Business Briefs – January 31, 2019

Valero Stops Importing Venezuela Crude Oil

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – A key U.S. customer for Venezuelan oil says it has stopped importing crude from the South American country due to recently imposed U.S. sanctions.

Valero Energy Corp. said it stopped taking deliveries of Venezuelan crude oil after the Trump administration slapped sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A.

Valero Senior Vice President Gary Simmons said the San Antonio, Texas, refinery is focused on finding an alternative to cover its next 30-day supply plan. Simmons said Venezuela has supplied 20 percent of the heavy sour crude the company runs in its refineries.

He also said that Valero had been putting alternatives in place due to Venezuela’s declining oil production but the company “still has some holes to fill in our supply plan.”

From Corn to Apple: The Cases Behind the U.S.-China Standoff

WASHINGTON (AP) – To hear the Americans tell it, the Chinese have gone on a commercial crime spree, pilfering trade secrets from seed corn to electronic brains behind wind turbines. China has stripped the arm off a T-Mobile robot, the U.S. says, and looted trade secrets about robotic cars from Apple. The alleged victims are American companies, whose cases lie behind the U.S. complaints in the current trade talks. Beijing denies the charges and counters that the U.S. is just trying to suppress a rising competitor.

Facebook Removes 783 Fake Pages, Accounts Tied to Iran

NEW YORK (AP) – Facebook says it has removed 783 Iran-linked pages, accounts and groups from its service for what it calls “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” That means misrepresenting who is running the accounts with the intent of disrupting politics and elections.

Natural Gas Prices Slump Despite U.S. Winter Weather Blast

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Strong production, healthier stockpiles and forecasts calling for milder temperatures next month are keeping natural gas prices from rebounding from a two-month skid even as demand surges as a massive weather system blankets much of the Midwest and Northeast with frigid temperatures.

Trump Order Asks Federal Fund Recipients to Buy U.S. Goods

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump has signed an executive order aimed at encouraging government contractors to “buy American” as part of the administration’s efforts to boost U.S. manufacturing. The new order asks federal agencies to encourage those who receive federal financial assistance for infrastructure projects to use American materials and products. Trump says he wants American roads, bridges and railways to be built with American iron, steel, concrete and hands.

As Wall Street Spasmed With Fear, 401(k) Savers Held Steady

NEW YORK (AP) – While professional traders scrambled to sell stocks amid a fear-fueled, nearly 20-percent drop for the S&P 500 late last year, most people at home remained pretty calm when it came to their own retirement savings. So say numbers from Fidelity Investments, which show that the vast majority of 401(k) participants continued to sock savings away in their accounts during the last three months of 2018 and refrained from the perhaps-tempting choice to abandon stocks and hide out in the safety of cash.