The daily business briefing: April 13, 2018
Trump reconsiders the Pacific trade pact he scrapped last year, Postal Service finances to be reviewed, and more
Trump orders aides to 'take another look' at Pacific trade pact
President Trump said in a meeting with farm state lawmakers and governors on Thursday that he had told his aides to "take another look" at getting the U.S. back into the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact he dumped last year shortly after taking office. Getting back into the 11-nation free trade deal would mark a sharp reversal of his previous position. Trump has slammed the deal, negotiated by the Obama administration, as a terrible arrangement for the U.S. Lawmakers from both parties have expressed opposition to the TPP, but business leaders support it. Some have argued that pulling out has handed China greater influence in the region.
Trump orders Postal Service review after saying Amazon should pay more
President Trump on Thursday ordered a review of the U.S. Postal Service's finances, which he has claimed are being ruined by a money-losing deal to deliver packages for Amazon. Trump created a task force to look into the Postal Service's "unsustainable financial path." Trump does not mention specific companies in the order, but he has claimed that the service loses money in its financial arrangement with Amazon, its biggest package customer. NPR notes that the Postal Service has lost money for years, but makes money on package deliveries. Trump has been increasingly vocal in his public criticism of Amazon's CEO, Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. People close to Trump have noted that Trump's criticisms of Amazon have often followed negative coverage of him in the Post.
Senate confirms coal-lobbyist Wheeler as No. 2 at EPA
The Senate on Thursday confirmed coal-mining lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as second-in-command at the Environmental Protection Agency. The vote was 53-45. Wheeler worked at the agency more than two decades ago. He later served as an adviser to Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a climate-change skeptic. All of the Republicans who were present voted for Wheeler's confirmation, as did Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), all facing re-election this fall in heavily Republican states. Environmentalists have called Wheeler the wrong pick, saying he has represented some of the "worst actors in the energy industry." Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) noted that if embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is ousted, Wheeler will take charge, and questioned whether he could "right this badly damaged EPA ship."
Stocks fluctuate with global tensions, bank earnings looming
U.S. stock futures were flat early Friday, fluctuating between slight gains and losses as geopolitical tensions continued to put investors on edge. The caution comes as investors await the next moves in the looming trade war between the Trump administration and China, and potential U.S. military action in Syria in response to Saturday's suspected chemical weapons attack, which left dozens dead in a rebel-held area. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 edged up by 0.1 percent, while Nasdaq-100 futures fell by 0.1 percent, with earnings reports from big banks ahead. All three of the major U.S. indexes made solid gains on Thursday.
China's trade surplus with U.S. widens in first quarter
China's trade surplus with the U.S. jumped by 19.4 percent to $58.25 billion in the first three months of 2018, compared to a year earlier, according to customs data released Friday. In the same period, China ran a $9.86 billion trade deficit with the rest of the world as both its total imports and exports rose by double digits on the year, although its exports fell in March. "The sharp decline in March export growth after very solid performance in January and February suggests some exporters may have front-loaded exports (early) this year due to concern over the possibility of a Sino-U.S. trade war after the U.S. hiked tariffs on global imports on solar panels and washing machines," said Lisheng Wang, an economist at Nomura in Hong Kong.