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Oil helps fuel trade deficit rise

The U.S. trade deficit widened slightly in January as a rise in imports of oil and other foreign goods offset a solid increase in exports.

The trade deficit increased to $39.1 billion, up 0.3 percent from December’s revised $39 billion deficit, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

Exports climbed 0.6 percent to $192.8 billion, led by increased sales of U.S.-made machinery, aircraft and medical equipment. Imports rose 0.6 percent to $231.6 billion.

The trade deficit is the difference between imports and exports. A higher trade deficit acts as a drag on economic growth because it means U.S. companies are making less overseas then foreign competitors are earning in U.S. sales.

Bluffton oven firm expands to Decatur

V-Tech Engineering Inc. is investing about $1.2 million to expand its operation and install equipment in a newly leased Decatur facility at 6691 W. Indiana 124, officials announced Friday.

The Bluffton manufacturer makes industrial ovens for the snack, baking and pizza industries. The 20-year-old company’s headquarters are at 118 E. Wabash St.

Increased customer demand prompted the investment, which includes more robotics for sheet metal handling and welding processes. The company employs 19.

V-Tech officials estimate the expansion will create five to 10 new jobs once the machinery is up and running. The skilled programmer, press brake operator and assembly positions will pay $16 to $20 an hour.

LL Bean CEO plans aggressive growth

Coming off record profits and four years of revenue growth, L.L. Bean is ready to make the biggest single-year capital investment in the retailer’s 102-year history, the company’s CEO said Friday.

Chris McCormick said the Maine retailer will pump an additional $100 million into its website, retail expansion and business systems.

The privately held company finished its fiscal year last month with sales of $1.56 billion.