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Business news in brief

In the Region

Nonfactory business on rise

Businesses other than factories in the Philadelphia region reported increased activity this month and more full-time workers than a month ago, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said. Though positive, measures for new orders, sales, and revenue in the Philly Fed's latest Nonmanufacturing Business Outlook Survey were little changed over November readings. The survey tracked economic activity in eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and Delaware through Thursday. It looks at nonmanufacturing sectors - except natural resources and mining - with the greatest representation being among professional and business services, financial activities, and the health and education services sectors, the bank said. Last week, it said local manufacturers remained optimistic about growth. - Reid Kanaley

Four tankers underway at Aker

Aker Philadelphia Shipyard held a ceremonial "keel laying" for the second of four product tankers for Crowley Maritime Corp. Keel laying is a tradition, signifying good fortune and safe travel, that marks the beginning of a ship's life, even though production began months before. Shipyard workers also began cutting the first steel plate for the fourth product tanker in the series with Crowley. "We now have all four product tankers we are building with Crowley under construction, in various stages, throughout the shipyard," said Aker Shipyard CEO Steinar Nerbovik. - Linda Loyd

Airline sweetens contracts

American Airlines Group said that its contract with pilots of American and US Airways is headed to binding arbitration, but the airlines will raise pay by 4 percent for union-represented employees of US Airways and American that reach joint labor agreements. The wage increase is in addition to terms previously negotiated, and includes flight attendants from US Airways and American, whose combined contract was recently finalized. - Linda Loyd


Millions pledged to fund

A proposed settlement fund for victims of a fiery train derailment that claimed 47 lives in Canada is nearly halfway to a goal of $500 million in funding commitments ahead of its filing next month, the defunct railroad's bankruptcy trustee said. More than a dozen corporations that face potential liability in the 2013 Quebec oil train disaster have agreed to pay over $200 million to the fund, and that sum could more than double by the time judges in the United States and Canada sign off, bankruptcy trustee Robert Keach said. Keach, the trustee in the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railways bankruptcy case, is casting a wide net as he seeks to build the fund to compensate victims. - AP

Walgreen beats analysts

Walgreen Co., the largest U.S. drugstore chain by revenue, beat analysts' expectations after the company said it filled more prescriptions at its retail pharmacies than ever before. First-quarter sales rose 6.7 percent to $19.6 billion as customers filled a record 222 million prescriptions, 4.3 percent more than a year ago, the Illinois-based company said. Pharmacy sales accounted for about two-thirds of revenue. Net income rose 16 percent to $809 million, or 85 cents a share. Excluding one-time items, earnings were 81 cents a share, beating the 75-cents average of analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg. - Bloomberg News

Family Dollar delays sale vote

Family Dollar Stores Inc. shareholders met to weigh a takeover by Dollar Tree Inc., but delayed the decision until next month, giving them more time to consider a competing bid. Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., a proxy adviser, urged investors this month to delay the vote, saying that would not jeopardize an eventual deal and could result in a higher price. Another dollar-store chain, Dollar General Corp., has made a higher bid. - Bloomberg News

FTC targets data broker

In a first-of-a-kind case, the Federal Trade Commission is targeting a data broker for allegedly selling sensitive consumer information - including bank account numbers - to marketers that authorities said the broker knew had no legitimate need for it. In its complaint, the commission charges that Arizona-based LeapLab bought the payday loan applications of people strapped for money and then sold that data to third parties who most often weren't lenders at all. - AP

Start-up swaps gold, bitcoin

A Canadian start-up says it will enable customers to swap their holdings between gold bullion and bitcoins, and plans an initial public offering next year. BitGold Inc.'s website will go live in the first quarter, cofounder Roy Sebag said Tuesday. The Toronto-based company will allow account holders to purchase bitcoins and exchange them for gold redeemable in various vaults around the world, as well as to convert the metal back into the digital currency. - Bloomberg News

Pot app halted by judge

The maker of the first-in-the-U.S. smartphone app for ordering the delivery of medical marijuana was ordered to stop its service by a California state judge in Los Angeles. - Bloomberg News