Business briefing

The daily business briefing: October 5, 2017

Saudi and Russian leaders discuss extending oil production cuts, Google unveils its latest hardware, and more

1

Saudi king and Putin discuss extending oil production cuts

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday during what the Saudi foreign ministry called a "historic" visit to Moscow. They will discuss extending an agreement between OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers to cut production. The deal has helped boost prices dragged down by a global glut. Putin said Wednesday that Russia might agree to extend the agreement to the end of 2018. The leaders also will discuss a proposal for Russia to sell the kingdom $3 billion worth of arms. The discussions signal a sharp change in relations between the two countries — Saudi Arabia cut off relations with Moscow during Soviet times. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the visit a "truly epochal event in our relations."

2

Google unveils latest devices in escalating battle with Apple and Amazon

Google unveiled new Pixel phones, a laptop, and smart home speakers on Wednesday as it stepped up its effort to catch up with the hardware offerings of Apple and Amazon. Google's new devices use its voice assistant, which rivals Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa. Google's new smart speakers begin at $49. The Google Pixelbook will start at $999. The Pixel 2 phone, which mimics the iPhone by eliminating a headphone jack, starts at $649. "Google just doubled down on its hardware effort, spending $1.1 billion to acquire a significant chunk of HTC's phone operations and know-how," Axios writes. "Now it needs to make the bet pay off."

3

EU cracks down on tech giants over taxes

European regulators on Wednesday announced plans to take Ireland to court for not collecting back taxes from Apple, and ordered Luxembourg to make Amazon pay $295 million in unpaid taxes. The moves marked an escalation in European Union efforts to step up tax collection in the 28-nation trading bloc. European officials have been particularly tough on technology powerhouses, trying to prevent them from avoiding taxes and imposing big fines for antitrust violations and mishandling of customer data. Stepping up tax collection has become a hot topic as countries face painful austerity measures as they try to recover from a broad financial crisis.

4

Judge reinstates Obama-era regulations on methane emissions

A federal judge in San Francisco on Wednesday ordered the Trump administration to enforce Obama-era restrictions on methane emissions from oil and gas drilling on public land. The rules took effect three days before President Trump's inauguration, but his Interior Department has been delaying enforcement as it develops a plan to rescind them. The Interior Department and the energy industry have said the rules are too burdensome and would hurt production. A push to kill the restrictions in Congress failed in the face of opposition. California and other states pressed the issue in court, arguing that the administration was legally required to enforce the rules, which aim to cut 175,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

5

Stocks hover near records after winning streak

U.S. stocks simmered down a bit on Wednesday but still pushed slightly further into record territory. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 0.1 percent, continuing a seven-day winning streak. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq Composite also rose by 0.1 percent. All three indexes set records for the second straight day. The mood cooled after payroll processor ADP reported that hiring by private employers weakened sharply last month, although economists had expected damage from hurricanes Harvey and Irma to temporarily crimp hiring. Economists also expect the government's monthly jobs report on Friday to show lower job gains in September than in August. U.S. stock futures hovered near record levels early Thursday as investors awaited appearances by several Federal Reserve officials.

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