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Marcellus Shale merger activity slows

PITTSBURGH — The wheeling and dealing over the natural gas-rich Marcellus Shale has hit the pause stage.

The financial firm PricewaterhouseCoopers says Marcellus merger and acquisition activity fell to zero in the third quarter of 2012, after major energy companies spent tens of billions of dollars over the last three years. In the previous quarter the deals had totaled $1.6 billion.

PwC says low natural gas prices are the main factor, not the output or potential of the vast shale gas formation, which lies under parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, Ohio and Maryland.

But the current low prices have caused many companies to shift their attention to more profitable oil drilling, which is also booming.

PwC says it expects Marcellus merger activity to pick up again, if prices rise.