The daily business briefing: February 11, 2019

Harold Maass
The China and U.S. flags
JASON LEE/AFP/Getty Images


Fresh U.S.-China trade talks lift markets

Global stocks and U.S. stock index futures gained ground Monday, buoyed by the start of new talks in Beijing this week on ending the U.S.-China trade war. President Trump's advisers have informally discussed hosting a summit at Trump's Florida club Mar-a-Lago next month with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Axios reports. Two administration officials told Axios that while the meeting could take place as early as mid-March, nothing is set in stone. A third official said that locations other than Mar-a-Lago have been floated, including Beijing, and it's too early to say if Trump and Xi will even meet. On March 1, Trump must decide if he will increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent, and he had wanted to meet with Xi before the tariff ceasefire expires. [Reuters, Axios]


Border security talks stall as shutdown looms

Talks on border security stalled Sunday over immigration detention policy, threatening to derail negotiations on averting another partial federal government shutdown before a Friday deadline. After reports on Saturday that a deal was near, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a key GOP negotiator, said he was "not confident we're going to get there." He said it was "50-50" Democrats and Republicans could reach a deal, adding, "The specter of a shutdown is always out there." The 17 House and Senate lawmakers negotiating had set an informal deadline of Monday because that would leave enough time to pass legislation under standard procedural rules before Friday, when funding runs out under the deal that ended the record 35-day shutdown last month. [The New York Times, Reuters]


Lego Movie 2 leads box office despite disappointing opening

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part dominated the domestic box office over the weekend, although its $35 million debut fell short of a forecast of around $50 million. The original film opened in 2014 with $69 million in first-weekend ticket sales. The new Warner Bros. film had a $100 million budget, with the kind of stars and pedigree that often guarantee success. Industry analysts had hoped it would provide a boost after a weak start to the year. "The expectations were certainly much higher for The Lego Movie 2 considering the success of the first installment," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore. "We were all hoping that this would be the weekend that got the momentum of the box office going in the right direction. We're still waiting." [The Associated Press]


Trump to announce artificial intelligence push

President Trump reportedly plans to issue an executive order calling for an American AI Initiative intended to help the U.S. remain the world leader in the research and development of artificial intelligence technology. Trump is expected to direct federal agencies to support artificial intelligence experts by making data and computing resources more available to them, while safeguarding security and confidentiality. The U.S. will join more than a dozen other countries, including China, France, Canada, and South Korea, that have announced national AI programs in recent years. [The Associated Press, Wired]


Saudi Arabia says it has 'nothing to do' with Bezos-National Enquirer spat

Saudi Arabia's minister of state for foreign affairs said Sunday that his country had "absolutely nothing to do" with the National Enquirer's acquisition of intimate photos of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his girlfriend. Bezos posted on a blog last week that the National Enquirer's parent company was trying to blackmail him by publishing the photos unless he declared publicly that the tabloid's reporting was not politically motivated. In the blog post, he suggested that Saudi Arabia was displeased with the way The Washington Post, which Bezos owns, had covered the murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Post columnist. The Saudi minister, Adel al-Jubeir, told CBS's Face the Nation his government was not involved. "It sounds to me like a soap opera," he said. [Reuters, Politico]