Good morning, Daily readers. Happy Friday. Alan Murray is off on vacation. Deputy Editor Clifton Leaf is filling in this week.
Four words have echoed through Trump campaign rallies and TV interviews these past many months: “Make America Great Again.” And clearly they’ve resonated with millions of voters. Putting aside the question of whether the slogan itself is a false narrative (“America is great already”)—or merely empty, jingoistic blather—it’s worth a moment to imagine how Trump might accomplish that goal. To ask: How can the U.S. compete and win in the world over the next decade?
The challenge is, of course, that our 320 million-plus population is getting on in years—the median age in the U.S. is now 38 (up from 35 in the year 2000). And our economic engine is puttering like an old foursome teeing up on the back nine—slowing to an annualized 1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015.
But then, that’s the country as a whole. The good news is, we have in our midst a subpopulation of what you might call super-growers. This demographic is about 55 million people strong, has a median age of just 27, and spends like mad—with a combined buying power of $1.5 trillion, which is on pace to grow about $80 to $90 billion a year. Consumption by this group grew 5.8% from 2010 to 2013, while overall buying in the U.S. increased 3.8%, according to data from the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth. And that growth is becoming ever more important to retailers like Walmart (where the group accounts for over 90% of year-on-year sales growth, according to Walmart board member Aida Alvarez), consumer products companies, bankers, auto makers, and more. This diverse community of spenders, it seems, accounted for virtually all of the sales growth, from 2013 to 2014, for Chevy, Ford, and Honda, according to IHS Automotive’s Polk market data. Meanwhile, the group is starting businesses at a rate that dwarfs the rest of the country; new business formation by members of this demographic slice of America surged 47 percent between 2007 and 2012, compared with 2% growth in the U.S. overall.
The group, in case you’re wondering, is U.S. Latinos—and the data was compiled by the Latino Donor Collaborative. Founded by serial telecom entrepreneur Solomon Trujillo and former HUD Secretary and current CityView chairman Henry Cisneros, the LDC is trying to change a narrative that, somehow, went well askew in the run-up to the presidential election.
The good news is, we have a possible means to Mr. Trump’s mission: One way to make America great (again) would be to embrace a group that’s keeping America growing and competing.
Below, what’s in the news this morning.
• Delaying his taxes could hurt Trump
Donald Trump has so far refused to release his tax returns, arguing that several years of his returns are being audited by the IRS and that he won’t make any of the filings public until the review is completed. It is possible the nation won’t see the returns – and hence get the real story on Trump’s wealth and income – until after he’s anointed as the Republican candidate. That could be dangerous, as waiting post-convention to produce tax records proved a disaster for the last Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, who didn’t release his tax returns until just weeks before the general election. And refusing altogether is unprecedented in modern political history.
• Google mulling sale of Boston Dynamics
Google is reportedly looking to sell Boston Dynamics, the robotics company that it purchased in 2013 amid a big push into creating a viable robotics business unit, Bloomberg reported. Unlike the more consumer-friendly types of robots on the market today, Boston Dynamics’ human-like robots were tailored for military purposes. The company was also noteworthy for a series of videos displaying humanoid robots strolling through snow without stumbling and standing back up after being knocked down. However, Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has had a difficult time making a business out of the machines.
• Aéropostale puts itself up for sale
The teen retailer on Thursday said it may sell itself, a development that comes as Aéropostale reported yet another quarter of sales declines. Unlike its peers American Eagle Outfitters and Abercrombie & Fitch, Aéropostale has not been able to return to growth as young consumers turn away from brands. Net sales decreased 16% during the holiday quarter, with comparable sales slipping 6.7%. Aéropostale has stumbled as its lower-income shoppers have pulled back or shopped elsewhere in response to some fashion stumbles by the brand. Its shares have been trading below $1 for so long that it runs the risk of being delisted by the New York Stock Exchange.
• U.S. sues to stop newspaper deal
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit aimed at blocking Tribune Publishing, which owns the Los Angeles Times, from acquiring papers in nearby Orange and Riverside Counties, saying the acquisition would lessen competition. Tribune Publishing had planned to buy bankrupt Freedom Communications. Tribune had said on Thursday that it was paying $56 million for Freedom, which publishes Orange County’s Register and the Press-Enterprise in Riverside County. The Justice Department said that the Tribune purchase of Freedom would give it 98% of newspaper sales in Orange County and 81% of English-speaking newspaper sales in Riverside.
• Toshiba in U.S. accounting probe
Japanese electronics maker Toshiba Corp. said Friday it was cooperating with a U.S. probe into its accounting practices. Toshiba’s share price took a hit when news of the inquiries surfaced, but the company’s shares were trading up slightly by mid afternoon in Tokyo on Friday. Tokyo-based Toshiba is embroiled in a scandal over disclosures that company officials doctored accounting books for years after setting unrealistic earnings targets. And while the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission have not disclosed details of their investigation. Japanese media reported that the questions could be over accounting at Toshiba subsidiary Westinghouse Electric Co. However, Westinghouse issued a vehement statement on its website refuting that the company was under investigation.
Around the Water Cooler
• Banks may be too big to break up
This year, at their annual meetings, shareholders of both J.P. Morgan Chase and Citigroup will have the opportunity to vote later this year on whether the banking giants should break up into smaller, more manageable pieces. Spurred by proposals by a financial policy activist, the votes are not a hard break-up-immediately decision, but rather a referendum on whether to form committees to look into the viability of splitting the companies up. The breakups would be hard to achieve even if shareholders voted for them – as the Federal Reserve would need to sign off on any such move and wouldn’t do so unless each new company is profitable.
• How to prepare to ask for a promotion
Alan B. Miller, chairman and CEO of Universal Health Services, tells The Fortune 500 Insiders Network that the first step before asking for a promotion is simple: Be honest with yourself first. Before asking for a promotion, ask yourself if your past performance merits recognition. Make a list of your key achievements, and then evaluate whether they indicate that you’re ready to meet the challenges of a more senior position. As CEO, he says he has seen promotions resulting in great success over the course of a career, as well as promotions that have resulted in major setbacks. “Regardless of the time or place, talented people who are aggressive and who want to perform at a top level are the ones who ask for promotions,” Miller advises.
• Court virtual pop stars take the stage?
Simon Fuller, the talent manager behind TV’s “American Idol,” is busy manufacturing his next pop star, after a deal that made him one of the largest shareholders of digital production firm Pulse Evolution. So what’s the plan? Fuller is developing a variety of potential digital artists, including a virtual incarnation of Elvis Presley. These acts, which he plans to introduce publicly within the next 18 months, could generate a massive windfall for Fuller. He is the sole copyright owner and would retain all of a completely fictional artist’s revenue, while for characters based on real artists, he would likely take half of revenue.
The Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
• Women make more than men at this tech job
Women working in data centers actually make more money than their male peers, at least according to a new survey of 310 data center professionals worldwide. A pertinent caveat: Just 11.7% of the respondents were women, but on average, those respondents made 17% more than their male counterparts across all ranges of experience and titles. The salary disparity broadened at the higher levels of management. Regarding specialties, salaries for those handling lower level data center operations and infrastructure duties were lower than for people with application development and cloud computing experience.