The daily business briefing: August 29, 2018

Harold Maass
STR/AFP/Getty Images
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Canadian minister rushes to U.S. to resume NAFTA talks

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland returned early from a Europe trip to fly to Washington for an urgent meeting with President Trump's top trade advisers after they suggested that the U.S. was prepared to leave Canada out of a trade deal with Mexico intended to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. "The president, as he's indicated, is fully prepared to go ahead with or without Canada," Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, said on Fox Business. A spokesman for Freeland said ahead of her meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer that the Canadian government "will only sign a new NAFTA that is good for Canada and good for the middle class." U.S. stock futures inched further into record territory on the apparent easing of trade tensions. [The New York Times, MarketWatch]


Consumer confidence jumps to highest level in nearly 18 years

U.S. consumer confidence rose in August to its highest level since October 2000, suggesting that strong consumer spending could continue lifting the economy through the rest of the year. The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index jumped 5.5 points to 133.4 this month. The brightening mood indicated that the increasingly strong job market is largely overshadowing concerns about tensions between the Trump administration and key trade partners. "That suggests a degree of skepticism about trade, inflation, or anything else knocking the economy off track," said Jim Baird, chief investment officer at Plante Moran Financial Advisors in Kalamazoo, Michigan. "For now, consumers remain resiliently positive, which bodes well for household spending in the coming months." [Reuters]


Trump accuses Google of search-result bias

President Trump on Tuesday accused Google of promoting negative news from the "Fake News Media" and liberal outlets, saying a Google search for "Trump news" yields mostly negative stories from news sources critical of him. Trump called the trend "very dangerous," saying, "they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal?" Trump's economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said the White House is "taking a look" at Google, although he did not provide further details. Trump later said Twitter and Facebook also were "not fair" to conservatives, warning them to "be careful." Google denied Trump's allegation, saying its search engine is "not used to set a political agenda and we don't bias our results toward any political ideology." [Reuters, Donald J. Trump]


Game-maker cancels Madden tournaments after Florida shooting

The CEO of game-maker Electronic Arts announced Tuesday that the company was canceling three upcoming video game tournaments in the wake of Sunday's shooting at a Madden gaming event in Jacksonville, Florida, that left two players and the suspected attacker dead. Investigators could not immediately determine a motive for the attack, but said the two young men who were murdered, Madden players Taylor Robertson, 28, and Elijah Clayton, 22, appear to have been targeted. Several others were wounded. The suspect, 24-year-old David Katz, also participated in the tournament. Clayton had scored a touchdown just before the shooting. [PBS]


Texan defies court order by putting 3D-printed gun plans online

Cody Wilson, the owner of a Texas company that makes untraceable 3D-printed guns, said Tuesday that he has started selling blueprints for the weapons online, despite a federal court ban. He said he had received nearly 400 orders and would sell the plans for as little as one cent. "Anyone who wants to get these files is going to get them," he said. "They can name their own price." Nineteen states and the District of Columbia had asked a court to block a settlement the State Department reached with Wilson's Texas company, Defense Distributed, after the plans were removed from a list of weapons and data that can't be exported. The states argued that online access would let criminals and terrorists acquire the undetectable plastic guns. [The Associated Press]