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Business news in brief

In the Region

S&P may cut Pa. credit rating

Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said it is ready to "lower [Pennsylvania's credit] rating in the next few months" unless state officials replace Gov. Corbett's and legislative leaders' proposed "one-time" budget gimmicks, such as the plan to defer payments to the state's underfunded pension systems, and instead make "a concerted effort to bring revenues and expenditures into alignment," rebuild cash reserves, and pass "meaningful pension reform," analyst John Sugden warned in a report to investors. The agency wants state leaders to make tough choices even as they face reelection this fall. - Joseph N. DiStefano

FirstEnergy: Never mind fee

FirstEnergy Solutions, facing an uproar in several states over its proposal to charge fixed-rate residential electricity customers a one-time fee of $5 to $15 to offset high winter costs, has decided to rethink the idea. "Even though our contracts allow us to pass through surcharges, we have decided we won't seek reimbursement from residential customers for the added costs," said Donald R. Schneider, president of the Ohio company. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission last week delayed ordering an investigation of the "pass-through" charge, which First Energy proposed to offset extra charges imposed in January by the regional grid operator. Lawmakers decried the charge because it seemed to belie the idea of a fixed-rate agreement. - Andrew Maykuth

No vote set on Phila. casino

The agenda for Wednesday's Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board meeting made no mention of a vote on Philadelphia's second casino license. That means there will be no decision this month, as had been held out as a possibility. Chairman William H. Ryan Jr. said at a February budget hearing that he hoped the board would make a decision within 60 days of Feb. 26, which is when the records were closed on the Philadelphia application process. Two items of note on the agenda for Wednesday's meeting are a vote on the renewal of the license for Sands Casino in Bethlehem and a presentation by Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment Inc., owner of Parx, on mobile gaming. - Harold Brubaker

Frontier likes fee model

Passengers flying Frontier Airlines will now have to pay extra to place carry-on bags in the overhead bin or for advance seat assignments. The move comes as the Denver-based airline, which serves airports in Trenton and Wilmington, tries to transform itself into a fee-dependent airline, similar to Spirit Airlines or Allegiant Air. Frontier last year added a $1.99 charge for a soda or water. Frontier said it is lowering its base fare by an average of 12 percent. The new charges apply to tickets purchased on or after Monday. - AP


Pending home sales up

More Americans signed contracts to buy homes in March, the first increase since June and a sign that the housing market might pick up after a sluggish start to the year. The National Association of Realtors said its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose 3.4 percent to 97.4 last month. Still, the index remains 7.9 percent below its level a year ago. Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases. A one-to-two-month lag usually exists between a signed contract and a completed sale. The gain partly reflects a recovery from the harsh winter. - AP

Fed likely to keep rates low

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has made one thing clear: The Fed will keep all options open in deciding when to raise interest rates from record lows. Gone are the benchmarks that her predecessor, Ben Bernanke, used to try to guide investors. The Fed will end its latest policy meeting Wednesday and it is expected to echo what Yellen has said before: That even after the job market strengthens and the Fed starts raising rates, it will likely keep rates unusually low to support a subpar economy. - AP

Toyota is Texas bound

Toyota Motor Corp. is moving its U.S. headquarters from California to Texas in a bid to improve communication between units now spread over several states. Toyota will break ground this year on a new environmentally friendly headquarters in Plano, about 25 miles north of Dallas. The new campus will bring together approximately 4,000 employees from sales, marketing, engineering, manufacturing and finance currently in California and Kentucky. - AP

Musk wants in on space flights

Billionaire Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. sued the Air Force, seeking to break into the multibillion dollar market for military satellite launches by challenging a Boeing Co.-Lockheed Martin Corp. monopoly on the service. Musk said the government's contract with the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture, which uses Russian rocket engines, "funnels hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to Russia's military industrial base, including monies that may flow to individuals on the U.S. sanctions list," according to a complaint filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington. - Bloomberg News