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Roundup: Americans spend $53B on pets; Home Loan Bank profit jumps; more

| Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Americans spent morethan $53B on pets in '12

The economy may have remained sluggish last year, but Americans refused to scrimp on their pets, with animal lovers spending $53 billion on food, veterinary care, kennels and other services in 2012. That's up 5 percent from 2011, when spending first broke the $50 billion barrier, said the American Pet Products Association, a trade group in Greenwich, Conn. APPA CEO Bob Vetere predicts another 4 percent gain this year. At about $34.3 billion, food and vet care represented about two-thirds of total spending, with money spent on supplies and over-the-counter medications rising by more than 7 percent. Spending on the growing market of alternative vet care, such as acupuncture, totaled about $12.5 billion. Vetere says spending on services like grooming, boarding, hotels and pet-sitting grew nearly 10 percent during 2012 to almost $4.4 billion.

MarkWest gets approval

MarkWest Energy Partners LP received municipal approval this week for its processing plant in Butler County, a company official said Friday. The company plans to build the Bluestone II plant on 25 acres along Hartmann Road in Jackson, adjacent to its Bluestone I. The plant, part of a system to process natural gas liquids from shale gas drilling north of Pittsburgh, will have a processing capacity of 120 million standard cubic feet per day. The company is waiting for its permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection. MarkWest bought the system from Keystone Midstream Services LLC, which had been trying to build up to six processing plants in southern Butler County.

Home Loan Bank profit jumps

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh said quarterly profit jumped to $51.7 million from $10.9 million in the year-ago quarter. Full-year earnings at the wholesale bank jumped to $129.7 million from $38 million. In both the current quarter and current year, results were driven by higher non-interest income and by lower interest expenses, provisions for loan losses and losses on securities. The bank also said it would purchase $300 million in excess capital stock from its member banks on Friday. Based Downtown, the home loan bank has 294 member banks in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia and is dedicated to home ownership and community development.

Authority donates houses, land

Wilkinsburg was the major recipient of vacant houses and land the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County donated to developers and private homeowners in six local communities on Friday. Wilkinsburg received 20 of the 27 parcels. Some of the properties will go to adjacent property owners for side yards or parking areas with green space. And some will be used to build new or to renovate existing houses, said Dennis Davin, the authority's executive director. The Mon Valley Initiative will develop affordable housing on five lots in Turtle Creek but use four parcels obtained in Braddock for commercial space, while Action-Housing Inc. will secure six parcels in Wilkinsburg for housing rehabilitation. All liens on the properties will be eliminated.

Sports field to get $500K gift

Allegheny County this year may begin construction of an all-purpose sports field on the Montour Junction property in Robinson, Coraopolis and Moon. The project has nearly $1.5 million in money available. The latest funding will be $500,000, donated by the Sports Legacy Foundation, which plans to dissolve later this year, said Dennis Davin, executive director of the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County. The property was donated to the county by the foundation, which paid for much of the initial environmental cleanup of the site. The field is part of a $15 million development at the 78-acre site, expected to be available for sports such as rugby, lacrosse, soccer and Gallic football, Davin said.

Other business news

• The value of goods and services produced in the seven-county Pittsburgh area in 2011 increased by 2.4 percent to $101.6 billion from $99.2 billion in the prior year, according to latest data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The bureau's gross domestic product data for metro areas, which are adjusted for inflation, showed an average 1.6 percent increase in the 242 markets that showed gains out of the 366 metro areas analyzed. The Pittsburgh area's GDP ranked 69th in the nation.

• Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. said the number of rigs actively exploring for oil and natural gas in the United States dropped by one this week to 1,761. The Houston-based company said in its weekly report on Friday that 1,329 rigs were actively exploring for oil and 428 for gas. Four were listed as miscellaneous. A year ago, Baker Hughes counted 1,981 working rigs. Of the major oil- and gas-producing states Pennsylvania gained six rigs, Texas rose by five, and Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado and West Virginia each increased by one. Oklahoma lost nine rigs, and North Dakota shed four.

• Education Management Corp. hired Carol DiBattiste to the new position of senior vice president, chief legal and compliance officer, effective March 18. She will report to CEO Edward West. Most recently, DiBattiste was executive vice president, general counsel and chief administrative officer for Geeknet, an e-commerce business. Previously she served as undersecretary of the Air Force.

— Staff and wire reports

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