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CEO Daily: Tuesday, August 25

The Chinese stock market dropped another 7.6% while you were sleeping, but European markets turned up, and futures signal good news for the U.S. That raises the question: could the market dive be a blip that tells little about the future of the U.S. economy?

 

Answer: it could. A few data points to consider:

 

The Dow closed down 588 points yesterday, the eighth worst single-day loss in its history, following a 1000-point decline the previous week – a drop of roughly 10% overall. That pales in comparison to the 1987 Black Monday crash, when the Dow lost 22% in one day – and didn’t presage a recession. Moreover, while China and its suppliers are clearly stumbling, exports to the Pacific Rim account for only 2% of U.S. GDP.

 

This morning’s Wall Street Journal provided a number of interesting anecdotes showing the growing disconnect between the U.S. and Asian economies:

 

-Attendance at U.S. Disney parks rose 4% in the quarter ending in June, while declining in Hong Kong;

 

-Ford Motor Company’s North American revenue rose 4.1% in the first half of the year, while it dropped 14.5% in Asia;

 

-At Wynn Resorts, slot machine use inched up 1.2% in Vegas, while dropping 27.6% in Macau.

 

Then there is oil. West Texas Intermediate reached $38 a barrel yesterday, the lowest in six years. That will be a gift for U.S. energy consumers, but take a heavy toll on U.S. producers. Energy guru Dan Yergin told my colleague Brian O’Keefe that we’re on the verge of “a lot of turmoil and hurt” in the U.S. oil patch. You can read his comments here.

 

Bottom line: uncertainty. I don’t think the Fed can raise rates in this environment. Larry Summers followed his Monday FT column with a posting on Twitter that read: “It’s far from clear that the next Fed move will be a tightening.”

 

Enjoy the day. And thanks for all your coffee suggestions yesterday. If you are feeling glum about the market, stop by Starbucks: Howard Schultz instructed his baristas to “be very sensitive to the pressures our customers may be feeling.”

 

 

 

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
alan.murray@fortune.com

Top News

• Where stocks are heading next

By now, we all know what happened on Monday: The Dow opened down more than 1,000 points, recovered most of the losses, and then tumbled again. The question on many minds is what happens next. European markets have bounced back on Tuesday and Wall Street stock futures rose several hours ahead of the market open. Meanwhile, WSJ looks out a bit longer, musing if 2015’s action will turn out like 1987, when stocks eventually crashed or more like 1997, when an Asian financial crisis caused a shallower disruption that didn’t do much to derail the U.S. bull market. WSJ

• World’s richest lose billions more

Mere mortals dared not check their 401Ks yesterday afternoon, for fear of how retirement funds would look in the wake of a string of poor days for U.S. markets and even greater troubles in many markets abroad. Among the world’s 400 richest people, the loss is astoundingly large: $182 billion shed last week and another $124 billion on Monday alone. By Friday, the declines were so bad that it put that group’s fortunes in the red for the year-to-date.  Bloomberg

• Tim Cook reassures investors

Apple’s CEO, in an e-mail to a CNBC host, said the gadget maker’s performance in beleaguered China remained strong with steady iPhone activations and strong demand for the App Store through July and August. His comments come as fears have escalated that U.S. firms that do big business in China – and Apple is among them – will be hurt by a softer economy there. But MarketWatch reported that Cook’s e-mail may have violated a Securities and Exchange Commission rule.  Fortune

Serve coffee with kindness, Starbucks says

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz also weighed in on the stock market shocker in an e-mail, though his focus was on the customer service that baristas can provide the coffee giant’s customers. Schultz told staff that financial market volatility would “undoubtedly have an effect on consumer confidence and perhaps even our customers’ attitudes and behavior.” He went on to ask employees to exceed their expectations and be sensitive to those pressures.  Fortune

 

 

Around the Water Cooler

• Millions are in student loan default

There are nearly 7 million Americans that have gone at least a year without making a payment on their federal student loans, meaning 17% of all borrowers with federal loans are “severely delinquent.” And even worse: millions more are behind but haven’t hit the 360-day threshold that the government defines as a default. The figures indicate how even with better employment trends in recent years, the sharp increase in student debt is a quickly becoming a major problem for many.  WSJ (subscription required)

• FTC can punish firms for hacks

This news didn’t generate a ton of press yesterday during the stock market madness but deserves some attention. A U.S. appellate court has ruled that the Federal Trade Commission has the authority to sue Wyndham Hotels for allowing hackers to steal customers’ data from its computer systems several years ago. The ruling essentially cements the agency’s ability to fine firms that lose customer data to hackers, a decision consumer privacy watchdogs praised as it is a legal incentive for firms to spend money to prevent such attacks.  Wired

• Obama’s new green energy push

President Barack Obama has announced new initiatives to encourage solar and other green technologies, including more than $1 billion in government funds to back projects along with funding research and development of new technologies. The Energy Department will oversee the new $1 billion loan program, which has been both lauded and derided in the past as some loans worked out (electric car maker Tesla) while others flopped (failed solar panel maker Solyndra).  Fortune