Business Briefs – December 12, 2019

U.S. and China Near Deal That Would Suspend Planned Tariffs

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Trump administration and China are close to finalizing a modest trade agreement that would suspend tariffs set to kick Sunday, deescalating their 17-month trade war. “We’re close to a deal,’’ says Myron Brilliant, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s head of international affairs, who has been briefed by both sides. Brilliant says the United States has agreed to suspend plans to raise tariffs on $160 billion in Chinese imports Sunday and to reduce existing tariffs — though the amount of the cut was not clear. In return, the Chinese would buy more U.S. farm products, increase Americans firms’ access to the Chinese market and beef up protection for intellectual property rights.

Europe’s New Central Banker Aims To Put Her Stamp on The Job

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Christine Lagarde is wasting no time in putting her stamp on the European Central Bank. The bank’s new president said at her first news conference Thursday that she will lead a review of how the institution sets monetary policy. That will look at everything from how it defines success in fighting inflation to whether it can play a role the fight against global warming. She said the policy review will “turn each and every stone.” It will start in January and finish by the end of 2020. Lagarde spoke after the ECB left unchanged its key interest rates and its monetary stimulus package.

Boeing Executives Meet with Head Of FAA Over Grounded Plane

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two top Boeing executives met Thursday with Federal Aviation Administration chief Stephen Dickson amid signs of further delays in the return of the grounded 737 Max.

In an email to key congressional committees, the FAA said Dickson is instructing agency safety experts to take as long as they need to review changes Boeing is making to the plane after two fatal crashes.

Boeing, meanwhile, struck an upbeat tone in describing the meeting.

CEO Dennis Muilenburg and the new head of Boeing’s commercial airplanes business, Stanley Deal, “had a productive meeting” with Dickson and FAA Deputy Administrator Daniell Elwell, said Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

In related news, Southwest Airlines will share about $125 million with its employees after reaching a partial settlement with Boeing over damages from the grounding of the airplane maker’s 737 Max.

Saudi Aramco Inches Near $2 Trillion in Day 2 of Trading

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Shares in Saudi Aramco rose 4.5% on the second day of trading. That propelled the oil and gas company to a value of nearly $2 trillion, where it holds the title of the world’s most valuable company. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had sought a $2 trillion valuation for Aramco when he first announced plans three years ago to sell a sliver of the state-owned company. Aramco sold 1.5% of its shares to mostly Saudi investors and funds on the local Tadawul exchange, with shares trading on Thursday at over 38 Saudi riyals, or above $10. The market closed with share prices settling at 36.8 riyals, or $9.81 a share.

U.S. Long-Term Mortgage Rates Rise; 30-Year Loan at 3.73%

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. long-term mortgage rates rose this week. Still, rates remain at historically low levels as a lure to prospective homebuyers. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased to 3.73% from 3.68% last week. The average rate on a 15-year mortgage rose to 3.19% from 3.14%. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve left its key short-term rate in a low range of 1.5% to 1.75% after having reduced it three times this year. With the Fed’s key rate likely to stay where it is, consumers interested in buying a home or car should continue to enjoy low borrowing costs.

Wholesale Prices Unchanged In November as Energy Prices Cool

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. wholesale prices were unchanged in November as the rise in energy costs slowed following a big gain in the previous month.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the flat reading in November on its producer price index, which measures inflation pressures before they reach the consumer, followed a sizable 0.4% increase in October which had been driven by a surge in energy costs.

Energy costs in November were up 0.6% after a much bigger 2.8% jump in October. Food costs rose 1.1 percent, the second month of sizable increases, with the November gain led by an 80.5% jump in egg prices, the biggest increase in more than four years.