The daily business briefing: October 14, 2019

Harold Maass
Winners of the 2019 Nobel prize in economics


Report: China wants more talks before signing trade pact

China wants to hold more talks with the U.S. before signing the first phase of an agreement toward ending the 15-month trade war between the world's two largest economies, Bloomberg News reported Monday, citing people familiar with the matter. The talks could take place later this month. One of the sources said Beijing wants the U.S. to cancel tariff hikes President Trump has scheduled for December, in addition to those that were planned for this week. The two sides reached an agreement in principle during last week's high-level talks to delay the next tariff hike, increase Chinese agricultural purchases, and address some concerns about foreign currency levels and intellectual property. [Bloomberg, MarketWatch]


3 share Nobel economics prize for work on alleviating poverty

Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer won the Nobel Prize in economics "for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced on Monday. The committee said the winners' research "involves dividing this issue into smaller, more manageable, questions — for example, the most effective interventions for improving educational outcomes or child health." Kremer and his colleagues used field experiments in the 1990s to test interventions on improving school results in Kenya. Banerjee and Duflo, who are married and work at MIT, followed with similar research in other countries, often working with Harvard's Kremer. "Our approach is to unpack the problems one by one, and examine them as scientifically as possible," said Duflo, the second woman and the youngest person to win the prize. [The Guardian, The Associated Press]


Mack Truck workers launch strike demanding better pay and job security

About 3,500 Mack Truck workers launched a strike at factories in three states on Sunday. The strike, the first of its kind in decades, started at a Macungie, Pennsylvania, plant the company describes as the place where "every Mack truck built for the North American market gets its start." The striking United Automobile Workers union members are seeking better wages and benefits and other demands similar to those of fellow UAW members striking against General Motors. "One of the biggest issues for us is the job security," said Walter Smith, president of the local union representing Pennsylvania workers. [The Associated Press]


Stocks struggle as trade concerns linger despite partial deal

U.S. stock index futures edged down early Monday after a report that China wants more talks before signing phase one of its proposed trade deal with the U.S. Stocks surged on Friday after President Trump announced that the U.S. and China had reached a partial deal toward ending their 15-month trade war. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq all closed up by more than 1 percent on Friday. The proposed agreement covers purchases of agricultural products, currency issues, and some intellectual property protections. U.S. bond markets will be closed Monday for the Columbus Day holiday. [CNBC]


Joker leads the domestic box office for 2nd week

Joker held onto the top spot at the domestic box office for the second straight weekend. The R-rated film about the backstory of the Batman villain added $55 million to bring its North American domestic total to $192.7 million. It beat out newcomers that included The Addams Family and Gemini Man, which stars Will Smith. The R-rated Joker's ticket sales set an October record in its debut weekend, and fell by just 43 percent its second weekend, compared to the more than 50 percent drop-off typical of comic-book films. "These are incredible numbers and really reflect how interested and excited people were," said Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. [The Associated Press]