Thursday 21th September
Today we’re publishing our 20th Most Powerful Women list, our annual stock-taking of what it means and what it takes to be a woman in business. As with every year, there are things to cheer and things to deplore. Some metrics have never looked better: 32 Fortune 500 companies had a woman as CEO when we published this year’s Fortune 500, more than ever before, and the list now includes the first Latina to have that distinction, PG&E’s Geisha Williams.
And yet it’s clear from the drumbeat of news stories throughout the year that many of the problems facing women are still pretty intractable: think of Susan Fowler at Uber, Gretchen Carlson at Fox News, and all the unnamed women at Google belittled by James Damore. Optimists (among which Fortune likes to count itself) can take heart from the fact that those cases all reflect the increasing confidence of women that exposing such wrongs will actually lead to change for the better. That said, this is a struggle that has neither a beginning nor an end, and which certainly doesn’t progress in a straight line.
We’ve chosen Mary Barra to head our list this year in recognition of her achievements at GM, which include among other things being the maker of the fastest-selling non-luxury pure electric car in the U.S., the Chevy Bolt. Barra has also managed to do what her predecessors couldn’t, by exiting loss-making markets in Europe and the emerging world to free up capital and energy for businesses that have a future.
Today we’re also publishing Beth Kowitt’s interview with No. 2 on the list, PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi, who opens up about that Kendall Jenner ad, among other things. You can read Beth’s profile of Nooyi here.
More news below.
• EXCLUSIVE: U.S. CFOs Turn Bearish
Chief financial officers across the country have turned bearish both about the economy’s prospects and prospects for their own companies, according to a new survey out today from Deloitte. Political concerns, both at home and abroad, were cited as the biggest external factors, while talent shortages were named as the biggest internal risk. Some 83% of CFOs also thought that U.S. equities were overvalued, the highest response Deloitte has had to that question. Deloitte
• Unwinding With Janet
The dollar hit a one-month high and the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 (but not the Nasdaq 100) hit new record highs as the Federal Reserve confirmed it will start reducing its balance sheet next month. It also indicated it remains inclined to raise interest rates one more time this year, probably in December. In doing so, it expressed confidence in the economy and looked past a string of weak inflation and earnings data. Chairwoman Janet Yellen said that the economy was on “a strong track” and that slack in the labor market had largely disappeared. FT, metered access
• Google Revives the Motorola Shuffle
Google agreed to buy the smartphone operations of fallen angel HTC for $1.1 billion. The deal secures the patents to the Pixel phone, which HTC has been manufacturing for Google, while giving HTC the funds to concentrate on developing its Vive virtual reality headsets, which are struggling to keep market share in the face of competition from better-funded rivals such as Facebook, Sony, and Samsung. The Taiwanese company’s own smartphones, which once accounted for 9% of global handset sales, have collapsed to the point of irrelevance. Fortune
• A Cloud No Bigger Than a Man’s Hand
Standard & Poor’s cut China’s long-term sovereign credit rating to A+ from AA-, fretting about an explosion in credit over the last 10 years that has increased financial and economic risks for the country. S&P said credit will continue to grow strongly for the next couple of years, further raising those risks. Ironically, two of the most closely watched metrics—corporate credit and Total Social Financing (the broadest measure tracked by Beijing), both improved in August. The Bank for International Settlements had said earlier this week that the gap between credit growth and GDP growth continued to be wider in China than anywhere else in the world. Reuters
Around the Water Cooler
• Maria Leaves Puerto Rico Dark and Destitute
Hurricane Maria followed up its devastation of Dominica by laying waste to Puerto Rico (though it spared the Virgin Islands). The damage will sharpen the focus on Puerto Rico’s long-term future, given its acrimonious twists in and out of bankruptcy in the last couple of years. The storm left the whole island—with over 1 million inhabitants—without power, and its utility PREPA, which had filed for bankruptcy in July with a “degraded and unsafe” electricity system, is in no position to restore power any time soon. President Trump has declared an emergency situation for the commonwealth. Time
• AMD Surges on Tesla Reports
Shares in chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices rose over 4% in response to a CNBC report that it is working with Tesla to supply chips for autonomous driving functions. Other news sites suggested the story may have been over-egged. Fortune
• Albertson’s Me-Too Meal Kit Bid
Grocery store chain Albertson’s jumped on the meal-kit bandwagon, buying Plated, whose founders first made their name on Shark Tank. Albertsons wants to expand upon that and offer Plated meal kits at “many” of its store locations as well as through its “digital channels,” likely in reference to the company’s various websites and apps. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Fortune
• The SEC Got Hacked
The Securities and Exchange Commission said hackers had infiltrated its database that stores public company financial filings, potentially allowing intruders to trade on inside information. SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said the breach was detected a year ago, then “patched promptly after discovery.” Fortune
Summaries by Geoffrey Smith; firstname.lastname@example.org