President Trump is eager to claim credit for Apple’s moves, but it’s a bit more complicated.

THE TICKER

President Trump took a bold announcement by Apple on Wednesday and made an even bolder claim about it. 

The electronics giant touted a massive new investment in the U.S. economy, pledging to contribute $350 billion to it over the next five years, with $30 billion of that sum coming in the form of capital spending, including for a new campus. And the tech company said it will create 20,000 new jobs in the United States. The president seized on the news as validation of the Republican tax package:

The issue: It’s not clear how much the new tax regime contributed to Apple’s decision, if at all. 

In a 1,093-word statement detailing the move, the company noted it is handing the Treasury a $38 billion one-time payment. That meets a requirement under the new law that corporations pay previously deferred taxes on their foreign profits. The law set up that provision as a sort of compromise: Companies are being forced to fork over a portion of those overseas stashes to Uncle Sam, but they are being charged a deeply discounted rate (15.5 percent for cash and 8 percent for less liquid assets.) Apple says it is counting the $38 billion it’s paying toward the $350 billion total it advertised Wednesday.

The law gives companies the flexibility to spread what they owe under the levy over five years. But the payment is mandatory — and not, as Trump suggested in his tweet, itself a vote of confidence in the brightening business climate at home.

Beyond that, the company doesn’t chalk up anything else in its announcement to the tax law. The Wall Street Journal’s Tripp Mickle does a careful job parsing the company’s statement: 

The company previously said it planned $16 billion in capital expenditures world-wide in the fiscal year that ends this September, up from $14.9 billion the previous year. However, Apple doesn’t break out its spending in the U.S., making it difficult to gauge how much of the $30 billion over five years it announced Wednesday is new.

Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., said Apple’s plans are in line with Trump administration goals, but that it isn’t clear how much of the commitments are new. And he said the company could deliver on those commitments with existing cash flow — without needing to tap cash holdings.

“It’s a nice number and puts a foot forward in line with where the administration wants to go with adding jobs and building in the U.S.,” he said. But he added, “It’s not clear these investments were impacted in any way by tax reform.”

Separately, Bloomberg News’s Mark Gurman reported Wednesday, the company is awarding most of its employees worldwide a $2,500 bonus in stock grants in the months ahead. For that, beneficiaries can thank the tax cuts. 

But the announcement of Apple’s multibillion-dollar investments carried significantly more weight for Trump and other Republicans eager to find signs the tax package is supplying a big boost of momentum to broader economic growth. Another entrant in the parade of companies handing out bonuses may be nice. What the GOP would prefer, however, is evidence that corporate giants are plowing their windfalls into the kind of spending that will trickle down to workers. 

“Certainly higher wages and bonuses are good news,” Tax Foundation senior analyst Scott Greenberg says. “But if the tax bill is going to have a large economic effect, it’s likely going to take some time to show up, because will take some time for companies to respond to the incentives offered by the new tax provisions.” And, he cautioned, “it’s difficult to separate causality from companies looking for gestures of public goodwill.”

Apple isn’t likely to fact-check Trump’s claims.

The announcement appeared designed to win the company some good-citizen points, with Apple CEO Tim Cook declaring in a statement that his company “could only have happened in America, and we are proud to build on our long history of support for the US economy.”

Recall that the tech titan came in for special abuse from Trump during the 2016 campaign. The candidate promised to make Apple “start building their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries,” at one point urged a boycott of Apple products, and said he would “come down so hard” on Cook that “his head would be spinning all of the way back to Silicon Valley.”

But Apple isn’t the only corporate giant that has been coy about pledging to use its tax gains for investments and wage hikes rather than, say, stock buybacks and dividend payments.

A CNBC survey of the 100 biggest companies by market cap found only nine with “specific plans to use some of the money saved from the corporate tax cuts to boost worker pay or invest in facilities or charitable causes.”

In other news, the sun rose today. Can we say for sure it would have but for the corporate tax cut?

MARKET MOVERS

— DOW 26,000. CNBC’s Fred Imbert: “Stocks traded higher on Wednesday following the release of stronger-than-expected quarterly results from some of the biggest U.S. companies. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 322.79 points, closing above 26,000 for the first time. The index first broke above the milestone mark on Tuesday. The S&P 500 gained 0.9 percent to finish at 2,802.56, with staples and tech rising more than 1 percent. The index also posted a record close.Tech stocks got a boost from Apple, which erased losses after announcing plans to repatriate billions in overseas cash. The stock closed 1.7 percent higher. The Nasdaq composite rose 1 percent to finish at 7,298.28, a record.”

It broke the record in record time. CNN Money’s Matt Egan: “The latest rush to buy stocks left the average up almost 8,000 points since… Trump’s 2016 election.The rally on Wednesday gave the Dow its best percentage gain since November. And it showed that the upward trend remains intact despite a big reversal the day before… But the velocity of the rally is raising eyebrows. It took just seven trading days for the Dow to climb from 25,000 to 26,000. While that is just a 4% advance, it’s part of a broader surge that has carried the Dow 42% during the Trump era. And the market rise has come with virtually no breaks.”

U.S. Industrial Production Rose 0.9% in December

U.S. industrial production rose sharply in December, boosted by gains in utilities output as cold weather swept across the nation and increased demand for heating.

WSJ

MONEY ON THE HILL

Shutdown showdown. The Post’s Mike DeBonis, Ed O’Keefe, and Erica Werner: “Bitter divisions in both parties threatened Wednesday to derail Congress’s effort to keep the federal government fully operating past the end of the week. The shutdown threat emerged on two fronts: Republican defense hawks in the House said a short-term spending plan the party introduced late Tuesday did not devote enough money to the military. Meanwhile, Democrats, whose support would be critical for passage in the Senate, began lining up in opposition amid pressure from immigration activists to use the budget talks as leverage to legalize many young immigrants known as ‘dreamers.’ By Wednesday evening, the short-term bill was on the cusp of failure…

House Republicans unveiled a bill Tuesday that would extend funding for four weeks, allowing time for further negotiations toward deals on long-term spending and immigration. To entice Democrats, GOP leaders attached a six-year extension of the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, as well as the delay of two unpopular health-care taxes. But few, if any, Democrats have been swayed by the overture.”

Tax bill fails to crack majority. Politico’s Toby Eckert: “Support for the Republican tax plan has ticked up slightly since [Trump] signed it into law, but it still hasn’t drawn the backing of a majority of voters, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.

The GOP’s top selling point for the plan recently — a spate of employee bonuses and wage increases — was a wash in the poll. The tracking poll, conducted Jan. 11-16, found that a 45 percent plurality of voters backed the plan based on what they knew about it, up from 42 percent in a similar poll before the legislation was enacted on Dec. 22. Opposition in the new poll came in at 34 percent, down from 39 percent. Twenty percent of respondents were undecided, up from 18 percent. After respondents were told about the major provisions of the bill, support rose to 47 percent, opposition remained at 34 percent.”

ICI reverses itself on fund rules. Politico’s Zachary Warmbrodt: “A prominent investment industry group is lobbying to keep in place major money market mutual fund regulations that it resisted only a few years ago. The issue will come to a head this week as the House Financial Services Committee votes on bipartisan legislation that would roll back regulations intended to prevent the kind of investor runs on money market funds that exacerbated the 2008 financial crisis. The Investment Company Institute, which represents money managers, did not support many of the safeguards the SEC enacted in 2014 but told senior lawmakers in a letter Friday that it now opposes the House bill that would defang the rules.”

GOP Senator to Block Two Trump Nominees Over Trade Concerns

A GOP senator with concerns about President Trump’s trade policy said Wednesday he would block two of the president’s nominees, saying the Trump administration hasn’t been responsive to his concerns on the issue.

WSJ

TRUMP TRACKER

Trump threatens NAFTA. Reuters’s Jeff Mason and David Lawder: “Trump on Wednesday said that terminating the North American Free Trade Agreement would result in the ‘best deal’ to revamp the 24-year-old trade pact with Canada and Mexico in favor of U.S. interests. Lawmakers as well as agricultural and industrial groups have warned Trump not to quit NAFTA, but he said that may be the outcome.

‘We’re renegotiating NAFTA now. We’ll see what happens. I may terminate NAFTA,’ Trump said in an interview with Reuters. ‘A lot of people are going to be unhappy if I terminate NAFTA. A lot of people don’t realize how good it would be to terminate NAFTA because the way you’re going to make the best deal is to terminate NAFTA. But people would like to see me not do that,’ he said. Trump’s comments come less than a week before trade negotiators from the United States, Canada and Mexico meet in Montreal for the sixth of seven scheduled rounds of negotiations to update NAFTA.”

Considers big “fine” against China. More from Reuters: “Trump and his economic adviser Gary Cohn said China had forced U.S. companies to transfer their intellectual property to China as a cost of doing business there. The United States has started a trade investigation into the issue, and Cohn said the United States Trade Representative would be making recommendations about it soon. ‘We have a very big intellectual property potential fine going, which is going to come out soon,’ Trump said in the interview. While Trump did not specify what he meant by a ‘fine’ against China, the 1974 trade law that authorized an investigation into China’s alleged theft of U.S. intellectual property allows him to impose retaliatory tariffs on Chinese goods or other trade sanctions until China changes its policies.”

Fed overhaul hits snags. The Post’s Heather Long: “In less than three weeks, the Federal Reserve, which is widely credited with playing a major role in leading the United States out of the Great Recession, will be under new leadership. Current Fed chair Janet L. Yellen is leaving, and Jerome Powell is President Trump’s nominee to take her place. But Trump’s efforts to remake the Federal Reserve will soon face key tests. The first hurdle will be the Senate. All of Trump’s appointees to the Fed require Senate approval, which has been slow in coming. Trump nominated Powell on Nov. 2, but the Senate didn’t act on his appointment before the end of the year, forcing the president to renominate Powell in 2018… Trump has made his priorities clear for a Powell-led Fed: He wants the stock market to keep soaring and the economy to grow faster. To make that happen, Trump would like interest rates to stay low and fewer restrictions on Wall Street banks. But Powell has been clear to stress the Fed’s independence — from Congress and the White House — in public appearances since his nomination.”

Powell says he’ll hold Deutsche Banke accountable. Bloomberg’s Jesse Hamilton: “Donald Trump’s pick to run the Federal Reserve, responding to a key lawmaker’s concerns over the president’s ties to Deutsche Bank AG, said the agency will hold the German lender to the same standards as the rest of the industry. Fed Governor Jerome Powell answered a letter from Senate Banking Committee member Chris Van Hollen ahead of the panel’s vote on his nomination to become chairman, telling the Maryland Democrat that he’s committed to supervising banks “in an independent manner.” Powell’s nomination was advanced by the committee on Wednesday, with Van Hollen voting in favor.”

Replacing Dudley. Reuters’s Jonathan Spicer: “Unions and groups advocating for retirees, teachers, housing, and workers’ benefits are among those visiting the ornate conference rooms of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to lobby for a less conventional candidate to serve as its next president. New York Fed directors leading the search for a successor to chief William Dudley, seen as the second most influential policymaker at the U.S. central bank, invited the guests to last week’s meeting to seek their advice. According to attendees and others familiar with the search, the directors are close to a “long list” of candidates and appear set to begin formal interviews within weeks. Until then, directors Sara Horowitz and Glenn Hutchins are taking steps intended to head off any criticisms of opacity and lack of diversity that, in recent years, have stung presidential searches at other district Fed banks. The afternoon meeting with 11 advocacy groups last week marked what one attendee called an unprecedented gesture of public outreach.”

RUSSIA WATCH: 

Bannon agrees to Mueller interview. The Post’s Roz Helderman and Karoun Demirjian: “Former top White House adviser and Trump campaign strategist Stephen K. Bannon has agreed to an interview for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation likely to take place later this month, but his lawyer is pushing back against House investigators’ demands for an audience Thursday afternoon, arguing there is ‘no conceivable way’ Bannon will be ready for an interview on the panel’s terms. House Intelligence Committee members K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.), who is leading the Russia investigation, and Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the panel’s ranking member, sent a letter Wednesday to Bannon’s lawyer, William Burck, insisting that Bannon return to Capitol Hill on Thursday at 2 p.m. to comply with a subpoena they issued Tuesday after Bannon refused to answer questions, citing orders from the White House.”

Probe could collide with midterms. Politico’s Darren Sameulsohn: “Robert Mueller’s Russia probe isn’t ending any time soon, and that’s bad news for President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans already bracing for a possible 2018 Democratic midterm wave. While many Republicans insist the Trump-Russia saga is overblown, they worry headlines about federal indictments, high profile trials—and a potential blockbuster meeting between Mueller and Trump himself—could obscure their positive message ahead of November elections and threaten their House and Senate majorities. In an ominous development for Republicans, a federal judge overseeing the upcoming trial of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates rejected Mueller’s request to begin in May and instead outlined a scheduled start as soon as September or October — peak election season.”

Wonkblog

Eric Trump’s 401(k) is up by 35 percent, but half of American families don’t even have one

“I didn’t think retirement was possible, and now it is,” he told Hannity.

Christopher Ingraham

POCKET CHANGE

Goldman’s losing money. NYT’s Emily Flitter: “Goldman Sachs used to seem invincible. In the fourth quarter, it lost money. The Wall Street firm on Wednesday reported its first quarterly loss since 2011. It was the result of a one-time $4.4 billion charge stemming from the new tax law. But even ignoring that unusual event, Goldman’s weak core results showed how far the firm has fallen. The bank’s per-share earnings and revenue were both higher compared with a year earlier without the tax charge. But the results announced on Wednesday also revealed a decline in Goldman’s trading might, which has been drained by a potent combination of placid markets and quiet clients. Revenue in its business of buying and selling bonds, commodities and currencies — historically an engine of Goldman’s results — sank to $1 billion in the fourth quarter, half of what it was during the same period in 2016. For the year, net revenue in that business fell 30 percent. The drop sent Goldman’s shares down 3 percent on Wednesday.”

CRYPTO BITS: 

Treasury sees a threat. Bloomberg’s Saleha Mohsin: “The U.S. Treasury views virtual currencies such as Bitcoin as an “evolving threat” and is examining dealers to make sure they aren’t being used to finance illegal activities, the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence said. Treasury is working with the Internal Revenue Service examiners to review 100 registered digital currency providers as well as others that have not registered, Sigal Mandelker said in prepared testimony to the Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday. The department is also working with the Justice Department to pursue money laundering cases.”

Bitcoin falls below $10,000. CNN Money’s Nathaniel Meyersohn: “Bitcoin keeps tumbling. The price of the volatile digital currency briefly dipped below $10,000 around 7 a.m. ET on Wednesday, its lowest level since late November, according to data from CoinDesk.com. Bitcoin has dropped nearly 30% this week and has lost almost half of its $19,343 peak value on December 16. Bitcoin approached its record as it launched on futures exchanges in the United States. But it has since fallen sharply. Other popular cryptocurrencies ethereum and ripple also have posted double-digit losses. One virtual currency exchange, Bitconnect, dived 93% late Monday. It’s unclear why bitcoin has had a rough week. Cryptocurrency is a murky market with frequent swings.”

Ripple founder loses $44 billion. CNBC’s Evelyn Cheng: “The digital currency plunge has wiped billions from the paper fortune of a cryptocurrency billionaire in just a few weeks. Ripple’s XRP coin has fallen 74 percent from an all-time high of $3.84 hit on Jan. 4, erasing $44 billion from the holdings of Chris Larsen, co-founder and executive chairman of Ripple. With XRP trading near $1 Wednesday, Larsen now holds the equivalent of just $15.8 billion, according to CNBC calculations using figures from Forbes. Citing sources at Ripple, Forbes said earlier this month that Larsen has 5.19 billion of XRP and a 17 percent stake in the start-up. Ripple holds 61.3 billion of the 100 billion XRP coins in existence. At XRP’s peak on Jan. 4, Larsen was worth $59.9 billion. That made him one of the five richest people in the U.S. and wealthier than Google’s founders, based on Forbes’ rich list.”

Stock market endangered? CNBC’s Stephanie Landsman: “A sustained sell-off in the cryptocurrency market will hit the stock market where it hurts, one major Wall Street firm warns. It’s a scenario investors are underestimating, according to Wells Fargo Securities’ Christopher Harvey. ‘We see a lot of froth in that market. If and when it comes out, it will spill over to equities,’ the firm’s head of equity strategy said Tuesday… ‘I don’t think people are really ready for that.'”

Goldman’s No. 2 Allegedly Swindled Out of $1.2 Million of Wine by Assistant

A former personal assistant to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Co-President David Solomon faces federal charges that he stole more than $1.2 million of rare wine from his boss.

Bloomberg

BlackRock Lets Its Hair Down by Offering Unlimited Time Off

BlackRock Inc., taking a page from Silicon Valley where ping-pong tables and on-site gyms are common perks, is offering unlimited time off.

Bloomberg

THE REGULATORS

Fannie, Freddie regulator: Take them private. Bloomberg’s Joe Light: “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s regulator is throwing its voice into the debate about what to do with the two companies at the center of the U.S. mortgage system. In a proposal obtained by Bloomberg News, Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt wrote that he and agency staff believe the mortgage market should be supported by shareholder-owned utilities with regulated rates of return and an explicit government guarantee of mortgage bonds. Watt sent the document, titled ‘Federal Housing Finance Agency Perspectives on Housing Finance Reform’ along with a letter dated Tuesday to Senate Banking Chairman Michael Crapo, an Idaho Republican, and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the panel’s top Democrat. By sharing the perspectives now, ‘we seek to provide our views independently and transparently to those who have requested them while continuing to provide technical assistance to the committee and its members on other proposals that may be introduced,’ Watt wrote.”

Mulvaney moves to overhaul CFPB. LA Times’s Jim Puzzanghera: “On Wednesday, Mulvaney announced he was launching a review of the entire operation of the consumer watchdog agency created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The bureau has provided Americans with billions of dollars in refunds and debt relief, often at banks’ expense. Republicans and many financial firms have complained that it has been too aggressive… The bureau said it would formally request public input about whether it is ‘fulfilling its proper and appropriate functions to best protect consumers.’ It will seek comment on its enforcement of consumer protection laws, drafting of regulations, oversight of financial firms, monitoring of the marketplace and public education. The first function to be examined: how the bureau demands information from financial firms during investigations.”

Asks financial firms for complaints. The Hill’s Sylvan Lane: The CFPB “is asking the firms its regulates to submit complaints about the agency’s core actions. The CFPB announced Wednesday that the agency will ask ‘for evidence to ensure the bureau is fulfilling its proper and appropriate functions to best protect consumers.’ The request is the latest step forward in acting Director Mick Mulvaney’s effort to draw back the bureau’s aggressive regulatory and enforcement actions. Mulvaney said in a Wednesday statement that it’s ‘natural for the Bureau to critically examine its policies and practices to ensure they align with the Bureau’s statutory mandate.'”

Cordray blasts. More from The Hill: “The former director of the… CFPB blasted his successor in a series of tweets Wednesday for attempting to unwind the agency’s rule on payday lending. Richard Cordray, the bureau’s first director, panned the CFPB’s plans as ‘truly shameful action by the interim pseudo-leaders’ of the bureau.” … ‘Let’s see the case be made, with full debate, on whether the zealots and toadies can justify repealing a rule to protect consumers against extortionate payday loans,’ Cordray continued.”

Hoenig criticizes banking bill. Reuters’s Pete Schroeder: “A top official at a leading U.S. bank regulator is airing concerns about a Senate bill that would ease banking rules, saying parts of it could “significantly weaken” critical protections. Thomas Hoenig, the vice chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, warned lawmakers that efforts to ease new rules around leverage and proprietary trading could encourage banks to take on excessive amounts of risk, and put the stability of the financial system at risk. Hoenig said he was broadly supportive of the bill primarily aimed at easing rules for smaller banks, crafted by Republicans and moderate Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee, but has concerns about a pair of key sections. In particular, Hoenig warned Congress’s attempts to relax burdens around the Volcker Rule and the supplementary leverage ratio would do more harm than good.”

SCOTUS considers overtime rule. Washington Examiner’s Sean Higgins: “Looking under the hood and figuring out what is wrong is a popular cliche, but on Wednesday, the Supreme Court examined whether the workers who actually do that should be guaranteed overtime pay. The justices heard oral arguments in Encino Motorcars v. Navarro, a case involving whether the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime rules extend to “service advisers” at auto dealerships. It is the second time it has heard the case. Service advisers are the dealership employees who tell customers what repairs or other work their cars need. Congress exempted them from the overtime regulation in 1966, but in 2011, the Obama administration changed the rule and said service advisers should be able to claim overtime pay.”

New late trading method gets SEC ok. Bloomberg’s Annie Massa: “Cboe Global Markets Inc. got regulators’ permission to challenge its chief rivals in U.S. equities, the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq Stock Market, during their crucial end-of-day auctions. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission will let the company begin Cboe Market Close, which the company says is a lower-cost way to carry out certain closing trades that may otherwise be completed at markets owned by NYSE Group and Nasdaq Inc. NYSE and Nasdaq had argued against approval, saying Cboe’s offering could tarnish the critical role played by auctions that set closing levels for thousands of U.S. stocks. NYSE and Nasdaq both stand to lose volume from any mechanism threatening their closing auctions. Cboe countered that their concerns were overblown, since some brokers already provide a similar function for customers. The SEC came down in favor of Cboe, according to a filing Wednesday.”

CHART TOPPER

From Axios’s Chris Canipe and Steve LeVine: “Manufacturing jobs are up sharply from the recession:”

DAYBOOK

Today

  • The American Enterprise Institute holds an event on “New thinking about poverty and economic mobility.”
  • The Cato Institute Policy Perspectives 2018 hosts a discussion on “A Fiscal Rule to Tame Federal Debt?”

Coming Up

  • The SEC-NYU Dialogue on Securities Markets – Shareholder Engagement will be held in New York on Friday. 

THE FUNNIES

From The Post’s Tom Toles: 

BULL SESSION

Sen. Lindsey Graham tells lawmakers: “Stop the s-show and grow up:” 

Here’s an ongoing list of White House staff, Cabinet members, and federal appointees who quit or were fired under Trump:

Here’s how tech companies are using algorithms to prevent extremist content:

Stephen Colbert talks about how “Fire and Fury” author Michael Wolff got access to the White House: 

Vehicle Sales Finish a 7-Year Upswing, With Increased Challenges Ahead

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The car industry’s lengthy-running sales party originates for an finish.

After seven straight many years of development in domestic new-vehicle sales, manufacturers on Wednesday reported a decline of approximately 1.8 percent in 2017, to 17.two million cars and lightweight trucks.

Further dampening the atmosphere may be the consensus that 2018 brings a level bigger drop. Edmunds.com, a car-information website, predicts that simply 16.8 million light vehicles is going to be offered this season.

“Over all, you need to be careful within this atmosphere,” stated Adam Silverleib, v . p . of Silko Honda, an agreement in Raynham, Mass. “The industry cycle has peaked.”

Some factors that propelled the upward swing are actually fading or altering course. Extremely low interest are turning greater. And quality has improved, customer-satisfaction surveys have proven, a lot of Americans are keeping their cars longer.

Throughout the recession, consumers and companies delay buying new vehicles. Once the economy improved, many rushed to switch the clunkers they’d been driving, driving sales up every year.

“The marketplace is pretty saturated at this time,” stated Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with Edmunds.com. She noted there were now 1.26 vehicles on the highway for each licensed driver, more than ever before.

The downward sales trend may be the latest challenge for that industry. Tariffs might be enforced on cars produced in Mexico and Canada when the Trump administration negotiates major changes towards the United States Free Trade Agreement. Manufacturers will also be attempting to push ahead with self-driving and electric vehicles even while it remains unclear the number of they can sell, so when.

The result of rising fuel prices is another question mark. Though still low through the standards of latest years, prices in the pump were $2.49 a gallon for normal gas on Wednesday in contrast to $2.35 last year, based on AAA.

The seven-year stretch of growth from 2010 to 2016 may be the longest because the infancy from the automobile nearly a hundred years ago, based on the automotive writer WardsAuto. It had been born from among the industry’s darkest periods: the deep recession that motivated federally backed personal bankruptcy reorganizations of Vehicle and Chrysler. In the low point, 2009, new-vehicle sales stepped to less than 11 million annually.

As sales rose in the last seven years, carmakers needed to worry little about keeping their plants humming. Description of how the have to face the possibilities of trimming production and finding methods to lure people to purchase the vehicles which are moving from the set up line.

“It’s challenging for each company,” stated Ray Mikiciuk, assistant v . p . for sales at American Honda. “It’s a great deal simpler to function inside a rising market.”

Last year’s stop by sales was mitigated by elevated discounts along with other incentives, which now equal 11.five percent of sticker prices, up from about 7 % a couple of years back, stated Mark Wakefield, global co-mind of automotive and industrial at AlixPartners, a talking to firm. Sooner or later, further increases in sales incentives could hurt manufacturers’ profits, he stated.

“We are deep right into a push market,” by which consumers need to be lured with deals instead of driven with a strong need or desire to have a brand new vehicle, Mr. Wakefield stated.

Despite last year’s decline, domestic auto sales stay at a in the past healthy level. And worldwide sales continue to be increasing: The study firm IHS Markit believed that global light vehicle sales rose 1.five percent in 2017, to 93.5 million vehicles.

Americans have a tendency to favor cars when gas costs are high, and trucks when costs are low, however this time the shift to trucks continues to be compounded by an growing preference for taller, roomier vehicles. Which has forced carmakers recently to shift the development mix quickly to highlight sport-utility vehicles, minivans and lightweight trucks.

In December, passenger cars composed only one-third from the market. “In 2012, cars were 50 plus percent,” stated Ms. Caldwell, the Edmunds analyst. “That’s a large transfer of a short time.’’

Sales at Vehicle recently reflected that shift. The organization were built with a strong December in trucks, selling greater than 94,000 full-size pickups between its Chevrolet and GMC brands, almost one-third of their total sales. Nevertheless its overall sales still fell 3.3 % in the previous December, as cars such as the Chevrolet Malibu and Impala languished on dealer lots.

For that twelve month, G.M.’s sales declined 1.3 %, to three million vehicles. In the Detroit auto show, which begins later this month, G.M. will unveil redesigns of their full-size pickups.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles also were built with a tough month, with sales declining 10.7 %. Fiat Chrysler has stopped making small , mid-sized cars, and trucks take into account 85 % of their sales total. However a push to scale back on incentives and purchasers to rental fleets have slowed the organization. Total sales for 2017 dropped 8 percent, to two.a million vehicles.

Ford Motor, the second biggest American automaker after G.M., was among the couple of manufacturers to report an increase for December, with sales growing 1.3 %. Like G.M., Ford were built with a big month in pickups, selling greater than 89,000 of their F-series models.

As well as the twelve month, Ford couldn’t buck the market’s trend. Its 2017 sales tucked almost 1 %, to two.six million vehicles.

A version want to know , seems in publications on , on-page B1 from the New You are able to edition using the headline: Unmatched 7-Year Increase In Auto Sales Involves Finish. Order Reprints Today’s Paper Subscribe

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1,000 Miles, Four Families, One Christmas Tree

Before it arrived at Lisa Maichin’s cozy family room in Queens, her Christmas tree — now speckled with delicate crochet angels and glinting bulbs — spent 5 days being hacked, hauled and hawked across a logistics in flux.

The tree originated on the farm of exactly the same family for pretty much 220 years, in part of Canada referred to as balsam fir capital around the globe, where reliable labor is more and more scarce.

A trucking company operated by a parent and the two sons delivered the tree across a 1000 snow-dusted miles, past a border that may become harder to mix if your key trade pact doesn’t happen.

The salesperson in Queens, who leans on his wife and five children to assist on his lot in which the tree was offered, worries about competition online rivals and nearby national chains like Lowe’s.

Even Ms. Maichin, who bought the tree, is distracted by change. Round her home, which she explains to three other generations of her family, her neighborhood is quickly gentrifying. Christmas gets costlier.

“This year, the trees are certainly more costly,” she stated.

First Day: THE FARM

In Lunenburg County, a piece of Quebec pockmarked by ponds and patches of balsam firs, Silver’s Farm hugs a hill with 45 acres of farmland splayed in front and 150 acres of Christmas trees behind, all growing naturally and tightly “like the hairs on the dog’s back,” stated Wayne Silver.

His operation is small, felling just 3,000 trees a season. Some Quebec farms cut lower thousands of trees yearly as well as ship some overseas.

Mr. Silver required within the farm in 1991 from his father, who required it over from his father, who started cutting Christmas trees within the 1930s. Trees “are within my bloodstream,” he stated.

Planting the trees is unnecessary they sprout abundantly by themselves. When they’re 2 ft tall, Mr. Silver selects the very best examples, after which trims back the neighboring firs to own future Christmas trees room to develop.

Because they grow taller, he shears these to provide them with the correct shape, and pats fertilizer in to the soil around their trunks.

At the begining of October, he tags the trees destined for that holiday market, utilizing an internal calculus perfected over decades. Trees marked “#1” are considered “perfect.” The “#2” trees are “fancy” and also the “#3” trees are “choice.” Mr. Silver charges lot proprietors $5 to $16 for many firs.

Cutting, utilizing a chain saw that may topple a fir in 20 seconds, starts in November, and also the jobs are grueling. Mr. Silver puts in 12-hour days, felling, dragging and packaging the trees in twine. Even during the cold months chill, sweat percolates on his face.

Assistance is scarce. Inside a tight labor market with low unemployment, a number of other tree maqui berry farmers are hiring migrants from Mexico and Jamaica. Mr. Silver will probably follow the coming year.

“I just work a lot of lengthy hrs,” he stated.

Cutting a load of trees for clients in New You are able to, he stopped at sundown for any supper of venison and Fried potatoes after which labored until 1 a.m. The skeleton crew started again at 6 a.m., by noon, once the truck showed up to get the burden, they’d packed 700 trees in to the trailer. Included in this was the one which would soon claim a large part of Ms. Maichin’s family room.

DAYS 2 and three: The18 Wheeler

Mr. Silver pays 4,500 Canadian dollars (about $3,500) to obtain a load of trees to New You are able to. With fuel prices rising, he expects which will jump to 4,700 dollars in 2018, requiring him to margin his tree prices by 50 cents each to pay.

And when the U . s . States withdraws in the United States Free Trade Agreement, as President Trump has frequently threatened, Mr. Silver’s costs may increase further. The charge to mix the border with merchandise, under $100 now, could balloon to $500 to $1,000, he stated.

“A large amount of our stuff goes there,” he stated. “The frightening factor is, when they eliminate Nafta, it’s likely to cause lots of devastation and havoc.”

Within the last 5 years, Mr. Silver has sent several truckloads of trees towards the Eastern Seaboard via G.K. Morse &amp Sons, a Quebec trucking firm.

The organization earns $6.5 million in revenue annually, stated Robert Morse, an periodic truck driver who handles dispatching. He and the brother, Richard, work with their father, Ken, who bought his first truck in 1956 in an effort to travel.

“Most in our trade is south from the 49th parallel,” Robert Morse stated, talking about the road that roughly divides the U . s . States and Canada.

After collecting a clip from Silver’s Farm, he hauled it 30 minutes off to Bridgewater. There, he met track of Keron Roberts, a person who’d go all of those other way.

Mr. Roberts, that has labored for G.K. Morse for pretty much annually, found Canada in 2013, searching for chance. He regularly transmits money-back the place to find relatives in Spanish Town, Jamaica.

Truckers, like farm hands, are an issue.

“Drivers are becoming old and becoming upon the market, and also the more youthful people wish to be making around 200 1000 dollars annually,” Mr. Morse stated. “Truckers make very good money, but it isn’t a get-wealthy-quick plan.”

After aiming using the trees, Mr. Roberts exhausted his 13-hour daily driving limit that Canada enforces on truckers and stopped in New Brunswick. He rested at the back of the cab.

Upon entering the U . s . States, he hit a snow storm coupled with to fit, again, in Portsmouth, N.H.

“It’s frustrating on the highway sometimes,” he stated. “The faster I achieve my location, the greater rest I’m able to get.”

DAY 4: All

When Mr. Roberts and the truck finally pulled to the Greenpoint Trees lot in Middle Village, Queens, Stephen Leddick was becoming anxious. Mr. Leddick, the dog owner, figures he requires a way to obtain about 300 trees to satisfy demand.

That morning, he’d just 30 firs. His other lot in Brooklyn was stripped bare.

To supplement his stock, Mr. Leddick bought 80 trees in the Brooklyn Terminal Market. But they weren’t cheap: he compensated an 80 % premium over the price of buying and shipping a fir from Silver’s Farm.

The 24-hour Queens lot, bunched onto a pavement close to the Atlas Park Mall, doesn’t have permit to function. Couple of Christmas tree sellers in New You are able to do.

A quirk from our administrative code enables the periodic entrepreneurs to setup coniferous trees for purchase on any public pavement in December without getting permission in the city.

Some sellers make use of the insufficient documents, disappearing when the season ends and stiffing their suppliers, Mr. Leddick stated — rapidly adding he was undertake and don’t.

Per week earlier, Ms. Maichin purchased grave blankets from Mr. Leddick on her father, who’s hidden within the graveyard nearby. Today, she came for trees, and haggled for 3, one for every floor of her brick townhouse in Ridgewood, ultimately having to pay $45, $65 and $75.

Mr. Leddick opened up the Brooklyn lot in 1990 and also the Queens location in 2005. At some point, he stated, he’d passion for certainly one of his sons to consider within the business, allowing him to spread out their own “soup to nuts” gardening center. Until then, with multiple children around the college track, he cannot spare the main city.

Besides, working 18 hrs each day in the lots and also at his regular job like a construction superintendent, he is just too tired.

DAY 5: The House

The following day, Ms. Maichin and her family started decorating the tree on top floor, inside a family room ringed with family portraits and wedding photos. The audience — Ms. Maichin, her daughter Melissa Babb, boy-in-law Keaton Babb and infant daughter, Karolina, observant in her own bouncer seat — rifled through an accumulation of family ornaments compiled over 30 years.

Most of them were knitted by Ms. Maichin’s mother, who lives downstairs.

Ms. Maichin’s parents, who have been Austrian immigrants, bought the home when she is at 4th grade. A lately upon the market administrative assistant, she now barely recognizes her neighborhood.

Property prices have surged. The populace, once predominantly German, now includes more Polish residents, more millennials crowding into new bars, more investors snapping up qualities and renting them out through Airbnb.

However the family vowed to retain its community spirit, pledging to patronize Greenpoint Trees again the coming year.

“We attempt to shop small , shop local whenever you can,” Ms. Babb stated, adding, sheepishly, “with the exception of Amazon . com.”

Trump’s Tough Talk on Nafta Raising Fears of Pact’s Demise

WASHINGTON — Its Northern Border American Free Trade Agreement, lengthy disparaged by President Trump badly for that U . s . States, was edging closer toward collapse as negotiators collected for any 4th round of contentious talks here now.

In recent days, the Trump administration has sparred with American companies that support Nafta and it has pressed for significant changes that negotiators from Mexico and Canada say are nonstarters. Even while, obama has ongoing threatening to withdraw the U . s . States in the trade agreement, that they has maligned because the worst ever.

Because the trade talks started on Wednesday, Mr. Trump, sitting down within the Oblong Office beside Pm Justin Trudeau of Canada, stated it had been “possible” the U . s . States would give up of Nafta.

“It’s possible we won’t cover the cost of an offer, and it is possible that we’ll,Inches obama stated. “We’ll find out if are going to the type of changes that people need. We must safeguard our workers. As well as in all fairness, the pm really wants to safeguard Canada and the people also. So we’ll see what goes on with Nafta, but I’ve been against Nafta for any lengthy time, with regards to the fairness of Nafta.”

Mr. Trudeau, in comments later in the Canadian Embassy, stated he remains positive about the opportunity of a Nafta deal but noted that Canadians should be “ready for anything.”

The collapse from the 1994 trade deal would reverberate through the global economy, inflicting damage beyond Mexico, Canada and also the U . s . States and affecting industries as varied as manufacturing, agriculture and. It might also sow a minimum of short-term chaos for companies such as the auto industry which have arranged their United States supply chains round the deal’s terms.

The ripple effects may also hamper other facets of the president’s agenda, for instance, by solidifying political opposition among farm condition Republicans who offer the pact and jeopardizing legislative priorities like tax reform. Also it might have far-reaching political effects, such as the Mexican general election in This summer 2018 and Mr. Trump’s own re-election campaign.

Business leaders have grown to be spooked through the growing likelihood of the trade deal’s demise, as well as on Monday, greater than 310 condition and native chambers of commerce sent instructions towards the administration advocating the U . s . States to stay in Nafta. Speaking in Mexico on Tuesday, obama from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Thomas J. Donohue, stated the negotiations had “reached a vital moment. And also the chamber has already established no choice but ring the alarm bells.”

“Let me be powerful and direct,” he stated. “There are some poison pill proposals still up for grabs that may disaster the whole deal.”

The possibility demise from the trade deal motivated supportive messages from labor unions, such as the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and also the U . s . Steelworkers, plus some Democrats.

“Any trade proposal which makes multinational corporations nervous is a great sign that it is relocating the best direction for workers,” stated Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio.

When the deal does break apart, the U . s . States, Canada and Mexico would revert to average tariffs which are relatively low — only a couple of percent generally. But several farming products would face much greater responsibilities. American maqui berry farmers would visit a 25 % tariff on shipments of beef, 45 percent on poultry and a few milk products, and 75 % on chicken, taters and fructose corn syrup delivered to Mexico.

For several weeks, probably the most effective business leaders in the united states, and also the lobbies and people in politics that represent them, had wished the president’s strong wording was more a negotiating tactic than the usual real threat and the man would ultimately go together with their agenda of modernization. Nafta is almost one fourth-century old, and individuals over the political spectrum say it ought to be updated for that twenty-first century while preserving outdoors buying and selling system which has linked its northern border American economy.

The pact has permitted industries to reorganize their supply chains round the continent to benefit from the 3 countries’ differing sources and strengths, lifting the continent’s economies and most tripling America’s do business with Canada and Mexico since its beginning. Economists contend that lots of workers have taken advantage of these changes by means of greater wages and employment, however, many workers have forfeit their jobs as manufacturing plants relocated to Mexico or Canada, making Nafta a target at work unions, many Democrats along with a couple of industries.

But many business leaders had wished the president, whose Nafta critique continues to be unrelenting, could be happy to oversee tweaks to modernize the agreement, after which refer to it as a political transformation.

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Often it looked as though that could be the situation. The appointment of Robert Lighthizer as U . s . States trade representative, who promised in the confirmation hearing to “do no harm” to Nafta, reassured many on Capitol Hill, where Mr. Lighthizer had lengthy offered in aide roles. So when the administration released its negotiating goals in This summer for that deal, they echoed many priorities of previous administrations.

However, eight days into trade talks which were initially designed to conclude by year’s finish, the administration is constantly on the push for concessions the world of business warns would basically undermine the pact, and which couple of observers believe Canada and Mexico could accept politically.

“Everyone recognizes that much of what’s being suggested in key areas are, essentially, non-starters, which begs the issue in regards to what, exactly, the administration is attempting to attain,Inches Michael Camuñez, an old assistant secretary of commerce under The President, authored within an email. It isn’t not reasonable to consider that by accommodating the president’s most extreme positions, American negotiators are “simply giving Trump cover to complete what he would like: withdraw in the agreement,” he stated.

Phil Levy, a trade advisor for that George W. Plant administration, stated obama was probably searching for any pretext to kill Nafta.

“Find me the final trade agreement that U.S. passed using the chamber in opposition,” Mr. Levy stated. “You don’t are able. It’s with enough contentration using the U.S. Chamber for.Inches

Probably the most questionable from the administration’s proposals, sailed by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, would add a sunset clause within the deal, causing Nafta to instantly expire unless of course the 3 countries voted periodically to carry on it. That provision has attracted quick condemnation in the chamber along with other industry groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers, which state that it might instill a lot uncertainty later on of Nafta it would essentially nullify the trade agreement.

Another contentious push through the U . s . States focuses on altering Nafta’s rules governing the amount of an item must be produced in The United States to be able to enjoy tariff-free trade between your countries. The U . s . States is pushing for greater levels, together with a requirement to create 85 % of the need for automobiles and auto parts in The United States, up from 62.five percent presently, as well as an additional requirement of 50 % from the value to range from U . s . States.

Which has pitted a few of the world’s greatest auto companies from the Trump administration. Industry representatives say such high and sophisticated barriers could deter companies from manufacturing within the U . s . States altogether.

The administration has additionally suggested limits on the amount of authorities contracts that Mexican and Canadian companies can win, in addition to significant changes to how disputes are resolved under Nafta.

Business groups appear at first sight firmly against a united states push to curtail a provision known as investor-condition dispute settlement, which enables companies to file a lawsuit Canada, Mexico and also the U . s . States for unfair treatment under Nafta. Meanwhile, Canada has stated that it’ll not consider dispensing with another provision, Nafta’s Chapter 19, which enables countries to challenge each other’s anti-dumping and countervailing duty decisions before a completely independent panel.

In the remarks Tuesday, Mr. Donohue known as the administration’s suggested changes to those provisions “unnecessary and unacceptable.”

Mr. Donohue’s remarks adopted a clear, crisp exchange of words between your Chamber of Commerce, the country’s most effective business lobby, and also the Trump administration on Friday.

John Murphy, senior v . p . of worldwide insurance policy for the chamber, stated the administration’s proposals had “no identifiable constituency backing them” coupled with sparked “a outstanding amount of unity within their rejection.” He added that business leaders had possibly never been at odds by having an administration more than a trade settlement on a lot of fronts.

Hrs later, the administration fired back.

“The president continues to be obvious that Nafta is a disaster for a lot of Americans, and having his objectives requires substantial change,” stated Emily Davis, a spokeswoman for that trade representative. “These changes obviously is going to be opposed by entrenched Washington lobbyists and trade associations. We’ve always understood that draining the swamp could be questionable in Washington.”

Mr. Trump is renowned for going for a tough negotiating stance, and analysts stated the administration might view its ambitious opening demands in an effort to gain in leverage within the Nafta negotiations.

But Mr. Murphy yet others in the industry community cautioned that this kind of approach would most likely be ill-fated. Both in Canada and Mexico, Mr. Trump is unpopular, and caving to his demands might have devastating effects for local politicians. Mexican government officials have frequently stated they’d not negotiate having a gun towards the mind.

“There’s a classic adage in negotiations, never have a hostage you would not shoot,” Mr. Murphy stated.

Nafta Talks Lurch Ahead Without Indications of Major Progress

WASHINGTON — The renegotiation from the United States Free Trade Agreement sputtered forward on Tuesday as officials in the U . s . States, Canada and Mexico concluded their second round of talks with lots of pleasantries but little major progress to announce.

After 5 days of discussions in Mexico City, trade negotiators in the three countries stated these were encouraged through the talks’ cooperative tenor and continued to be certain that they might achieve an offer through the finish of the season.

“I am very happy to report we have found mutual agreement on the majority of important issues,” Robert E. Lighthizer, the U . s . States trade representative, stated throughout a briefing with reporters following the talks. “Our work continues in a record pace.”

Inside a joint statement, Mr. Lighthizer and the counterparts — Canada’s foreign matters minister, Chrystia Freeland, and Mexico’s secretary from the economy, Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal — stated that they hashed out new ideas and consolidated existing proposals right into a single text that’ll be the foundation for future negotiations. The 3rd round of Nafta talks begins on Sept. 23 in Ottawa, Ontario.

Despite their positive tone, however, there wasn’t any public discussion from the thorniest points of contention between your countries.

The most recent round of talks came because the Trump administration guaranteed to upend America’s trade contracts with the aim of creating better deals for domestic manufacturers.

In recent days, Mr. Trump has threatened to withdraw from the trade pact with Columbia. And late recently, he laced into Canada and Mexico to be “very difficult” within the Nafta negotiations, supplying a warning inside a publish on Twitter he “may need to terminate” the agreement.

The possible lack of concrete progress raises questions regarding if the three countries can rewrite Nafta this season, if. So far, Canada and Mexico make it obvious that they’ll ‘t be cowed by Mr. Trump’s threats to unilaterally scrap the trade agreement, moving that would definitely damage the U . s . States economy.

“I think they could be tougher compared to Trump administration thought,” Chad P. Bown, a senior fellow in the Peterson Institute for Worldwide Financial aspects, stated of Canada and Mexico. “Trade negotiations will always be challenging.”

For that U . s . States, reducing trade deficits continues to be the main concern. Also looming within the talks are contentious changes that Mr. Lighthizer really wants to make to Nafta’s “rules of origin” that will compel carmakers to make use of more parts produced in the U . s . States. Also, he really wants to overhaul the pact’s dispute settlement system to own U . s . States more leverage.

In the present talks, Canada’s top concerns include low wages in Mexico and thus-known as right-to-work laws and regulations which have weakened unions and labor standards in certain areas of the U . s . States.

Ms. Freeland noted in her own closing remarks that Nafta had produced substantial economic benefits for that U . s . States because it was enacted in 1994 and stated the trade relationship between your U . s . States and Canada was “reciprocal,” a principle that Mr. Trump prizes.

Echoing comments made lately by V . P . Mike Pence, Ms. Freeland stated she was certain that the 3 countries could try to achieve an offer that’s a “win, win, win.”

“All three parties are absolutely dedicated to it,Inches Ms. Freeland stated.

For Mexico’s part, a high priority remains finding methods to incorporate President Enrique Peña Nieto’s 2014 energy enter in a modernized Nafta. This could further open Mexico’s energy sector to personal investment and may lessen the U . s . States’ trade deficit with Mexico.

Even though many details continue to be labored out, the path of the Nafta talks can also be apt to be directed by politics and also the passions of Mr. Trump. The conclusion on Tuesday by Mr. Trump to finish the Obama-era executive action that shields youthful undocumented immigrants from deportation / removal could ratchet up tension between your countries. And Mr. Trump’s ongoing dedication to making Mexico finance a border wall rankles its leaders.

“It is difficult to reconcile the political language from the U.S. leaders as well as their aggressiveness as well as their feeling of being mistreated by Mexico within the relationship,” stated Alejandro Gómez-Strozzi, Mexico’s undersecretary of economy from 2000 to 2006. “Nafta needs some improvement, but away from the light that’s being portrayed through the U.S. president.”

Mr. Trump might have to determine if he really wants to tweak the offer and refer to it as victory, get bogged lower in painstaking details or bail on Nafta entirely.

Most trade experts agree that achieving a significant rewrite of Nafta within the next couple of several weeks is really a lengthy shot, if perhaps since most major trade pacts take many years to achieve. To veterans of massive trade contracts, the possible lack of immediate breakthroughs isn’t always not so good news for Nafta, however the urge to hurry the negotiations could end up being counterproductive.

“As you’re taking into consideration the timetable, you have to make certain you have plenty of time to see with Congress, talk to stakeholders and discover creative methods to new problems,” stated Michael Froman, who had been a trade representative under The President.