The daily business briefing: August 30, 2018

Harold Maass
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Trump, Trudeau upbeat on NAFTA negotiations

President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed optimism on Wednesday that the two countries would meet a Friday deadline to strike a deal on revising the North American Free Trade Agreement. Canada rejoined talks on updating NAFTA, which is 24 years old, after the U.S. and Mexico reached a tentative agreement on a bilateral deal, and the Trump administration threatened to go ahead with the agreement with or without Canada. "They (Canada) want to be part of the deal, and we gave until Friday and I think we're probably on track," Trump said. Trump's optimism marked a shift from his previous rhetoric. He has railed against Canada on Twitter in recent weeks, saying its high dairy tariffs are "killing our Agriculture!" Trudeau said a Friday deal was possible, but added, "No NAFTA deal is better than a bad NAFTA deal." [Bloomberg, Reuters]


Campbell Soup shares drop, company prepares big changes

Campbell Soup shares dropped by 5 percent in premarket trading on Thursday after the convenience food products company reported quarterly earnings that exceeded expectations but sales that fell short. Excluding non-recurring items, earnings per share were 25 cents, beating the FactSet consensus of 24 cents. Revenue rose to $2.22 billion, up from $1.66 billion but just below the FactSet consensus of $2.24 billion. Soup sales declined by 14 percent. Campbell Soup also said it planned to sell its international businesses and fresh refrigerated-foods unit after a strategic review. Hedge fund investors have been calling for selling the whole company. The board kept that possibility alive, saying it "remains open and committed to evaluating all strategic options to enhance value in the future." [MarketWatch, Reuters]


Aston Martin prepares to go public

British automaker Aston Martin, best known to some as James Bond's preferred car, said Wednesday that it planned to go public with an initial public offering of stock on the London Stock Exchange by the end of the year. The IPO would mark a turnaround for a company that has filed for bankruptcy seven times and exchanged ownership several times over its century-long history. The plans signal that wealthy buyers worldwide will keep the company strong even after Brexit. "Aston Martin Lagonda has been transformed into a luxury business focused on creating the world's most beautiful high-performance cars," Andy Palmer, Aston Martin’s chief executive, said in a statement. [The New York Times, CNBC]


Stock futures edge down after hitting records in four-day rally

U.S. stock-index futures inched down early Thursday, signaling a possible pause in a four-day rally that has pushed Wall Street to a string of records. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 0.3 percent, while those of the S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 dropped by 0.2 percent. Both the S&P and the Nasdaq Composite closed at record levels on Wednesday for a fourth straight day. The recent gains have come on signs of easing trade tensions as the U.S. and Mexico reached a bilateral trade deal the White House says will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. Canada has rushed to rejoin the negotiations. Global stocks struggled on fears that progress in trade talks between the U.S. and its North American and European trade partners would result in China, the world's No. 2 economy, getting left behind. [MarketWatch, Reuters]


French and British fishermen clash at sea over scallops

British fishermen are accusing French counterparts of acting like "maritime gangsters" by firing flares at British boats "fishing legally" for scallops in the English Channel. "It's piracy, they're harassing our vessels," said Mike Park, the chief executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association. Video footage showed a Tuesday clash between 35 French boats and five British ones. France prohibits its boats from fishing in waters off Normandy during the summer to help preserve stocks, but British ships can fish in international waters 12 miles out. French fishermen said the British boats should stay out until their season opens on Oct. 1. "The English come and massacre them," French fisherman Franck Enault said. "They destroy them and it means we lose out for the season." [NBC News]