Builders increased spending in October

U.S. builders increased their spending on construction projects in October by the largest amount in five months, led by a surge in housing. The Commerce Department said Monday that construction spending rose 1.4 percent in October. It was the largest gain since a 1.7 percent increase in May. The increase raised spending to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $872.1 billion. That is nearly 17 percent higher than a 12-year low hit in February 2011. Still, even with the gain, the level of spending on construction remains only about half of what's considered healthy.

SEC charges Chinese affiliates of U.S. firms

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged China-based affiliates of Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers and BDO on Monday with violating securities laws, saying that the firms failed to produce work papers from their audits of several China-based companies that are under SEC investigation. In an administrative proceeding, the SEC said that the accounting firms refused to cooperate with the document request in part because the accountants "interpret the law of the People's Republic of China as prohibiting" them from releasing the papers. The nine Chinese companies under SEC investigation all have shares that are traded in the United States, making them subject to U.S. securities laws.

Canadian company to buy Morningstar Foods

Saputo, Canada's largest dairy processor, agreed to buy Dean Foods' Morningstar Foods unit for $1.45 billion to expand in the United States. The acquisition will be financed through a new bank loan and is expected to close by the end of the month, Montreal-based Saputo said Monday in a statement.

Equifax to buy CSC's credit business for $1B

Equifax agreed to buy Computer Sciences's credit services business for $1 billion in cash, giving the company ownership of a business it had been helping operate since 1988. The transaction will generate incremental net operating revenue next year of $115 million to $125 million and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $105 million to $110 million for Equifax, the Atlanta-based company said Monday in a statement.

Archer Daniels raises offer for GrainCorp

Agribusiness conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland Co. is increasing its buyout offer for GrainCorp by almost 4 percent and disclosed it has already added to its stake in the Australian grain handler. Under the revised bid disclosed Monday, it would cost ADM about $2.33 billion to buy the rest of the Australian company. ADM said that it owns 19.9 percent of GrainCorp Ltd., up from 14.9 percent when it made its first acquisition bid in October. Decatur, Ill.-based ADM is now offering GrainCorp stockholders 12.20 Australian dollars ($12.73) per share. It previously offered 11.75 Australian dollars ($12.13) per share.

Foreclosures down 9 percent for the year

The number of homes in foreclosure dropped in October from the previous month and was down 9 percent for the year as the housing market showed signs of improvement. About 1.3 million homes, or 3.2 percent of all U.S. homes, were in any stage of the foreclosure process in October, down from 1.4 million homes in September, according to data released Monday by Irvine, Calif., research firm CoreLogic.

Seeking profit, Dow Chemical to sell assets

Dow Chemical Co., the biggest U.S. chemical maker, plans to sell businesses generating $1 billion of sales as part of an effort to meet earnings goals that have been delayed by slower-than-anticipated global growth. The divestitures, which weren't identified, will help adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization rise to $10 billion starting in 2014 or 2015, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Liveris said a presentation in New York Monday. Dow earned $7.4 billion in the 12 months ended Sept. 30.

News Corp. announces corporate split

News Corp. said Monday that its new publishing company will keep the News Corp. name, while its separate media and entertainment company will be renamed Fox Group. The conglomerate announced plans this summer to split into two public companies. Rupert Murdoch will serve as chairman of the new News Corp. and chairman and CEO of Fox Group. The new News Corp. will house newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and New York Post as well as Dow Jones Newswires. Fox Group, meanwhile, will include 20th Century Fox film and television studios and the Fox TV channels among other properties.