The daily business briefing: September 13, 2019

Harold Maass
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U.S. stock futures rise as Dow, S&P approach records

U.S. stock index futures edged higher early Friday, putting the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 within striking distance of all-time highs. The Dow was up by 0.2 percent, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq rose by 0.3 percent. Markets are getting a lift from positive signs ahead of October talks between the U.S. and China on ending their trade war. On Thursday, the U.S. welcomed Beijing's decision to resume purchases of U.S. farm goods. A day earlier, President Trump said he would delay increasing tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15 in a "gesture of goodwill." Trump also said he would consider an interim trade deal, although he would prefer a full agreement. [CNBC]


Old Navy to open 800 more stores

Old Navy said Thursday it would open 800 new stores, a major expansion just seven months after its parent company, the Gap, announced it was spinning off its lower-priced retail chain. "We'll almost double our fleet to 2,000 stores in North America, predominantly in under-served small markets," Old Navy CEO Sonia Syngal said at an investor conference. Old Navy, which was launched in 1994, has reached $8 billion in annual sales and is shooting for $10 billion, Syngal said. "We're an $8 billion start-up," Syngal said. "The sky's the limit." Old Navy's expansion plans came in a year in which other retailers have announced more than 8,200 store closings in the U.S. [CNN]


Federal deficit exceeds $1 trillion for first time in 7 years

The federal deficit rose to nearly $1.07 trillion in August, exceeding the trillion-dollar level for the first time in seven years, the Treasury Department said Thursday. The shortfall for August alone was more than $214 billion. The total is up by 19 percent over the same point in 2018, with one month left in the fiscal year. In 2018, the deficit for the full year was $898 billion. President Trump campaigned promising to eliminate the deficit, saying economic growth would pay for his tax cuts and spending plans. Revenue increased in 2019 to roughly $280 billion per month, but spending rose, too. The national debt has increased by 13 percent under Trump to $22.5 trillion. [CNBC, CNN]


Trump administration rolls back Obama-era water protections

The Trump administration on Thursday announced that it would roll back an Obama-era clean water regulation that limited the use of polluting chemicals near streams and wetlands. The Waters of the United States rule was the latest in a series of environmental regulations that the Trump administration has weakened or eliminated, The New York Times noted. Most of the changes have targeted regulations on fossil fuel pollution, including coal-fired power plants and automobile emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency change, narrowing the definition of protected waters, will give conservative states that consider the Clean Water Act unfair to farmers and industry "an opportunity to really drive a stake through the heart of federal water protection," said Patrick Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at the University of Vermont. [The New York Times]


Report: China exempts U.S soybeans and pork from new tariffs

China is exempting U.S. soybeans and pork from tariff hikes in its trade war with the U.S., China's Xinhua News Agency reported Friday, citing unidentified official sources. The news marked the latest in a series of concessions both sides have described as goodwill gestures ahead of October trade talks between the world's two largest economies. The Chinese commerce and finance ministries did not immediately comment on the report on Friday, which is a national holiday in China. Beijing imposed 25 percent tariffs on American farm goods and ordered a halt to soybean imports after President Trump raised tariffs on Chinese imports because he said China's trade practices were unfair to the U.S. [The Associated Press]