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The daily business briefing: May 15, 2019

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Harold Maass
The Walt Disney Company logo on the NYSE
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
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1.

Trump pushes fresh bailout for farmers hurt by China trade war

President Trump on Tuesday pushed a new bailout package for farmers in response to complaints from Senate Republicans that his escalating trade war with China is devastating agricultural states. Trump promised farmers some of the money raised by his new tariffs on Chinese goods to make up for lost sales of U.S. crops to China. "Our great Patriot Farmers will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of what is happening now," Trump tweeted Tuesday. Trump accused former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 presidential candidate, and other Democrats of failing to challenge unfair China trade policies. Biden said Trump's trade war had caused collateral damage at home. "The American worker is getting killed by this," Biden said. "The American farmers are getting killed." [The Washington Post, Vox]

2.

Disney to take full operational control of Hulu

After reaching a deal with Comcast, Disney is officially taking full operational control of Hulu, the companies announced Tuesday. Disney ended up with a 66 percent stake in Hulu after acquiring 21st Century Fox assets, which included a 30 percent stake in the streaming service. Comcast held another 33 percent. Disney will take immediate operational control of Hulu, and Comcast will sell its 33 percent stake to Disney within five years. NBCUniversal, which Comcast owns, will keep licensing content to Hulu during that time. Disney is set to launch a new streaming service, Disney+, beginning in the fall — along with ESPN+, Disney sees Hulu as part of its three-pronged streaming strategy. [The Wall Street Journal, The Hollywood Reporter]

3.

Trump expected to sign order that would effectively ban Huawei gear

President Trump this week is expected to sign an executive order that could serve as the foundation for a ban on using communications gear made by China's Huawei, Reuters reported Tuesday, citing three U.S. officials familiar with the plan. The order will not specifically name Huawei, but it is expected to invoke the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which lets the president regulate commerce to address national security threats. The Trump administration has warned that Huawei, China's No. 3 smartphone maker, makes equipment that China could use for spying, an allegation that Huawei has repeatedly denied. Trump signed a bill last August barring the government from using gear from Huawei and another Chinese company, ZTE Corp. [Reuters]

4.

National Labor Relations Board hands Uber a victory

The National Labor Relations Board said in a memo released Tuesday that it had concluded that Uber's drivers were contractors rather than employees of the ride-hailing company. The decision marked a victory for Uber and a setback for drivers, who have joined their counterparts at Uber's smaller rival, Lyft, in protests demanding better pay and working conditions. Contractors don't get the same federal protections the labor board enforces for full-fledged employees, such as the right to unionize. Industry experts estimate that if Uber and Lyft were forced to treat their drivers as employees, their labor costs would rise by up to 30 percent. [The New York Times]

5.

Stock futures lower after Tuesday's rebound

U.S. stock index futures edged down early Wednesday as fear over U.S.-China trade tensions eased and focus turned toward incoming economic data and earnings reports. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were down by 0.2 percent, while those of the Nasdaq fell by 0.1 percent. China reported Wednesday that its industrial production increased by 5.4 percent in April on a year-over-year basis, falling short of the 6.5 percent predicted by economists polled by Refinitiv and marking the slowest growth rate since May 2003. The major U.S. indexes fell sharply Monday after the U.S. and China announced their latest tit-for-tat tariffs, but the market rebounded Tuesday, with the Dow gaining 0.8 percent in its best day in a month. [CNBC]