The daily business briefing: August 14, 2019

Harold Maass
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Trump administration delays new tariffs on some Chinese imports

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced Tuesday that the Trump administration will delay or cancel a new 10 percent tariff on some goods imported from China. The Trump administration announced in May that the new levy on $300 billion worth of Chinese imports would take effect on Sept. 1. The plan now is to wait until Dec. 15 to tax about $100 billion worth of goods such as cellphones, laptops, and footwear, giving retailers time to stock up for the holidays. Some unspecified consumer goods will be removed from the tariff list altogether "based on health, safety, national security, and other factors," the U.S. Trade Representative said. The news sent U.S. stocks rising sharply. [The Washington Post]


CBS, Viacom reunite in $12 billion merger

CBS Corp. and Viacom on Tuesday agreed to merge in a deal worth nearly $12 billion, bringing the corporate siblings back together after more than a decade apart. Viacom's Paramount film studios and MTV and Nickelodeon cable networks will join forces with CBS and book publisher Simon & Schuster. Viacom Chief Executive Robert Bakish will lead the combined company, which will be called ViacomCBS. The two companies previously were part of a single entity, but split in 2006. They decided to link up again after years of on-again, off-again talks thanks, in large part, to the erosion of television audiences. The deal is the latest in a wave of massive mergers between media companies, including AT&T and Time Warner and Disney and 21st Century Fox. [Los Angeles Times, The New York Times]


States, cities sue over Trump 'clean energy' plan

Twenty-two states and seven municipalities filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to block the Trump administration's "clean energy" plan rolling back a landmark Obama-era initiative capping carbon dioxide emissions from many factories. New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the Trump administration rule would let existing coal-fired power plants continue operating indefinitely without using technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Trump's fossil fuel policy "fails everyone who stands for cleaner air." An Environmental Protection Agency spokesman declined to comment on the pending litigation, but said the EPA did everything it could to produce "a solid rule that we believe will be upheld in the courts." [Bloomberg, The New York Times]


First inverted yield curve in a decade stokes recession fears

The two-year Treasury note yield traded above that of the 10-year note on Wednesday for the first time in more than a decade. The inversion increased recession fears. An inverted yield curve often serves as an early warning of a looming recession because it suggests monetary policy and financial conditions are constraining the economy. The 10-year Treasury note's yield fell 5.7 basis points at 1.619 percent, according to FactSet; the 2-year yield dropped 4.1 basis points at 1.628 percent. Such an inversion has preceded the last seven recessions. "The equity market is on borrowed time after the yield curve inverts," Bank of America Merrill Lynch strategists wrote. U.S. stock index futures dropped sharply after the inversion. [MarketWatch]


Germany's economy shrinks as trade war takes toll

Germany's economy contracted by 0.1 percent in the second quarter compared to the first quarter as global trade tensions, particularly the U.S.-China trade war, hurt manufacturers. Germany's economy grew by 0.4 percent in the first three months of the year. Germany counts on exporters that do big business with China and the U.S., so the trade war between the world's two largest economies has hit Europe's economic leader hard. Weak global auto sales have taken a toll, as has uncertainty over Britain's Brexit chaos. "Today's GDP report definitely marks the end of a golden decade for the German economy," said Carsten Brzeski, chief economist in Germany at the Dutch bank ING. [CNN]