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The Year of Incredible Uncertainty

We’re in an era of truly incredible uncertainty, and I say that as someone who tries to avoid the overused word “incredible.” It’s Latin for unbelievable, but the word is mostly applied by overwrought speakers and writers to things that are not in fact genuinely unbelievable. If you doubt that recent events have been literally incredible, though, ask yourself if you would have believed someone who told you, just a few weeks in advance…

-…that Donald Trump would be elected president. This example is obvious, but we need to remind ourselves that many of Trump’s most ardent supporters didn’t think he’d actually win. An unnamed senior adviser told CNN on election night, “It would take a miracle for us to win.” In other words, even Team Trump didn’t believe it just hours before it happened.

-…that U.S. stocks would rocket on the news. Virtually every mainstream economist agreed that exactly the opposite would happen, and with good reason. During the summer, with a Hillary Clinton victory looking certain, stock market averages roared ahead; the S&P gained 9% from late June to Labor Day. Bizarrely, even the market itself didn’t believe it until it did believe it.

…that Tiffany & Co. would suffer from a Trump victory. Surely the effect would be just the opposite, right? Expensive jewelry fits right into the sensibility the president-elect tries to create. This is a guy who named his younger daughter Tiffany. But Tiffany & Co.’s flagship store in Manhattan is Trump Tower’s next-door neighbor, and we learned yesterday from an SEC filing that all the security and demonstrations outside the soon-to-be Fifth Avenue White House are damping sales.

I don’t know if it’s sunspots or what, but 2016 could go down in history as a wonder-year like 1968, a time when Britain left Europe, Trump won the presidency, Apple’s revenues declined, Brad and Angelina broke up, and the world turned upside down. A literally incredible year. And if you don’t believe me, just ask the Chicago Cubs.

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What We’re Reading Today

OPEC nears oil deal 
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih says OPEC members are near a deal to cut oil output. Saudi Arabia would take a “big hit” to production if Iran agrees to reduce output to amounts produced while under economic sanctions. The deal isn’t done, but oil futures jumped 7% on the announcement. Reuters

Philip Morris CEO imagines a world without cigarettes
Launching its IQOS smokeless cigarettes in Britain, Andre Calantzopoulos  said he could see a time when smoking alternatives, including smokeless and e-cigarettes, replace traditional cigarettes — a revolution for the largest international cigarette maker. “I hope this time will come soon,” he said. Whether new forms of smoking are safer than traditional cigarettes is unclear. Fortune

$108 billion in forgiven student debt
The Government Accountability Office says Obama administration programs to  reduce student debt are costing more than expected. Enrollment in the plans, which have been extended through executive orders, has tripled over the past three years, reducing forecast revenues. WSJ

Unhappy Amazon employee sends staff an email…
…then attempts suicide by jumping out of a company building. CEO Jeff Bezos was among the recipients. The man had sought a transfer to a new department but was instead placed on a so-called improvement plan, which can lead to being fired. Amazon has struggled to soften its workplace image since a New York Times article last year depicted a brutal culture. The man was injured in the 12-story fall and taken to a hospital. Bloomberg

Building Better Leaders

Apple’s structure problem
Tim Cook‘s company is set up as functional groups of teams based on expertise. That structure leaves no one responsible for and fighting to improve specific products, which may explain long lags between updates of items like the MacBook Pro.  Vox

Don’t be afraid to ask for a raise
If you define your salary goals and demonstrate your value by outlining your accomplishments, employers can still just say no. If they do, then renegotiate other perks. Fortune

Japan tries to tackle death by overwork
One in five employees are at risk of working to death, but legislating solutions is hard.  CNNMoney

Trump Proclamations

Trump to leave “business in total”
President-elect Donald Trump sent a tweet this morning promising a press conference in December to discuss his decision. It’s unclear if he will divest his interest in the company or simply hand management to his children.  Washington Post

Steven Mnuchin selected for Treasury Secretary
served as Trump’s campaign finance chairman but has supported Democratic candidates including Hillary Clinton in the past. He heads the hedge fund Dune Capital Management and is a former Goldman Sachs partner. He also ran OneWest Bank, formerly named IndyMac, while it received FDIC help in 2008. OneWest foreclosed on over 36,000 homeowners under Mnuchin, which could complicate his confirmation.  NPR

Carrier to keep 1,000 jobs in Indiana
The manufacturer, part of United Technologies, announced nine months ago that it would move its Indianapolis plant to Mexico, a decision that Trump lambasted. Now it has reached a deal with the incoming administration to keep nearly 1,000 jobs in Indianapolis. The plant employs 1,400. USA Today

Up or Out

Lexmark International has named David Reeder CEO.  WSJ

Fortune Reads and Videos

SEC criticizes Tesla accounting
In correspondence with Elon Musk‘s company, the SEC said Tesla has recognized revenue too early.  Fortune

Italians head to the polls this weekend…
…to vote on a series of constitutional reforms. If the referendum doesn’t pass, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi says he will resign leading to potential more troubles for the Euro. Fortune

Kellogg stops advertising on Breitbart
The company cited a difference in values with the far-right news outlet. Fortune

Nintendo gets real
The game maker will open themed attractions at three Universal Studios theme parks. Fortune

Quote of the Day

“Start with how the world is going to be different five years from now because your business exists, and then back it up with the really detailed, awesome plans for what you’re gonna do next.” — Venture capitalist and Birchbox co-founder Hayley Barna on how female entrepreneurs can convince investors to invest in an idea.  Fortune

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Produced by Ryan Derousseau