US trade deficit improves in Dec.
A jump in energy-related exports and a steep decline in oil imports lowered the U.S. trade deficit in December to nearly a three-year low.
The improvement suggests the economy grew in the October-December quarter instead of shrinking as the government estimated last week.
A brighter outlook for trade also illustrates how a boom in oil and gas production is reducing crude-oil imports and making the U.S. a leader in the export of fuels. And it shows that higher domestic sales of fuel-efficient cars are lowering dependence on oil.
The trade gap fell nearly 21 percent in December from November to $38.6 billion, the Commerce Department said Friday.
Total exports rose 2.1 percent to $186 billion, driven in part by record exports of gasoline, diesel and other fuels.
At the same time, imports declined 2.7 percent to $225 billion. That was largely because oil imports plunged to 223 million barrels — the fewest in 15 years.
Horse-meat scandal reaches Sweden
Sweden on Friday became the newest European country to be hit by a widening meat-products scandal, as frozen-food company Findus said it was recalling beef- lasagna meals there after tests confirmed the products contained horse meat.
Already, Britain, Ireland, Poland and France have been drawn into the growing saga over the use of horse meat and the apparent mislabeling of products along the supply chain. Millions of burgers have been recalled in recent days due to the scandal.
Eating horse meat is not generally a health risk, but the cases have spurred disgust in places where such meat is far from a staple.
Venezuela devalues nation’s currency
Venezuela’s government announced Friday that it is devaluing the country’s currency, a long-anticipated change expected to push up prices in the heavily import-reliant economy.
Officials said the fixed exchange rate is changing from 4.30 bolivars to the dollar to 6.30 bolivars to the dollar.
The devaluation had been expected by analysts in recent months, though experts had been unsure about whether the government would act while President Hugo Chavez remained out of sight in Cuba recovering from cancer surgery.
Major stockholder opposes Dell deal
ROUND ROCK, Texas
Dell’s largest stockholder, aside from the struggling personal computer maker’s CEO and founder, is trying to thwart the company’s plans to sell itself for $24.4 billion.
The opposition mounted Friday by Southeastern Asset Management Inc. could complicate Dell Inc.’s efforts to end its 25-year history as a public company. Southeastern Asset owns an 8.5 percent stake in Dell.
Under a plan announced earlier this week, Dell will pay existing stockholders $13.65 per share. The deal would leave the Round Rock, Texas, company under the control of founder and CEO Michael Dell and investment firm Silver Lake.