Business briefing

The daily business briefing: May 18, 2017

Trump's troubles drag down stocks, Ford announces fewer job cuts than expected, and more


Stocks plunge as Trump's troubles scare investors

Global stocks dropped on Thursday, with several key Asia indexes down about 1 percent and the Stoxx Europe 600 Index losing 0.5 percent in early trading after the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to investigate ties between President Trump's campaign and Russia. U.S. stock futures edged down, too, early Thursday, after the main indexes plunged on Wednesday after reports that Trump might have asked then-FBI director James Comey to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn's Russia ties. Critics said the news could expose Trump to allegations of obstruction of justice, raising doubts he will be able to follow through on promised policies to stimulate the economy. The Dow Jones industrial average fell by 372 points, or about 1.8 percent, its biggest loss since September. The S&P 500 lost about 1.8 percent, too, while the Nasdaq composite dropped by 2.6 percent.


Ford announces 1,400 salaried job cuts, far fewer than expected

Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday that it planned to cut 1,400 salaried jobs in North America and Asia, far fewer than the 20,000 job cuts news outlets reported earlier in the week. Ford said it would offer eligible employees voluntary early retirement and other incentives to reduce its workforce as part of an effort to cut costs and boost its stock price. Ford said the plan would reduce a group of 15,000 managers and other non-production employees by about 10 percent, with a corresponding reduction in labor costs for that part of its workforce. Ford shares fell by more than 2 percent on Wednesday as broader markets fell.


Russian bank helped finance Trump partner in hotel project

The Russian bank VEB, which has direct ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, provided hundreds of millions of dollars in critical financing to a President Trump's one-time partner on a Toronto hotel project, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. At the time of the deal, Putin sat on the supervisory board of the state-run bank, which the Journal says the Russian government uses to finance politically important projects. Trump's partner, Russian-Canadian developer Alexander Shnaider, financed the hotel after selling his company's share in a Ukrainian steelmaker for $850 million. The unknown buyer, backed by VEB, was reportedly acting on behalf of the Russian government. The payment came through at a time when the project was "financially troubled," the Journal said.


Alphabet announces it is making Google Assistant available on iPhones

Google parent Alphabet said Wednesday that it would make its digital personal assistant available to iPhone users, adding a rival to Apple's Siri on its own smartphones. Google debuted its Google Assistant last year on its own phones, which use the Android system that runs on most of the world's devices. The company has since offered the app, which lets users accomplish various tasks with voice commands, on more and more devices. The push to get onto Apple's phones gives it access to a smaller but lucrative part of the market.


Brazilian assets drop after reports that president approved hush money

Brazilian assets plunged overseas overnight, and the country's stocks were expected to plunge on Thursday following a report by a Brazilian newspaper that President Michel Temer endorsed a hush money payment to a witness in a massive corruption scandal. O Globo said it had obtained a recording, made by a food company executive as part of his plea bargaining, in which Temer discussed a payment to politician Eduardo Cunha, who was jailed in March for corruption, money laundering, and tax evasion. Police reportedly later filmed Cunha receiving $143,000. Temer denied the allegations.


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