Business briefing

The daily business briefing: March 7, 2022

U.S. officials discuss suspending Venezuela oil ban, U.S. gas prices rise to highest level since 2008, and more

1

U.S. officials meet with Venezuelan counterparts to discuss oil imports

The Biden administration held rare in-person meetings with Venezuelan officials in Caracas over the weekend to discuss letting Venezuela start selling crude oil on the open market again as part of an effort to address a surge in oil prices since Russia invaded Ukraine. Pressure is mounting for the U.S. to ban imports of Russian oil, and Reinaldo Quintero, president of the association representing Venezuelan oil companies, said that the South American nation could ramp up production to eventually replace the crude the U.S. currently gets from Russia. The U.S. once got much of its imported oil from Venezuela, until the Trump administration cut it off as it attempted to drive out the authoritarian government of President Nicolás Maduro. Russian energy companies and banks helped Venezuela continue exporting oil.

2

U.S. gas prices rise to highest level since 2008

U.S. gasoline prices surged over the last week to their highest level since 2008 as sanctions imposed against Russia for its Ukraine invasion hampered its ability to export crude oil, automobile club AAA said Sunday. The average U.S. price for a gallon of regular gasoline rose to $4.009 per gallon on Sunday, an 11 percent increase from a week ago, when the price stood at $3.604. The new average marked a 45 percent increase from a year ago. The highest price was in California, where the average was $5.288 per gallon, AAA said. Gasoline price provider GasBuddy said the average price increase of nearly 41 cents per gallon was the second biggest ever, after the 49-cent-per-gallon jump that occurred in the week after Hurricane Katrina.

3

TikTok limits services in Russia due to fake news law

TikTok is suspending new content and livestreaming on its platform in Russia, the company announced Sunday, citing safety concerns for its users and employees in the country. This comes in the wake of Russia passing a law on Friday that imposes a jail term of up to 15 years for anyone who intentionally spreads "fake news" about the country's military amid the invasion of Ukraine. In a statement, TikTok declared it has "no choice but to suspend livestreaming and new content to our video service in Russia while we review the safety implications of this law." TikTok confirmed this will not affect its in-app messaging service.

4

Stock futures drop as oil prices rise

U.S. stock futures fell sharply early Monday after oil prices surged to briefly reach their highest level since 2008. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were down 1.4 percent at 6:45 a.m. ET. Futures for the Nasdaq were down 1.6 percent. The price of the U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude futures hit $130 per barrel at one point before retreating to about $124 per barrel, still an increase of 7.2 percent. Brent crude was up 7.9 percent to $127.40 a barrel, after going as high as $139.13 per barrel. The increases came after Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that the U.S. and its allies are considering banning Russian oil and natural gas imports as part of the response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

5

The Batman brings in $128.5 million in best opening weekend yet of 2022

The Batman brought in $128.5 million at the North American box office over the weekend, according to its studio, Warner Bros. Surpassing industry expectations of about $100 million, it was the best opening so far in 2022 and the second biggest of the coronavirus pandemic. The studio released the movie exclusively in theaters after a year of simultaneous debuts in cinemas and on the studio's HBO Max streaming service. This was one of the best openings ever for a movie about Batman, one of the most popular superheroes. Batman films have made more than $5 billion in ticket sales since 1989's Batman. This movie stars Robert Pattinson as the Caped Crusader and Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman.

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