Business Briefs: Average U.S. household spent $2,912 on gasoline in 2012

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Average U.S. household spent $2,912 on gasoline

The average U.S. household spent $2,912 on gasoline last year, or just under 4 percent of annual income, according to estimates from the U.S. Energy Information Administration released Monday. That was the highest percentage of household income in nearly three decades, with the exception of 2008, when Americans spent a similar amount.

The cost of gasoline in Western Pennsylvania is up about 11 cents this week, with the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded hitting $3.666. The price nationwide was $3.483, up about 15 cents, according to GasBuddy.com.

UPMC fights return of Highmark documents

UPMC has asked the Court of Common Pleas to deny a motion by Highmark that would compel UPMC to return confidential documents that were inadvertently included in public exhibits given to UPMC during a November hearing. At that hearing, Highmark successfully blocked the West Penn Allegheny Health System from soliciting other affiliation partners. In the filing Monday, UPMC officials argued they obtained the documents legally and, under a later agreement with Highmark attorneys, had already returned several documents. Highmark, in its Jan. 23 filing, said it did not realize at the time of that agreement that additional confidential documents had been given to UPMC and wants those returned as well.

Westinghouse announces partner for small reactor

Westinghouse Electric Co. said Monday it was partnering with Burns & McDonnell Engineering Co. Inc. to continue working on development and licensing of the Westinghouse Small Modular Reactor, including development of the base plant design. The SMR is about one-third the size of traditional nuclear reactors. Financial details were not disclosed.

State representative plans bill on checkout fees

State Rep. Adam Ravenstahl, D-North Side, said he was drafting legislation that would prohibit retailers from imposing so-called checkout fees on credit card purchases. Ten other states currently ban the practice. Merchants won the right to charge the fees starting Jan. 27 to recoup the swipe fees they pay to process the transactions.

Local earnings

• Ampco-Pittsburgh said fourth quarter earnings nearly doubled but reported sharply lower profits for all of last year, including $1.6 million in losses from a joint venture in China. The Pittsburgh-based industrial equipment provider reported fourth quarter net income of $3.3 million, or 32 cents per share. Sales fell 11 percent to $77.2 million. Earnings for all of 2012 totalled $8.4 million, or 80 cents per share, down 61 percent from 2011. Sales fell 15 percent to $292.9 million.

• Commercial National Financial, parent company of Commercial Bank & Trust of PA in Latrobe, reported fourth-quarter net income skidded 41 percent, to $1.2 million, or 41 cents per share, from $2 million, or 70 cents, in the same three months the previous year. For all of 2012, net income rose 8 percent to $7.3 million, or $2.54 cents per share, from $6.7 million, or $2.35, in 2011.

More briefs, Page A-7

U.S. factory orders up 1.8 percent in December

Factory orders rose 1.8 percent in December compared to November, when orders had fallen 0.3 percent, the Commerce Department said Monday. But demand for core capital goods, a category considered a proxy for business investment plans, dipped 0.3 percent in December following strong gains of 3.3 percent in November and 3 percent in October. Orders for durable goods, items expected to last at least three years, rose 4.3 percent, reflecting strong gains for military and civilian aircraft. For the year, total factory orders rose 3 percent to $5.66 trillion.

McDonald's to put 'Fish McBites' in Happy Meals

McDonald's says it is offering its first new Happy Meal entree in a decade: Fish McBites. They will be widely available at U.S. restaurants starting this week through March, to coincide with Lent. Fish McBites also will be sold on the standard menu.

Also in business...

U.S. Steel and Carpenter Technology of Wyomissing, Pa. have agreed to develop a lightweight steel for the automotive market based on Carpenter's Temper Tough alloy.

From staff and wire reports

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