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Companies aren’t prepared for the trade war to get worse

Happy Monday. A version of this story first appeared in CNN Business’ Before the Bell newsletter. Not a subscriber? You can sign up right here.

The trade truce struck by the United States and China in October eased business concerns that more damaging tariffs were on the way. But some companies may be too complacent.

One quarter of companies do not have any contingency plans to mitigate the risks posed by the trade war, according to a new survey from the global logistics company DHL.

The details: Nearly 50% of engineering and manufacturing companies who responded fell into this category, as did 40% of auto and transportation firms — even though both sectors have often been at the center of the action.

Two thirds of respondents said they had been impacted by the trade war, but roughly one third said they were adopting a wait-and-see approach over the next six months instead of taking immediate action.

Why it’s a concern: Axios reports that a promised “phase one” deal between the US and China is now “stalled because of Hong Kong legislation,” according to a source close to Trump’s negotiating team.

Beijing made clear Monday that it’s not happy that President Donald Trump, facing veto-proof majorities in Congress, signed legislation supporting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters. Now the country is barring US military ships from docking in Hong Kong. China also announced sanctions on US NGOs based in Hong Kong that have been reporting on social unrest in the city.

Another issue: The removal of tariffs. “A deal looks no closer to being achieved and if reports over the weekend are to be believed — that China wants the full removal of existing tariffs — I don’t expect it to be wrapped up any time soon,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda.

So why are markets pushing higher? The latest Caixin survey of China’s manufacturing industry looked surprisingly positive and indicated that the sector was growing once again.

But skepticism remains that China’s economy is really improving.

“We believe this is just a temporary bump, with pressure on the manufacturing sector likely to resume,” UBS strategists said, citing better market sentiment in November on trade deal hopes, and the fact that demand picked up heading into the holiday season.

Warren Buffett is struggling to spend his money

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is sitting on $128 billion in cash and looking to make an “elephant-sized acquisition.” But the Oracle of Omaha is having trouble finding the right takeover target.

The latest: Buffett reportedly made a recent offer for software and hardware distributer Tech Data, only to be topped by private equity’s Apollo Global Management.

Last week, Apollo raised its offer to $145 a share from $130 a share, valuing Tech Data at $6 billion, after a mystery rival bidder came on the scene. CNBC is reporting that the suitor was Berkshire Hathaway, which had offered $140 per share.

Why Buffett is struggling: It’s a tough market right now for an investor that prizes value. As my CNN Business colleague Paul R. La Monica notes, Buffett has lamented the fact that valuations for many companies are prohibitively expensive given that the stock market is near all-time highs. And he has continuously stressed that he won’t overpay for deals.

Buffett recently put $10 billion of Berkshire’s cash to work with an investment in oil company Occidental to help it outbid Chevron and acquire competitor Anadarko Petroleum.

But it’s been a while since Buffett managed to cut a really big deal. Berkshire’s last major acquisition was the $37 billion purchase of aerospace components maker Precision Castparts in 2016.

Cyber Monday was all weekend long

Online shopping deals are no longer relegated to Cyber Monday as retailers cash in on consumers’ growing willingness to shop from the comfort of the couches.

Case in point: This was the biggest Black Friday ever for online sales, with Americans spending $7.4 billion. That number jumps to $11.6 billion if you include Thanksgiving Day.

But Cyber Monday hasn’t lost its luster. Adobe Analytics forecasts $9.4 billion in online sales. In all, Adobe predicts that the five-day Thanksgiving shopping spree will net $29 billion, one fifth of total online sales expected throughout the holiday season.

Up next

The ISM Manufacturing Index for November posts at 10 a.m. ET, along with US construction spending for October.

Coming tomorrow: Did Brazil’s economy look stronger in the third quarter?

CNN

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