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Business Beat: Costly pets, MillerCoors, Yelp

How much did you spend on your pet?
The American Pet Products Association says Americans spent $58 billion in 2014 on their 397 million pets, which range from freshwater fish and reptiles to cats and dogs.

MillerCoors expands Redd’s Apple Ale brand with 2 new flavors
Redd’s Wicked Mango started showing up on store shelves this week as MillerCoors expands the Redd’s brand. The other new flavor is Redd’s Green Apple Ale.

Yelp opens Midwest office in Chicago
Online review site Yelp expects to have 400 employees in Chicago within 18 months. Chicago was a “perfect home” for Yelp’s only Midwest office, co-founder and CEO Jeremy Stoppelman said.

Northwestern gets $117.8 million gift
Northwestern University alumnus and board member Louis A. Simpson and his wife, Kimberly K. Querrey, have donated $117.75 million to the university’s cutting-edge research in bio-nanotechnology and regenerative medicine.

AbbVie’s $21B deal for Pharmacyclics a “strategically compelling opportunity”
The deal will give the North Chicago drugmaker Imbruvica, a blood cancer treatment that Pharmacyclics makes and then markets with Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Biotech.

Blaze Pizza opens in Evanston, near Northwestern
Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza opened Thursday near Northwestern University in Evanston. The restaurant at 1737 Sherman Ave. is the build-your-own pizza chain’s fifth Chicago-area restaurant.

Chicago Heights plant cited for explosion
Polychem Services in Chicago Heights has been fined more than $100,000 for several safety violations after a September explosion left two workers injured.

Walgreens and CVS declare war on property taxes
Walgreens, CVS, and other big drugstore chains have been challenging property tax assessments in courts around the country for the past decade, with little national notice. [Bloomberg]

Wal-Mart expects customers to adopt mobile payments
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. believes mobile payments—such as Apple Pay—are the future for its shoppers who now primarily use cash and debit cards. [The Wall Street Journal]

Google providing auto insurance in latest expansion
Google is helping California drivers shop for car insurance as part of a new service that could foreshadow the Internet company’s latest attempt to shake up a long-established industry.

Snuggie seller settles charges that it deceived customers
Allstar Marketing Group agreed to pay $8 million to settle charges it deceived customers. The Federal Trade Commission said the company promised customers buy-one-get-one-free promotions, but some were still charged for the items in the form of high shipping and handling costs.

U.S. productivity falls at faster pace, labor costs rise
Productivity declined at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the fourth quarter, weaker than the 1.8 percent drop that was estimated a month ago, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Labor costs rose at a 4.1 percent rate, faster than the 2.7 percent increase first estimated.

European Central Bank raises eurozone growth forecast
European Central Bank raised its growth forecast for the 19-country eurozone to 1.5 percent from 1.0 percent, just as it prepared to start its stimulus program.

Unemployment applications inch up to a 10-month high
The number of people seeking unemployment benefits rose last week to the highest level since May, though the level of applications remains at a level consistent with steady hiring.

Costco’s payout to investors pays off in the second quarter
Costco’s second-quarter profit easily topped Wall Street estimates thanks in part to a tax bump from the payout of a special dividend last month.