Business briefing

The daily business briefing: May 12, 2017

Confectioners join forces to cut calories, the U.S. says a deal with China will help reduce trade gap, and more

1

Candy companies join forces to cut calories in packaged sweets

A group of major candy companies announced Thursday that they would collaborate over the next five years to slash the amount of sugar and calories in packaged sweets. Mars Chocolate, Nestle USA, Lindt, Ghirardelli, and Wrigley — the companies behind everything from M&Ms and Skittles to Butterfingers and Snickers — are reportedly among the companies participating. Their aim is cutting calorie counts in half of their individually wrapped products sold in the U.S. to no more than 200 calories within the next five years. Calorie cuts could come from issuing smaller packages or tinkering with recipes. The move follows a crackdown last year by the FDA on how packaged foods are labeled.

2

U.S. and China reach trade deal on beef, poultry, and more

The U.S. and China have agreed to a trade deal that will open China to U.S. beef and increase access to U.S. financial firms as part of the Trump administration's effort to reduce America's trade deficit with the world's second largest economy. "This will help us to bring down the deficit for sure," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday. "You watch and you'll see." Under the deal, China has agreed to let in U.S. beef by July 16, and the U.S. will issue a rule letting Chinese cooked poultry enter the U.S. by the same deadline. The agreement marked the first concrete result from the 100 days of trade talks President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping launched when they met in Florida last month.

3

Kushner Companies to skip pitch to China investors

The company owned by President Trump's son-in-law and senior aide Jared Kushner said Friday that its leaders would not be making planned sales pitches to Chinese investors this weekend. Executives from Kushner Companies, a real estate business, are trying to pull together $150 million in financing for a New Jersey housing development through a controversial program that offers people who invest $500,000 or more a chance to obtain legal residency in the U.S. The push drew criticism over a potential conflict of interest last weekend after Nicole Meyer Kushner, one of the company's leaders and Jared Kushner's sister, mentioned her brother's name, and said the New Jersey project "means a lot to me and my entire family." The company apologized, saying Meyer was not trying to exploit her brother's connections, and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Kushner had "nothing to do" with the company's dealings in China.

4

Airlines express concerns about Europe laptop restrictions

Homeland Security officials met with U.S. airline executives on Thursday to discuss plans for expanding a ban on laptops in carry-on bags to include flights from some European airports. Neither side disclosed details on the meeting, but airlines have quietly expressed concerns that extending the restrictions to Europe would disrupt a busy and lucrative travel market just before the peak summer travel season. The policy of requiring passengers to check laptops already has been imposed on flights from 10 airports, including in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey, over fears that terrorists could install a bomb in an electronic device.

5

Macy's shares plummet on disappointing quarterly sales

Macy's shares plunged by more than 16 percent on Thursday after the struggling department store chain reported that its sales dropped in the first quarter, resulting in a 39 percent decrease in profits. The stock is now at its lowest level since 2011. Macy's already has been aggressively closing stores in an attempt to get back on track as it loses business to online and discount rivals, as shopping malls continue their decline. J.C. Penney shares also slipped early Friday after the retail chain reported quarterly sales that fell short of expectations.

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