Business Briefs – June 21, 2018

Trump Jabbed First, and Now World Hits Back in Trade Fight

WASHINGTON (AP) – The European Union is set Friday to slap tariffs on $3.4 billion in American products, from whiskey and motorcycles to peanuts and cranberries. India and Turkey have already targeted U.S. products, from rice to autos to sunscreen. And in two weeks, the United States is to start taxing $34 billion in Chinese goods. Beijing has vowed to retaliate with its own tariffs on U.S. soybeans and other farm products in a direct shot at President Donald Trump’s supporters in America’s heartland.

Fed Finds Biggest U.S. Banks Strong Enough to Survive Shock

WASHINGTON (AP) – All of the 35 largest U.S. banks are fortified enough to survive an economic shock and keep on lending, the Federal Reserve reported Thursday. Banks’ losses from credit cards increased in the latest “stress tests,” however. The first round of the central bank’s annual “stress tests” showed Thursday that as a group, the 35 big banks have benefited from a steadily recovering economy to gain strength and build up capital buffers against unexpected losses. It was the eighth annual checkup for banks.

OPEC Enters Meeting That Could Set Direction of Oil Prices

DALLAS (AP) – OPEC and Russia are expected to approve raising oil production, but just how much is up in the air. The meeting comes as President Donald Trump calls prices too high, and blames the cartel. Crude prices have risen about 50 percent since OPEC and its allies agreed to cap output as of 2017.

California Utility Expects to Pay $2.5 Billion for Wildfires

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – A Northern California utility says it expects to pay at least $2.5 billion in connection with deadly wildfires that whipped through wine country last October. State officials have found that downed power lines owned by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. started several of the blazes. PG&E warned Thursday that its liability could be much higher after California determines the cause of all the fires, which killed 44 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses.

Tariffs Stir Unrest Among American Whiskey Producers

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – American distilleries have watched warily as the threat of tariffs from Europe ratcheted up in recent weeks. While larger, corporate-owned facilities tend to do the most business overseas, small and mid-sized companies could be especially vulnerable to a trade war. With the European Union moving to slap tariffs on whiskey and other products on Friday, companies such as Catoctin Creek Distillery in Virginia fear that an extended trade war could do irreparable harm.

U.S. Long-Term Mortgage Rates Fall; 30-Year at 4.57 Percent

WASHINGTON (AP) – Long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week, marking their third decline in the past four weeks after increasing last week. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages was 4.57 percent, down from 4.62 percent last week. By contrast, the 30-year rate averaged 3.90 percent a year ago. Long-term loan rates have been running at their highest levels in seven years. The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans eased to 4.04 percent from 4.07 percent last week.

Water Balloon Slingshots Top List of Unsafe Summer Toys

BOSTON (AP) – A Boston-based consumer watchdog group has warned of the dangers to children of water balloon slingshots, lawn darts and other summer toys.

Those playthings top a list of 10 questionable toys issued Thursday by World Against Toys Causing Harm, better known by its acronym, W.A.T.C.H.

Others include low-riding wheeled toys; swimming pools; all-terrain vehicles; toys with small parts; baby pools and garden buckets; backyard water slides; high-powered water guns; and bounce houses and backyard trampolines.

The group says more than 2.5 million American children are injured each summer.

EU Says Tax on Harleys Aimed to ‘Make Noise’ in Trade Debate

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said Thursday that the grouping has targeted some iconic American imports like Harley-Davidson motorcycles and bourbon for tariffs in hopes it will put pressure on U.S. leaders amid a trade dispute.

The EU announced this week it would begin taxing U.S. imports worth about $3.4 billion from Friday, in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to put tariffs on European steel and aluminum. Other goods the EU will tax include jeans, peanut butter, orange juice and cranberries.