Hurricane Irma was downgraded this morning to a category 4 storm, but is still packing 155 mile-an hour-winds, and leading to mass evacuations in South Florida.
The storm’s size, and the fact that its path could run straight up the Florida peninsula, have the potential to cause enormous damage in the state. Credit Suisse said yesterday it could cause $125 billion in damage – and perhaps double that if it hits Miami. That could bump Hurricane Harvey – which some were saying would be the most expensive in U.S. history with a potential cost of $190 billion – quickly out of the record books. Here’s a list of the 10 costliest hurricanes to hit the U.S. in the past, which shows how these costs are escalating.
Meanwhile, Richard Branson survived Irma in his wine cellar on privately owned Necker Island, and emerged to blog about it.
If you are looking for something to read while riding out the storm this weekend, I’d recommend Erika Fry’s in-depth look at the efforts Levi Strauss is making to improve the well-being of workers in its supply chain. The story is in the September issue of Fortune magazine, which features our annual Change the World list, and is being published online this morning.
You also might spend some time watching the fabulous series of interviews TIME published yesterday, called Firsts, with women who were first to break through the gender barrier in a variety of fields. It includes interviews with Mary Barra, Ursula Burns and Janet Yellen.
News below and – weather permitting – enjoy the weekend.
• Equifax Suffers Massive Data Breach
Consumer credit firm Equifax said the personal details of as many as 143 million U.S. consumers were stolen by hackers between mid-May and July, in what appeared to be one of the largest data breaches in the U.S. to date. Credit card information and “certain dispute documents with personal identifying information” were also accessed. The company said it discovered the breach on July 29, and Bloomberg reported that three senior executives, including Equifax’s CFO, had sold shares in the company over the four days that followed. Equifax said the executives weren’t aware of the breach at the time and noted that they had only sold “a small percentage” of their total holdings. Fortune
• About That Manipulated Chinese Currency…
China’s yuan hit a 20-month high against the dollar after a record-breaking 10th straight daily rise. It’s risen nearly 7% this year as hopes that the U.S. economy would shift into a higher gear have faded. At the same time, Beijing has managed to avoid crystallizing a financial crisis that many fear is inevitable. China’s trade surplus with the U.S., however, rose to its highest in nearly two years in August at $26.2 billion, according to customs data released Friday. The dollar fell broadly against most currencies Thursday after the ECB promised guidance on exiting its quantitative easing policy next month. Reuters
• Amazon Eyes a Home Away From Home
Amazon sent state and city Treasurers across the continent into a frenzy by saying it wanted to build a second corporate HQ in North America. The project, which will require investment of over $5 billion and will employ up to 50,000 is testimony to the company’s breakneck growth, as well as a sharp reminder of parallel growth in fixed costs at a company that hasn’t always covered them. Intriguingly, the company hasn’t limited its options to the U.S. The reaction from the White House if one of its favorite bêtes noires chooses a site in Mexico or Canada will be something to behold. Fortune
• Disney Raises the Stakes in Netflix Battle
Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger said the company planned to take its Star Wars and Marvel franchises off Netflix in 2019 rather than renew an expiring deal. That increases the risks of changing Disney’s distribution model, albeit by increasing the competitive damage to what is arguably its biggest long-term threat. Iger’s speech at an industry conference also included some disappointing earnings guidance: he predicted they would be flat in fiscal 2017, whereas Wall Street expected a 2.6% rise. Comcast added to the gloom at the same conference by saying it expected to lose up to 150,000 video subscribers in the current quarter due to intensifying competition. Disney’s shares fell 4%, Comcast’s 6%. Fortune
Around the Water Cooler
• Big Food Seeks Healthy Little Add-Ons
Nestlé and Unilever both added to the trend of Big Food expanding their presence in health-conscious alternatives. Nestlé bought California-based Sweet Earth, which makes plant-based substitutes for ham and bacon, among other things, while Unilever bought herbal tea maker Pukka Herbs, which sells its teabags for around 10 times the price of its standard PG Tips brand. Nestlé USA head Paul Grimwood reckoned up to half of its customers were open to embracing a type of food that stresses animal welfare and environmentalism. Fortune
• BMW, Jaguar Step up Electric Vehicle Push
BMW and Jaguar Land Rover upped their game in the electric vehicle stakes. JLR said it will make hybrid or battery-powered versions of all its models by 2020, while BMW said it planned to offer at least 12 fully electric models by 2025, including a sedan that will be the first new model in its “i” sub-brand since 2014. The announcements came ahead of the Frankfurt Auto Salon. Carmakers are trying to burnish their image during an election campaign in which they are playing the unaccustomed role of villain, thanks to the Dieselgate scandal and related accusations of anti-competitive behavior. Fortune
• FDA Blasts Pfizer Over Epipen Failures
The Food and Drug Administration blasted Pfizer’s manufacturing arm that makes EpiPen auto-injectors for Mylan, saying it failed to investigate fatal product failures properly. Pfizer said it had no information about causal links between faulty devices and patient deaths, and noted that the emergency injector is generally administered by non-trained individuals. It had, however, recalled some devices after an FDA inspection of the Meridian Medical Technologies facilities in March. WSJ, subscription required
• Earthquake Hits Mexico
An earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale hit southern Mexico, causing a small tsunami but causing only limited damage and—so far—only five deaths. Fortune
Summaries by Geoffrey Smith; email@example.com