LOCAL BUSINESS

Sterling promotes two

Sterling Jewelers Inc. of Akron said Tuesday it has made organizational changes in the area of supply and distribution. The company, the nation’s largest operator of jewelry stores, named Robert L. Knapp II senior vice president, strategic initiative integration and distribution center.

Sterling also promoted Bryan Morgan to senior vice president of corporate supply chain management and facilities.

The moves come as Sterling’s parent, Signet Jewelers Ltd., prepares to acquire rival Zale Corp. of Irving, Texas. Signet said in February that it would pay $21 a share in cash in the deal that would also include about $500 million in Zale’s debt.

Sterling said that in Knapp’s newly created position, he will “lead the integration of strategic initiatives while continuing to oversee the company’s distribution center.”

He also will be responsible, Sterling said, “for developing a long-term property acquisition and development strategy” for Sterling’s expanding Akron operations. Morgan will be responsible for procurement including sourcing, warehousing, manufacturing and repair, as well as the company’s facilities, security and dining services.

ECONOMY

Confidence shows drop

Consumer confidence fell in April over concerns about hiring and business conditions, even though many people foresee a strengthening economy in the months ahead.

The Conference Board said its confidence index dropped to 82.3 from a March reading of 83.9. Despite the decline, consumer sentiment for the past two months has been at its strongest levels since January 2008, when the Great Recession was just beginning.

Board economist Lynn Franco said that consumers became a bit more doubtful about current conditions but their outlook for growth held steady.

Home prices fall

Home price gains cooled in February from the previous year for the third month in a row, as harsh winter weather and high buying costs have slowed sales. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 12.9 percent in February compared with 12 months earlier. While healthy, that is down from a 13.2 percent gain in January.

Prices in 13 metropolitan areas — including the Cleveland area — declined in February. The index shows the Cleveland metropolitan area, which does not include Summit County, had the largest monthly decline of 1.6 percent, followed by Chicago and Minneapolis at 0.9 percent. Las Vegas posted a 0.1 decline, marking its first drop in prices in almost two years. Cleveland and Tampa, with a decline of 0.7 percent, showed their largest monthly declines since January 2012.

However, prices in the Cleveland area were up 3 percent in February from a year ago, February 2013. Still, that was the lowest year-over-year increase among the 20 metropolitan areas covered by the 20-city home price index.

As of February 2014, average home prices across the United States are back to their mid-2004 levels.

LABOR

NLRB issues complaint

The National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint charging Akron-headquartered FirstEnergy Corp. and various operating companies with unfair labor practices relating to ongoing contract negotiations covering more than 700 utility workers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia.

FirstEnergy spokesman Mark Durbin said Tuesday, “Obviously we disagree and we are confident that the review process [involving the NLRB complaint] will support our decisions … This is just very early in the process … This is not a decision [by the NLRB].”

A hearing will be July 22 in Pittsburgh. The union reported that the NLRB complaint states FirstEnergy refused to negotiate over the effects of its closure of two power plants in southwestern Pennsylvania — unless the union accepted a new contract imposing concessions on the union’s entire four-state bargaining unit.

WALL STREET

Dow has 86-point rise

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 86.63 points, or 0.5 percent, to 16,535.37. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 8.90 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,878.33. The Nasdaq composite gained 29.14 points, or 0.7 percent, to 4,103.54.

Compiled from staff and wire reports