The daily business briefing: September 17, 2019

Harold Maass
Boris Johnson meets Jean-Claude Juncker


Johnson discusses Brexit with European Commission leader

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday held his first face-to-face meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to discuss revising the ill-fated agreement on the terms of Britain's exit from the European Union. Protesters booed Johnson as he visited Luxembourg for the meeting. The two sides failed to make concrete progress. Johnson dropped out of a planned news conference because of raucous anti-Brexit protests, but said he remained optimistic. "Yes there is a good chance of a deal," he said. Johnson has vowed to lead Britain out of the 28-nation trading bloc on Oct. 31, with or without a deal. British lawmakers have passed a law seeking to block such a move, which Johnson's critics say would be disastrous for Britain's economy. [The Associated Press]


Netflix acquires Seinfeld in race to snap up popular sitcoms

Seinfeld is headed to Netflix in 2021 after the streaming giant purchased the show's global rights, Netflix and Sony confirmed Monday. This is a major get for the streamer, which took two significant blows after it was revealed that The Office and Friends would both be leaving the service and jumping to Netflix competitors. Netflix reportedly pursued the Seinfeld rights aggressively and beat out bids from Hulu, Amazon, WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal, and Viacom. Currently, Seinfeld's streaming home in the U.S. is Hulu, which bought the rights in a $150 million annual deal expiring in 2021. Netflix's deal is reportedly for five years. [Los Angeles Times]


A split Fed meets under pressure from Trump to cut rates

Divided Federal Reserve policy makers start a two-day meeting on Tuesday that is expected to end with another quarter-point interest-rate cut. Some Fed leaders want to hold off on further cuts, while others are pushing for one or two more to help boost the economy. An oil price surge that followed weekend attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities compounded fears of a global economic slowdown, already a concern due partly to the impact of the U.S.-China trade war. Ahead of the meeting, President Trump resumed his criticism of the Fed for failing to slash rates more aggressively. "Will Fed ever get into the game? Dollar strongest EVER!" Trump tweeted Monday. "Big Interest Rate Drop, Stimulus!" [Reuters, The New York Times]


House launches investigation of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao

The House Oversight Committee on Monday started an investigation into whether Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao improperly used her Cabinet position to benefit her family's company. Two Democratic leaders, Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), sent a letter asking Chao to hand over documents regarding the Foremost Group, a company owned by Chao's father and sisters that transports goods between China and the U.S. The committee also asked why Chao hadn't fulfilled a promise to sell her stake in construction giant Vulcan Materials. Chao denies any wrongdoing. The Transportation Department said it looked forward to responding to the committee, and said the negative reports about Chao's family were "stale and only attempt to undermine her long career of public service." [The Associated Press]


Stocks struggle against ongoing Saudi oil concerns

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a slightly lower open Tuesday, as a spike in oil prices stoked fears of a global economic slowdown. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were down by about 0.1 percent. The Dow fell by 0.5 percent on Monday, snapping an eight-day winning streak. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq fell by 0.3 percent. Crude-oil futures inched down on Tuesday after making their biggest one-day jump on record on Monday. The turmoil came after weekend attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia resulted in the shutting off of half of the oil-rich country's production. [CNBC, MarketWatch]