The Week in Business: A Surprise Tariff War, and the Future of iPhone Screens

Want this column in your inbox? Sign up here.

Happy June! And sorry about your stock portfolio, which probably isn’t looking too hot after President Trump’s latest tariff threats. Here’s what you need to know about the week’s business news.

MAY 26-june 1

Uber has taken some knocks lately. Less than a month after the ride-hailing company’s lukewarm initial public offering, its shares have fallen more than 10 percent. And according to its first-quarter earnings report, released on Thursday, Uber is seeing its slowest growth in years and lost more than $1 billion so far in 2019. But it still won’t tolerate rudeness. Uber also announced that riders with “significantly below average” ratings (yes, the rating system goes both ways) will get thrown off the app. (The announcement came after a Lyft passenger was caught on camera attacking a driver for not going faster.) It’s unclear how bad a rating would merit expulsion, but Uber says riders will get a couple of warnings before they’re officially banned.

It’s a rough world out there for car manufacturers, what with all these tariffs and ride-sharing apps flying around, so why not band together? At least that’s what Fiat Chrysler’s chairman might have been thinking when he officially invited Renault to merge with his company last Monday after several weeks of private talks. The trans-Atlantic coupling would create the world’s third-largest automaker, second only to Toyota and Volkswagen. The elephant in the room? That would be Nissan, Renault’s formal partner. The companies’ relationship has frayed since Nissan’s chairman, Carlos Ghosn, was arrested last year. If they can all mend fences, the resulting juggernaut would be the world’s largest car manufacturer by a wide margin, and force other players in the industry to rethink their business strategies.

As of this week, one less group may have cause to complain about their terrible parental leave policy. JPMorgan Chase reached a tentative settlement with a father who sued the bank for denying him the 16 weeks of paid leave that it offers to new mothers. The bank also agreed to create a $5 million fund to compensate up to about 5,000 dads who were shortchanged in the past. The case sets an important legal precedent for corporate parental-leave policies to become more gender neutral.

JUNE 2-8

Inexplicably, given the state of his trade war with China, Mr. Trump has decided to replicate the same tariff tactic with another major trade partner. He threatened Mexico on Thursday with 5 percent tariffs on all goods unless its government stops the flow of illegal immigrants across the border with the United States. Those tariffs are set to take effect on June 10 and would gradually increase by 5 percent increments until they reach 25 percent — unless undocumented immigrants stop coming. An across-the-board tax of this nature could be extremely damaging for both American consumers and businesses, many of which are already hurting from the trade dispute with China. Stock up on avocados while you still can.

Apple will hold its annual Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, which is basically like Fashion Week for software nerds. Expect a lot of technobabble about complex new features for its products. But for the average Apple consumer (which is to say, an iPhone owner), all you need to know is “dark mode.” That’s the name of a trend toward making black space more dominant on screens’ backgrounds, which helps save battery life and cuts down on the amount of bright light beaming into your retinas when you should probably be going to bed or, hey, looking at other humans.

President Trump will pay a state visit this week to London, where he’ll meet with the soon-to-be-former prime minister, Theresa May. That could be awkward, considering Donald Trump Jr.’s past remarks about Ms. May — but what hasn’t she heard at this point? She is stepping down as the leader of the Conservative Party this Friday, admitting defeat in her dogged attempts to forge a Brexit plan with Parliament. Her successors are already lining up, but to what end? The failure of Britain’s government to withdraw from the European Union by the deadline has so bruised the country’s economy that new leadership is too little, too late.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized Facebook for “lying to the public” after a doctored video that made her appear drunk was spread on its platform. Meanwhile, the robots really are winning: Artificial intelligence can now outsmart humans at capture the flag and other multiplayer games. And elsewhere, a new report shows that the 2017 tax cuts didn’t really stimulate the economy. They definitely didn’t pay for themselves, either.

Source link