The daily business briefing: March 15, 2017

Stock futures edge up ahead of an expected rate hike by the Fed, MSNBC reveals details from Trump's 2005 tax return, and more

Janet Yellen
(Image credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

1. Stock futures edge up ahead of Fed decision on rates

U.S. stock futures pointed to a slightly higher open on Wednesday ahead of the conclusion of Federal Reserve policy makers' two-day meeting. The Fed, reacting to a steady stream of upbeat employment and inflation data, is expected to announce a quarter-point interest rate hike, its third in 15 months after holding rates near zero for nearly a decade. Analysts will examine the Fed's statement closely for signs of how fast the central bank plans to raise interest rates down the road. Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq-100 futures rose by 0.2 percent, while S&P 500 futures gained 0.3 percent. The gains roughly offset the main U.S. indexes' declines from Tuesday's downbeat session.


2. Trump's 2005 tax return sent to journalist

President Trump earned more than $150 million and paid $36.5 million in income tax in 2005, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported on Tuesday. He paid another $1.9 million in self-employment taxes. Someone mailed Trump's return, unsolicited, to investigative journalist and tax specialist David Cay Johnston, who discussed them with Maddow. Trump also reported a $103 million business loss that year. Trump's earnings and federal income taxes mean he paid an effective 25 percent tax rate, higher than the 10 percent the average American pays but below the 27.4 percent that people earning $1 million a year paid in 2005. Most of what Trump paid was due to the alternative minimum tax, which he has sought to eliminate. The White House noted that "it is totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns," slamming the "dishonest media" for making Trump's taxes "part of their agenda" while Trump focuses on tax reform to "benefit all Americans."

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MSNBC The Associated Press

3. DOJ reportedly plans to indict four suspects in Yahoo hacking

Federal authorities are preparing to announce that they are issuing indictments against four people in connection with massive hacking attacks against Yahoo, a person briefed on the matter told Bloomberg. One of the suspects is expected to be arrested in Canada. The other three are in Russia. Yahoo and the Justice Department declined to comment on the report. The security breaches, which were revealed last year, affected hundreds of millions of user accounts, and threatened to derail Yahoo's sale of its core internet assets, including its finance, sports, and other websites. The breaches prompted Verizon Communications to demand a reduction in the price it had agreed to pay. It negotiated a $350 million cut, bringing the price to $4.5 billion.


4. Oil prices edge up after losing streak

Oil prices rose early Wednesday, potentially pausing a week-long selling spree. Prices declined slightly on Tuesday on fears that U.S. inventories were too high and a global glut was continuing despite cuts by OPEC and other major oil producers. West Texas Intermediate crude dropped by 1.4 percent on Tuesday but offset that with a 2 percent gain early Wednesday. The U.S. benchmark has fallen from nearly $55 a barrel in late February to $47.72 on Tuesday. The markets will be watching the Federal Reserve's decision on interest rates later in the day. A rate hike could boost the dollar, making oil traded in dollars more expensive.

MarketWatch The Associated Press

5. American Airlines brings back free meals on cross-country flights

American Airlines said Tuesday that it would start offering free meals in economy on some cross-country flights starting May 1. American is matching a similar move by Delta Airlines, which announced earlier this year that it was bringing back meals for economy passengers on long domestic flights. American will offer simple fare on flights between New York and airports in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

ABC News

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.