Business briefing

The daily business briefing: January 25, 2018

Trump arrives in Davos facing globalists wary of his "America First" agenda, Mnuchin says a weak dollar is good for the U.S., and more

1

Trump arrives in Davos to 'tell the world how great America is'

President Trump arrived at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday to convince skeptical globalists that his protectionist "America First" agenda can be compatible with cooperation. Before starting the trip, Trump tweeted that he planned "to tell the world how great America is and is doing. Our economy is now booming and with all I am doing, will only get better... Our country is finally WINNING again!" Trump will deliver a keynote address on Friday. In the days before the trip, Trump slapped a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels, and he angered many foreign leaders by describing Haiti and African nations as "shitholes." Bonang Mohale, CEO of Business Leadership South Africa, is urging his fellow Davos attendees to quietly walk out of Trump's speech in protest.

2

Mnuchin says weak dollar is good for U.S.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that a weak dollar is good for the U.S., sending the dollar plunging in currency markets. "Obviously a weaker dollar is good for us as it relates to trade and opportunities," Mnuchin said while attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he is to talk with U.S. trade partners and encourage investment from businesses. Mnuchin's remarks, ahead of President Trump's arrival in Davos, marked a break with a decades-long U.S. government commitment to a strong dollar. During his 2016 campaign and since, Trump has occasionally said he would like to see the dollar's value fall so U.S. goods would become cheaper and exports would increase.

3

Dow futures rise, signaling another potential record

U.S. stock futures gained early Thursday, putting the Dow Jones Industrial Average in position to open at a record high. Futures for the Dow and the S&P 500 gained 0.2 percent before the market opened. Nasdaq-100 futures rose by 0.5 percent. Where the U.S. benchmarks go next could depend on coming earnings reports from big names such as Caterpillar and Intel. The three main U.S. equity indexes are up between 6.1 percent and 7.4 percent so far in 2018, a fast start fueled by an expanding economy and strong profits, although some analysts are bracing for a pullback. "While we remain bullish for the year as a whole, this is beginning to look a little too frothy for our liking," Bank of America Merrill Lynch strategist James Barty said in a Thursday note.

4

Starbucks says it will boost pay and benefits, crediting tax cuts

Starbucks on Wednesday became the latest major U.S. company to announce that it would increase pay and benefits, saying the decision was motivated "by recent changes in the U.S. tax law." The coffee company said it would invest $250 million in raises and sweetened benefits. In April, Starbucks employees will receive wage increases "based on regional cost of living" that total $120 million, and certain employees will also receive stock grants. The coffee-chain behemoth is additionally offering more generous benefits: Employees working full time will be able to accumulate up to five paid sick days per year, and "non-birth parents" will be eligible to take up to six paid weeks off to spend time with their newborn. The move will affect more than 150,000 workers.

5

Senate confirms Alex Azar as HHS secretary

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive, as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The 55-43 vote ended nearly four months for the agency without a leader. Former HHS head Tom Price resigned in September after Politico revealed that he had taken numerous trips on private and military jets that cost taxpayers more than $1 million. Many Democrats opposed Azar over the doubling of prices on several drugs during his nearly 10 years at Eli Lilly. Republicans said his work at the pharmaceutical company was an asset because it gave him extensive knowledge about the industry.

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