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Update on the latest in business:

April 20, 2017

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares gain on oil price rebound, strong Japan exports

TOKYO (AP) — Shares rose in Asia on Thursday after crude oil prices rebounded from an overnight sell-off and Japan reported stronger-than-expected exports in March. Easing tensions over North Korea helped brighten the mood after weeks of jitters over the U.S. response to Pyongyang’s missile tests and nuclear weapons program.

Japan’s Nikkei, the Kospi in South Korea and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index are up. The Shanghai Composite index is down.

On Wall Street Wednesday, the Dow lost 119 points to close at 20,404. The S&P 500 finished down 4 points at 2,338. And the Nasdaq rose 14 points to close at 5,863.

Benchmark U.S. crude gained 14 cents to $50.99 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost $1.97, or 3.8 percent overnight, to $50.44 a barrel after the Energy Information Administration said U.S. crude inventories fell less than expected last week. The EIA said stockpiles are larger than normal for this time of year. Brent crude, used to price international oils, jumped 20 cents to $53.13 a barrel. It fell $1.96, or 3.6 percent, to $52.93 per barrel in London.

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

Major business and economic reports due out today.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Investors will be looking at another important economic indicator today. The Labor Department will report on first-time applications for unemployment benefits last week.

Also, Freddie Mac will report on long-term mortgage rates this week

In corporate news, Visa will report quarterly financial results after the market closes.

JAPAN-TRADE

Japan exports, imports surge in sign of renewed vigor

TOKYO (AP) — Japan reports its exports rose a faster-than-expected 12 percent in March, while imports jumped nearly 16 percent from a year earlier.

The data reported Thursday suggest relatively strong foreign and domestic demand could lift growth for the world’s No. 3 economy in this quarter.

The 7.23 trillion yen ($66 billion) in exports and 6.61 trillion yen ($60 billion) in imports resulted in a trade surplus of 614.7 billion yen ($5.6 billion), down 17.5 percent from a year before.

Exports to China surged 16.4 percent to 1.3 trillion yen ($11 billion) and exports to the U.S. were up 3.5 percent to 1.35 trillion yen ($12 billion).

Higher oil prices boosted imports from Middle Eastern countries by more than 45 percent, including a 75 percent jump in imports from Saudi Arabia.

EXXON PROJECT-PETROCHEMICAL PLANT

Exxon Mobil plans multi-billion dollar plant near Texas Gulf

PORTLAND, Texas (AP) — Exxon Mobil Corp. and a Saudi partner have agreed to build a multibillion-dollar petrochemical plant near the Texas coast.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday formally announced the venture involving Exxon and Saudi Arabia Basic Industries Corp.

The plant will be built in Portland, just north of Corpus Christi, on roughly 1,300 acres (526 hectares). Exxon officials have said it’ll be among the largest ethane steam cracker plants in the world. Sites in Louisiana were also considered.

The plant, set to open in 2024, will produce components used to make plastic bottles and other items.

The project has received state and local tax incentives, including a $1.2 billion package approved last month by the Gregory-Portland school district board. Abbott says more than $6 million was offered in state incentives.

EXXON-RUSSIA

AP Source: Exxon seeks OK to resume Russian oil venture

WASHINGTON (AP) — A person familiar with the matter says Exxon Mobil is seeking permission from the U.S. government for approval to resume drilling around the Black Sea with a Russian partner, state-owned Rosneft.

The oil giant’s request is being reviewed by the Trump administration and is certain to draw extra scrutiny because it involves a company formerly run by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who cultivated close ties with Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.

The drilling venture was blocked when the U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014. Exxon applied to the Treasury Department for a waiver from the sanctions in 2015, during the Obama administration, according to the person, who spoke anonymously because the application process is confidential.

VENEZUELA-TRUMP DONATION

Cash-strapped Venezuela a major funder of Trump inauguration

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Nicolas Maduro may be struggling to feed Venezuela but his socialist administration still managed to make a $500,000 donation to Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Records from Trump’s inaugural committee released Wednesday show that Citgo Petroleum, a U.S. affiliate of Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA, was one of the biggest corporate donors to the swearing-in ceremony.

PDVSA recently offered up a nearly 50 percent stake in Citgo as collateral for a $1.5 billion loan from Russian firm Rosneft. The deal drew criticism from Republicans who worry it sets the stage for Vladimir Putin to take control of American oil.

Even while accusing the U.S. of trying to overthrow him, Maduro has been careful not to antagonize Trump. But Trump has recently stepped up his criticism of Venezuela’s government.

WESTAR-GREAT PLAINS

Kansas regulators reject $12.2B Westar sale to Great Plains

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas regulators have rejected the proposed sale of the state’s largest electric company to a Missouri firm, concluding that the $12.2 billion price was too high and would leave the combined utility financially weaker than the separate companies.

The Kansas Corporation Commission issued its order against a proposal from Kansas City, Missouri-based Great Plains Energy Inc. to buy Topeka-based Westar Energy Inc. after consumer advocates and the commission’s own staff criticized the acquisition. Opponents argued that Great Plains was paying far too much and regulators could be forced to boost rates to keep the combined company stable.

The commission’s order doesn’t necessarily doom the merger, but it will at least delay the transaction.

Great Plains is the parent of Kansas City Power & Light Co.

OBIT-TRULY NOLEN

Pest control firm founder Truly Nolen dies in Florida at 89

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — Truly Nolen, founder of the international pest control company known for its fleet of yellow “mouse cars,” has died at his home in Florida. He was 89.

The company said in a news release that Nolen died Tuesday in Naples, Florida. A private service is scheduled for Friday.

Nolen opened his first pest control business in 1955 in Tucson, Arizona. The company said it grew over the years to 320 offices in 63 countries.

Originally antique cars were used for advertising beginning in the 1950s, including a red “ant truck” that looked like an insect. In the 1960s the first yellow “mouse car” with fanciful ears and tail on a Volkswagen Beetle was deployed.

The company said Nolen is survived by his wife, eight children and 19 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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