Business Briefs: Trump warns of steel import quotas, tariffs

Business Briefs: Trump warns of steel import quotas, tariffs

July 14th, 2017 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Trump warns of steel import quotas, tariffs

President Donald Trump is considering putting tariffs and quotas on steel imported from foreign countries.

The president says that China and other unnamed countries are dumping steel in the U.S. market. That hurts U.S. steelmakers by reducing prices, he told reporters. The comments were initially said to be off the record, but the White House decided to make them public Thursday.

"We're like a dumping ground, OK?" Trump said. "They're dumping steel and destroying our steel industry."

He says he is considering both quotas and tariffs to stop any dumping. The Commerce Department is reviewing at his request whether to impose a tariff on steel imports for national security reasons.

The U.S. imports 30 percent of the steel it consumes. Only 3 percent of steel imports come from China.

Mortgage rates up above 4 percent

Long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose this week for the second straight week. The benchmark 30-year rate surpassed the significant 4 percent level for the first time since May.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages increased to an average 4.03 percent from 3.96 percent last week. It stood at 3.42 percent a year ago and averaged a record low 3.65 percent in 2016.

The rate on 15-year, fixed-rate home loans, popular with homeowners who are refinancing their mortgages, rose to 3.29 percent last week from 3.22 percent.

Mortgage rates still remain historically low, even though the Federal Reserve has begun to ratchet up short-term interest rates. In testimony to Congress this week, Fed Chair Janet Yellen raised the possibility that the Fed would consider slowing the pace of its interest rate increases if inflation remained persistently below its target level.

Regulators fine three VW suppliers for collusion

Germany's antitrust authority has fined three suppliers of Volkswagen AG a total of 9.6 million euros ($11 million) for allegedly colluding on how to pass on increasing raw material prices to the automaker.

The Federal Cartel Office said Thursday it imposed fines on Elring Klinger Abschirmtechnik of Switzerland, Estamp of Spain and German firm Lydall Gerhardi. A fourth company, Carcoustics International of Germany, wasn't fined because it helped expose the cartel.

The companies make aluminum heat shields used to insulate other parts of the vehicle against heat generated in the engine and exhaust.

The cartel office accuses them of colluding in 2011, exchanging sensitive information to strengthen their negotiating position against Volkswagen.

Settlements were reached with all three companies. The fines can be appealed.

Honda recalls Accords for battery sensor problem

Honda is recalling 1.2 million Accord midsize cars in the U.S. because a battery sensor can short out and potentially cause a fire.

The recall covers cars from the 2013 through 2016 model years. Honda said it has four reports of engine compartment fires because of the problem but no injuries. All the fires were in states where salt is used to clear roads in the winter.

The company says the sensors on the negative terminal of the battery aren't properly sealed from moisture. Road salt can get in and cause corrosion and an electrical short. A shorted sensor can heat up and possibly catch fire.

Dealers will inspect the sensors. Faulty ones will be replaced. Those without problems will get an adhesive sealant and will be replaced when parts are available.

Yellen says inflation risks are 'two-sided'

Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen on Thursday said she believed the risks concerning inflation are "two-sided," stressing that price gains could both accelerate or slow down.

Testifying for the second day before Congress, Yellen sought to expand on remarks she had made Wednesday before the House Financial Services Committee in an apparent effort to adjust views in financial markets.

In her House comments, Yellen discussed the possibility that a recent slowdown in inflation could persist longer than the Fed expects. The comments helped trigger a big market rally, with the Dow Jones industrial average hitting a record high. Investors saw the remarks as a signal that the Fed, which has raised interest rates three times since December, might slow the pace of future interest rate increases.

But on Thursday, Yellen said that she believed it would be "premature" to conclude that a recent slowdown in price gains meant that the Fed would not be able to achieve its goal of 2 percent annual inflation.

Ex-alderman, unions buy Chicago Sun-Times

An investment group led by a former Chicago alderman and a coalition of labor unions are the new owners of the Chicago Sun-Times, officials announced Thursday.

"We are investing in a journalistic voice that's genuine, accurate and consistently reporting news that matters to the people of Chicago," said former Alderman Edwin Eisendrath, who will serve as CEO of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Eisendrath, who left the City Council when President Bill Clinton appointed him to a Department of Housing and Urban Development post, submitted a bid last month after Sun-Times owner Wrapports LLC announced it would enter into discussions with Tronc Inc., which owns the rival Chicago Tribune, to acquire the paper.

He said he was concerned that if Tronc took over the newspaper, the sale would lead to the demise of the Sun-Times, even though Tronc promised to run two separate newspapers. Tronc also owns the Los Angeles Times and other major newspapers.

The Chicago Federation of Labor joined with Eisendrath to buy the paper.