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Economy Briefs: AMR expects about 4,400 job cuts, warns 11,000

- - Tuesday, September 18, 2012

DALLAS — American Airlines is sending layoff warning notices to more than 11,000 employees although it expects job losses to be closer to 4,400.

The airline said Tuesday that notices went out to mechanics and ground workers whose jobs will be affected as the company goes through a bankruptcy restructuring.

American Airlines spokesman Bruce Hicks says that fewer than 40 percent of those getting notices will lose their jobs. He says federal law requires the company to notify everyone whose position could change if they are "bumped" by a more senior employee whose job is eliminated.

REAL ESTATE

Homebuilder confidence surges to 6-year high

LOS ANGELES — Confidence among U.S. homebuilders rose this month to its highest level in six years, and many expect the housing recovery to strengthen in the next six months.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index, released Tuesday, increased to 40 in September. That's up from 37 in August and the highest reading since June 2006, just before the housing bubble burst.

Any reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the housing market. The index hasn't reached that level since April 2006, the peak of the housing boom.

Still, a measure of builders' outlook for sales in the next six months rose to 51. That's up from 43 in August and also the highest level since June 2006.

Builders also reported seeing the best sales level since July 2006. And turnout by prospective buyers returned to levels not seen since May 2006.

LAYOFFS

Siemens to lay off 615 in 3 states

DES MOINES, Iowa — A wind-energy equipment manufacturer says it will lay off 615 workers in Iowa, Kansas and Florida, in part because Congress has not renewed a tax credit for wind energy.

Siemens Energy Inc. says it told workers the news Tuesday at plants in Fort Madison, Iowa; Hutchinson, Kan., and Orlando, Fla.

The biggest cuts will come in Fort Madison, Iowa, where 407 workers at a wind-turbine blade factory will be out of work. About 220 workers there will be retained.

The company blamed difficult market conditions because of a lack of congressional action on a wind-energy tax credit as well as increased use of natural-gas-fired power plants and an overall sluggish economy.

MEDIA

Reader's Digest in new push in print, digital

NEW YORK — Publishing giant Reader's Digest is expanding — in both print and digital.

The company, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2010, said last week it will increase the frequency of its flagship Reader's Digest magazine to 12 editions per year from 10 for both print and tablet.

In a statement, Reader's Digest said it is on pace for 200,000 digital subscribers by the end of the year, along with 5.5 million print subscribers.

Reader's Digest said it has led its category in print advertising growth, up nearly 30 percent over the past two years. It said it is the only publication in the category to show an increase in pages in 2012, up 11 percent.

CRIME

Mamtek CEO charged with theft, securities fraud

MOBERLY, Mo. — The CEO of a failed artificial-sweetener company was charged Tuesday with theft and securities fraud in Missouri for allegedly using bond revenues to avoid foreclosure on his Beverly Hills, Calif., home and failing to tell the truth about the company's troubled operations.

The charges announced by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster cap a yearlong investigation into Bruce Cole, who was chairman and CEO of Mamtek U.S.

The company received $39 million in bonds from Moberly, Mo., and authorization for up to $17 million of state incentives to build an artificial-sweetener factory in the city, which Gov. Jay Nixon said eventually would employ more than 600 people. But construction was halted on the partially completed facility after Mamtek missed a bond payment in August 2011.

From wire dispatches and staff reports