The daily business briefing: April 24, 2019

Harold Maass
The Twitter logo at the New York Stock Exchange
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

1.

U.S. markets return to record territory

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite, two of the three main U.S. stock indexes, rose to record highs on Tuesday, capping a swift recovery from a late 2018 plunge. Tuesday's gains came after stronger-than-expected quarterly earnings reports by several major companies, including Twitter, Lockheed Martin, and Hasbro. The S&P is now up 25 percent from a Christmas Eve low. Eighty percent of the S&P 500 companies that have reported so far this earnings season have beaten expectations. Futures for the main U.S. indexes were flat early Wednesday. Boeing shares fell by 0.8 percent in pre-market trading after the company reported first-quarter results that met expectations, but pulled its 2019 full-year guidance as it addresses problems with its 737 MAX jets after two deadly crashes. [Bloomberg]

2.

1st drug CEO faces criminal charges over opioid crisis

Former Rochester Drug Co-Operative CEO Laurence Doud III has become the first drug company executive to be criminally charged in connection with the national opioid epidemic, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday. Prosecutors said Doud, 75, "made the deliberate decision" to ignore pharmacy customers who were distributing opioids for non-medical purposes, seeking to make more money for the company and himself. His pay more than doubled between 2012 and 2016 thanks largely to soaring sales of such drugs as oxycodone and fentanyl. Doud, who faces two conspiracy counts, surrendered in New York City. His lawyer said he would fight the allegations. The company also was charged, and entered a deferred prosecution agreement.

3.

DOJ accuses 2 of stealing GE secrets to help China

The Justice Department has accused a former engineer and a Chinese businessman of conspiring to steal trade secrets from General Electric Co to benefit China, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday. Former General Electric engineer Xiaoqing Zheng was previously charged by the Justice Department in August in the case. The newly unsealed document against Zheng and Chinese businessman Zhaoxi Zhang marked the first time the U.S. claimed that the conspiracy was designed to benefit the Chinese government, which allegedly provided "financial and other support." Zheng allegedly stole electronic files containing design models and other details on GE gas and steam turbines. [Reuters]

4.

Trump threatens retaliation for EU tariffs that hurt Harley Davidson

President Trump on Tuesday threatened to retaliate against "unfair" European Union tariffs that Harley Davidson blamed for part of its nearly 27 percent drop in quarterly profit. Trump said the duties were forcing the iconic U.S. motorcycle manufacturer to move jobs overseas. "So unfair to U.S.," Trump tweeted. "We will reciprocate!" The comments marked a reversal for Trump, who last year called for a boycott of Harley Davidson after it announced plans to move production of motorcycles to be sold in the EU overseas to get around tariffs imposed to retaliate against Trump's new levies on aluminum and steel. At the time, Trump also threatened Harley with higher taxes. [CNBC]

5.

U.S., China trade talks to resume in Beijing next week

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin return to Beijing next week to resume trade talks with Chinese negotiators, the White House said Tuesday. "The subjects of next week’s discussions will cover trade issues including intellectual property, forced technology transfer, non-tariff barriers, agriculture, services, purchases, and enforcement," the White House said. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, who will lead the Chinese team, will return to Washington May 8 for further discussions. Both sides recently have hailed progress toward a deal to end their trade war, which has included tit-for-tat tariffs that have hurt both of the world's two biggest economies. [Reuters]