The daily business briefing: August 17, 2018

Mnuchin warns Turkey to release pastor or face more sanctions, news of U.S.-China trade talks lifts stocks, and more

A Turkish flag flies over Istanbul
(Image credit: Getty Images)

1. Mnuchin warns of more sanctions unless Turkey releases U.S. pastor

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that the U.S. is prepared to impose more sanctions on Turkey if President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refuses to release an American pastor held on suspicion of supporting a failed coup attempt. "We put sanctions on several of the Cabinet members," Mnuchin said Thursday during a Cabinet meeting at the White House. "We have more that we're planning to do if they don't release him quickly." The comments escalated a diplomatic battle that has contributed to the plummeting value of Turkey's currency, the lira. The lira gave back some earlier gains following Mnuchin's remarks, and slid by another 7 percent early Friday. Earlier Thursday President Trump said Turkey had "not proven to be a good friend" to the U.S.

Bloomberg Reuters

2. Stocks rise on hope of trade talks between U.S. and China

U.S. stocks jumped Thursday after China and the U.S. said they would hold trade discussions for the first time in months. The Dow Jones Industrial Average led the three main U.S. indexes with a 1.6 percent gain, and Dow futures inched up further early Friday. China plans to send a trade envoy to Washington by the end of the month in a bid to end an escalating trade war between the world's two biggest economies. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow confirmed the coming talks, and said Trump was committed to making sure the U.S. gets a good deal. Jason Draho, the head of asset allocation for UBS, said investors want to see the rivals settle their differences, and that China has incentive to negotiate now that its economy has slowed. "It's possible they decided 'OK, we need to take a different approach' and come to the table offering a little more," he said.

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The Associated Press MarketWatch

3. Walmart shares jump on better-than-expected quarterly results

Walmart shares shot 9 percent higher on Thursday after the giant retailer reported quarterly earnings and sales that beat analysts' expectations. With more shoppers going to its stores and spending more per trip, Walmart saw its same-store sales rise by 4.5 percent, compared to an expected increase of 2.4 percent. Revenue was $128.03 billion, beating expectations of $125.97 billion, and adjusted earnings per share reached $1.29, compared to the anticipated $1.22. The results were fueled by an uptick in online sales. "We're pleased with how customers are responding to the way we're leveraging stores and e-commerce to make shopping faster and more convenient," CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement.


4. NYU announces free tuition for all of its medical students

New York University said Thursday that it would give free tuition to all of its medical students. Surveys have shown that many medical school graduates choose the most lucrative specialties in part to help them pay off huge student loan debts, and the school is hoping to encourage more graduates to go into fields offering lower pay. "This decision recognizes a moral imperative that must be addressed, as institutions place an increasing debt burden on young people who aspire to become physicians," Dr. Robert Grossman, dean of NYU's school of medicine, said in a statement. The scholarship, which starts in the new school year, is worth $55,000 a year. Studies show the average medical student leaves school owing more than $100,000.

NBC News

5. Musk admits exhaustion after 'excruciating' year

Elon Musk told The New York Times that the last year "has been the most difficult and painful year of my career," repeatedly choking up in an emotional hour-long interview. "It was excruciating," Musk said at his Los Angeles home. Musk said his duties as CEO and chairman of Tesla, the electric-car maker in the middle of a push to dramatically increase production, on top of his similar roles at SpaceX and other businesses, has taken a toll in the form of exhaustion, and strain on his personal life. "I've had friends come by who are really concerned," he said. The admission came as Musk faces intensifying scrutiny over his recent tweet that he was considering taking Tesla private. The tweet has prompted a federal investigation and angered board members.

The New York Times

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.