In the Region

Pharma firms end joint venture

Drugmakers AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers Squibb ended a joint venture to sell drugs to treat diabetes, with AstraZeneca agreeing to take the products and pay BMS $2.7 billion up front and up to an additional $1.4 billion if regulatory, commercial launch, and sales- related milestones are reached. AstraZeneca is based in London, but has facilities in Wilmington and Newark, Del. BMS has its head- quarters in New York, but has four New Jersey facilities. AstraZeneca said about 4,100 BMS employees dedicated to the diabetes business would eventually move to Astra- Zeneca. That includes employees at new facility in Fort Washington established earlier in 2013 for the joint venture. - David Sell

Hershey expanding in China

Pennsylvania's Hershey Co. is expanding its presence in China with the acquisition of a majority stake in a confectionary company there. The U.S. candymaker said its subsidiary Hershey Netherlands B.V. was acquiring an 80 percent stake in privately held Shanghai Golden Monkey Food Joint Stock Co. Ltd. for about $498 million in cash. Hershey will also assume $86 million in debt. - AP

Pa. unveils well-mapping tool

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection unveiled a new online oil and gas mapping tool on its website. The online mapping tool (see displays the location of wells and allows users to search and view specific types of wells by county, such as conventional gas, unconventional gas, oil, or coal-bed methane wells. - Andrew Maykuth

Rite Aid shares fall on forecast

Rite Aid Corp., of Camp Hill, Pa., reported its fifth-straight quarterly profit, but the drugstore chain's shares fell 10.24 percent after it also lowered its 2014 earnings forecast, citing drug-cost increases and a decreasing benefit from new generic medicines, among other factors. The company also said it expected a soft flu season, and sales outside the pharmacy in its established stores slipped in the recently completed quarter. - AP


Jobless claims at 9-month high

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose 10,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 379,000, the highest since March. The increase may reflect volatility around the Thanksgiving holidays. The Labor Department said the less-volatile four-week average jumped 13,250 to 343,250, the second straight increase. Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Last month, they fell to nearly the lowest level in six years, as companies cut fewer jobs. - AP

Ponzi exec fingers colleagues

Former Bernard Madoff employees on trial for allegedly aiding his $17 billion fraud are focusing their defense on ex-colleagues who helped perpetuate the scheme and weren't charged. At least three people who, for years, promoted fake trading strategies with clients of Madoff's investment advisory unit or helped write tickets for fictitious trades weren't prosecuted, Frank DiPascali, Madoff's former finance chief, who is testifying against his ex-colleagues, said in Manhattan federal court. Under cross examination, DiPascali said the people didn't know it was fraud because he lied to them for years. - Bloomberg News

Existing-home sales decline

The number of people who bought existing U.S. homes in November declined for the third straight month. Higher mortgage rates have made home-buying more expensive, while the lingering effect of the October government shutdown might have deterred some sales. Home resales fell 4.3 percent to an annual rate of 4.90 million, the National Association of Realtors said. That was the weakest pace since December 2012 and the first time since April that the pace has slipped below five million. - AP

Leading indicators up

A measure of the U.S. economy's health posted a solid gain in November, suggesting that momentum was building at the end of the year. The Conference Board said its index of leading indicators rose 0.8 percent in November compared with October, when the index had posted a much smaller 0.1 percent gain. The index rose 1 percent in September, the month before the 16-day partial government shutdown. The index is designed to signal economic conditions over the next three to six months. - AP

Nike profit up 40 percent

Nike's fiscal second-quarter net income jumped 40 percent, helped by higher average selling prices and an increase in revenue around the world. Profit topped analysts' expectations, though revenue came in slightly short. Nike shares have risen 52 percent year to date and hit an all-time high of $80.26 last week. The world's largest athletic-goods maker said Nike- brand sales grew across every product type and region. Net income for the three months that ended Nov. 30 rose to $537 million, or 59 cents per share. That compares with net income of $384 million, or 57 cents per share, last year. Revenue rose 8 percent to $6.43 billion from $5.96 billion. - AP

Ocwen to cut loan balances

Ocwen Financial Corp. will reduce struggling borrowers' balances by $2 billion in an agreement with federal regulators and 49 states over foreclosure abuses. Regulators said Ocwen pushed borrowers into foreclosure through illegal actions. - AP