The daily business briefing: July 22, 2019

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Harold Maass
Avengers: Endgame premiere
Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Disney
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1.

Avengers: Endgame becomes highest-grossing film ever

Avengers: Endgame officially passed Avatar at the worldwide box office over the weekend to become the highest-grossing film in history. The Marvel superhero movie took in $2.790 billion by Sunday, Disney said, topping Avatar's previous record of $2.789 billion. This is the first time the highest-grossing film worldwide unadjusted for inflation has been a movie not directed by James Cameron since before 1998's Titanic. The milestone for Endgame came nearly three months after it landed in theaters with a huge domestic opening weekend of $357 million and a global opening weekend of $1.2 billion. Another Disney film, the live-action remake of The Lion King, dominated this weekend's domestic box office with a better-than-expected $185 million opening, the biggest domestic opening ever for a Disney remake. [The Hollywood Reporter, The Associated Press]

2.

China investment in U.S. dives

Chinese investment in the U.S. has plunged by nearly 90 percent since President Trump took office as a trade war has eroded trust between the world's two largest economies, The New York Times reported Sunday. The decline is due to tougher regulations and skepticism about Chinese investment in the U.S., and tighter limits on foreign spending imposed by Beijing. "The fact that the foreign direct investment has fallen so sharply is symbolic of how badly the economic relationship between the United States and China has deteriorated," said Eswar Prasad, former head of the International Monetary Fund’s China division. "The U.S. doesn't trust the Chinese, and China doesn't trust the U.S." Industries feeling the pinch include everything from Silicon Valley startups to Manhattan real estate. [The New York Times]

3.

Equifax agrees to $700 million settlement over massive data breach

Equifax has agreed to pay up to $700 million to settle state and federal investigations into a 2017 data breach that exposed the Social Security numbers, credit-card information, and other private data of more than 147 million people. The case left more than half of U.S. adults vulnerable to identity theft. The penalties include payments to consumers, regulatory fines, and changes to the credit-reporting agency's practices. "This is the largest data breach settlement in U.S. history," said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. "These data breaches occur because of corporate greed. Corporate leaders decided to put an extra dollar of profit into their pocket, as opposed to that dollar going into the infrastructure of the company to protect their data." Equifax did not immediately comment. [The Washington Post]

4.

Stock futures struggle to rebound from last week's losses

U.S. stock index futures edged higher early Monday following their biggest weekly losses since May. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up by 0.2 percent, while those of the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq gained 0.3 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively. The Dow fell by 0.6 percent last week, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq fell nearly 1 percent. The three main U.S. indexes had reached record highs early in the week on expectations of an aggressive 50 basis-point interest-rate cut by the Federal Reserve at its late-July meeting. They dropped later in the week after comments by several senior Fed officials suggested the central bank would make a smaller, 25 basis-point cut. [CNBC]

5.

Oil prices rise after Iran seizes British tanker

Oil prices jumped by more than 2 percent on Monday on fear that Iran's recent seizure of a British tanker could lead to a disruption of crude shipments from the Persian Gulf region. Brent crude futures rose by $1.41 to $63.88 per barrel. U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate went up by $1.13 per barrel to $56.76. Both benchmarks fell by more than 6 percent last week, but Iran tensions "have likely added to the already strong geopolitical risk premium," JBC Energy said in a note. Iran's Revolutionary Guards said Friday they seized the British-flagged oil tanker in response to Britain's seizure of an Iranian tanker earlier in July. [CNBC]