Business briefing

The daily business briefing: May 1, 2018

Trump extends a delay of steel and aluminum tariffs for key allies, Americans face the priciest summer driving season since 2014, and more

1

Trump extends delay of steel, aluminum tariffs on allies

President Trump is extending a delay on imposing steel and aluminum tariffs on the European Union, Mexico, and Canada until June 1, the White House said in a statement Monday. Trump is still finalizing policies toward those countries and the extension of the tariff relief will allow more time for negotiations focusing on "quotas that will restrain imports, prevent transshipment, and protect the national security," the administration said. Meanwhile, the administration said late Monday that it had reached agreements-in-principle on the imports with Argentina, Australia, and Brazil, saying details "will be finalized shortly." Trump announced in March that he would impose a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum to protect U.S. producers.

2

Rising oil prices point to expensive summer driving season

With rising crude oil prices pushing up gasoline prices, Americans are facing their most expensive summer driving season since 2014, energy experts warned Monday. Crude oil prices are at their highest level in three years, and they are projected to keep going up. The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline hit $2.81 last week, up from $2.39 a year ago, AAA said last week. The price of U.S. crude oil has been trending up since last June, reaching $68.84 a barrel last week, the highest since December 2014. Several factors are behind rising prices, including global economic growth that has increased demand and production cutbacks by OPEC and allies that have reduced oil supplies.

3

Fed policymakers start 2-day meeting

Federal Reserve policymakers meet Tuesday for a two-day meeting expected to end Wednesday with no change to interest rates. Investors are betting that the Fed will make its next rate hike in June as inflation continues to rise to the central bank's target rate of 2 percent, and strong hiring keeps the unemployment rate around its current 17-year low of 4.1 percent. "Fed speakers have done little to push back against this expectation ... we expect no fireworks," JPMorgan economist Michael Feroli said in a note to clients. The Fed raised rates once in 2016, and three times last year. It raised its benchmark lending rate again in March, and is expected to make two more hikes this year, maybe three.

4

Stocks set to open lower after Monday's losses

U.S. stock futures edged down early Tuesday, pointing to further losses at the start of trading after Monday's declines. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which fell by 0.6 percent on Monday, were down by 0.2 percent. S&P 500 futures were down by 0.1 percent, following a 0.8 percent drop on Monday. Nasdaq-100 futures shed 0.2 percent. The Nasdaq Composite fell by 0.8 percent on Monday. Investors will be looking for signals from the next big corporate earnings reports, including Apple, which reports after hours, and the Federal Reserve, which starts a two-day meeting Tuesday. Also, the European Commission said, President Trump's decision to extend steel and aluminum tariff exemptions for the European Union, Canada, and Mexico by one month "prolongs market uncertainty."

5

Ashley Judd sues Harvey Weinstein

Actress Ashley Judd on Monday filed a lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein, accusing the disgraced film producer of spreading lies to damage her acting career because she rejected his sexual advances. People rarely recover damages over smear campaigns because they are hard to prove. Judd, however, will get help from comments from filmmaker Peter Jackson, who said in December that he declined to cast Judd "as a direct result" of what he came to see as "false information" from Weinstein. "If this isn't an example of unfair business practice then I don't know what is," said Judd's lead lawyer, Theodore Boutrous Jr. A spokesman for Weinstein said "the most basic investigation" would show that Weinstein "championed" Judd's work, rather than defaming her or harming her career.

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