US-China Trade Talks End With No Breakthrough

U.S. and Chinese negotiators ended two days of meetings Thursday without breaking a deadlock over trade that has unnerved financial markets and disrupted global commerce.

The delegations “exchanged views on how to achieve fairness, balance and reciprocity in the economic relationship,” Lindsay Walters, a White House spokeswoman, said in a statement. She did not mention further talks.

A Chinese Commerce Ministry statement said the talks were “constructive and frank” but gave no details. It said the two sides would “maintain contact.”

The dispute over China’s high-tech industrial policy escalated Thursday as the Trump administration and Beijing imposed taxes on an additional $16 billion of each other’s goods. The administration last month had slapped tariffs on an initial $34 billion in Chinese products, and Beijing responded in kind.

The Trump team is preparing tariffs on $200 billion more of Chinese products, and China has vowed to counterpunch by targeting $60 billion in American goods.

The U.S.-China talks this week were the first since discussions in June failed to produce any agreement.

The Trump administration accuses China of using predatory tactics to obtain American technology, including forcing U.S. companies to hand over trade secrets in exchange for access to the Chinese market.

Cigna, Express Scripts Shareholders Vote for Planned Combo

Cigna shareholders are backing the insurer’s planned takeover of pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts, a deal that activist investor Carl Icahn had urged them to reject earlier this month.

Cigna says about 90 percent of votes cast on Friday were in favor of the roughly $52-billion deal, which also received broad approval from Express Scripts shareholders.

Icahn had warned shareholders in an open letter that Cigna Corp. was paying too much for St. Louis-based Express Scripts Holding Co. But other shareholders and the proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services backed the acquisition plan, which was announced earlier this year.

The deal still needs regulatory approval. Bloomfield, Connecticut-based Cigna expects to close it by the end of the year.

Shares of both companies advanced slightly with broader markets in midday trading.

Senate Backs $854B Bill to Fund Health, Education, Military

The Senate has approved an $854 billion measure that funds much of the government, including $675 billion for the Defense Department.

The bill combines military spending with disbursements for Health and Human Services, Education, Labor and other agencies.

The bill was approved, 85-7, and now heads to the House.

With the vote, the Senate has passed nine of the 12 mandatory spending bills for the budget year that begins Oct. 1. That’s a marked departure from recent years when individual spending measures were routinely ignored in favor of giant spending packages that fund the entire government.

The Senate had not passed a labor/health spending bill in more than a decade.

The bill boosts military pay by 2.6 percent and the National Institutes of Health by 5 percent.

Brexit Backers Criticize UK Treasury Chief on Warnings

Britain’s Treasury chief has been accused of reinitiating “dodgy project fear” after he repeated warnings that there would be significant consequences for the economy if the U.K. leaves the European Union without an agreement on future relations.

Philip Hammond’s Conservative Party colleagues launched scathing attacks Friday after he told a parliamentary committee that a “no deal” Brexit could reduce gross domestic product by 7.7 percent over 15 years and boost borrowing costs by 80 billion pounds ($103 billion) annually.

Lawmaker Marcus Fysh says in a tweet that the analysis is “sub standard” and “nothing but scaremongering.”

Hammond’s comments came after Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab on Thursday released a series of papers that downplayed the long-term risks of a no-deal Brexit and focused on a “potential short-term disruption.”

L.L. Bean Donating $3M to National Parks Foundation

L.L. Bean is providing $3 million to the National Park Foundation’s effort to encourage people to get outside and explore some of the more than 400 national parks.

It’s called the “Find Your Park” initiative. L.L. Bean’s great-grandson, Chairman Shawn Gorman, said the partnership makes perfect sense because both organizations are committed to getting people outdoors.

Bean last year launched its “Be an Outsider” campaign that focuses on getting back to the company’s outdoor roots. Executives said at the time that involved a re-examination of all facets of operations, including corporate giving.

Spokesman Mac McKeever said the donation will be made in annual installments over three years. It’s on top of a $1 million donation to the park foundation in 2012.

US Durable Goods Orders Fell 1.7% in July

Orders for long-lasting U.S. factory goods fell 1.7 percent in July, the third decrease in the past four months.

The Commerce Department says that durable goods orders — items meant to last at least three years such as autos and appliances — totaled $246.9 billion last month. Much of that decline came from a steep 35.4 percent drop in orders for nondefense aircraft, a volatile category on a monthly basis.

For most of 2018, manufacturing has been a source of strength with durable goods orders increasing 8.6 percent year-to-date. Excluding aircraft and non-military goods, orders rose 1.4 percent in July, a positive sign for the economy.

Still, U.S. trade showdowns with China, the European Union, Canada and Mexico have left many manufacturers feeling uncertain about their futures.

Gap Fiscal 2Q Earnings Snapshot Nearly Hit $300M

Gap Inc. (GPS) on Thursday reported fiscal second-quarter profit of $297 million.

The San Francisco-based company said it had profit of 76 cents per share.

The results exceeded Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 12 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 72 cents per share.

The clothing chain posted revenue of $4.09 billion in the period, which also topped Street forecasts. Nine analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $3.98 billion.

Gap expects full-year earnings to be $2.55 to $2.70 per share.

Gap shares have fallen nearly 5 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has increased almost 7 percent. In the final minutes of trading on Thursday, shares hit $32.46, an increase of 40 percent in the last 12 months.

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