U.S. merchandise-trade deficit drops amid China lockdown

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U.S. trade deficit drops amid China lockdown

The U.S. merchandise-trade deficit shrank in April by the most since 2009 as imports fell amid lockdowns in China while exports increased to a record.

The shortfall narrowed by 15.9 percent to $105.9 billion last month, following a record level in March, Commerce Department data showed Friday. The figures, which aren’t adjusted for inflation, compared with a median estimate for a gap of $114.9 billion in a Bloomberg survey of economists.

Aggressive lockdowns by the Chinese government to curb the spread of covid-19 have complicated the near-term trade picture, with the measures — coupled with Russia’s war in Ukraine — straining already-tenuous global supply chains. While the volume of products arriving at the biggest U.S. ports in April was near records, a worldwide acceleration in inflation is testing goods trade, with the World Trade Organization cutting its forecast for growth in global merchandise volumes this year. 

In the first quarter, the widening of the trade deficit largely explains the economy’s worst performance since the pandemic recovery began, with gross domestic product shrinking at a 1.5 percent annual pace. That’s because the value of products American businesses and consumers bought from overseas outpaced purchases of U.S. goods and services by other economies.

U.S. merchandise imports decreased 5 percent from the prior month to $279.9 billion, reflecting declines in industrial supplies, capital goods and consumer merchandise.

Exports rose 3.1 percent to a record $173.9 billion in April, driven by foods, capital goods and industrial supplies. 

McDonald’s investors back civil rights audit

McDonald’s investors voted in favor of a proposal calling for an independent civil rights audit, going against the company’s recommendation, according to preliminary vote totals viewed by Bloomberg News.

The fast-food chain joins the ranks of other large businesses facing a wave of shareholder scrutiny regarding their environmental, social and governance stances. The civil rights audit was the only shareholder proposal to gain the backing of a majority of votes cast at McDonald’s annual meeting. Votes that failed included a request for a report on lobbying activities and spending.

The vote was a close one and one of several contentious issues on the ballot at the virtual stockholders meeting Thursday, with 52 percent of votes cast in favor of the proposal, 47 percent against and the remainder abstaining. McDonald’s didn’t allow media to listen to the meeting.

While the vote is nonbinding, failing to follow through wouldn’t look good, according to Nell Minow, who advises companies about corporate governance as vice chair at ValueEdge Advisors. Even before the vote, large shareholders including Norges Bank and the State Board of Administration of Florida voiced their support for an audit.

The company’s second-biggest shareholder, BlackRock, voted against the proposal even though it’s undergoing its own racial-equity audit, according to people familiar with the matter.

McDonald’s declined to comment on the audit vote.

A record volume of Russian oil is on board tankers, with unprecedented amounts heading to India and China as other nations restrict imports because of the war in Ukraine. Between 74 million and 79 million barrels from the OPEC-plus producer were in transit and floating storage over the past week, more than double the 27 million barrels just before the February invasion of Ukraine, according to commodities analyst Kpler. Asia overtook Europe as the largest buyer for the first time last month, and that gap is set to widen in May, according to the data and analytics company. 

Lawyers for Robinhood Markets said they had reached an agreement in principle to resolve litigation by some investors who were blocked from trading shares in highflying stocks during an outage in March 2020. No details were disclosed. Multiple investors sued Robinhood in several states, mostly alleging restrictions by the trading platform that amounted to a breach of contract, court records show. Cases in California were consolidated with a federal judge in San Francisco.

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