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Air Pollution, BP Strength, Yuan Level: CEO Daily for October 30, 2018

Good morning.

Here’s your fun fact for the day: In the last two market trading sessions, the FANG stocks—Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google-parent Alphabet—have lost a whopping $200 billion in market cap. And IBM’s deal to buy Red Hat isn’t faring so well either, with IBM shares falling 4%. Investors seemed more concerned about the suspension of stock buybacks than the transformational possibilities of the deal. Goldman Sachs’ chief equity strategist tried to give comfort, opining the market sell-off is “overdone.” But markets are clearly in an ugly mood.

I mentioned last week that I had visited Paul Volcker, who is promoting his new book, Keeping At It, out this morning. I’ve read it; you can read my review here. For CEO Daily readers, I’ll share a brief excerpt from the section in which he recounts the actions that earned him his place in history. It was the late 1970s. Inflation was raging, President Carter was blaming malaise, and as the newly installed Fed chief, Volcker was already fighting resistance—both inside and outside the Fed—to raising interest rates. So he made an historic decision to shift the Fed’s operating approach, from managing rates to managing money supply. The prime rate soared to an unprecedented 21.5% and precipitated a recession, but Volcker held firm, broke the back of inflation, and saved the American economy. He writes:

“The simplicity [of monetarism] helped provide a basis for presenting the new approach to the American public. At the same time, that approach enforced upon the Federal Reserve an internal discipline that had been lacking: we could not back away from our newfound emphasis on restraining the growth in the money supply without risking a damaging loss of credibility that, once lost, would be hard to restore. To overdramatize a bit, we were doomed to follow through. We were ‘lashed to the mast’ in pursuit of price stability.”

A masterful stroke of governance, that enabled good policy to triumph over dangerous politics. And proof positive that Great Men can change the course of history. Where are our Volckers today?

News below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
alan.murray@fortune.com

Top News

Air Pollution

Children’s health is being threatened around the world by air pollution, according to a new World Health Organization report that says more than 90% of kids are breathing polluted air. The pollution can cause cancer and asthma, and make chronic diseases later in life more likely. “This is inexcusable,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Fortune

BP Strength

BP shares popped more than 4% this morning after the oil giant reported a surge in profits. It will now use only cash to fund its $10.5 billion shale deal in the U.S., rather than issuing new shares to fund half the deal. The cause, of course, is high oil prices—good for the likes of BP, but not so much for airlines such as Lufthansa, which missed profit estimates in part thanks to fuel costs. Bloomberg

Yuan Level

China today set the weakest official level for the yuan in a decade: a reference rate of 6.9574 yuan to the dollar. It slid further after trading started. However, despite the predictions of U.S. banks, currency traders and government advisors say Beijing is unlikely to allow the currency to slide past the seven-per-dollar mark. Wall Street Journal

China Restrictions

The U.S. Commerce Department has told American firms they may not sell components to Fujian Jinhua, a Chinese memory-chip manufacturer, without a license. The company “engages in activity contrary to our national security interests,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Fujian Jinhua has been accused of stealing intellectual property from the U.S. chip firm Micron Technology. BBC

Around the Water Cooler

Bezos Wealth

Amazon’s faltering fortunes are hitting CEO Jeff Bezos’s fortune, which is largely composed of Amazon shares. The world’s richest individual lost $11 billion on Friday and another $8 billion yesterday. Overall, he’s lost $37 billion this month. Fortune

Red Hat

Red Hat reportedly gave other companies such as Google a chance to bid for it, before agreeing to sell to IBM at $190 per share. That means it’s unlikely anyone will step in to scupper that $34 billion deal with a counter-offer. CNBC

German Employment

German employment hit a record level of 45 million in September, according to new figures. The unemployment rate is 5.1%, the lowest since reunification in 1990. Economists say the labor market is in good shape, but there are shortages of skilled workers and new recruits in some sectors, which makes production expansion difficult. Reuters

Brexit Backstop

Need to wrap your head around the issue of the Northern Ireland “backstop,” which is the big blocker for a successful conclusion of the Brexit talks? The Financial Times has you covered, explaining how the issue of Northern Ireland’s border with Ireland became so diplomatically fraught in this context. Financial Times

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer. Find previous editions here, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters here.