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Refinery stocks rise after Valero posts strong 4Q

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of oil refiners rose Tuesday as key companies reported rising earnings on cheaper U.S. crude oil.

Valero Energy Corp. led the pack, with its stock rising more than 11 percent in afternoon trading. Valero reported fourth-quarter net income of $1 billion, up from $45 million a year ago. The results easily beat analyst expectations.

Valero's refining margins rose as it replaced foreign crude with cheaper domestic oil at refineries in Memphis and on the Gulf Coast. The company said it was looking for more North American crude.

Shares of Hess Corp. rallied as it appeared that a proxy fight was looming.

Hedge fund owner Elliott Management announced a slate of five outsiders for the Hess board, which it accused of overseeing "over a decade of failures" by management that shortchanged shareholders. Hess is trying to move away from refining to focus on oil and gas exploration and production.

Shares of Valero, Hess and Tesoro Corp. hit 52-week highs during Tuesday's session.

In afternoon trading, shares of Valero rose $4.57, or 11.8 percent, to $43.38; Hess gained $4.82, or 7.7 percent, to $67.30; and Tesoro climbed $2.12, or 4.6 percent, to $47.95. Two integrated oil companies with refining operations also rose — Exxon Mobil Corp. was up 72 cents to $91.83; and Chevron Corp. gained $1.11 to $117.15.