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Bank giant PNC posts income rise

PNC Financial Services Group Inc. said Thursday its fourth-quarter net income jumped 50 percent, helped by a jump in noninterest income and lower expenses.

The regional bank operator posted a profit attributable to common shareholders of $998 million, or $1.85 a share, up from $664 million, or $1.24 a share, in the same quarter of 2012.

Total revenue was flat at $4.07 billion.

The results beat Wall Street predictions. Analysts, on average, expected a profit of $1.65 a share on $3.83 billion in revenue, according to FactSet.

Net interest income, or earnings from deposits and loans, fell 7 percent to $2.27 billion, partly as a result of lower income from loans and securities. Noninterest income, or earnings from fees and other charges, jumped 10 percent to $1.65 billion, mainly as a result of the release of reserves for residential mortgage repurchase obligations.

The company also cut costs, reducing its noninterest expense by 27 percent to $243 million. And its provision for loan losses, or the amount of money set aside to cover soured loans, fell 64 percent to $113 million.

For the full year, PNC earned $3.97 billion, or $7.39 a share, up from $2.83 billion, or $5.30 a share, in 2012. Revenue increased to $16.01 billion from $15.51 billion.

Consumer prices jump 0.3 percent

U.S. consumer prices rose last month by the most since June, driven up by higher gasoline prices, but excluding energy, inflation was tame.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the consumer price index rose a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent in December, after a flat reading the previous month.

Prices increased 1.5 percent in 2013, down from 1.7 percent in 2012. That’s below the Federal Reserve’s target of 2 percent. Fed officials have said in recent months that they are watching the inflation data closely to ensure it does not fall too far.

$4.15 billion bid for J&Js ortho business

Johnson & Johnson said Thursday that it’s been offered $4.15 billion by The Carlyle Group for its Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics business, a year after J&J began reviewing strategic options for the blood-testing unit as part of a routine pruning of its extensive family of businesses.

J&J, based in New Brunswick, N.J., has until March 31 to decide whether to accept the offer. Johnson & Johnson executives plan to discuss the offer Tuesday, when the health giant and consumer products company reports fourth-quarter results. The company said Thursday that it will consult with works councils and trade unions representing the unit’s employees before making a decision.

Established in 1937, Ortho Clinical Diagnostics is based in Raritan, N.J., and has factories in Rochester, N.Y.; Pompano Beach, Fla., and Pencoed, Wales.

Builder confidence slouches in January

U.S. homebuilders lost a little confidence in the housing market this month but remain generally upbeat ahead of the spring home-selling next season.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Thursday dipped to 56. That’s down from December’s reading of 57, which was revised one point lower from its initial estimate.

Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good, rather than poor.