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Business news briefs — March 27

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REAL ESTATE

U.S. mortgage rates rise

Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages rose this week in the wake of comments by Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen suggesting that the Fed could start raising short-term interest rates by mid-2015.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the average rate for the 30-year loan increased to 4.40 percent from 4.32 percent last week.

The average for the 15-year mortgage rose to 3.42 percent from 3.32 percent.

TIRE INDUSTRY

Changes urged at U.S. Navy

The U.S. Navy needs to change the “anti-competitive” ways it procures tires, U.S. Rep Tim Ryan, D-Niles, said this week in a hearing involving Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

The Navy’s current system penalizes U.S. tire makers such as Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. by allowing foreign tire companies including France-based Michelin to act as program managers for Navy tire contracts, Ryan said. Navy contractors such as Michelin select their own tires 98 percent of the time, with many of those tires imported, Ryan said.

AGRICULTURE

Corn production rising

Corn stockpiles may rise to the highest in 15 years by the end of the 2014-15 season as world output of the grain is predicted to advance, beating usage for a second season, the International Grains Council said.

Global corn production may rise to 961 million metric tons from 959 million tons this season on increased planting. Inventories may rise to 171 million tons at the end of 2014-15 from 155 million tons.

Chicago corn futures have slumped 33 percent in the past 12 months, the worst performance on the S&P GSCI gauge of 24 raw materials, as production in the U.S., the biggest grower, recovered from drought in 2012.

“A bumper crop in 2013-14 should allow for some stock building, with a sharp rise in supplies more than offsetting strong gains in use,” the IGC wrote. “Preliminary projections for 2014-15 indicate a slight expansion in area.”

The world is predicted to use 945 million tons of corn next season from 931 million tons in 2013-14. Stockpiles had fallen by 4 million tons to 127 million tons at the end of 2012-13.

FOOD

Kansas candy plant to open

Shoppers aren’t losing their taste for chocolate. Need proof? Look to Kansas, where candy giant Mars Inc. is opening its first new plant in 35 years to churn out millions of chocolate bars and other sweets every day.

Company officials had a grand opening for the sprawling, $270 million chocolate plant — which they say exists mostly to meet U.S. demand for its M&M’s- and Snickers-brand candy.

The plant, built south of Topeka, will be able to produce 14 million bite-sized Snickers each day, as well as 39 million M&M’s, enough to fill 1.5 million fun-sized packs.

LEGAL

Supplier’s penalty reduced

Saint-Gobain SA won a $227 million reduction in its record $1.2 billion EU antitrust fine for fixing car-glass prices. Europe’s biggest supplier of building materials, which has Northeast Ohio operations, was punished too harshly for being a repeat offender, the EU General Court said in a ruling in Luxembourg.

Saint-Gobain was fined in 2008 for colluding with rivals on prices of car windows from 1998 to 2003.

Compiled from staff and wire reports


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