Business Briefs – February 5, 2019

A Hill of Beans: Soybeans Upstage Trade Talks

WASHINGTON (AP) — The outsize importance of soybeans — mostly used as animal feed but also consumed by humans in everything from General Tso’s Tofu to soy lattes — was apparent once again recently in two days of U.S.-China trade talks.

The world’s two biggest economies didn’t make much progress on their differences over the aggressive tactics — including cybertheft — that Beijing is allegedly using to challenge U.S. supremacy in cutting-edge industries like driverless cars and artificial intelligence.

But to the president’s delight, they did agree on one thing: In an unexpected deal that even surprised the top U.S. trade negotiator, China said that it would buy 5 million metric tons of American soybeans over an unspecified period.

“China as a sign of goodwill has agreed to purchase a tremendous, massive amount of soybeans,” Trump told reporters.

Retail Group Forecasts Solid Retail Sales Growth for 2019

NEW YORK (AP) — The National Retail Federation is forecasting that retail sales could increase from 3.8 percent to 4.4 percent, to more than $3.8 trillion this year, as shoppers remain in a mood to spend in a strong economy. The forecast is nearly in line with the 4.6 percent gain the nation’s largest retail trade group estimated for 2018. Reports on 2018 were delayed because of the government shutdown.

Heavy Duty: Detroit 3 All Roll Out Biggest Pickups This Year

DETROIT (AP) — All three Detroit automakers are rolling out new heavy-duty pickup trucks this year, courting buyers who tow heavy trailers for work or recreation. The introductions are sure to spark claims about horsepower, torque, towing capacity and payload hauling. Pickups from Detroit were the three top-selling vehicles in the U.S. last year, totaling more than 2 million in sales. Heavy-duty versions, with bigger frames, beds, interiors and engines make up about 30 percent of that.

UK Prime Minister Vows No Return To Hard Border With Ireland

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May has told business leaders in Northern Ireland that she is seeking changes to the U.K.’s withdrawal agreement with the European Union, but not the total removal of the Irish border provision that is the most contentious part of the deal. May has said during a visit to Belfast that the British government is committed to preventing the construction of a physical border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland after Britain leaves the EU.