The daily business briefing: August 23, 2018

Harold Maass
The daily business briefing newsletter
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U.S., China enact new tariffs, escalating trade war

The Trump administration and China went through with a scheduled escalation of their trade war on Thursday, imposing 25 percent tariffs on $16 billion worth of each other's goods. The tit-for-tat tariffs between the world's two largest economies now have extended to $100 billion of products since July. China's Commerce Ministry said Washington was "remaining obstinate" by moving forward with the tariffs. "China resolutely opposes this, and will continue to take necessary countermeasures," it said in a brief statement. Beijing also said it would file a complaint over the new tariffs with the World Trade Organization. Mid-level officials from the two countries resumed trade talks in Washington. Despite the new levies, global stock markets were mostly higher on Thursday. U.S. stock futures were flat. [Reuters, The Associated Press]


Disney offers to pay tuition for thousands of workers

The Walt Disney Co. on Wednesday said it was offering to pay full tuition for hourly workers seeking a college degree, finishing high school, or training to acquire a new skill. The program could benefit as many as 80,000 hourly workers in the U.S. Disney said it would start paying tuition for employees in online classes this fall. Disney plans to invest $50 million in its "Disney Aspire" program initially, then add up to $25 million a year. "The Walt Disney Company will cover 100 percent of tuition upfront and will also reimburse application fees and required books and materials, removing the worry of paying to start or continue school," said Jayne Parker, Disney's chief HR officer, in a blog post. The entertainment giant is the latest major corporation to offer such educational benefits as executives seek ways to attract and keep employees in a tightening job market. [CBS News]


Fed officials signal coming interest rate hike

Federal Reserve officials expressed support for another interest rate hike soon, probably in September, to keep the economy from overheating, but said rising trade tensions could threaten growth, according to minutes from Fed policy makers' latest meeting released Wednesday. The central bank, which had lowered rates to near zero to stimulate the economy during the Great Recession, started raising them gradually in 2015 as the economy improved. The minutes showed that Fed leaders were concerned that the economy was getting so strong that inflation could rise above their 2 percent target. "I read these as further confirmation that the Fed is firmly in its tightening mode and is very unlikely to be deterred from that path," said Jeff Greenberg, an economist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank. [Reuters]


Trump tweets 'congratulations' as Wall Street's bull market sets a record

President Trump tweeted "congratulations America!" on Wednesday as the current bull market in U.S. stocks set a record for longevity at 3,453, beating the previous record set by the run that ended with the dot-com collapse of 2000. Trump has said rising stocks are evidence that his economic policies, including reduced regulations and taxes, are working. Critics have said trade tensions, stoked by tariffs Trump has imposed or threatened, risk hurting all sides and reversing recent gains on Wall Street. U.S. stocks were mixed on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 edging down by 1 point to 2,861, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 0.3 percent and the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.4 percent. [The Associated Press]


California firefighters say Verizon slowed down data during massive blaze

A Northern California fire department says in a court filing that Verizon throttled down its wireless data speeds so much last month that some of its high-tech equipment was nearly useless in the attempt to contain the largest wildfire in the state's history. Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden said in the Aug. 20 filing that the internet is a key tool in deploying "thousands of personnel and hundreds of fuel engines, aircraft, and buIldozers" to fight a major fire. His department's mobile communication center used up to 10 gigabytes of wireless data daily tracking the response to the Mendocino Complex Fire, which has burned 406,532 acres in Northern California. Verizon spokeswoman Heidi Flato said the company normally removes data-speed restrictions in emergencies, but made a mistake in this case. [CNN]