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Chevron shale oil deal tops $1 billion

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA Argentina’s state-controlled YPF oil company has persuaded Chevron Corp. to sign a long-sought deal to invest $1.24 billion in developing the South American country’s shale oil deposits.

The joint venture adds up to $1.5 billion overall, the first major foreign oil investment in Argentina since President Cristina Fernandez seized control of YPF from Spain’s Grupo Repsol last year.

YPF CEO Miguel Galuccio and Chevron CEO John Watson presented it Tuesday night to Fernandez, who issued two decrees this week granting special privileges to any oil company investing more than a billion dollars in new shale ventures. After five years, such companies will be able to export up to 20 percent of their crude and natural gas without paying taxes, and also be exempt from the currency controls that have scared away many other foreign investors.

Index says builders more optimistic

U.S. homebuilders are feeling more optimistic about their home sales prospects than they have in more than seven years, a trend that suggests home construction will accelerate in coming months.

The National Associa­tion of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Tuesday jumped to 57 this month from 51 in June. It was the third consecutive monthly gain.

A reading above 50 indicates more builders view sales conditions as good, rather than poor. The index hasn’t been that high since January 2006, well before the housing market crashed.

AT&T introduces upgrade option

NEW YORK — AT&T is making it easier for customers to upgrade their cellphones more frequently, as long as they’re willing to pay more.

The country’s second-largest cellphone carrier says it’s introducing an option called AT&T Next on July 26. Instead of paying, for example, $200 up front to buy a smartphone, customers would pay monthly installments of $15 to $50 on top of their service plan, depending on the device.

The new plan is designed to satisfy customers who want the latest devices. The traditional two-year service contracts get in the way of annual upgrades. Last week, competitor T-Mobile US Inc. introduced Jump, which provides device insurance and more frequent upgrades for $10 a month.

In other news

HIGHER GASOLINE COSTS pushed a measure of U.S. consumer prices up in June. But the overall trend in inflation stayed tame. The Labor Department said Tuesday that the consumer price index increased 0.5 percent in June from May.

U.S. FACTORIES cranked out more business equipment, home electronics and autos in June, boosting manufacturing output for the second consecutive month. The Federal Reserve said Tuesday that manufacturing production rose 0.3 percent in June from May.

GOLDMAN SACHS said Tuesday that its second-quarter profit doubled and revenue jumped 30 percent, helped by gains in stock and bond underwriting and the bank’s own investments.

 
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Fingers pointed as properties avoid taxation
Five church-affiliated properties worth more than $13 million but paying no property taxes are at the center of an ongoing Augusta Commission shake-up of the Richmond County Board of Assessors.