The daily business briefing: October 19, 2018

Mnuchin withdraws from Saudi investment conference, European and Asian leaders meet to pledge support for free trade, and more

 Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin in Washington
(Image credit: Getty Images)

1. Mnuchin withdraws from Saudi investment conference

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced Thursday that he was withdrawing from next week's Future Investment Initiative conference in Saudi Arabia, following the lead of corporate and media executives who pulled out over the disappearance of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Mnuchin had faced bipartisan criticism for previously planning to attend despite evidence linking Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Saudi officials suspected of killing Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Mnuchin had been scheduled to speak at the conference during a six-country tour of the Middle East. It was unclear whether Mnuchin would still visit Riyadh, where the conference is being held, for a scheduled visit focused on fighting terrorism financing.

The New York Times

2. European and Asian leaders meet to pledge support for free trade

European and Asian leaders gathered Friday in Brussels to highlight their shared support for free trade. A draft of the meeting's closing statement that was seen by The Associated Press highlighted "the vital need of maintaining an open world economy and upholding the rules-based multilateral trading system, with the World Trade Organization at its core." German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the Asia-Europe Meeting in Brussels demonstrated that "countries are coming together here from Europe and Asia that all want rules-based global trade and are committed to multilateralism." The gathering of leaders from countries accounting for 55 percent of global trade comes as trade tensions are running high with President Trump, who has imposed a series of tariffs against U.S. trading partners, including the European Union and China.

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The Associated Press

3. Chinese stocks surge despite disappointing data on economic growth

Chinese stocks made their biggest daily gains since early August on Friday after Beijing made reassuring comments about the health of the world's No. 2 economy despite weaker-than-expected third-quarter gross domestic product. The Shanghai Composite gained 2.6 percent, its best day since Aug. 7, and the Shenzhen Composite also rose by 2.6 percent. The Shanghai index was down 2.2 percent on the week and 9.6 percent for the month, its worst since a 26-percent plunge in January 2016. Other Asian markets sank on Friday. China's GDP growth came in at 6.5 percent from the same quarter last year, its slowest pace since the financial crisis and below expectations of 6.6 percent growth and down from 6.7 percent the previous quarter.

MarketWatch The Associated Press

4. Trump administration asks Supreme Court to toss out kids' climate change case

The Justice Department on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to halt a lawsuit filed by young environmental activists who accuse the federal government of failing to address climate change. The 21 activists, ages 11 to 22, say that by promoting fossil fuels for decades the government has violated their constitutional right to "a climate system capable of sustaining human life." Both the Obama and Trump administrations have tried to get the lawsuit dismissed. Lower courts have let it head to an Oct. 29 trial. Solicitor General Noel Francisco said the lawsuit should be tossed because the activists' "alleged injuries" stem from decades of global CO2 emissions that are mostly outside U.S. control, and only Congress has the authority to impose the fossil fuel cuts the lawsuit seeks.

NBC News

5. Procter & Gamble stock jumps after strong earnings report

Procter & Gamble Co. jumped by 2.8 percent in premarket trading on Friday after the consumer products company reported quarterly earnings and sales that beat expectations, thanks to a boost from strong demand for beauty and home care products. P&G affirmed its yearly outlook and said the quarter's core earnings, excluding non-recurring items, reaching $1.12 per share, above the FactSet consensus of $1.09. Beauty sales jumped by 5 percent while home care sales rose 3 percent, offsetting drops in other areas, including grooming, health care, baby, feminine, and family care. P&G's gains helped lift Dow Jones Industrial Average futures, pointing to a higher open for U.S. stocks.

MarketWatch CNBC

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