The daily business briefing: February 18, 2016

Harold Maass
AP Photo/ Jae C. Hong


Oil prices buoyed by Iran's praise for planned output freeze

Oil prices extended a rally early Thursday, reaching $35 a barrel after Iran welcomed an oil output freeze proposed by Russia, Saudi Arabia, and other major oil producers. Iran has not yet agreed to join the effort to ease the global glut that has dragged down prices. It has vowed to ramp up production to levels seen before years of recently lifted sanctions over its controversial nuclear program. Iran's oil minister, however, said that after meeting with OPEC ministers Wednesday Tehran "backs any measures which help stabilize the market," raising hopes it will join the freeze.


Walmart stock falls after sales come in short of expectations

Walmart shares dropped by as much as 4 percent in pre-market trade on Thursday after the retail giant reported fourth-quarter sales that fell short of expectations. The stock slump came despite the news that the company beat profit forecasts and hiked its dividend by 2 percent, to $2 a share. Walmart said it expected sales to remain "relatively flat" this year, because the company is closing 269 stores around the world, including 154 in the U.S.


ABC makes history by naming first black executive to run a major broadcast network

Disney's ABC television network on Wednesday named Channing Dungey as its entertainment president. Dungey, 46, is the first African American to lead a major broadcast network. Her promotion came as Hollywood's diversity, or lack of it, is under scrutiny due to the absence of black nominees in the major Oscars categories. Dungey replaces Paul Lee, who is credited with promoting prime-time shows with minority actors but clashed with his boss and faced sinking ratings.


U.S. stocks post biggest 3-day gains in months

U.S. stocks jumped by 1.6 percent on Wednesday, capping the first three-day winning streak for the three main U.S. benchmark stock indexes since December, and their biggest three-day gains since August. Futures pointed to more gains early Thursday. "The strength of this rebound, what it's showing to me is, people want to be in this market," said Tom Siomades, head of Hartford Funds Investment Consulting Group. The optimism was fueled by recent signs that "China is not going to implode." as well as a jump in oil prices on Wednesday and Thursday.


Venezuela imposes first gasoline price hike in almost 2 decades

Venezuela on Thursday is hiking subsidized gasoline prices for the first time in nearly two decades as the oil-producing South American nation contends with months of low oil prices. President Nicolas Maduro's government also devalued the country's currency in an attempt to address triple-digit inflation and a deep recession. Venezuelans will still have the cheapest gas in the world after the 60-fold price hike, which will bring the cost of a gallon of gas to the equivalent of about 11 U.S. cents per gallon.

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