Trade: U.S. takes hard line at G-20 meeting
President Trump’s “America First” foreign policy is already shaking up the global consensus on trade, said Jack Ewing in The New York Times. At last week’s Group of 20 meeting of international finance ministers and central bankers, the U.S. rejected language in the body’s traditional joint statement that would have condemned protectionism—“repudiating decades of free trade doctrine.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, attending his first major international gathering, apparently started the closed-door meeting by telling ministers that existing trade deals are unfair to the U.S. and could be renegotiated—a sign that the Trump administration is serious about fulfilling the president’s campaign promises.
“Investors should start to take the possibility of higher trade tensions more seriously,” said Anjani Trivedi in The Wall Street Journal. So far, markets have mostly ignored the tough trade rhetoric coming out of Washington, but Mnuchin sent an unambiguous message to the G-20 that its anti-protectionist stance “wasn’t relevant anymore.” The word “trade” was mentioned just twice in this G-20’s communiqué, down from 40 at the group’s last gathering, six months ago. Protectionism looks increasingly ascendant around the world. Some 2,200 antitrade measures, like higher tariffs and industry subsidies, are now in place globally, a fourfold increase since 2010, according to the World Trade Organization.
Tech: Executives flee Uber
Uber’s president is leaving the controversy-battered company, said Steven Overly in The Washington Post. Jeff Jones announced his departure this week after just six months at the firm. It’s the “latest sign of tumult” at the ride-hailing service, which has faced allegations of widespread sexual harassment and intellectual property theft. Jones told news site Recode .net that the beliefs that have guided his career “are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber.” Jones’ departure comes amid a “larger exodus of executives” at Uber, including several vice presidents.
Markets: Trump rally hits a speed bump
U.S. stocks suffered their worst losses since the election this week amid fears that President Trump’s agenda is stalling in Congress, said Paul La Monica in CNN.com. The Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 fell more than 1 percent early in the week. Neither index had ended a day “with a 1 percent drop since mid-October.” Stocks have soared since the election, spurred by Trump’s promises of big tax cuts and less regulation. But with Republicans’ Obamacare replacement in jeopardy, investors are now wondering “how quickly things can actually get done in Washington.”
Economy: Home construction surges
February was the strongest month for homebuilding in nearly a decade, with unseasonably warm weather and a strong job market boosting construction, said Lucia Mutikani in Reuters.com. Housing starts for single-family homes, the largest part of the residential housing market, increased 6.5 percent to an annualized rate of 872,000 units, “the highest level since October 2007.” Additionally, homebuilder confidence jumped in March to its highest level since June 2005. But that’s “unlikely to translate into a homebuilding boom,” with builders complaining about rising mortgage rates and labor shortages.
Tech: Google bows to advertising boycott
Google is pledging to overhaul its advertising policies in response to an advertiser boycott, said Jessica Guynn in USA Today. The tech giant was recently “read the riot act” by British officials after it emerged that U.K. government ads had “appeared alongside YouTube videos of U.S. white supremacists and Islamist hate mongers.” The revelation led major brands, including Toyota, L’Oréal, and Volkswagen, to boycott Google and demand that the firm do more to keep their ads away from offensive content. Google said this week it would pull online ads from controversial content and deploy more people to enforce its ad policies.