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Business news briefs — April 8

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LOCAL BUSINESS

Medical Mutual donates

Nonprofit technology support group NorTech said it received a $750,000 grant from Medical Mutual of Ohio. NorTech said the funds would be for advanced energy, flexible electronics and water technologies industries.

Medical Mutual committed $150,000 for the next five years to fund NorTech’s general operations. NorTech seeks to help companies and research institutions commercialize products faster while hosting educational workshops and events.

NorTech said in the past four years it has worked on the creation of 849 new jobs, $55 million in additional payroll and $134 million in new capital. NorTech said it has helped to attract $69.1 million in additional funding to Northeast Ohio through state and federal government work. It also said it has launched efforts to grow the minority presence in the region’s emerging industries.

JOBS

Openings positive sign

Employers posted more job openings in February, a sign that hiring will likely improve in the months ahead.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that employers advertised 4.2 million job openings, up 7.7 percent from January. That’s the highest number of postings since January 2008, when the Great Recession was just beginning and the economy had yet to suffer the full shock of the downturn.

Total hiring edged up 1.5 percent to 4.6 million in February. That’s still less than a healthy job market, where around 5 million people are hired each month.

Hiring has accelerated over the past two months after a winter slowdown. After factoring in job losses, employers added 192,000 jobs in March and 197,000 in February, the government said last Friday.

HEALTH CARE

Government cuts payments

UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Humana Inc. are among the health insurers that will see their base U.S. government payment rate reduced 4 percent next year for Medicare Advantage programs for elderly Americans.

While the base payment rate cut is more than the government’s proposed 3.55 percent reduction in February, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a letter to insurers that it’s delaying a proposal that would have lowered payments further. The agency put off a limitation on home assessments that industry analysts said would have meant an additional 2 percent cut for insurers.

About 15.9 million people, or 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries, chose Advantage plans this year over the regular government-run program for the elderly and disabled, according to data from the government. Insurers have mounted a lobbying campaign to deter the cuts, enlisting letters from Republican and Democratic lawmakers and generating 56,000 phone calls from seniors, according to the industry’s Washington lobbying group America’s Health Insurance Plans, which called it their “largest-ever mobilization.”

EARNINGS

Cargill sees decline

Cargill Inc., the largest closely held U.S. company, posted a 28 percent decline in fiscal third-quarter earnings after a loss on U.S. power trading while the weather disrupted operations in North America.

Net income fell to $319 million in the three months through February from $445 million a year earlier, the Minneapolis-based company said. Revenue was little changed at $32 billion.

Earnings were affected by a late January spike in U.S. power prices, some of which has been recovered, Cargill said. In February the company replaced a senior trader while disputing some details in a Wall Street Journal report that it lost at least $100 million in U.S. energy trading.

Also hurting results were the rejection of some corn shipments to China, the company said. China has rejected 887,000 tons of U.S. corn that has been genetically modified to kill pests and is not yet approved in the country.

AUTO INDUSTRY

SUVs get crash ratings

Only two of nine midsize SUVs got the highest rating in crash tests done by an insurance industry group. The Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain, both made by General Motors, received the highest “good” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Compiled from staff and wire reports.


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