The daily business briefing: February 26, 2019

Harold Maass
Elon Musk at an event in California
Robyn Beck-Pool/Getty Images


Tesla stock stumbles after Musk gets in more trouble over tweets

Tesla shares fell sharply overnight and early Tuesday after the Securities and Exchange Commission asked a judge to hold Tesla CEO Elon Musk in contempt for allegedly violating a 2018 agreement to get prior approval before tweeting about the company's operations. Tesla shares fell nearly 3 percent in pre-market trading Tuesday, after dropping 5 percent after-hours on Monday. Musk tweeted on Feb. 19 that the electric-car maker would make "around" 500,000 vehicles this year, then clarified hours later that he "meant to say" Tesla would reach the higher production rate by late 2019, while 2019 deliveries would still be 400,000. The SEC said Musk failed to get approval before "publishing this tweet, which was inaccurate and disseminated to over 24 million people." Tesla said Musk didn't need approval because the information was already public. [CNBC]


Bad news on Home Depot, Caterpillar, weighs on stocks

U.S. stock index futures fell early Tuesday after a disappointing earnings report from Home Depot and a downgrade for Caterpillar dampened spirits on Wall Street. Home Depot posted quarterly earnings and revenue that missed expectations. UBS, citing slowing global construction demand, issued a rare "sell" rating for Caterpillar shares. Home Depot shares dropped by 2.4 percent in pre-market trading; Caterpillar shares fell 3.7 percent. U.S.-China trade tensions also remained in focus. President Trump on Sunday said he was delaying hikes on tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports, saying the two sides were making progress toward ending their trade war, although he said a deal "could happen fairly soon, or it might not happen at all." [CNBC, CNBC]


Report: Evidence of human-caused climate change hits 'gold standard'

Evidence that human activity is causing global warming has reached a "gold standard" level of statistical certainty that means there is just a one-in-a-million chance the scientific consensus on climate change is wrong, according to a report by a U.S.-led team published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change. "Humanity cannot afford to ignore such clear signals," the scientists wrote, citing satellite measurements of rising temperatures over the past 40 years. "The narrative out there that scientists don't know the cause of climate change is wrong," lead author Benjamin Santer said. "We do." President Trump has questioned climate change reports and plans to withdraw from the 197-nation Paris climate agreement. [Reuters]


Theresa May acknowledges Brexit could be delayed

British Prime Minister Theresa May acknowledged Tuesday that the U.K.'s exit from the European Union could be delayed. If lawmakers reject her Brexit plan in a March 12 vote, they will be allowed to vote on requesting to delay Brexit from late March until at least June. The news came after Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, on Monday dropped his resistance to a second vote on leaving the European Union as the U.K. nears the scheduled departure date with no agreement on how to proceed. Labour's announcement of Corbyn's new position came after nine Labour Party members resigned last week and more appeared poised to go. It is unlikely that Parliament would approve an amendment calling for a new Brexit vote, but without Labour's support there is no chance at all. [The New York Times, The Washington Post]


Oscars TV ratings rise for first time in 5 years

The 91st Academy Awards' TV ratings beat last year's Oscars broadcast by 12 percent, the first increase in five years. Still, the 29.6 million-person audience was the second smallest ever for Hollywood's big ceremony. Last year's audience of 26.5 million was the smallest ever. The Oscars has remained the top-viewed live entertainment broadcast in the country despite the declining audiences seen from 2014 until this year. The 2019 ceremony marked a change because there was no official host for just the second time, after comedian Kevin Hart withdrew from the gig in December after the resurfacing of homophobic tweets he posted years ago and for which he has since apologized. [Deadline, CNBC]