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Business news briefs — Oct. 29

LOCAL BUSINESS

Pitch contest winners

A startup called eCollect LLC, which as the name implies electronically collects on returned checks, is the winner of the top prize — $3,000 — in the Hudson Library & Historical Society’s first business-pitch contest.

The Cleveland company presented its pitch on Monday at the library’s Pitch Night, designed to celebrate the fifth year of the library’s free Entrepreneurship Series of workshops.

The second place winner, snagging a $1,500 prize, was Qwickly LLC of Cleveland. This venture has developed software used by instructors of college courses to send emails and post announcements, among other tasks.

Coming in third was a Pepper Pike startup called Student Records Relocation that uses software to transfer K-12 students’ records.

The series — begun in 2008 with a grant from Hudson’s Burton D. Morgan Foundation — presents speakers and workshops focusing on those with ideas for new startups, new ventures and existing small businesses.

The Morgan Foundation made a separate grant to the library to pay for the Pitch prizes.

ECONOMY

Inflation still low

Wholesale prices in the U.S. unexpectedly dropped in September as food costs retreated, an indication inflation remains tame.

The 0.1 percent decrease in the producer price index followed a 0.3 percent gain the prior month, a Labor Department report showed. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 80 economists called for a 0.2 percent advance. The so-called core measure of inflation, which excludes food and fuel products, increased 0.1 percent after being unchanged in August.

Dow gains 111 points

Investors drove the Dow Jones industrial average to an all-time high Tuesday on expectations that the Federal Reserve will keep its economic stimulus program in place.

The Dow rose 111.42 points, or 0.7 percent, to 15,680.35. The Dow also got a big boost from IBM, which announced that it would buy $15 billion more of its own stock.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 9.84 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,771.95, its seventh record high this month. The Nasdaq composite rose 12.21 points, or 0.3 percent, to 3,952.34.

Home prices rise

Nationwide home sale prices rose 12.8 percent in August compared with a year ago, the most since February 2006, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices.

As of August, average home prices across the United States were back to their mid-2004 levels, according to the report.

Home prices in the 20-city index showed their peak rate of gain in April.

Since then, home prices have continued to rise, but at a slower pace each month, said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. All 20 cities posted gains in August compared with July, with 16 reporting smaller gains from month to month. Blitzer said increases in mortgage interest rates are a factor in the slowing rate of rising prices.

The Cleveland metropolitan area tied with Dallas for the second weakest gain in prices from July to August, the report said. Cleveland area home prices grew 0.6 percent from the previous month, and 3.7 percent from August 2012. Akron area prices are not tracked by S&P/Case-Shiller.

EARNINGS

Burger King restructures

Burger King’s third-quarter net income surged as it sharply reduced its restaurant expenses mostly due to the refranchising of company-owned restaurants and continued to grow overseas. The Miami company’s performance topped analysts’ estimates. It also raised its quarterly dividend.

Burger King Worldwide Inc. has been revamping its business since it was purchased in 2010 by 3G Capital, a private investment firm run by Brazilian billionaires. The company has been selling more restaurants to franchisees in a bid to reduce overhead costs. Instead of booking sales from those restaurants, Burger King collects franchise fees.

For the three months ended Sept. 30, the hamburger chain earned $68.2 million, or 19 cents per share. A year earlier it earned $6.6 million, or 2 cents per share.

Excluding certain items, earnings were 23 cents per share.

Restaurant expenses dropped to $22.9 million from $216.3 million. Burger King also managed to lower significantly its selling, general and administrative expenses and other operating expenses. Revenue declined 40 percent to $275.1 million from $455.7 million mostly due to the refranchising of 519 company-owned restaurants. But it still managed to beat Wall Street’s forecast of $264.5 million.

Compiled from staff and wire reports.



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