Markets stabilized this morning, following an upturn in Shanghai. But the first four trading days mark the worst start of a year ever for the Dow and S&P 500.
The markets have fallen out of love with tech companies. Among those pummeled has been Fitbit, which lost almost a third of its value since the New Year, and half since its peak last summer. Fitbit CEO James Park was at the Leaders in Technology dinner at CES last night, and took a philosophic pose: “All we can do is focus on what we can control, and what we can control is launching great products. The stock price will take care of itself.” (Park also narrowly lost his Fitbit challenge with CES maestro Gary Shapiro.)
Mighty Apple saw its shares fall under $100 yesterday for the first time in 15 months, closing at $96.45, down from its peak of $133. The only stock in the Dow Jones Industrial Average off to a good start this year is Walmart.
Separately, the most interesting person I met at CES this year was Emmanuel Macron, the French Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital affairs. A 38-year-old former investment banker, Macron has become the champion of French start-ups, bringing more than 100 of them as his entourage to CES, and flying with them on to Silicon Valley after last night’s dinner.
At a panel I moderated yesterday, Macron said the top policy challenge in France was to “reduce the cost of failure” for new companies by easing regulation – language not normally heard from French bureaucrats. Speaking at the dinner last night, he said: “I want to remind you that entrepreneur is a French word. We lost it. But now we are recovering it… We are changing, and we have to change.” Some in France speculate he could be a future presidential candidate.
More news below.
• China’s stocks rebound slightly
Global markets stabilized somewhat Friday morning, with China’s stock market closing up 2% after the country’s regulators decided to suspend use of the “circuit breakers” that had halted trading twice earlier in the week. While the news left hope for a global turnaround, especially after U.S. stocks saw their worst-ever start to a year, Fortune‘s Scott Cendrowski would have you remember that Chinese stock movement is not necessarily a reflection of the health of that country’s economy. In other words, China’s struggles are not over and the country’s confusing currency machinations remain troublesome for the rest of the world. Fortune
• Alcoa shedding 1,200 jobs in U.S.
Alcoa said Thursday that it will shutter one of the largest aluminum smelters in the U.S.—Indiana’s Warrick Operations—and cutting 600 jobs. The company is also curtailing capacity at a Texas bauxite refinery in a move that will cut another 670 jobs. The metals company noted weakened commodity prices, including aluminum prices that are down nearly a third in the past year, in justifying the moves. As Fortune pointed out, increasingly cheap Chinese exports have wreaked havoc on aluminum prices, which could continue to plummet. Fortune
• Shire-Baxalta deal could come early next week
Dublin-based drugmaker Shire, which had been rumored to be in advanced deal talks with Baxalta International, is now reportedly only days away from announcing a $32.5 billion acquisition of its smaller rival. Sources tell Reuters the deal, which would come after Baxalta previously rebuffed an initial approach from Shire last summer, could be announced on Monday and would value the U.S. company Baxalta at roughly $48 per share. Reuters
• Walgreens defends Valeant distribution deal
Executives at the nation’s largest drugstore operator, Walgreens Boots Alliance, took time during Thursday’s earnings call to defend the company’s 20-year distribution deal with Valeant Pharmaceuticals. Under the pact, which makes Walgreens pharmacies the main distributor for Valeant’s medicines, the drugmaker will slash the prices of its skin and eye treatments by 10%. Some industry rivals have claimed the such deals can actually raise drug prices because pharmacies hold treatments on consignment instead of owning them outright. But Walgreens CEO Stefano Pessina said on the earnings call that he wants the deal to serve as a model for future similar arrangements and that he is open to Walgreens making more deals. Fortune
Around the Water Cooler
• A ripple effect of China’s stock crash
China’s stock market has fallen nearly 10% in the first week of 2016, as investors show their fear over a struggling economy and a move by the country’s central bank to weaken the currency and spur exports. But China’s weakened currency has the potential to spark a trade war between the rest of the world’s economies over slow-growing global demand. Hardly any economies across the globe are experiencing the rapid growth based on rising incomes that major exporters look for in trade partners, which means China will likely have a hard time finding buyers as it looks to increase exports. Fortune
• Only one Dow Jones stock is in the black this year
U.S. stocks have also been pummeled to start 2016, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down more than 900 points, or over 5%, in its first week of trading this year. In fact, only one of the 30 stocks that comprise the Dow has risen this year, and that’s Walmart. The behemoth retailer’s shares are up 6%, which marks a nice rebound for the company. Walmart was actually the worst-performing Dow stock of 2015, dropping 28% on concerns over its ability to compete in the e-commerce space with rival Amazon. Fortune
• How the Chernin Group bought control of Barstool Sports
Fortune’s Dan Primack reveals the details of how investment firm the Chernin Group went about buying a majority stake in controversial sports comedy website Barstool Sports. The deal values the site at as much as $15 million and it gives the Chernin Group the opportunity to partner with a unique content provider while growing a digital media portfolio for the firm that already includes Otter Media, along with investments in Pandora and SoundCloud among others. Fortune
5 things to know today
China relief and December jobs—5 things to know today. Today’s story can be found here.