CEO Daily: Friday, March 11
The International Energy Association said this morning that oil prices may have bottomed. The reason? Supply and demand. “There are clear signs that market forces… are working their magic and higher cost producers are cutting their output,” the Paris-based agency said.
Chief among those higher-cost producers is the United States, where production is expected to be down 530,000 barrels a day in 2016. Because of the economics of fracking, production in the U.S. was “sticky” last year, but now is falling fast. That’s turning out to be a far bigger factor than Iran’s return to the market, which appears only to have increased production by 220,000 barrels a day. For those of us who came of age during oil crises, the notion that the U.S. is now the marginal producer, and that prices are being determined by market forces rather than Middle East wars and deals, is a miracle to behold.
Also miraculous was last night’s Republican debate, which focused mainly on substantive issues of foreign and domestic policy. Donald Trump stood by his statement that “Islam hates us,” and also called the China’s Tianamen Square protests a “riot.” None of that seems likely to slow his march to the Republican nomination.
And while the campaign debates got calmer, the rhetoric between Apple and the Justice Department heated up yesterday, with Justice calling Apple’s rhetoric “corrosive,” and Apple responding that Justice has “thrown all decorum to the wind.” Could we take this argument to a back room, please?
More news below.
• Yahoo adds two new board directors
Yahoo added two new directors to the Internet company's board, additions that bring up the board total back up to nine following resignations late last year. The new board members are Catherine Friedman, a former managing director of Morgan Stanley, and Eric Brandt, former chief financial officer of semiconductor company Broadcom Corp. The announcement reportedly came shortly before Yahoo's board met with Starboard Value LP, an activist hedge fund that has called for the sale of the company and threatened to nominate a new slate of directors. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
• D0J-Appls spat escalates
The Justice Department filed its latest response to Apple on Thursday in a fight over iPhone encryption, calling the electronic device maker's rhetoric in the San Bernardino, California case "false" and "corrosive" of institutions that safeguard rights. "Apple alone can remove those barriers so that the FBI can search the phone, and it can do so without undue burden," the DOJ wrote in the filing. Apple, which has contended unlocking the iPhone could create a dangerous precedent, is due to face the FBI in court later this month. CNBC
• Honest Company faces more questions
The Honest Company pledges to provide the best and safest products, a claim that’s attracted devoted customers and a nearly $1.7 billion private valuation. However, recent tests have found that its laundry detergent isn’t as squeaky clean as it claims. Two independent lab tests commissioned by The Wall Street Journal found the brand's laundry detergent contained sodium lauryl sulfate, an ingredient the company vows to avoid. Commonly known as SLS, it can be found in hundreds of consumer products, from Colgate toothpaste to Pantene shampoo and Method hand wash. Honest Co. has faced other labeling accusations in the past, most notably a lawsuit was filed last month that alleged it falsely and deceptively labeled its products as natural when they contained synthetic ingredients. Fortune
• Canada becomes U.S. creditor
Canada is now a creditor to the U.S. for the first time on record, government data shows, as stock of U.S. assets held by Canadians in the fourth quarter of 2015 exceeded assets held by Americans in Canada. Bloomberg said easy credit, strong balance sheets, and a lack of investing opportunities at home have been the main factors driving Canadian money managers and companies on a shopping spree south of the border. The value of those investments has also increased in the last couple of years as the U.S. dollar has strengthened. Bloomberg
Around the Water Cooler
• Swatch cautious on smartwatches
Switzerland’s Swatch Group has recently been dipping its toes into the waters of smartwatch technology, but it wants to see the functionality catch on before it fully dives in. The group – which also makes luxury timepieces under the Omega, Breguet and Harry Winston banners – has so far only introduced a couple of watches with "smart" functionality. Swatch CEO Nick Hayek said Thursday that this technology would stay in the plastic Swatch range for now, rather than finding its way into those more luxurious ranges. Fortune
• Jack Dorsey's Square salary is $2.75
Square CEO and founder Jack Dorsey had a lot to be happy about on Wednesday. His payments company’s earnings beat Wall Street estimates and it and it is projecting profitability—excluding certain costs—by the end of 2016. But Square’s recent progress has also come with a twist: Dorsey’s salary has dropped to $2.75 from $6,000, according to a filing with the SEC on Thursday. The new salary—merely enough to by a coffee—is symbolic for Square. The number, 2.75, is also the percentage that Square charges its merchants every time a credit card is swiped through one of Square’s terminals. Dorsey also doesn't take a salary of consequence at Twitter either, though his stakes in both are worth over $1 billion. Fortune
• J.P. Morgan embraces a new style: denim
Walk past any Manhattan office building housing a big bank and you'll see tons of men and women in crisp suits. But J.P. Morgan Chase, the nation's largest bank by assets, is embracing change in at least one office. The company's digital hub in Manhattan's Hudson Yards houses 700 tech workers who work on the company's online and mobile banking initiatives. They compete more with tech firms like Google and Amazon, so it makes sense that the office J.P. Morgan opened features tech-like perks including scooters, Foosball and XBOX game systems. USA Today