Vaccines make CFOs more optimistic

December 9, 2020, 11:04 AM UTC

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Good morning.

The emergence of a vaccine is making habitually cautious CFOs more optimistic about the outlook for the U.S. economy next year. That’s my reading of Deloitte’s quarterly CFO Signals survey—the most reliable tracking of CFO sentiment I know of.

The percentage of CFOs rating the North American economy as “good” or “very good” rose to 18% in the latest survey from 7% a quarter earlier. That puts North America ahead of Europe, where only 5% of respondents rate the current economy as “good” or “very good,” but well behind China, where 47% see it as “good” or “very good.”

Looking a year out, a full 59% of CFOs expect the U.S. economy to be better. A majority (58%) expect the S&P 500 will be higher by the end of next year, and a similar majority (60%) believe the ten-year bond yield will stay below 2%.

A majority of the CFOs also are hopeful that a new administration in the U.S. will lead to a more rigorous response to the pandemic, a new stimulus package, and a bipartisan infrastructure bill. Let’s hope they are right, on all counts. You can read the full report later this morning here.

More news below.

Alan Murray


Climate catastrophe

The world is heading for a disastrous 3°C average temperature rise from preindustrial levels, well above the 2°C limit countries said they'd stick to under the Paris Agreement. According to U.N. researchers, greenhouse gas emissions reached a new record last year, and last month was the hottest November on record. "The levels of ambition in the Paris Agreement still must be roughly tripled for the 2C pathway and increased at least fivefold for the 1.5C pathway," they wrote. Reuters

Shell resignations

Several clean-energy executives at Shell have quit ahead of the oil giant's announcement of its energy-transition strategy. The departures appear to be partly linked to internal tension over the pace of change—one source told the Financial Times: "People are really questioning if there will be any change at all…Part of the frustration is that you see the potential, but the mindset isn’t there among senior leaders for anything radical." FT

Vaccine data

AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford have become the first coronavirus vaccine developer to publish their full data in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The data confirms that their vaccine (a cheaper and easier-to-deploy alternative to vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna) is 70% effective overall. However, it still doesn't definitively show how effective the vaccine is with patients over the age of 55. Washington Post

Battery breakthrough

The Bill-Gates-backed battery startup QuantumScape says it will be able to power cheap, long-range electric vehicles within four years. The company, which is also backed by German auto giant Volkswagen, says its lithium-metal batteries can be repeatedly recharged without degrading, and also charged very quickly. Fortune


Google disquiet

Google management reportedly tried to calm internal ructions over its firing of AI ethicist Timnit Gebru with a discussion that was broadcast to employees in its A.I. division and the Black Googler Network. Gebru was fired after co-authoring a research paper on bias in A.I. Some workers were unhappy that they couldn't ask questions directly to the senior management having the discussion. Business Insider

Failing health

Fortune's Erika Fry spoke with AMN Healthcare CEO Susan Salka about the worsening shortage of health care workers in this pandemic. Salka: "The sheer numbers are enormous. In terms of the number of open positions that we have for nurses, they are roughly four times the levels that we saw during the first phase of the pandemic. Then it was pretty much all just ICU and COVID-related; now it's that plus just normal positions that can't get filled." Fortune

Texan Musk

Elon Musk has moved to Texas, where Tesla's new factory is being built. The move comes with tax advantages, plus he foresees "some reduction in the influence of Silicon Valley." Musk says California has become complacent with its innovators. (No word yet as to whether Grimes, the artist mother of Musk's youngest child, is also going Texan.) Wall Street Journal

European standoff

Bloomberg has a good explainer about the EU's budget standoff between Poland and Hungary on one side, and everyone else on the other. It's about the linking of EU funds to the rule of law (a shaky business in Warsaw and Budapest these days.) From the piece: "The two countries have been emboldened by years of EU threats being backed up by little action. Yet they are still reliant on Brussels largesse, and neither Hungary nor bigger Poland can realistically afford to leave the EU." Bloomberg

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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