The daily business briefing: October 11, 2019

Harold Maass
Steven Mnuchin departs trade talks
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images


U.S., China start high-level trade talks

High-level U.S. and Chinese negotiators met Thursday for their first talks since July aiming to end the trade war between the world's two biggest economies. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, representing the Trump administration, met with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the USTR office after a series of warnings by economists that the tit-for-tat tariffs the two sides have been exchanging could tip the global economy into a recession. President Trump has threatened to hike tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods on Oct. 15 if there's insufficient progress. Trump, who plans to meet China's vice premier on Friday, said the first of an expected two days of talks went "very well." [Reuters, MarketWatch]


Oil prices spike after 2 missiles hit Iranian tanker

Oil prices jumped by 2 percent early Friday after Iranian state news IRNA reported that two missiles had hit an oil tanker belonging to the National Iranian Oil Company in the Red Sea off the Saudi Arabian coast. Saheb Sadeghi, head of public relations at the National Iranian Tanker Company, said the projectiles "possibly" were fired from Saudi territory, although Tehran did not immediately say who it blamed for the attack. Regardless, analysts said the incident could further raise tensions in the region. "This latest incident, if confirmed to be an act of aggression, is highly likely to be part of the wider narrative of deteriorating relations between Saudi and the U.S. and Iran," private maritime security firm Dryad Maritime said. [CNBC, CNN]


GM chief meets with UAW leaders for 1st time since strike started

General Motors CEO Mary Barra met secretly with United Auto Workers leaders this week in an attempt to find a way to end a strike by more than 46,000 UAW members, the New York Post reported Thursday. It was Barra's first direct talks with UAW leaders since the union called the strike on Sept. 15 seeking better pay and benefits, and job security. The Post reported that Barra on Wednesday asked UAW president Gary Jones and Terry Dittes, the union vice president leading the strike negotiations, to come to her office. A day earlier, GM officials pulled out of a meeting that had been scheduled to discuss job security and bringing back manufacturing jobs that had been shifted from the U.S. to Mexico, the newspaper reported. [New York Post, The New York Times]


Stock futures spike on signs of progress in trade talks

U.S. stock index futures jumped early Friday after President Trump said the first day of U.S.-China trade talks went "very well." Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq all were up by about 1 percent. The optimism came after dramatic stock fluctuations caused by contradictory reports that made it unclear whether there was any hope the world's two biggest economies could reach an agreement to end their damaging tit-for-tat tariffs. "Even a partial deal could be a huge boost for stocks, especially following this week's scary headlines," Ken Berman, founder of Gorilla Trades, said in a note. "The Chinese delegation is scheduled to leave Washington tomorrow, so another day of volatile swings might be ahead." [CNBC]


Court says Deutsche Bank doesn't have Trump's tax returns

A federal appeals court said Thursday that Deutsche Bank has indicated that it does not have President Trump's personal tax returns, which Democratic-controlled congressional committees have demanded. The German bank was the only big financial institution that was willing to lend money to Trump for nearly two decades. Democratic-controlled congressional committees have subpoenaed Deutsche Bank seeking financial records for Trump, his companies, and his family. Trump responded by suing the bank to prevent it from releasing any documents. That litigation still is being reviewed by the courts. Last month, media outlets asked the appeals court to unseal a Deutsche Bank letter identifying two Trump family members whose returns it did have, but the court rejected that request on Thursday. [The New York Times]