Business briefing

The daily business briefing: May 24, 2017

The White House releases Trump's first budget, the DOJ accuses Fiat Chrysler of cheating diesel emission controls, and more


White House releases Trump budget calling for deep social spending cuts

The White House on Tuesday unveiled President Trump's first full budget, a $4.1 trillion that plan includes steep cuts in spending on Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, social services for the low-income and disabled, most federal agencies, farm subsidies, federal pension benefits, college loans, highway funds, medical research, and foreign aid. Trump's budget also would boost funding for the Pentagon, Veterans Affairs Department, Homeland Security, and a new parental-leave plan. The budget, released while Trump is abroad on his first foreign trip as president, is considered unlikely to pass Congress as written, but it clarifies Trump's priorities. Critics said the spending plan, which says the budget will be balanced in 10 years, relies on faulty math and unrealistic projections for economic growth. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney will start trying to sell the plan to the House and Senate budget committees on Wednesday and Thursday.


Justice Department accuses Fiat Chrysler of diesel emissions cheating

The Justice Department filed a civil complaint Tuesday accusing Fiat Chrysler of installing software into 104,000 diesel vehicles so they could cheat emission controls. The complaint covers 2014-2016 diesel Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ram 1500 EcoDiesel pickups, which Fiat Chrysler has not been able to sell since the Environmental Protection Agency started declining to certify the vehicles in January. The complaint could expose the automaker to up to $4.6 billion in fines. The company sold nearly 50,000 of the diesel Ram pickups in the U.S. in 2015 and 2016, making it the best-selling diesel light truck. Fiat Chrysler said it was "disappointed" in the federal lawsuit, and would "defend itself vigorously" against the claim it installed the software to deliberately cheat on emissions tests.


Moody's downgrades China's credit rating

Moody's Investors Service downgraded China's credit rating for the first time in nearly 30 years on Wednesday, saying the world's second largest economy would weaken in coming years as it continues building up debt as growth slows. In a statement announcing the one-notch downgrade, from A1 to Aa3, Moody's said China remains committed to maintaining high economic growth, but, with productivity gains waning, to do so it will have to keep using debt to stimulate the economy. China's Finance Ministry said that Moody's "to some extent overrated the difficulties that the Chinese economy is facing, and underestimated the ability of the Chinese government to deepen supply-side reform and properly expand overall demand."


U.S. stock futures inch up ahead of Fed minutes

U.S. stock futures edged higher early Wednesday ahead of the release of the minutes from the Federal Reserve's last meeting, which could indicate that Fed policy makers believe the economy is doing well enough to justify another interest rate hike as early as June. "We look for the minutes to reinforce the relatively hawkish policy statement with references to a robust labor market and a solid growth outlook," said TD Securities rate strategist Prashant Newnaha in a note. Ahead of the market open, all three major U.S. stock indexes were up by 0.1 percent or less. If the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 close higher on Wednesday, it will be their fifth straight day of gains, their longest winning streak since February.


Uber vows to pay back New York drivers 'every penny' of excess commissions

Uber admitted Tuesday that it had collected tens of millions of dollars in excess commissions from tens of thousands of New York City drivers over nearly three years, and pledged to pay back "every penny." The drivers will get $900 each to cover the overcharges and interest. The news came as the ride-hailing service grapples with a series of negative reports on its corporate culture. "We are working hard to regain driver trust," Rachel Holt, Uber's regional general manager for the U.S. and Canada, said in a statement, "and that means being transparent, sticking to our word, and making the Uber experience better from end to end."


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