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In brief


February 19. 2014 11:29PM
By John DiMaria

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Pa. Marcellus Shale


production soars


State regulators report that Marcellus Shale natural gas production in Pennsylvania topped 3 trillion cubic feet in 2013. That’s more than double the previous year’s production, and the energy equivalent of more than 500 million barrels of oil.


The state Department of Environmental Protection reported the production figures. The data is submitted by energy companies and sometimes contains errors, but the report of 3.1 trillion feet for total 2013 production is very close to independent estimates.


The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the Marcellus Shale now provides about 18 percent of the nation’s natural gas, but that figure includes some West Virginia production.


Production of


U.S. homes down


U.S. home construction fell in January for a second month but the weakness in both months reflected severe winter weather in many parts of the country. The expectation is that housing will deliver another year of solid gains, helped by an improving economy.


Builders started work at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 880,000, down 16 percent from December, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. In December, construction had fallen 4.8 percent. The declines in both months were blamed largely on the weather.


Applications for building permits fell in January for a third month, dropping 5.4 percent to a rate of 937,000.


For all of 2013, housing construction rose 17.7 percent to 976,000 units, the best showing since 2007. Analysts expect further gains this year as stronger job growth boosts demand.


For January, both single-family and apartment construction fell. Single-family building dropped 15.9 percent to a rate of 573,000 while apartment construction was down 16.3 percent to 307,000.


Fed officials see


stimulus pullback


Federal Reserve officials agreed at their January meeting that further gradual reductions in their stimulus would be appropriate as long as the economy keeps improving.


Officials weighed the need to stress to investors that the Fed’s key short-term interest rate would remain near zero, according to the minutes of the Jan. 28-29 meeting released Wednesday. But Fed officials couldn’t agree on how to modify their commitment to keep the rate near zero “well past” the time the unemployment rate falls below 6.5 percent. The rate is now 6.6 percent.


At its January meeting, the Fed voted 10-0 to trim its monthly bond purchases to $65 billion. In December, the Fed had decided to make a first reduction from $85 billion to $75 billion. The bond purchases have been intended to keep long-term borrowing rates low to spur spending and growth.


The statement the Fed released after its January meeting made no mention of recent turbulence in financial markets. But the minutes showed that officials had discussed market volatility.


Though the officials thought the turbulence in emerging markets should be monitored, they felt that so far it posed little threat to U.S. markets.




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