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Roundup: Gas prices to hit low for year; Chesapeake cutting 275 jobs; more

| Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Gasoline prices soon to hit low point for 2012

Gas prices will soon drop to their lowest level of the year. By Monday, the national average should fall below the $3.28 a gallon that drivers paid on Jan. 1, according to analysts. The drop is a gift for those hitting the road during what is expected to be the busiest Christmas travel season in six years. For the second straight year, Americans will spend a record amount on gasoline. The government estimates that gas averaged $3.63 a gallon this year, 10 cents above the record set a year ago. A combination of high oil prices and supply shortages caused by refinery and pipeline problems kept gas prices elevated for most of the year. The national average hit a high of $3.94 a gallon in early April and was around $3.87 in September after Hurricane Isaac disrupted supplies from the Gulf Coast. This week, gasoline prices in Pittsburgh averaged $3.54 per gallon, according to website

Fed proposes rules for foreign banks

The Federal Reserve is proposing that large foreign banks keep a bigger financial cushion against unexpected losses for their units in the United States. The rules proposed Friday are aimed at preventing another financial crisis. They were mandated by the 2010 financial overhaul and would apply to those foreign banks with $50 billion in worldwide assets that operate in the United States. Their operations would have to take the form of a bank holding company, putting them under the Fed's oversight. The Fed estimates that about 107 foreign banks would be affected. One is RBS Citizens Financial Group, the parent of Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania, which is owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Chesapeake cutting 275 jobs

Chesapeake Energy Corp., the natural gas producer that doubled its workforce in the past five years to expand drilling, is cutting 275 jobs to reduce expenses. Chesapeake is offering voluntary separation packages to employees based on their age and years of service, the Oklahoma City-based company said. The separations will occur in February. The company has been selling assets including oilfields and pipelines to raise cash after a collapse in gas prices gutted profits and threatened the company's ability to fulfill drilling commitments. Chesapeake lost $1.07 billion during the first nine months of this year.

Housing projects to share $7.6M

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency approved $7.6 million to improve the availability and affordability of housing in the Marcellus Shale region in 19 counties. Washington County's Washington Trust Building LIHTC will received $625,000. The Owner Occupied Housing Rehabilitation Pilot Program in Westmoreland County will receive $125,000 for use in Derry, Hempfield, Sewickley, South Huntingdon and Washington Township. Lancaster, Connoquenesing, Jackson and Forward Township in Butler County, involved in the Housing Improvement Impact Program will share $200,000. And the Landmarks Building Improvement Program in Butler, Butler County, will get $150,000. Beaver County's New Brighton Gateway Revitalization activity will receive $300,000 while the Glen at Three Oaks program in Republic, Redstone Township, Fayette County will receive $300,000.

Traffic dips at Pittsburgh airport

Passenger traffic at Pittsburgh International Airport fell about 2 percent in October compared to October 2011, the Allegheny County Airport Authority said on Friday. Pittsburgh's monthly air traffic decreased year-to-year in 14 of the last 16 months. Airport officials said Hurricane Sandy played a role in reducing October traffic, noting hundreds of flights were canceled from Oct. 29-31. Pittsburgh had 716,957 passengers in October, down from 728,441 in October 2011. For the year to date, air traffic is down 3.3 percent compared to the same period last year.

Airport apps to be developed

The Allegheny County Airport Authority will pay a California company up to $41,000 over the next year to create and maintain iPhone, iPad and Android applications that will help users obtain information about Pittsburgh International Airport. ProDIGIQ is being paid to design, create and implement the applications, and provide service help as needed. The apps will feature flight status updates, real-time flight arrivals and departures, parking information, links for mobile airline check-in, food and beverage information and car rental information, the authority said.

Other business news

• Bids are being accepted for the Federal Reserve Bank's branch building at 717 Grant St., Downtown, by Grant Street Associates. No minimum amount has been established for the 12-story, 231,568-square-foot building. Built in 1930, the Pittsburgh branch has a market value of $6.5 million, including the land, according to Allegheny County records. The branch office with 23 workers relocated to the 30th floor of One Oxford Centre, Downtown. As recently as early 2011, the branch had employed more than 300.

• Oil and gas rigs in operation fell to the lowest level since April 2011 as price declines prompted energy producers to curb drilling. Energy rigs slipped by one to 1,799 this week, according to data from Baker Hughes Inc. The gas and oil counts each declined by one to 416 and 1,381, respectively, the Houston-based, oil-services company said.

• General Electric Co. is raising its quarterly dividend by 12 percent while extending and expanding its share repurchase plan. The new quarterly dividend is 19 cents, up from 17 cents. The dividend will be paid on Jan. 25 to shareholders as of Dec. 24. The board of Fairfield, Conn.-based GE is also extending a stock buyback plan through 2015. It's authorizing up to $10 billion for additional shares.

— Staff and wire reports

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