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Business news in brief

In the Region

American buys 90 jets

American Airlines Group Inc. said Thursday it had signed deals to buy 90 jets, including 30 Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft and 60 Embraer E175 planes, with a total value of $3.92 billion. The planes have 76 seats. The order with Sao Paulo, Brazil-based Embraer S.A. was about $2.5 billion based on the list price. The order with Bombardier Inc., of Montreal, Quebec, was valued at about $1.42 billion. American, which closed its merger with US Airways Group on Monday, said the regional jets will provide improved economics and replace smaller, less fuel-efficient 50-seat regional aircraft. American took options for as many as 40 more Bombardier aircraft and up to 90 more Embraer planes. The CRJs will be flown by US Airways' commuter subsidiary, PSA Airlines. The Embraer E175s will be operated by the American Eagle regional unit or US Airways Express. - Linda Loyd

Survey predicts growth

Thirty-three economists canvassed for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's December Livingston Survey predict sustained U.S. economic growth through the end of 2014, the bank said. The forecasters, who are surveyed twice a year, project that gross domestic product, or real GDP, will grow at an annual rate of 2.4 percent for the second half of 2013, after a previous forecast of 2.3 percent. The group says the annualized rate for the second half of 2014 will rise to 2.8 percent. The economists, according to the survey, expect the unemployment rate will stand at 6.7 percent in December 2014. The U.S. Labor Department's number for November was 7.0 percent. - Reid Kanaley

Little gain in home prices

The Philadelphia metropolitan region had the nation's smallest gains in housing prices last month (up 1.4% from last November for a median sale price of $207,950), according to a survey by Redfin, an online real estate broker. The same survey found that home sales nationwide in November were down 16.8 percent from October and falling 10.9 percent year over year. This is the first time in 2013 home sales have dipped below 2012 levels. The main factor contributing to this decline was low inventory, which fell 8.2 percent from last month and 10.5 percent year over year, according to the survey. Home prices continued to show yearly gains, up 12.6 percent from November 2012. - Inquirer staff

Transportation grants

A state transportation panel Thursday approved about $10.5 million in grants to two local companies. Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refining and Marketing will get $10 million to construct nearly 30,000 feet of track and a railcar maintenance area, install 16,000 feet of pipeline to transport crude oil from the off-loading facility to a storage tank area, and complete improvements to yard facilities. The Pennsylvania Northeastern Railroad, a freight operator in Lansdale, will get $463,400 to rehabilitate 10 miles of track, repair six switches, install cross ties, and make other infrastructure improvements. The grants were among $10 million in aviation grants and $25.8 million in rail freight grants approved Thursday by the 15-member state Transportation Commission, which evaluates resources needed to maintain and expand Pennsylvania's transportation system. - Paul Nussbaum

Water Works CEO to retire

American Water Works Co., the national water utility based in Voorhees, will undergo a leadership change next year, as chief executive officer Jeff Sterba will retire at the company's annual meeting in May. Sterba, 58, who joined the company in 2010, will be replaced by the company's chief financial officer, Susan N. Story, 53. Sterba will stay on as an adviser through the end of 2014. Story, a veteran utility executive, was executive vice president of Southern Co., one of America's largest generators of electricity, before she joined American Water in April. - Andrew Maykuth

McCord: replace Maiale

Pennsylvania state Treasurer Rob McCord, in a letter to Gov. Corbett on Thursday, called for the replacement of longtime Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System chairman Nicholas Maiale. McCord cited "recent allegations of possible improper behavior at SERS" leading to the early retirement and investigation of chief investment officer Anthony Clark. Clark has not been charged with wrongdoing. McCord also faulted Corbett administration lawyers for not acting more quickly on allegations by other SERS staff that Clark had withheld information on a poor-performing investment from SERS trustees. "I've been there 22 years," said Maiale. "I don't know how much longer I want to be there. I don't know how much longer the governor wants me to. But I've done a good job. The majority of the board still supports me." On Wednesday, the SERS board voted, 7-4, against McCord's proposal to stop hiring new money managers pending an investigation. - Joseph N. DiStefano


Record gas mileage

The U.S. government says new cars and trucks sold last year averaged 23.6 miles per gallon of gasoline, a record. Mazda led all auto makers with an average of 27.1 m.p.g., followed by Honda at 26.6. Chrysler-Fiat had the worst mileage at 20.1, followed by Daimler at 21.1 m.p.g. All the figures are for combined city and highway driving.

- Associated Press