Real Time Economics: Trump’s Lifeline to China | U.S. Readies Sanctions on Europeans | Gasoline Heads Toward $3

This is the web version of the WSJ’s economic newsletter. You can sign up for daily delivery here. Good morning! Today we look at President Trump’s lifeline to ZTE, corporate America’s conflicting views on tariffs, U.S. plans to sanction European companies, pressure on U.S. automakers to create more jobs, and Italy’s new anti-establishment coalition. PHONE A FRIEND U.S.-China trade tensions eased. President Donald Trump said he was working with President Xi Jinping to keep ZTE Corp. in business. It’s an extraordinary lifeline to the Chinese telecommunication giant. ZTE had shut down major operations after the Commerce Department blocked U.S. companies from selling components to the firm. Mr. Trump said in a tweet that he is working with Mr. Xi to get ZTE “a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost,” Dan Strumpf and John D. McKinnon report. The president said the Department has been instructed to “get it done!” THE LONG GAME Mr. Trump’s tweet reverses the steady buildup of pressure on China. Is it a one-time break or the start of a thaw? Officially, the Commerce Department barred U.S. sales of components to ZTE because the Chinese company ran afoul of U.S. sanctions on Iran and North Korea. But it’s hard to view that decision outside the context of high-stakes negotiations over trade and intellectual property. Already, the sides have imposed tariffs, derailed corporate deals and erected other barriers—with ZTE one more apparent target. Both countries are still threatening to slap tariffs on tens of billions of dollars of the other’s products. On top of that, the U.S. and China are in talks with North Korea about the regime’s nuclear-weapons program.
Comments or suggestions for Real Time Economics? Write to Jeffrey Sparshott at  realtimeeconomics@wsj.com, tweet to @WSJecon and visit wsj.com/economy for the latest. WHAT TO WATCH TODAY The St. Louis Fed’s James Bullard speaks at CoinDesk’s Consensus 2018 conference at 9:40 a.m. ET. China retail sales and industrial production are out at 8 p.m. ET. Economists expect value-added industrial output grew 6.4% in April, recovering slightly from March’s 6%. Fixed-asset investment is expected to have risen 7.4% in the first fourth months of the year, a tick slower than 7.5% in the first quarter. Retail sales likely grew 10% in April, compared with March’s 10.1%. TOP STORIES AN EARFUL ON TRADE The U.S. trade representative’s office will hold three days of hearings this week on $50 billion in proposed tariffs on Chinese imports. Some manufacturers support the tariffs and are even calling on the Trump administration to add more to the list of Chinese imports. But the hearings will also feature businesses facing supply-chain disruptions and exporters—from farmers to manufacturers—likely to suffer from retaliatory tariffs, Andrew Tangel and William Mauldin report. TRADE: IT’S COMPLICATED Executives at Emerson Electric, a St. Louis-based conglomerate, have offered support for targeted China tariffs. Emerson’s InSinkErator division, which manufacturers garbage disposals at two Wisconsin factories, is asking for those devices to be added to the U.S. tariff list. Emerson says the garbage disposals it exports to China face tariffs, while those made in China don’t face U.S. tariffs. However, Emerson faces higher steel costs because of new tariffs on that metal under another trade case filed by the Trump administration. “That could cause problems for all of us in the industrial world,” Emerson Chief Executive David Farr said. “Right now, it’s under control, but it’s a wild card that I worry about.” FRIEND OR FOE? National security adviser John Bolton warned the U.S. is prepared to impose sanctions on European companies if they don’t stop dealing with Iran. His comments are the latest salvo in the Trump administration’s campaign to put economic pressure on Iran and America’s European allies to accept a new agreement that would impose tougher restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities, constrain its missile program and roll back its support for militant groups, Michael R. Gordon writes. TOP GEAR The Trump administration has weighed in on policies dear to the auto industry, from tariffs to tailpipe emissions. But one item remains firm atop President Trump’s agenda: more jobs for Rust Belt states that helped elect him, Mike Colias reports. The president is pressuring automakers to shift production and add jobs in the U.S. But Detroit’s car companies are more focused on the future, as U.S. sales have stalled after a multiyear expansion. General Motors, and Ford Motor have unused U.S. factory space and are steering more capital toward advanced technology such as driverless cars. RISING STARS Italy’s 5 Star Movement, an eclectic upstart group driven by scorn toward ruling elites, agreed on the outlines of a governing program with the anti-immigration League party, clearing the way for a likely coalition government, Giovanni Legorano and Marcus Walker report. It’s a major prize for the political insurgencies that have been shaking Europe’s establishment. The old center-right and center-left parties that built today’s EU are losing popular support across most of the Continent, as new rivals seize on voter frustrations including unemployment and fears about societal cohesion amid large-scale immigration from the Middle East and Africa. CHART OF THE DAY: FULL TANK Average U.S. retail gasoline prices are climbing toward $3 a gallon, the most expensive in more than three years. “Prices at the pump are quite high especially as we enter the driving season,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics. “That’s going to be one of the channels where you see a hit to people’s disposable income and spending.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY “I don’t see the purpose of it. What value does cryptocurrency actually add? No one’s been able to answer that question for me.” Hedge-fund manager Steve Eisman, speaking at the CFA Institute’s annual conference TWEET OF THE DAY [wsj-responsive-sandbox id = "0" ] WHAT ELSE WE’RE READING U.S. sanctions on Iran could escalate risks of a trade war, Duncan Weldon, chief economist at Resolution Group, writes in Prospect: “The EU and the US are already heading into a trade conflict, and any US attempt to punish European companies doing business with a country that their own government says they can operate in could seriously escalate that conflict.” Unemployment is at 3.9%. Employers complain they can’t find workers. Why aren’t wages growing faster? “There’s still slack in the job market. Productivity growth is slow. Many workers have too little bargaining clout in our highly unequal economy,” Jared Bernstein, former chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden, writes in The Washington Post. Why aren’t there more women in the field of economics? Mary Daly, director of research at the San Francisco Fed, writes in The Financial Times that 28% of U.S. economics PhDs were awarded to women in 1997. Today, it’s 31%, lagging far behind other traditionally male subjects—55% of U.S. STEM grads are now female. “It is not enough to eradicate the sexism seen on websites like econjobrumors: we must change the culture to send a message that we want people who don’t fit the current mould to join the profession.” UP NEXT: TUESDAY German GDP is out at 2 a.m. ET. U.K. unemployment numbers are out at 4:30 a.m. ET. Eurozone GDP is out at 5 a.m. ET. U.S. retail sales are out at 8:30 a.m. ET. Japan GDP is out at 7:50 p.m. ET. The Senate Banking Committee holds confirmation hearings for Fed nominees Richard Clarida and Michelle Bowman. The Dallas Fed’s Robert Kaplan speaks on energy, trade and economic growth at 8 a.m. ET, and the San Francisco Fed’s John Williams speaks at the Economic Club of Minneapolis at 1:10 p.m. ET.

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