Business Briefs: Disney investors to get 50% bump in dividend

Mickey and Minnie Mouse at Disneyland.

MARK ASHMAN

BURBANK, Calif. -- The Walt Disney Co. is raising its annual dividend by 50 percent to 60 cents a share. CEO Robert Iger said Wednesday the increase is due to the company's record revenue, net income and earnings per share in fiscal 2011.

The dividend will be paid on Jan. 18 to shareholders of record on Dec. 16.

Pending home sales up in October, ending slide

WASHINGTON -- The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes jumped in October to the highest level in a year. But the gain follows three months of declines and isn't enough to signal a housing recovery.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that its index of sales agreements rose 10.4 percent last month to a reading of 93.3. A reading of 100 is considered healthy. The last time it was that high was in April 2010, a month before a federal home-buying tax credit expired.

Contract signings usually indicate where the housing market is headed. There's typically a one- to two-month lag between a signed contract and a completed deal.

Even with the gains, contracts to buy homes are roughly at the same level as they were before the tax credit expired, said Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at MFR Inc.

Maker of safety apparel to bring jobs to Barnwell

COLUMBIA -- An international manufacturer of safety clothing is relocating some operations from Egypt to bring 120 jobs to Barnwell County. South Carolina officials said Wednesday that A&K Textiles is setting up a cut-and-sew operation in a former Hanesbrands building.

The Coordinating Council for Economic Development approved a rural infrastructure grant to help modify the building. The company is relocating from Alexandria, Egypt, and is investing $150,000. Hiring will begin in March.

Report: Economy grew slightly, hiring still weak

WASHINGTON -- The economy grew at a slow to moderate pace in most areas of the country over the past two months, according to a Federal Reserve survey released Wednesday. A modest pickup in consumer spending, tourism and manufacturing drove the growth.

The Fed said economic conditions improved in 11 of its 12 districts. The one exception was the St. Louis district, where conditions declined.

Even with the growth, hiring was weak in most areas. And businesses in six regions said they had a hard time finding qualified workers for openings, particularly for high-skilled manufacturing and tech jobs.

The report, known as the Beige Book, covered the period from Oct. 8 through mid-November.

Spotify adds free apps to grow digital jukebox

NEW YORK -- Online music provider Spotify is adding free apps to its service to broaden its reach and expand what people can do with its vast trove of digital tunes.

Spotify said Wednesday that it is adding apps from Rolling Stone and Billboard magazines, Internet radio service Last.fm, and others.

The Swedish company, which launched its service in the U.S. in July, also is letting developers build new Spotify apps, though it will vet each one. Spotify has 10 million active users, 2.5 million of whom pay for its service.

Warren Buffett's firm to buy hometown paper

OMAHA, Neb. -- Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is buying the investor's hometown newspaper, the Omaha World-Herald, in a deal valued at $150 million. Berkshire also is assuming $50 million in debt to acquire the paper he's been reading since childhood.

Buffett said even though the industry is struggling, well-run papers have a good future.