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Franklin Electric chief retires

Franklin Electric on Wednesday announced that Chairman and CEO R. Scott Trumbull will retire May 2.

The company’s board of directors said Gregg C. Sengstack has been appointed as his successor, and Trumbull will remain non-executive chairman of Franklin Electric. Trumbull joined the Franklin Electric board in 1998 and has held the top posts since 2002.

During his tenure, the company said it has transformed itself from being a submersible motor supplier for pump manufacturers to a pumping systems supplier for distributors. The company’s market capitalization has increased from around $520 million to about $1.9 billion.

Sengstack, 55, joined Franklin Electric in 1988 and has been president and chief operating officer since 2011.

Also on Wednesday, Franklin Electric released an earnings report showing fourth-quarter 2013 net income of $13.3 million, or 27 cents for fully diluted earnings per share, compared with $13.1 million, or 27 cents per share, in the same quarter 2012.

For the year, net income was $82 million, or $1.68 for fully diluted earnings per share, compared with $82.9 million, or $1.73 per share.

Fed minutes point to stimulus reductions

Federal Reserve officials agreed at their January meeting that further gradual reductions in their stimulus would be appropriate as long as the economy keeps improving.

According to the minutes of the meeting released Wednesday, officials weighed the need to stress to investors that the Fed’s key short-term interest rate would remain near zero. But officials couldn’t agree on how to modify their commitment to keep the rate there well after the unemployment rate falls below 6.5 percent. The rate is now 6.6 percent.

Several participants argued that unless the Fed’s economic outlook changed, it should continue to reduce its bond purchases by $10 billion at each meeting this year.

Housing construction down 16 percent

U.S. home construction fell in January for a second month, but the weakness in December and January reflected severe winter weather in many parts of the country. The expectation is that housing will deliver another year of solid gains, helped by an improving economy.

Builders started work at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 880,000, down 16 percent from December, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. In December, construction had fallen 4.8 percent. The declines in both months were blamed largely on the weather.

Applications for building permits fell in January for a third month, dropping 5.4 percent to 937,000.

Price of making goods rises 0.2 percent

The cost of producing goods and services in the United States rose slightly in January, with higher food prices partly offset by cheaper gas. Overall, inflation remains mild.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that the producer price index, which tracks prices before they reach consumers, rose 0.2 percent in January. That followed a 0.1 percent increase in December and a flat reading in November.

In the past year, producer prices have risen just 1.2 percent. Excluding the cost of food, energy and markups by wholesalers and retailers, so-called core prices ticked up just 0.1 percent.