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M/I Homes optimistic about Chicago housing market

As earnings reports from homebuilders have dribbled out over the past few weeks, only one company gave a very specific and very positive shout-out to the Chicago market.

That company was M/I Homes Inc., the Columbus, Ohio-based builder that broke ground on its first suburban Chicago home less than three years ago and just finalized the purchase of its seventh local project, one designed to bring 146 town homes to Naperville.

Nationally, the inventory of new homes for sale dropped to 191,000 in December, the lowest number since 1968, according to the National Association of Home Builders. It dropped locally too, but at year’s end, there remained more than a year of available new homes on the market. Get the full story »

Fortune Brands profit up, separation on track

Consumer goods maker Fortune Brands posted a sharply higher quarterly profit that topped Wall Street’s expectations as an improving economy helped spur sales of premium liquor and Titleist golf clubs.

But the conglomerate said sales of its Simonton windows, up at a double-digit rate, were fueled by the expiration of a consumer tax credit for the purchase of energy-efficient home products. As a result, it expects the overall window market to fall at a mid-single-digit rate this year. Get the full story »

Savoye acquires engineering firm

From the Rochester Business Journal | Retrotech Inc., a Rochester, N.Y. area engineering firm has been acquired by Savoye Inc., a Chicago-based subsidiary of Savoye of Dijon, France, for an undisclosed sum. Savoye, a logistics engineering firm with 550 employees and more than 1,000 customers globally, logged sales of $110 million in 2009, the company reported. Get the full story>>

Caterpillar quadruples 4Q profit

Caterpillar Inc. reported a stronger-than-expected quarterly profit Thursday lifted by especially strong sales of its machines and engines in Asia and Latin America.

Caterpillar, the world’s largest maker of earth-moving construction and mining equipment, reported a fourth-quarter net profit of $968 million, or $1.47 a share, up from $232 million, or 36 cents a share, a year earlier. Get the full story »

USG reports smaller loss in 4Q

Building products maker USG Corp. reported a smaller fourth-quarter loss than it had a year ago and said it thinks the worst of the economic downturn is behind the company.

The Chicago-based company, the largest U.S. distributor of drywall, on Wednesday said it lost $121 million, or $1.17 a share in the fourth quarter. That compares with a year-ago quarterly loss of $598 million, or $6.02 a share. Get the full story »

Construction hiring may rise this year

Hiring for construction jobs may be on the rise this year, after a severe downturn in the industry in 2010, and Illinois may be among the states where hiring is likely to improve.

A new study released Monday showed that 27 percent of construction firms nationally said they planned to add staff this year, while 20 percent plan layoffs. Get the full story »

Caterpillar to spend $1B to boost China output

A top executive with Caterpillar Inc., the world’s largest maker of earth-moving construction and mining equipment, said Friday the company plans to spend more than $1 billion to increase its manufacturing capacity in China.

In an interview at an event tied to the U.S. visit this week of Chinese President Hu Jintao, Rich Lavin, a group president at Caterpillar, said his company’s current network of 11 Chinese plants was not enough to produce the “market-leading volumes” Caterpillar hopes to be producing by 2015. Get the full story »

DOJ looking into Caterpillar-Bacyrus deal

Bucyrus International Inc. and Caterpillar Inc. received requests from the Department of Justice for additional information regarding the latter’s proposed $7.6 billion acquisition of the mining-equipment company. Get the full story »

U.S. housing starts lowest since late 2009

Groundbreaking on new U.S. home construction fell more than expected in December to its lowest in over a year, suggesting the battered housing sector remains a major roadblock to economic recovery. Get the full story »

Home-builder sentiment stalled at low level

U.S. home-builder sentiment in January was flat at a low level for the third month in a row as the housing market struggled to recover from its collapse, a survey released Tuesday showed.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index held steady at 16 from last month. Get the full story »

Plant rolls out 10,000th Caterpillar mining truck

Caterpillar Inc.’s Decatur plant has reached a major milestone with the production of its 10,000th mining truck. Get the full story »

Caterpillar, UAW halt contract talks for holidays

Negotiators for Caterpillar Inc. and the United Auto Workers are taking a break for the holidays and plan to resume talks on a contract on Jan. 11. The contract covers about 9,500 workers at a number of sites around Illinois and in three other states. Get the full story »

Deere to build 6th plant in China

Deere & Co., the world’s largest maker of agricultural equipment, will invest $50 million in a new manufacturing plant in China to make construction equipment. Get the full story »

Caterpillar retail sales up 48% in last 3 months

Caterpillar Inc. said retail sales of its heavy machinery rose 48 percent in the three months ended Oct. 10, a slightly slower rate of growth than the 53 percent increase reported in the three months ended in September.

The world’s largest maker of heavy equipment said retail sales were up most sharply in Latin America, where they rose 59 percent. The U.S. company saw the slowest growth in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, where sales were up 40 percent.

Caterpillar agrees to buy Bucyrus for $7.6B

A Bucyrus 495HR electric mining shovel loads a Caterpillar 793C mining truck at a mine site. (AP/Bucyrus)

Caterpillar Inc., the world’s largest construction and mining equipment maker, said Monday it has agreed to buy Bucyrus International Inc. for $7.6 billion, aiming its sights on rapid growth in emerging markets.

Bucyrus, which is based in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin, makes surface mining equipment used for mining coal, copper, iron ore, oil sands and other minerals. Growth in emerging markets like China, India and Brazil has driven profit many companies as growth in the rest of the world remains slow. Get the full story »