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China Talks, Pierre Nanterme, Amazon India: CEO Daily for February 1, 2019

Good morning.

When I wrote earlier this week that I thought it was a good idea for ex-Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to run for president, my colleague Claire Zillman warned me to brace for some “spirited feedback.” Well, I did get a flood of feedback, but surprisingly, most of it positive. CEO Daily readers seem to be in favor. A small sampling:

“I fully agree with your recommendation that Howard ‘Go for it!’ The country needs a middle. We are losing our younger generation to leftist crazies and the older generation to the far right …. but most people are in, or close to, the middle.”


“I do not know that I would or would not vote for Howard Schultz, but I like that he threw his hat into the ring as an Independent… If he ran for either party’s nomination, he would be shouted down. As an Independent, he will have an open mic, at least until right before Labor Day.”


“There is an available majority in the center for a true leader who is willing to find sensible compromises that solve problems without regard for partisan pandering. Who’s to say Schultz would draw more votes from a left-wing Dem than from Trump? There are lots of disaffected Republicans still identifying R or in that increasing Independent cohort who would jump at the chance to vote for a responsible centrist.”


On the other side, there was this:

“In the end, third party candidates are indicators of the level of division in the country. They have never been solutions to that division.”


I’m not sure I can argue with that historical analysis.

Separately, LS wrote in after yesterday’s post on the Fed’s suspension of interest rate increases, where I said black swans must be circling:

“This is all natural response to secular stagnation. You are right that there are risks, but there are also recession risks in continuing to raise rates.”

Thanks for the feedback. More news below.

Alan Murray

Top News

China Talks

China is offering to buy more U.S. goods, and Trump is sending Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to China this month. “I think we will agree,” said President Trump of a possible deal. He also tweeted: “No final deal will be made until my friend President Xi, and I, meet in the near future to discuss and agree on some of the long standing and more difficult points.” China says “progress” has been made. CNN

Pierre Nanterme

Former Accenture CEO and chair Pierre Nanterme has passed away, just weeks after stepping down for health reasons. His cause of death has not been made public, but he was diagnosed with colon cancer a few years ago. Accenture said it “extends its sincerest condolences to his family in this difficult time and expresses its enduring gratitude for his decades of leadership and inspiration.” Fortune

Amazon India

Amazon has had to withdraw loads of products in India due to new rules that forbid online retailers from making deals with sellers to offer products exclusively on their platform, and from selling vendors’ products where the retailer owns a stake in the vendor. So, Echo speakers and Amazon Basics batteries have vanished from the company’s Indian shelves, for example, as have items sold by vendors in which Amazon holds a stake. BBC

Steel Quotas

The European Union will tomorrow impose limits on steel imports to handle the fallout of the U.S.’s steel tariffs. This isn’t about the tariffs on EU steel, but a result of the fact that Trump’s tariffs mean there’s more steel out there that’s not being imported into the U.S.—EU producers would rather not have all that steel dumped into their domestic market. The quotas will last until mid-2021. Reuters

Around the Water Cooler

European Factories

Europe saw minimal factory activity growth in January, with new orders falling more quickly than at any time in the last six years. That’s according to the latest IHS Markit Purchasing Manager’s Index, which provides yet more evidence of a global economic slowdown. Reuters

Erik Prince

A security firm run by Erik Prince—the Blackwater founder and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos—will build a training center in China’s Xinjiang province. That’s the province where Uighur Muslims are being persecuted and imprisoned en masse, so expect a ton of a controversy around this deal. Guardian

German Banks

Bloomberg‘s Elisa Martinuzzi has a good analysis of the mooted Deutsche Bank-Commerzbank merger, and why investors have cause for concern. From the piece: “Combining two of Europe’s most inefficient banks to create an even bigger supertanker would require tens of thousands of job cuts and a risky (read costly) integration to stand a chance of working.” P.S.—Deutsche Bank just recorded its first annual net profit since 2014. Bloomberg

Dope Jobs

Hiring at weed companies jumped by more than three quarters last year, according to job site Glassdoor, which said salaries in the industry were higher than the U.S. average. No previous industry experience is required, either—for obvious reasons. Fortune

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