Business briefing

The daily business briefing: August 1, 2018

Facebook reveals Russia-like effort to sway midterm elections, China threatens to retaliate if U.S. raises tariffs, and more

1

Facebook reveals Russia-like effort to influence midterms

Facebook said on Tuesday that it had uncovered a campaign to influence the November midterm elections through fake accounts that were spreading divisive material. Facebook did not definitively link the effort to Russia, although it said some of the techniques being used were similar to those used by a Kremlin-linked group, the Internet Research Agency, that was indicted this year for alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The accounts focused on such divisive subjects as last year's "Unite the Right" white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which provoked deadly violence. The news was disclosed to lawmakers in private briefings and in a public Facebook post.

2

China threatens retaliation if U.S. doubles proposed tariffs

China on Wednesday vowed to retaliate if the Trump administration goes through with a proposal to impose a 25 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. President Trump has not made a final decision on the plan, which is more than double the 10 percent tariff Trump in June instructed U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer to draw up on the goods, about 40 percent of what China exports to the U.S. every year. Beijing called the proposal "blackmail," and said it wouldn't work. Trump is using tariffs to pressure China into making trade concessions to open its markets more to U.S. companies. A source told Reuters the Trump administration could announce the tougher plan as early as Wednesday.

3

L.A. prosecutors decline to pursue charges against Les Moonves

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office has decided against pursuing sexual abuse charges against CBS CEO Les Moonves, according to documents described in news reports Tuesday. Two unidentified women who worked in TV reported three alleged incidents from 1986 and 1988 to Los Angeles police in February, but prosecutors determined that they could not file charges because the statutes of limitation had expired, the documents said. CBS declined to comment. A New Yorker article last week said that six women had alleged sexual harassment or other misconduct by Moonves between the 1980s and the late 2000s. Moonves said he had made advances that could have made women uncomfortable but denied using his position to hurt their careers.

4

Apple shares rise on strong sales of higher-priced iPhones

Apple shares rose by 4 percent in after-hours trading on Tuesday as investors digested a mostly positive earnings report. Apple said it made more money from higher-priced iPhones in the most recent quarter, and CEO Tim Cook said tit-for-tat tariffs between the U.S. and China had not yet hurt the company. Cook said he was "optimistic" that the world's two biggest economies would settle their differences before the trade war caused much damage. "Each country can only prosper if the other does," he said. Apple posted double-digit revenue growth in China for the fourth quarter in a row. Wall Street analysts were pleased with the rising sales of higher priced smartphones such as the premium iPhone X, the most popular iPhone of the quarter, and said they expected bigger and more advanced iPhones as the holidays near.

5

MoviePass hikes prices, limits movies in bid to stay afloat

MoviePass said Tuesday that it would raise prices and limit new movies available to customers in a bid to save money. The company plans to hike its subscription fee to $15 a month from $10 within 30 days. It also will limit availability for new blockbusters during their first two weeks in release. MoviePass launched its $10 all-you-can-watch film plan nearly a year ago, offering customers one 2D movie per day. The company said it had more than three million subscribers and had reached $4 to $6 per customer in non-subscription revenue per quarter, mostly from marketing, promotions, new peak pricing with surcharges for some screenings, and a new integration with Moviefone. Still, the company ran out of cash on Thursday, forcing it to impose four days of outages and its first major release blackout with Mission: Impossible — Fallout.

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