The daily business briefing: August 19, 2019

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Harold Maass
Trump says Apple's Cook made a compelling argument tariffs give Samsung an edge.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
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1.

Trump, advisers say recession fears unfounded

President Trump and his top economic advisers on Sunday argued that recession fears that rattled markets last week were unfounded. Trump said the U.S. economy is doing "tremendously well. Our consumers are rich. I gave a tremendous tax cut and they're loaded up with money." Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, noted on Fox News Sunday that consumer wages and spending are up. "I don't see a recession at all," he said. Kudlow and White House trade director Peter Navarro rejected the suggestion that Trump's trade war with China threatened an economic downturn. Navarro told ABC News' This Week with George Stephanopoulos that the Federal Reserve can protect the economy by reversing its "precipitous interest rate hikes," which he said had cost "a full point of growth." [CBS News, The Washington Post]

2.

Trump: Apple's Cook made 'compelling' case tariffs give Samsung an edge

President Trump said Sunday that Apple CEO Tim Cook made a "very compelling argument" that his tariffs on Chinese imports would make it harder for the iPhone maker to compete with rivals such as Samsung. Most Apple products are assembled in China, so they could be hit with a new 10 percent tariff Trump plans to impose later this year. Samsung, based in South Korea, manufactures most of its products in South Korea and Vietnam, so it won't be affected by the new levies. "It's tough for Apple to pay tariffs if they're competing with a very good company that's not," Trump said. "I'm thinking about it." Apple reportedly is considering moving some of its production. [Axios, The Verge]

3.

Stock futures rise as trade remains in focus

U.S. stock index futures rose early Monday as the White House sought to ease investor fears by downplaying the threat of a recession. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq were all up by 0.9 percent or slightly more. President Trump said U.S. consumers and businesses are doing well. "I don't think we're having a recession," he said. The National Association for Business Economics released a report Monday saying that many economists it surveyed believed the economy, already slowing, would sink into a recession. Thirty-four percent said a recession was likely in 2021. Two percent said it could hit this year, while 38 percent predicted it would happen in 2020. [CNBC, The Associated Press]

4.

Musk says Tesla will let consumers rent solar systems

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced Sunday that his company's solar-panel business is offering consumers the option of renting rooftop solar-power systems to avoid the upfront cost of buying them. People in six states — California, Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New Mexico — will be able to rent panels with a small set-up cost and fees starting at $50 per month, or $65 per month in California. Customers will be able to cancel at any time, and Tesla will charge $1,500 to remove the panels and restore the roof. Tesla paid $2.6 billion for residential solar installer SolarCity in 2016. Installations have dropped in recent quarters, sparking the effort to make it easier and less costly for homeowners to give the technology a try. [The Associated Press, Engadget]

5.

Good Boys leads domestic box office

Universal Pictures' Good Boys led the domestic box office over the weekend, bringing in $21 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. The R-rated movie about the adventures of three preteen buddies scored the biggest opening of the year for an original comedy. Its haul beat analysts' expectations by more than 30 percent. "This is a franchise-level opening," David A. Gross, a movie consultant, wrote in a report noting that the film only cost $20 million to make. Good Boys' success followed a string of comedies that failed to click with moviegoers, including Stuber, Late Night, Long Shot, and Booksmart. Another Universal movie, Hobbs & Shaw, came in second for the weekend, adding $14.1 million to its domestic total of $133 million in its third weekend. [The New York Times, Variety]