Business briefing

The daily business briefing: March 29, 2018

Renault and Nissan reportedly discuss a merger, Amazon shares hit by report that Trump plans to "go after" the company, and more

1

Renault, Nissan reportedly discuss merger

Renault shares rose by 5.4 percent early Thursday after Bloomberg News reported that the French car company and its Japanese ally Nissan were in talks to merge. Reuters reported earlier this month that the two companies, already operating in an alliance, were working on forging closer ties. Bloomberg reported that they are now discussing joining together to form a new automaker with a single stock. Carlos Ghosn, who is chairman of both companies, would lead the new one. A spokesman for Renault-Nissan said the companies "do not comment on rumors and speculation." Renault owns 43 percent of Nissan, and Nissan has a 15 percent stake in Renault.

2

Amazon shares drop after report of looming clash with Trump

Amazon shares fell by 4.4 percent on Wednesday after a report that President Trump, a longtime Amazon critic, wants to "go after" the company. Trump has complained about Amazon's sales tax policies and its contract with the U.S. Postal Service for deliveries. He also dislikes The Washington Post, which is owned separately by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The prospect of a clash with Trump scared off investors already concerned about obstacles to Amazon's efforts to keep up its recent rapid growth. Wall Street "is now fearful that the long-awaited Trump vs. Amazon battle could finally be on the horizon," Daniel Ives, head of technology research at GBH Insights, said in a note to clients.

3

Judge allows suit accusing Trump of violating Constitution's emoluments clause

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Washington, D.C., and Maryland could proceed with a lawsuit accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution's ban on accepting "emoluments" from foreign governments. In the unprecedented case, the District and Maryland say Trump's hotel in downtown Washington has taken away business from rivals as foreign governments gravitate to Trump's hotel, seeking to please him. U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte ruled that the attorneys general of the District and Maryland had standing to sue, and had shown that the Trump International Hotel "has had and almost certainly will continue to have an unlawful effect on competition." If the ruling is allowed to stand, the plaintiffs could seek Trump Organization documents to see how much foreign governments have spent at the hotel.

4

Economic growth in late 2017 not as slow as earlier reported

U.S. economic growth expanded at a 2.9 percent annual rate in the last quarter of 2017, a figure adjusted up from the originally reported 2.5 percent, the Commerce Department said Wednesday in its third estimate for the period. The biggest consumer spending increase in three years helped to offset a rise in imports. The rate still marked a slight slowdown from the previous quarter's 3.2 percent pace. There have been signs that the growth rate slowed further in the first three months of 2018. Retail sales fell in February for the third consecutive month, and the trade deficit rose to a nine-year high in January.

5

Trump company loses bid to regain control of Panama hotel

President Trump's family business lost an arbitration ruling in its bid to regain control of the luxury hotel in Panama that dumped its brand. The arbitrator ruled this week that the Trump Organization should not have been evicted until the dispute was settled, but "forcibly undoing the steps that have been taken" would not be practical given "the facts on the ground." The arbitrator, Joel Richler, also barred all parties from launching any new legal battles in the case. Alan Garten, the Trump Organization's general counsel, declined to comment, although he previously said he was confident that the arbitration would lead to a finding that the firing and removal of the Trump Organization from the property violated the contract.

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