Good Friday morning. Here’s what we’re watching today:
• The Trump tariffs have many exceptions.
• Could Peter Navarro replace Gary Cohn?
• Cigna’s quest to become more than a health insurer.
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President Trump authorized tariffs on imported steel and aluminum yesterday, defying allies and Republicans alike. But as Peter Eavis notes, the presence of exemptions for Canada and Mexico show more wiggle room than expected:
And Neil Irwin of the Upshot reckons that while we’re seeing a trade skirmish, it won’t necessarily become a trade war. (He also thinks it’s partly a negotiating tactic in the Nafta talks.) That hasn’t stopped trade partners protesting. And in its lead editorial, The Economist wrote, “Not since its inception at the end of the second world war has the global trading system faced such danger.”
The other China trade story: Mr. Trump tweeted that he has asked Beijing to reduce its trade deficit with the U.S. by $1 billion, adding, “We must act soon!” Elon Musk subsequently beseeched him on Twitter to tackle China’s restrictions on auto imports.
The trade flyaround
• U.S. allies like Canada and Japan signed what was long known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, thumbing their noses at the White House. (NYT)
• History belies Mr. Trump’s assertion that “trade wars are good, and easy to win,” Jim Stewart says. (NYT)
• Maybe we should worry less about the tariffs and more about the White House’s inquiry into Chinese intellectual property policy. (Breakingviews)
The policy adviser who pushed the tariffs wants to become the new national economic adviser — scarily for pro-free-trade business leaders and Mr. Cohn’s dwindling cohort in the Trump administration.
More from Jonathan Swan of Axios:
Mr. Navarro isn’t in the lead — other candidates include a top lieutenant to Mr. Cohn, Shahira Knight — but can’t be counted out.
The politics flyaround
• The president has threatened to veto a spending bill if it funds the Gateway tunnel between New York and New Jersey that he opposes, potentially leading to another government shutdown, unnamed sources say. (Politico)
• The recent tax overhaul won’t pay for itself, according to Harvard economists. (WSJ)
• The lawsuit against President Trump by the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels raises the possibility of the president needing to testify and could show evidence of campaign finance violations. (NYT)
• Elizabeth Warren has written to Citigroup and Apollo asking for details about loans to Kushner Companies just after Jared Kushner joined the White House. (Politico)
Behind Cigna’s $67 billion (with debt) acquisition of Express Scripts is the idea that health insurance on its own is a challenged business. The C.E.O.s of the two companies said the union would help lower costs. But it’s also meant to help Cigna counter both UnitedHealth, the giant of the industry, and a combined CVS and Aetna.
There’s skepticism: Cigna’s shares fell 11 percent yesterday. Matthew Borsch of BMO Capital Markets said that investors had hoped the insurer would buy something other than a business “under pressure, under scrutiny and to some degree in decline.”
About that pressure: The F.D.A. has shown interest in lack of competition among drug benefits managers. David Balto, an antitrust expert, told the NYT, “History has shown where there are multiple mergers going on in a single industry, the Justice Department goes on high alert.”
Critics’ corner: Charley Grant of Heard on the Street writes, “Cigna has increased its vulnerability to industry changes rather than reduced it.” And Lex says of Express Scripts’ industry, “Like Seth Rogen comedies, they are a U.S. institution whose utility eludes other nations.”
The deals flyaround
• Toys “R” Us, yet to find a buyer, is preparing to liquidate its U.S. operations, unnamed sources say. (Bloomberg)
• Shell and the Blackstone Group are in talks to make a $10 billion bid for BHP Billiton’s U.S. shale assets, according to unnamed sources. (Sky News)
• Atlantia of Italy and ACS of Spain are in talks over a joint bid for Abertis, avoiding a potential bidding war. (FT)
• FanDuel is in talks to go public by merging with a blank-check company, Platinum Eagle Acquisition, unnamed sources say. (Axios)
• McAfee is buying TunnelBear, a VPN services provider. (TechCrunch)
• Before joining the White House, Jared Kushner held talks to sell the New York Observer to two big Democratic supporters, David Brock and the media mogul Haim Saban, unnamed sources say. (BuzzFeed)
That’s according to an M.I.T. study that tracked the spread of both verifiably true and fake stories on Twitter, and found that “falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information.”
The caveat, per Steve Lohr of the NYT:
Elsewhere in social media: How Russian trolls slid into the private Facebook messages of Trump campaign aides. Rules to limit foreign meddling in U.S. elections may not take effect before this year’s midterms. Sri Lanka is trying to block Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram to stop anti-Muslim violence. And could Mr. Trump be obliged to mute critics on Twitter instead of blocking them?
The tech flyaround
• Uber is pitching potential investors today on a $1.25 billion loan, unnamed sources say. (Bloomberg)
• Meet Missouri’s attorney general, Josh Hawley, who has subpoenaed Alphabet as part of an inquiry into potential violations of the state’s consumer protection law. (Bloomberg)
• What happens when Bitcoin miners come to your town. (Politico)
• Japan suspended trading on the exchanges FSHO and Bit Station amid concern about consumer protections. (WSJ)
• Mr. Trump held a heated debate on whether violent video games can be connected to mass violence, but didn’t indicate where he stood. (NYT)
The former president is in talks to create exclusive content for the streaming giant, though they haven’t figured out how many episodes to do, according to the NYT. He’s also drawn interest from Apple and Amazon.
• How much would Netflix pay? Remember that it gave the showrunner Ryan Murphy $300 million for a five-year content deal. The Obamas already signed book deals reportedly worth $60 million.
• While Mr. Obama doesn’t intend to take on his successor directly, will his likely choice of topics — like health care, immigration, voting rights — be seen as a counter to President Trump anyway?
Elsewhere in media: The actor and producer Michael B. Jordan will adopt the use of “inclusion riders” in his production company’s projects. Disney will add a live-action “Star Wars” series to its forthcoming streaming service, to be directed by Jon Favreau. And Disney shareholders voted down a nonbinding endorsement of Bob Iger’s pay package.
While the now nine-year-old bull market may still have some legs — even if it isn’t likely to top last year’s performance — there’s more for investors be anxious of. Not so for traders.
More from Landon Thomas of the NYT:
A side note: Worried about the markets’ movements? You might need a hug.
And Peter Eavis wonders: What happens when the bond market and the Fed disagree? It’s a bit like seeing the economy’s parents fight, he says.
Bringing back the former White House adviser after her recent tour of duty in Washington, Lloyd Blankfein reckoned, would help the firm navigate the Trump presidency and win big clients worldwide.
But her forthcoming position on the management committee has rankled some senior executives, according to Bloomberg:
• Tesla’s chief accounting officer, Eric Branderiz, is the latest executive to leave. (Bloomberg)
• Uber’s head of product, Daniel Graf, is leaving. He’ll be replaced by Assaf Ronen, who most recently led Amazon’s voice shopping (“Alexa, buy stuff”) team. (Recode)
• Twitter named Parag Agrawal as its chief technology officer. (CNBC)
• Cory Johnson has left Bloomberg TV to become Ripple’s chief market strategist. (CNBC)
• The N.M.E., once Britain’s most important music newspaper and a taste maker on both sides of the Atlantic, has put out its last print edition after 66 years. (NYT)
• Institutional Shareholders Services opposed Elon Musk’s $2.6 billion compensation package. (FT)
• The E.C.B. held interest rates steady, but dropped its promise to ramp economic stimulus back up “if the outlook becomes less favorable.” (NYT)
• Helmut Maucher, who worked his way up from a factory job to become the C.E.O. who made Nestlé the world’s largest food company, died on Monday. (NYT)
• G.M. faces the prospect of a potential $1 billion stock payout to address claims stemming from its ignition switch crisis. (WSJ)
• Lehman Brothers caused $2.4 billion in damages to investors holding securities backed by shaky home mortgages, a New York bankruptcy judge ruled in one of the last remaining disputes in the defunct bank’s nearly decade-long liquidation. (WSJ)
• Merrill Lynch agreed Thursday to pay $1.4 million to settle S.E.C. allegations that it didn’t do enough to investigate red flags at a Chinese company whose unregistered securities it sold. (WSJ)
• Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, said that doctors and hospitals should tell patients how much their care before treating them. (NYT)
• Congress is on track to order credit-reporting companies to let consumers freeze their data free of charge. (WSJ)
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