPTA spends $56 million a year on utilities, including $42 million for power to propel trains, subways and trolleys. Veolia Energy owns the Grays Ferry cogeneration plant and the Center City district steam system. — Andrew Maykuth

Former controller is sentenced

The former controller of Environmental Industrial Services Corp. of New Jersey, a Swedesboro environmental and industrial services firm, was sentenced Monday in Federal Court in Camden to 57 months in prison for defrauding his former employer by improperly diverting funds and taking more than $1.3 million from the company, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said in a statement. Rusty Spickenreuther, 46, of Franklinville, Gloucester County, previously pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, one count of money laundering, and one count of tax fraud. He entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez, who also imposed the sentence Monday in Camden federal court. — Inquirer staff


Best Buy chairman leaves post

Best Buy Co. Inc.'s founder Richard Schulze is stepping down as chairman of the consumer-electronics chain after a company investigation disclosed that he failed to alert the board of directors when he learned that the CEO was having an inappropriate relationship with a female employee. Best Buy said a probe it launched in March determined that former CEO Brian Dunn, who resigned last month, violated company policy and showed poor judgment by having a "close personal relationship" with a subordinate. The inquiry also found that Schulze, who first heard about the relationship in December when another employee gave him a written statement, acted inappropriately by not telling human resources or the board of the allegations. — AP

Loss shrinks for Groupon

Online deals company Groupon Inc. reported a smaller net loss and sharply higher revenue for the first quarter, helped by greater demand from a growing customer base. Groupon said net loss was $11.7 million, or 2 cents per share, in the January-March period. It had posted a loss of $146.5 million, or 48 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2011 when it was still privately held. Revenue grew 89 percent to $559.3 million from $295.5 million a year earlier. — AP

Refinancers picking fixed-rates

Fixed-rate mortgages accounted for more than 95 percent of refinance loans in the first quarter, Freddie Mac said Monday. Of borrowers who refinanced in the first quarter, 31 percent reduced their loan term by paying off a 30-year loan and replacing it with a 20-year, 15-year or other shorter-term loan. In addition, 66 percent of borrowers kept the same term as the loan they had paid off. — Alan J. Heavens

Rates mixed on short-term T-bills

Interest rates on short-term U.S. Treasury bills were mixed in Monday's auction. The Treasury Department auctioned $30 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 0.095 percent, up from 0.090 percent last week. Another $27 billion in six-month bills was auctioned at a discount rate of 0.145 percent, unchanged from 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 $9,997.60 while a six-month bill sold for $9,992.67. — AP

Rates lower for one-year T-bills

The Federal Reserve said Monday that the average yield for one-year Treasury bills, a popular index for adjustable-rate mortgages, fell to 0.18 percent last week from 0.19 percent the previous week. — AP