The daily business briefing: July 11, 2018

Harold Maass
A Pfizer sign in Massachusetts
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Trump administration announces tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods

The Trump administration said Tuesday that it would impose 10 percent tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese imports unless Beijing changes its trade practices, dramatically escalating President Trump's trade war with China. The levies, which won't take effect until after a two-month review period, will cover products from food items to tobacco, coal, and electronics. "For over a year, the Trump administration has patiently urged China to stop its unfair practices, open its market, and engage in true market competition," U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said, adding that Beijing had responded with hostility to America's "legitimate concerns." China called the new tariffs "totally unacceptable," and vowed to retaliate, as it did when the U.S. recently hit China with 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion in annual Chinese imports. [Reuters, The New York Times]


Pfizer delays drug price hikes after pressure from Trump

President Trump tweeted on Tuesday that drugmaker Pfizer is "rolling back price hikes, so American patients don't pay more," saying he and Health Secretary Alex Azar just discussed costs with Pfizer CEO Ian Read. Pfizer confirmed that it had agreed to delay price increases that took effect July 1 "to give the president an opportunity to work on his blueprint to strengthen the health-care system." On Monday, Trump tweeted that "Pfizer & others should be ashamed that they have raised drug prices for no reason. They are merely taking advantage of the poor & others unable to defend themselves." [The Associated Press]


Murdoch's Fox hikes bid for Sky

Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox raised its offer for Britain's Sky to value the pay-TV group at $32.5 billion, a 12 percent premium on rival bidder Comcast's proposal. Fox is now offering 14 pounds per share, still under the 14.8 pounds Sky shares traded at on Wednesday. Murdoch already owns 39 percent of Sky, and his company has been trying to buy the rest since December 2016. Comcast jumped in with a higher offer in February, forcing Sky's independent directors to back away from their original recommendation that shareholders take Fox's offer. The latest bid is "good for shareholders and will probably be followed by another Comcast offer," consultant Claire Enders said. [Reuters]


Trump administration cuts grants that help people get ACA coverage

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Tuesday that it is ending most grants for grassroots organizations that assist Americans signing up for Affordable Care Act insurance. Last summer, aid was reduced by 41 percent to $36.8 million, and this new reduction lowers the amount of money going to these groups, called navigators, to $10 million for the enrollment period starting in November. The Trump administration is now urging navigators to also steer people toward health plans that work around ACA's consumer protections. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the grants are ineffective because the federal insurance exchange "has grown in visibility" and "become more familiar to Americans seeking health insurance." [The Washington Post]


Renewed trade tensions drag down stocks

U.S. stock futures dropped sharply early Wednesday after the Trump administration said it would impose 10 percent tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese goods. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by as much as 1.1 percent, while those of the S&P 500 dropped by as much as 1 percent. President Trump had been threatening to hit China with the new tariffs, even suggesting he could eventually target more than $500 billion in imports from China, or roughly everything it exported to the U.S. last year. Stocks in Asia also plunged. Shanghai markets were hit hardest, declining 2 percent. [MarketWatch, Bloomberg]