The daily business briefing: March 2, 2018

Trump announces tariffs that spark fears of a trade war, Kroger and L.L. Bean raise the minimum age for gun purchases, and more

A Kroger store in Michigan
(Image credit: AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

1. Trump announces steel and aluminum tariffs, raising trade war fears

President Trump announced Thursday that next week he will formally impose a tariff of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports. The news raised fears of a trade war, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average into a nosedive. It closed down by 420 points, or 1.7 percent. U.S. stock futures slid further early Friday. Treasury Department officials had been concerned about the market reaction during debates Wednesday night over announcing the tariffs. Thursday morning it appeared critics of the plan had temporarily stalled the declaration. Trump then made the announcement during a listening session. On Thursday, Trump tweeted the U.S. can't let itself be "taken advantage of any longer." On Friday he tweeted that "trade wars are good, and easy to win."

Politico MarketWatch

2. Kroger, L.L. Bean raise age for gun purchases

Grocery giant Kroger, which owns Fred Meyer stores, and outdoor retailer L.L. Bean announced Thursday that they were raising the minimum age for gun purchases from 18 to 21. The changes came after Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods also raised their age minimums in response to the Parkland, Florida, school shooting. The 19-year-old suspect is charged with killing 17 people with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle he purchased legally. Dick's also is ending sales of assault-style rifles, as Walmart did in 2015. Kroger stopped selling assault-style weapons at its Fred Meyer superstores in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho several years ago. Outdoor retailer REI announced it would stop ordering products such as CamelBak water bottles and Bell bicycle helmets made by Vista Outdoors, which sells guns and has strong NRA ties.

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3. Investors reach deal to buy Weinstein Company

Former Small Business Administration chief Maria Contreras-Sweet said Thursday she had reached a $500 million deal to buy assets of The Weinstein Company, which was facing possible bankruptcy after sexual assault and harassment allegations brought down its co-founder, Harvey Weinstein. The Weinstein Company's board confirmed it had come to terms with investors led by Contreras-Sweet and supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle. Contreras-Sweet said the new company would have a majority female board tasked with rebuilding the film studio. She said relaunching the company would save 150 jobs and protect small businesses that are owed money. She also said the new company would create a fund to compensate victims.

Reuters

4. Prices rise, fueling expectations of more interest-rate hikes

A gauge of U.S. consumer prices in January posted its biggest gain in 12 months, boosting expectations that price increases will speed up this year, according to federal data released Thursday. Other figures showed the number of new applications for unemployment benefits falling to a 48-year low last week, the latest sign that the job market is strengthening. Together, rising inflation and strong hiring could force the Federal Reserve to be more aggressive in raising interest rates to keep the economy from overheating. The Fed has forecast three rate hikes in 2018, but an increasing number of analysts now predict the central bank might instead make four.

Reuters

5. Auto-parts makers call for keeping Obama anti-pollution rules

Five groups representing major U.S. auto suppliers on Thursday called for keeping in place Obama-era rules aiming to reduce pollution from automobiles. The suppliers said "it is in the nation's best interest" for the country to continue striving to develop and manufacture "the cleanest and most efficient vehicles in the world." The statement marked a break with automaker groups, which say the Obama-era rules are impractical because they don't take into account the rising demand for larger vehicles, which pollute more and make it harder to meet requirements for improving overall fuel efficiency standards. The higher standards would force automakers to build vehicles with newer, more efficient technologies, benefitting parts makers.

The New York Times

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