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Trade talks: Still far from a resolution
High-level delegates from Beijing and Washington are meeting near the White House today for the first of two days of trade talks, but appear to have a great distance left to bridge.
Each government has reason to play nice. Evidence is mounting that reciprocal tariffs are hurting both sides, and global markets have been skittish while awaiting a deal.
But there are signs that China is unwilling to bend on key U.S. demands involving intellectual property and technology transfer, even as its lawmakers accelerated a vote on legislation addressing foreign investors’ concerns.
A pair of indictments revealed earlier this week against the Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei could complicate the discussions, as could disagreements over strategy within the Trump administration’s team.
Other factors include:
Weakness in the Chinese economy. At least 20 companies reported yesterday that their 2018 earnings would fall short of expectations. The Chongqing Changan Automobile Company, Ford Motor’s primary partner in China, warned of a profit slump of as much as 93 percent last year. China Life Insurance said its net income may have fallen as much as 70 percent. And Chinese exporters suffered a sluggish start to 2019.
Slowing Chinese investment abroad. Net purchases of U.S. commercial real estate by Chinese companies — big buyers earlier in the decade — have slipped to their lowest level since 2012.
Worries to the west. The motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson said that tariffs — along with other shifts in its business — left it barely breaking even in the final quarter of 2018. In the European Union, there are concerns whatever happens: If China and the U.S. reach a deal, Mr. Trump might turn his attention to German cars and French wines. If not, China might dump discounted goods into the European market. “We are next in the queue,” said William De Vijlder, the chief economist at BNP Paribas.
Today’s DealBook Briefing was written by Andrew Ross Sorkin and Stephen Grocer in New York, and Tiffany Hsu and Gregory Schmidt in Paris.
Diverging views on the economy
The Trump administration’s growth forecast is much rosier than those of economists at the Federal Reserve and elsewhere, who warn that growth is slowing and put some of the blame on the government, writes the NYT’s Jim Tankersley.
President Trump’s team has predicted that inflation-adjusted growth will average 3 percent through 2024. Kevin Hassett, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said Mr. Trump’s tax and trade policies were working as expected:
“Last year looked just like we thought, so we don’t think, going into our next forecast, that there’s a heck of a lot of reason to change our mind about things.”
An exceptional year: Growth appears to have exceeded 3 percent in 2018, the first time it has done so in a decade. But many economists attribute that to a burst of fiscal stimulus that isn’t expected to be repeated.
Growing consensus: The Congressional Budget Office predicted that growth would slow to 2.3 percent this year and then to 1.7 percent in 2020. Economists at the Fed also forecast 2.3 percent growth this year. Some corporate financial executives are bracing for a recession.
More Fed news: Jerome Powell, the Fed chairman, has taken a conversational tone in public comments, but the markets didn’t understand. Investors face three outcomes if the Fed is done raising interest rates, and none of them are good.
PG&E bankruptcy: What happens next?
Pacific Gas and Electric filed for a corporate reorganization on Tuesday that “is shaping up to be one of the most complicated and difficult in recent years,” writes Ivan Penn.
Facing tens of billions of dollars in claims related to 17 major wildfires in California in 2017, with its equipment under investigation in several other blazes last year, PG&E decided to declare bankruptcy despite having a stable income stream and several offers of financing.
Now creditors and suppliers of the state’s largest utility will face off against California officials and fire victims to be paid, while renewable energy companies and climate change activists jockey for position. Lawyers, bankers and consultants are likely to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in fees.
This is PG&E’s second bankruptcy in less than 20 years; the first came after California tried to deregulate utilities. Dan Reicher, who was an assistant energy secretary in the Clinton administration, called it “a real mess,” adding:
“It comes down to lots of needs: Take care of the fire victims, keep the lights on, ensure progress on climate change and protect ratepayers. That’s at least a partial list.”
Roger Lynch will step down as chief executive of Pandora, the company announced, after stockholders approved a $3.5 billion acquisition by SiriusXM. (Billboard)
John Startin will join Evercore in April as a senior managing director in the advisory practice of its investment banking business, moving from Goldman Sachs. (Evercore)
JPMorgan Chase has overhauled its deal-making team in London, switching its heads of mergers and acquisitions in the region. (Financial News)
The speed read
• Pinterest is said to have hired Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase to advise on an initial public offering. (FT)
• The video game retailer GameStop has pulled the plug on plans to sell itself because of a lack of available financing for potential buyers. (FT)
• Governments of Arab monarchies in the Gulf are engineering ways to stay competitive, prompting a wave of consolidations. (Bloomberg)
• NIO, a Chinese electric-car maker, is seeking to raise $650 million through a five-year convertible bond. (Reuters)
• Under pressure from hedge fund investors, eBay, promised pay its first dividend in March, setting it at 14 cents. (WSJ)
• India plans to tighten internet restrictions on foreign companies; Amazon, Facebook, Walmart and others have done well there. (WSJ)
• Facebook paid users to install a “Facebook Research” app that spied on their phone and web activity, an investigation found. (TechCrunch)
• Elon Musk’s corporate jet logged more than 250 flights over 150,000 miles in 2018, a year when he said Tesla was losing up to $100 million a week and teetering on the brink of collapse. (WaPo)
• Amazon is trying hard to win back public favor around the site of its planned New York campus, sending out glossy fliers, funding computer science courses at local high schools, sharing Italian food and more. (NYT)
• The tech industry has created start-ups that help landlords manage properties, homeowners manage sales and tenants manage their packages, but not much that makes housing more affordable. Here’s why. (NYT)
Politics and policy
• President Trump faces increasingly vocal disagreement from the Republican establishment over foreign policy issues, including from the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell. (NYT)
• Roger Stone, President Trump’s longtime adviser, pleaded not guilty to obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements in the special counsel investigation. (NYT)
• Democrats in Congress are examining potential connections between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a billionaire Republican donor and a Russian oligarch whose companies recently escaped U.S. sanctions. (NYT)
• David Malpass, the Treasury under secretary and a supporter of President Trump, is said to be a top contender for the World Bank presidency. (Bloomberg)
• British lawmakers narrowly voted down a proposal that could have delayed Brexit, sparing Prime Minister Theresa May another defeat. (NYT)
• The Trump administration gave control of Venezuela’s bank accounts and property in the U.S. to the opposition leader Juan Guaidó, as President Nicolás Maduro’s government reeled from American oil sanctions. (NYT)
• The House Oversight Committee and the Senate Finance Committee held hearings on Tuesday about high prices for prescription drugs and insulin. (Reuters)
Best of the rest
• Société Générale plans to cut jobs at its investment bank after trading slumped. (Bloomberg)
• A co-founder of the private equity firm Kainos Capital filed a suit claiming that her colleagues deprived her of an ownership stake. (WSJ)
• AT&T wants to be a big player in entertainment, but its DirecTV service has become a drag on business. (WSJ)
• A small stock exchange offers a peek at the profit larger competitors like the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq make from brokerage firms and banks. (WSJ)
• Rather than manufacturing advanced displays at its $10 billion Wisconsin campus, Foxconn may make it a technology center staffed mostly by engineers and researchers. (Reuters)
• Denmark’s financial regulator is proposing tough penalties to prevent a repeat of the Danske Bank money-laundering scandal. (FT)
• A collection of 248 Supreme skateboard decks were sold at Sotheby’s to a Vancouver collector for a record $800,000. (CNBC)
• Goat emojis are flooding Twitter, thanks to fans of Tom Brady. (WSJ)
Thanks for reading! We’ll see you on Thursday.
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