America and China made efforts to step back from a damaging trade war. Officials from both countries held talks after President Donald Trump announced plans to impose levies on $60bn-worth of Chinese imports for alleged unfair trade practices. China is said to have offered to buy more American semiconductors to help reduce its trade surplus with the United States; it may also hasten a measure to allow foreign companies to take majority stakes in Chinese securities firms. But China announced proposed tariffs on 128 American products, including fruit, pork and wine, in response to earlier levies on steel and aluminium. See article.

The EU, Argentina, Australia, Brazil and South Korea joined Canada and Mexico in gaining exemptions from America’s punitive tariffs on steel and aluminium imports. South Korea won a permanent exemption by agreeing to revise its free-trade pact with America. The new deal imposes quotas on South Korea’s steel exports and extends tariffs for its truckmakers. See article.

A trade off

Markets see-sawed. Stockmarkets plunged when America proposed tariffs on China, causing one measure of market volatility, the VIX, to soar by 30%. They bounced back on hopes of a negotiated outcome. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 669 points in a day, the third-largest increase to date by that measure.

Facebook’s share price took another hammering, after America’s Federal Trade Commission opened an investigation into its privacy practices following the scandal in which data on 50m users were obtained by a political-analytics firm. Mark Zuckerberg has been asked to attend hearings in Congress, where he has few friends. Fears of regulation caused an index of ten American tech firms, the FANG+, to suffer its biggest one-day loss. See article.

Tesla Motors’ share price tanked by 8%. Moody’s downgraded the company’s credit rating because of the “significant shortfall” in production of its new Model 3 electric car. One of its Model X cars also crashed, killing the driver and raising fresh concerns about self-driving technologies following the first fatal accident involving a pedestrian and an Uber car.

Uber sold its business in South-East Asia to Grab, a rival based in Singapore with operations in almost 200 cities throughout the region. It is the latest instance of Uber exiting a market in which it is not the biggest ride-hailing firm, having reached similar agreements in China and Russia. See article.

A federal appeals court found that Google’s use of Oracle’s Java technology in its Android operating system did not constitute “fair use” under copyright law, overturning a jury’s decision that had favoured Google. The court ordered that the case be reheard to settle damages.

The board of Deutsche Bank was reported to be seeking a replacement for John Cryan as chief executive, two years before his contract ends. The German bank’s investors are unhappy about its run of annual losses and anaemic share price.

Get your coat

Under pressure from investors to increase shareholder value after a bruising battle last year to fend off a takeover bid, AkzoNobel struck a deal to sell its specialty-chemicals division to a consortium led by Carlyle, a private-equity firm. The Dutch paint-and-coatings group valued the acquisition at €10.1bn ($12.6bn). 

Global energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions grew by 1.4% last year, according to the International Energy Agency, to a record 32.5 gigatonnes. Some big economies, such as America and Japan, saw their emissions decrease; Britain’s fell by 3.8%. Asian countries accounted for two-thirds of the global increase. Despite the growth in renewables, the share of fossil fuels in the world’s energy mix remains at 81%, the same level it has been for three decades. 

SoftBank’s technology fund signed a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia to expand solar power in the kingdom. If completed, the $200bn project would add 200 gigawatts of solar capacity; the world currently has around 400GW of capacity.

Remington filed for bankruptcy protection. The gunmaker, founded in 1816, piled on debt when investors pulled out following the Sandy Hook school massacre in 2012, in which the gunman used a Bushmaster rifle, a brand owned by Remington.

It’s a small(er) world

Qantas began operating the first direct flights from Australia to Britain. The Australian airline now flies passengers 14,498km non-stop from Perth to London in Boeing Dreamliner planes. The 28,996km round trip can be completed in just over 40 hours, including a generous few hours in between for sightseeing. See article.