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The daily business briefing: February 19, 2019

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Harold Maass
A Honda hat
Matt Cardy/Getty Images
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1.

New U.S.-China trade negotiations get underway as deadline looms

A new round of U.S.-China trade talks starts Tuesday in Washington. The discussions come after negotiations last week in Beijing, which both sides said resulted in progress. Lower-level officials will kick off the latest round of talks with higher-level meetings on Thursday and Friday, the White House said Monday. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, economic adviser Larry Kudlow, and trade adviser Peter Navarro will participate, as will Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. U.S. tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports are set to more than double March 1 if there is no deal. President Trump has said he might extend the deadline if a deal is near. "We're making a lot of progress," he said Monday. [Reuters]

2.

Honda to close England factory, threatening 3,500 jobs

Honda plans to close a factory in western England, possibly eliminating 3,500 jobs, British media and a local lawmaker said Monday. Sky News reported that the Japanese carmaker planned to announce Tuesday that the Swindon plant, which makes the popular Civic model, will close in 2022. The move could add to concerns about the direction of the British economy as the country prepares to leave the European Union next month. Local lawmaker Justin Tomlinson said Honda's decision "is based on global trends and not Brexit as all European market production will consolidate in Japan in 2021." [The Associated Press]

3.

Walmart shares surge after strong earnings report

Walmart shares surged early Tuesday after the retail giant reported holiday-quarter earnings and revenue that beat analysts' expectations. Walmart, which is investing heavily to compete with online retail juggernaut Amazon, said its ecommerce sales jumped by 43 percent, the same growth rate as Walmart saw in the previous quarter. Walmart is projecting online sales growth of 35 percent this year, a slight drop from 2018. The company said its revenue reached $138.8 billion, beating an average estimate of $138.7 billion in a survey by Refinitiv. Same-store sales were up by 4.2 percent, beating expectations of a 3.2 percent gain, and earnings per share came in at $1.41, compared to an anticipated $1.33. [CNBC]

4.

FAA examines Southwest's system for calculating takeoff weight

The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday that it is investigating Southwest Airlines for possible miscalculation of the overall weight of checked bags on its flights. A year-long FAA inquiry found systemic and significant mistakes in how pilots calculated takeoff weight, as well as problems with how luggage was loaded, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing FAA documents. "Since that time, the FAA has directed the development of a comprehensive solution to the methods and processes used by Southwest Airlines to determine this performance data," the FAA said. Southwest said it had put controls and procedures in place to address the problems. [The Wall Street Journal, CNN]

5.

U.S. stock futures struggle after long weekend

U.S. stock index futures edged lower early Tuesday ahead of the resumption of trading after the three-day Presidents Day weekend. Investor attention was focused on the start of the latest round of trade talks between the U.S. and China on Tuesday, and higher-level meetings planned for Thursday and Friday. Tensions between the world's two biggest economies remain high, with China saying Monday that the U.S. is hindering industrial development by arguing that Chinese mobile gear made by Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications leader, could be used for spying. Traders also will be watching the National Association of Home Builders housing market index for fresh signs of the economy's strength on Tuesday. [CNBC]