Global Glance: US and global partners wrestle over trade stance; Debt limit goes back into effect at level near $20 trillion

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Here are today’s top business headlines from across the nation and world:

US and global partners wrestle over trade stance

BADEN-BADEN, Germany (AP) — U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin headed into a tussle over free trade Friday at a summit that will help set the tone for the global economy. The Group of 20 gathering will be dominated by the question of how strongly to oppose trade protectionism, particularly after U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to impose border taxes and rewrite free trade deals. The focus will be on a joint statement that is being prepared for Saturday. So far, officials at the G-20 finance ministers’ meeting in the German spa town of Baden-Baden haven’t been able agree on whether to confirm their longstanding opposition to protectionism, the use of import taxes and rules by a country to shield its own companies. Early drafts of their final joint statement have dropped the ban on protectionism but there was no agreement on what to replace it with, or exactly how to put their position into words, said officials who briefed reporters Friday only on condition of anonymity because the talks were ongoing. Read more

Debt limit goes back into effect at level near $20 trillion

WASHINGTON (AP) — The national debt limit came back into force Thursday at a level near $20 trillion, prompting the Trump administration to alert Congress about the measures it will take to stay under the new limit. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a letter to lawmakers that that he has started employing bookkeeping measures to avoid breaching the new limit, a process that will provide possibly five months or more for Congress to raise the limit. The borrowing limit had been suspended since November 2015, allowing the government to borrow as much as needed to meet obligations. However, the 2015 legislation set March 16 as the date that the debt limit would go back into effect at whatever debt level existed on March 15. Read more

Average US 30-year mortgage rate rises to 4.30 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose this week for a second straight week, posting new highs for the year. The markets were anticipating an increase in a key interest rate by the Federal Reserve, which the Fed announced Wednesday. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the rate on 30-year, fixed-rate loans climbed to 4.30 percent from 4.21 percent last week. The benchmark rate stood at 3.73 percent a year ago and averaged 3.65 percent through 2016, the lowest level in records dating to 1971. The rate on 15-year mortgages increased to 3.50 percent from 3.42 percent last week. Read more

Wheels spinning as GOP looks for traction of health bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — Pulling in different directions, Republicans are striving to get traction for a health care overhaul in danger of being dragged down by intra-party differences. Some GOP governors weighed in Thursday evening in a letter to congressional leaders saying the House bill gives them almost no new flexibility and lacks sufficient resources to protect the vulnerable. It landed as Republican moderates and conservatives in the House remained split, and senators expressed reservations. Democrats are united in fierce opposition. President Donald Trump, whose administration initially embraced the House health care bill, has lately called it “very preliminary,” adding that “we will take care of our people or I’m not signing it.” Read more

Israeli tech firms revving up engines for self-driving cars

JERUSALEM (AP) — As the world moves toward an era of self-driving cars, Israel is positioning itself to be the Detroit of the future. The country has emerged as a global leader in the fast-growing field of driverless cars, as illustrated by Intel’s more than $15 billion acquisition of Israeli firm Mobileye this week. Israel is now home to hundreds of startups that provide everything from censors to cybersecurity to data collection for autonomous vehicles, putting it alongside Silicon Valley at the forefront of an industry that many expect to take off over the next decade. Read more

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