Trade War Fears, Chinese Seizure, Qualcomm Question: CEO Daily for March 2, 2018
Stocks are tumbling around the globe this morning out of fears that President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum may spark a trade war. Trump said the duties of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum will be announced next week. Stocks were down in Asia and Europe, and futures point to another down opening in the U.S.
Meanwhile, it’s Friday, so time for some feedback, of which there has been plenty this week, over corporate injections into the gun debate.
R.B. thinks the corporate actions have been perfectly rational:
“Corporations are not setting gun policy, they are responding to their customer base, which is what CEOs should do. The United States adult population is 228 million, and there are 126 million households. Unlike our elected officials in Washington, companies are not highly dependent on 5 million NRA members.”
But G.H. thinks the companies taking action against the NRA may be making a mistake:
“There are two big risks of shunning the NRA or any group out of fear of the cowards who hide behind social media. First, is the risk of offending people you didn’t intend to shun. For example, the companies shunning the NRA are, by default, shunning many police officers who are members as well as shunning many lawmakers who are members….The other risk of shunning is where do you stop?”
For Delta Airlines, the cost of action has been real. The Georgia state Senate passed a tax bill, but stripped it of a $40 million break for the airline because of its action to end discounts for the NRA.
More news below.
Trade War Fears
President Donald Trump's announcement yesterday that the U.S. will impose big tariffs on steel and aluminum imports had an immediate effect on the markets, causing drops in stock exchanges across the U.S., Asia, and Europe. Canada and the EU have threatened retaliatory tariffs, while several European countries are planning measures to ward off the threat of China diverting its exports into their markets at overly cheap prices. Fortune
Another Chinese Seizure
China's government has reportedly seized control of CEFC China Energy, the country's largest oil conglomerate that isn't owned by the state. The conglomerate's founder, Ye Jianming, has been detained. The move comes in the context of a drive to crack down on private entrepreneurs and the debt they've been taking on—last week it was insurance giant Anbang that was being taken over, supposedly on a temporary basis. South China Morning Post
Trump and Guns
Donald Trump may have said earlier this week that he wants to ban bump stocks, expand background checks and raise the minimum age for gun purchases to 21, but now the National Rifle Association claims the president is on their side after all. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence "support the Second Amendment, support strong due process and don't want gun control," NRA lobbyist Chris Cox tweeted. New York Times
The Weinstein Company is being taken over by a consortium led by former Obama small business chief Maria Contreras-Sweet and billionaire Ron Burkle. The $500 million deal looked dead earlier this week, but the investors returned to the table. The deal will see the creation of an $80 million compensation fund for Harvey Weinstein's victims, and Weinstein himself will in no way personally benefit from the sale. Guardian
Around the Water Cooler
Should the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. weigh into Singapore-based Broadcom's hostile takeover bid for U.S. chip-maker Qualcomm? The Justice, Homeland Security, Defense and Energy departments seem to think so, but the White House hasn't commented yet. The concern is that a takeover (so far resisted by Qualcomm) could bruise U.S. aspirations to beat China on the 5G mobile broadband technology front. Wall Street Journal
Harvard psychology professor and prominent thinkfluencer Steven Pinker has accused Elon Musk of not being "serious about the AI threat," as evidenced by Tesla's quest to build self-driving cars. Musk hit back by ridiculing Pinker's failure to distinguish "narrow" artificial intelligence—the kind that will make cars autonomous—from the "general" AI that freaks out a lot of people, Musk included. Musk's case is not helped by the fact that he just stepped down from the board of OpenAI, a project that aims to steer general AI onto a safe course, due to conflicts of interest with his Tesla work. CNBC
Swedish and Finnish researchers say diabetes is actually five separate diseases. If this is so, it could revolutionize treatments for diabetes, which affects one in 11 adults around the world. "This is extremely important," said researcher Leif Groop. "We're taking a real step towards precision medicine. In the ideal scenario, this is applied at diagnosis and we target treatment better." BBC
If Labour does end up taking power in the U.K. sometime soon, the new chancellor would be the socialist John McDonnell. The Financial Times has an interesting interview with McDonnell, who has recently been trying to present himself as a more business-friendly figure—albeit one who still wants "an irreversible shift in the balance of power and wealth in favor of working people." FT