Business briefing

The daily business briefing: September 7, 2017

Trump strikes debt deal with Democrats, Facebook says it unwittingly sold ads to Russian "troll farms," and more

1

Trump agrees with Dems on short-term debt hike, angering GOP leadership

President Trump on Wednesday bypassed his fellow Republicans and reached a deal with congressional Democrats to increase the federal debt limit and fund the government through Dec. 15. The stopgap spending measure also includes relief money for Houston and other areas devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Republicans had called for a deal covering spending for up to 18 months, to avoid another spending fight before the midterm elections. GOP lawmakers reportedly were "furious" at Trump for agreeing to Democratic leaders' demands. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called Democratic leaders' proposal a "ridiculous idea" and accused them of trying to "play politics" by attaching Harvey relief to raising the debt ceiling.

2

Facebook says it sold political ads to Russian 'troll farm'

Facebook executives admitted to congressional investigators on Wednesday that the company unknowingly sold $100,000 worth of ads to a Russian "troll farm" during the 2016 presidential campaign, The Washington Post reported, citing people familiar with the discovery. Three thousand ads were traced to the troll farm. They started running in the summer of 2015 and link back to a St. Petersburg company called the Internet Research Agency, which has been known to push Kremlin propaganda. Most of the ads "appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights," according to a blog post by Facebook's chief security officer, Alex Stamos.

3

Fed vice chair announces departure before term ends

Federal Reserve Vice Chair Stanley Fischer said Wednesday that he would step down in mid-October. The veteran central banker's departure could help President Trump speed up his reshaping of the Fed's leadership and direction. Fischer's term as vice chair wasn't due to end until June. He said he was leaving early for personal reasons, noting that job growth had returned since the Great Recession and that steps had been taken "to make the financial system stronger and more resilient." Fed Chair Janet Yellen's term ends in February, and Trump has left the door open to appointing someone else.

4

Stocks mixed ahead of ECB meeting

World stocks were mixed Thursday as the announced departure of a senior Federal Reserve official and rising tensions with North Korea offset investor relief over a deal on raising the U.S. debt ceiling. European shares rose in early trading, with Germany's DAX up by 0.6 percent and France's CAC 40 gaining 0.3 percent. U.S. stock futures pointed to a lower open on Wall Street, with Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 futures down by 0.2 percent. A Thursday meeting of European Central Bank policymakers could influence where markets head next. Investors will be looking for indications from ECB chief Mario Draghi on when the bank plans to start winding down its bond-buying stimulus program as the eurozone economy improves.

5

Gap stock rises as company shifts focus to Old Navy and Athleta brands

Gap shares shot up by 7.4 percent on Wednesday after the apparel seller announced plans to close 200 poorly performing Gap and Banana Republic stores to focus more on its Old Navy and Athleta brands. The surge brought the stock's gains this year to 15 percent. The company said it would open 270 new Old Navy and Athleta stores. Gap said the push would help Old Navy sales rise to more than $10 billion in coming years, while Athleta would top $1 billion.

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