The daily business briefing: March 7, 2018

The departure of Trump's top economic adviser weighs down stocks, Amazon's Jeff Bezos tops Forbes' list of billionaires, and more

Jeff Bezos on stage
(Image credit: David Ryder/Getty Images)

1. Trump's top economic adviser resigns, dragging down stocks

President Trump's top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, is resigning, White House officials said Tuesday, after days of controversy over Trump's unexpected announcement that he would impose stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Cohn and other free-trade advocates, including leading Republican lawmakers, have argued against the tariffs, which have prompted threats of retaliatory import taxes by European officials. Global stocks and the dollar dropped on Wednesday as the departure of Cohn, one of the strongest voices for free trade in the Trump administration, fueled fears that Trump would trigger a trade war by pushing ahead with protectionist tariffs. U.S. stock futures fell sharply, pointing to a drop for the three major U.S. indexes at the opening bell.

Politico Reuters

2. Jeff Bezos tops Forbes billionaire list as Amazon fortune soars

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has surged past Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates to become the world's wealthiest person, according to the Forbes billionaires list, released Tuesday. Bezos' fortune was lifted by Amazon's stock gains to reach $112 billion, landing him at the top of the list for the first time. His fortune made the biggest one-year leap ever, climbing from $39.2 billion in 2017. Gates was in second place with a fortune of $90 billion, up from $86 billion in 2017. Investment guru Warren Buffett fell to third, with $84 billion, up from $75.6 billion last year. The list had a record 2,208 billionaires worth a collective $9.1 trillion, an 18 percent increase from last year.

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Forbes MarketWatch

3. Investors drop deal to buy Weinstein Co.

Investors led by former Obama administration official Maria Contreras-Sweet announced Tuesday they were backing out of a deal to buy The Weinstein Co., after receiving "disappointing information about the viability of completing this transaction." The $500 million deal reportedly unraveled after the investors found out the company's debt was $280 million, not $225 million as previously disclosed. The company was pushed near bankruptcy after dozens of women accused the company co-founder, Harvey Weinstein, of sexual assault and harassment. The investors last week reached an agreement to buy the film studio's assets and re-launch it with a majority-female board, setting up a compensation fund for women who say they were abused by Weinstein.


4. FDA says 23andMe can report on breast cancer risk

The Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday that it would let genetic testing company 23andMe give customers information about their risk for breast cancer. The company says its "Health + Ancestry" DNA test can detect genetic markers linked to such diseases as celiac disease, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's, as well as traits like hair loss and lactose intolerance. It also focuses on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes to detect mutations that often lead to breast and ovarian cancer. The FDA had prevented the company from providing those results in 2013. The exam is not comprehensive, however, and does not detect the most common mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene. The FDA warned that doctors and patients should base decisions about care on more than the 23andMe tests.

The Washington Post

5. Oregon man sues Walmart, Dick's Sporting Goods over raising gun-sale age

A 20-year-old Oregon man is suing Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods for refusing to sell him a .22 caliber rifle because of their policies raising the minimum age for rifle buyers to 21. Both retailers raised the minimum age from 18 after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, in which police say a 19-year-old shot and killed 17 people with an AR-15 assault-style rifle he purchased legally. Tyler Watson of Gold Hill, Oregon, says in his lawsuits that Walmart and Dick's are violating an Oregon law against age discrimination. "We stand behind our decision and plan to defend it," Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said in a statement.


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