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American Specialty Insurance to move from Roanoke to Fort Wayne

At year’s end, American Specialty Insurance & Risk Services Inc. plans to move its Roanoke operations to Fort Wayne, officials said Friday.

Pete Eshelman, landlord of the Huntington County property and founder of the company, said the business will move into the 7609 W. Jefferson Blvd. location leased by Ash Brokerage.

“It’s a win for everybody,” said Eshelman, who sold American Specialty about five years ago.

“They get a smaller location, and I have a local business that is seeking to fill that spot,” he said.

Eshelman declined to name the venture but said it would occupy the entire 28,000-square-foot building that American Specialty is leaving.

The company has about 65 workers, he said.

Equipment sales help fuel GE profit

General Electric Co. posted increased revenue and profit for the fourth quarter on rising sales in emerging markets, higher banking profit and stronger global sales of aircraft engines and oil and gas drilling equipment.

The company’s shares fell 2.3 percent Friday because GE failed to increase its profit margin as much as it had predicted.

The company’s profit for all of 2013 rose, though revenue fell slightly, as GE continues its transformation from a sprawling conglomerate to a more focused industrial company that builds and services complex equipment such as CT scanners, locomotives and gas-fired turbines.

GE, which has Fort Wayne operations, reported that its net income rose 5 percent to $4.2 billion, or 41 cents a share, for the October to December period on revenue of $40.38 billion. That’s up from $4.01 billion, or 38 cents per share, on revenue of $39.16 billion in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Factory output rises fifth straight month

U.S. factory output rose for a fifth consecutive month in December as manufacturers cranked out more cars and trucks, appliances and processed food. The gains suggest that factories gave economic growth a strong boost at the end of the year.

The Federal Reserve said Friday that factory production rose 0.4 percent in December. That follows gains of 0.6 percent in November and October. Automakers increased their production 1.8 percent last month and 10.4 percent year over year.

Higher consumer demand is driving much of the increased manufacturing activity. Production of appliances, furniture, carpeting, food and clothing all grew in December. Output of consumer goods gained 0.5 percent.

Homebuilding dips, but year best since 07

U.S. home construction slowed in December but ended 2013 with the best showing since the housing bubble burst.

The Commerce Department said Friday that builders broke ground last month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 999,000. That’s 9.8 percent lower than November’s pace of 1.12 million, which was the fastest in five years.

For the year, builders started 923,000 homes and apartments, up 18.3 percent from 2012. It was the fourth consecutive annual gain and the strongest since 2007, when 1.36 million homes were started.

The housing market has been recovering steadily during the past year, helping to boost economic growth and create jobs. But a rise in mortgage rates from record lows reached a year ago have started to weigh on those gains.