National Business Briefing

Tech, financial lead market highs

The record-setting rally in U.S. equities accelerated in the wake of Wednesday’s China trade deal and signs consumer demand remains strong. Bond yields rose. All three main U.S. stock benchmarks surged to all-time highs after setting multiple records earlier this week, with technology and financial shares leading . Alphabet Inc.’s market valuation hit $1 trillion for the first time. Banks and chipmakers rallied after solid earnings reports from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Morgan Stanley. Treasuries fell after data showed U.S. retail sales strengthened in December, while the dollar gained.

The formal signing of a phase one deal between the world’s two biggest economies has put the trade war on hold as far as many investors are concerned. Assuming the detente lasts, traders will be seeking fresh catalysts, most likely in economic data and the ramp-up of earnings season. Meanwhile, soybeans slumped overnight after China signaled purchases would be based on demand, rather than a pre-set amount.

Microsoft ramps up green pledge

Microsoft is pledging to become 100% “carbon-negative” by 2030 by removing more carbon from the environment than it emits. CEO Satya Nadella said Thursday that the commitment will happen “not just across our direct emissions, but across our supply chain, too.” It’s a major step from Microsoft’s previous green pledges. Environmental groups have said it has fallen short of such rivals as Google and Apple by relying too much on purchasing renewable energy credits to make up for its emissions.

“Microsoft has really been in the middle of the pack,” said Elizabeth Jardim, senior corporate campaigner for Greenpeace USA. “Not an ‘A’ student but clearly not doing nothing.”

Boeing approval process called safe

A government committee asked to review U.S. approval of new passenger planes after two deadly crashes involving the Boeing 737 Max has found that the system is safe and effective but could be improved.

The committee differed sharply with legislators who are investigating Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration, which approved the Max. Thursday’s report came from a committee appointed by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in April, after crashes killed 346 people and led regulators to ground Max jets worldwide.

The committee said the FAA’s system of delegating some safety work to aircraft manufacturers is effective and helps the U.S. aerospace industry thrive. Lee Moak, who co-chaired the committee, said members did not look at internal communications in which Boeing employees raised safety alarms about the Max while it was being developed, and admitted misleading regulators.

“It was not the purview of, or charter of, the committee to look at or investigate email traffic,” he told reporters.

Last week, leaders of the House Transportation Committee cited those messages and accused Boeing of deceiving regulators.

— Bulletin wire reports

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