Builders broke ground on more homes in July

U.S. developers broke ground on new homes at a faster pace in July, partly reversing a sharp drop the previous month. The figures suggest housing construction is maintaining its recovery.

The Commerce Department said Friday builders began work last month on houses and apartments at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 896,000, up 6 percent from June. Construction began on 26 percent more apartments, a volatile category, but 2.2 percent fewer single-family houses.

Judge won’t fast-track Icahn’s claim over Dell

A judge on Friday dealt a blow to activist investor Carl Icahn’s effort to stop CEO and founder Michael Dell’s $24.8 billion buyout offer for the struggling computer maker.

He refused to fast-track proceedings on Icahn’s claims that Dell directors have betrayed their duties to shareholders in trying to win support for CEO Michael Dell’s bid. After three delays, the board has scheduled a special shareholder vote on Michael Dell’s offer for Sept. 12, followed by an overdue annual meeting on Oct. 17.

Icahn wanted the vote and annual meeting to be held on the same day. That would give shareholders a chance to vote on a board slate that he is offering as part of his proposal, which he says would be a better deal for investors.

Penney, Ackman sign pact on sale of shares

J.C. Penney and its largest shareholder, William Ackman, have made a deal that sets terms for allowing him to unload his stake in the company in an orderly manner.

The agreement comes days after Ackman resigned from Penney’s board as part of a deal to resolve an unusually public battle between the investor and the struggling department store.

Ackman’s firm has 17.7 percent stake, or 39 million shares, in Penney. Under the deal, he can make up to four requests to the company to register the sale of his shares. Each request must be for at least 5 million shares.

AOL’s Patch local news site to lay off up to 500

AOL is laying off up to half the workforce at its Patch local news sites and shuttering or consolidating about 150 of the 900 sites while looking for partners for others. Up to 500 of Patch’s 1,000 employees will go in the layoffs.

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong co-founded Patch in 2007. AOL bought it in 2009 after Armstrong had taken over the helm of the Internet company.

Patch has news sites throughout the Charleston region, and some were active Friday. The company did not respond to an emailed request for comment about their future.

US Steel taps new CEO; longtime chief retiring

PITTSBURGH — United States Steel Corp. says one of its top executives will take over as its new CEO in September as long-time leader John Surma transitions into retirement.

The steelmaker said Friday it has elected Mario Longhi as its next chief executive. Longhi currently is president and chief operating officer. Surma will stay on as an executive chairman through the end of the year and then he will retire from the company and board.

Owner of Maersk sees big gain from shipper

COPENHAGEN — Denmark’s shipping and oil group A.P. Moller-Maersk saw profits at its container unit nearly double in the second-quarter,. Even so, overall profit fell amid lower freight rates and oil production.

The big bright spot in the results was Maersk Line, which saw profits swell to $439 million. Maersk is major customer of the Port of Charleston.

Staff and wire reports