A topic that’s not getting a lot of attention
Attendees at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, have been speaking at length about artificial intelligence, the war in Ukraine, the U.S. election, climate change and more.
But one topic dominating a lot of discussion among U.S. business leaders and policymakers has been largely missing from the official agenda: rising antisemitism after the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks on Israel. Some executives are working to change that.
Only one panel to discuss the topic is on the agenda out of the forum’s hundreds of presentations.
The panelists at the session this afternoon include Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris; Michal Herzog, the wife of Israel’s president; and Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League. (Isaac Herzog, Israel’s president, spoke this morning.)
“I’m disappointed that there isn’t more of a conversation about antisemitism here,” Leon Kalvaria, the chairman of Citigroup’s Institutional Clients Group and a longtime Davos attendee, told DealBook. “I hope to hear it brought up more as the week progresses because leaders in both the private and public sectors have a real responsibility not only to make it clear that this kind of intolerance is unacceptable, but to also discuss the very real impact it has around the world.”
Other executives are raising the issue privately. On Tuesday, there was a private screening of a 47-minute film, put together by the Israeli military, of the Oct. 7 attacks, which the military says was drawn largely from footage shot by the assailants.
“Davos typically is a conference filled with hope, but this terrible footage left the audience in shambles,” Greenblatt told DealBook. “People walked out of the room in silence, either crying or simply shellshocked.”
Palantir held an event on Wednesday featuring relatives of the Israelis held hostage since the Oct. 7 attacks. The “off the record” session was hosted by Alex Karp, the data consulting company’s C.E.O., but Bloomberg and Jewish Insider quickly reported on it. Among the executives who reportedly attended were Andy Jassy of Amazon; the tech mogul Michael Dell; Martin Sorrell, the advertising executive; Ruth Porat, the C.F.O. of Alphabet; and Nicola Mendelsohn, head of Meta’s global business group.
“Antisemitism as a kind of prejudice has always been the canary in the coal mine for your society isn’t working,” Karp told Andrew on CNBC.
Davos has a long history of avoiding sensitive subjects, seeking to appease countries and businesses that don’t want to be drawn into political debates. One example is L.G.B.T.Q. issues, which stayed off the forum’s agenda for years.
Privately, C.E.O.s are worried, according to Greenblatt. “I am hearing from C.E.O.s on the sidelines. They want to talk about antisemitism,” he told DealBook.
He added that some executives said that while other minority groups received outpourings of support after the murder of George Floyd and anti-Asian American violence, the phones of Jewish executives and colleagues didn’t ring. “And frankly, they’re still not ringing,” he said.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
Apple will remove a feature from its watches after losing a patent fight. The tech giant’s Apple Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 will be sold without a functioning blood-oxygen sensor from today. The decision comes after an International Trade Commission ruling that Apple violated patents held by Masimo, a medical technology company. A court rejected Apple’s bid to delay a sales ban until a ruling is issued on its appeal of the commission’s decision.
TSMC predicts sharp growth in 2024 on booming demand for A.I. chips. The world’s largest contract chipmaker said revenues would grow as much as 25 percent this year as companies spend heavily on artificial intelligence. The Taiwanese company also warned that it expected delays in building its second production plant in Arizona and cast doubts on plans to produce its most advanced chips there.
Sheryl Sandberg is leaving Meta’s board. The longtime executive and close adviser to Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s founder, stepped down as C.O.O. in 2022, after a string of controversies around the social media giant’s handling of disinformation and hate speech on its platforms. Sandberg said she would remain an adviser to the company.
Higher for how much longer?
Investors hoping for a Davos bounce are probably feeling disappointed.
Stocks have been on a roller coaster in recent days and a host of Wall Street C.E.O.s as well as Christine Lagarde, the president of the European Central Bank, are sending a message to investors from the Swiss Alps: Don’t get out over your skis and assume that interest rate cuts are imminent.
Traders are winding back their bets on a Fed move. The odds of a March rate cut are 61 percent, down from a more confident 96 percent at the start of January. But the more tempered outlook is still too optimistic, Ron O’Hanley, State Street’s C.E.O., told Bloomberg. “The Fed was very clear in their dot plot,” he said, “and I don’t know why the markets decided to double it and then go to town on that.”
The markets rallied at the end of 2023 and the S&P 500 flirted with a record high. The surge was fueled by hopes that central bankers were done raising rates, and that a new phase of lower borrowing costs was close. But central bankers have been urging caution ever since Jay Powell, the Fed chair, signaled last month that three rate cuts were likely in 2024.
Lagarde delivered her latest warning at Davos on Wednesday, saying that investors’ bullish bets are potentially harmful. “It is not helping our fight against inflation,” she said, helping to set off a sell-off in stocks and bonds.
Mixed messages on the U.S. economy are adding to the confusion. Consumers are still spending, according to the latest retail sales data, and that could hamper the Fed’s efforts to lower inflation. At the same time, the labor market is beginning to slow in some parts of the country, the central bank’s “beige book” survey, which was published on Wednesday, showed. That could have the opposite effect on prices.
Some on Wall Street see inflation as having peaked. Analysts at Morgan Stanley, UBS and Barclays forecast that core inflation, which strips out food and fuel, will fall more this year. This week, Barclays moved its call for the first rate cut to March from June.
Up next: Lagarde is set to speak again today, as is Raphael Bostic, the president of the Atlanta Fed. Bostic made headlines last month when he said that inflation was still too high and that he saw no “urgency” to lower borrowing costs, just days after Powell said the equivalent of three rate cuts were on the table this year.
Agencies brace for a blow
Supreme Court justices on Wednesday heard arguments in two cases involving commercial fishermen that could limit how federal agencies regulate business. The upshot: The court’s conservative majority seemed sympathetic to the argument that changes to Washington’s regulatory power structure are needed.
The cases represent a major test of the so-called Chevron deference. The decades-old doctrine has become a bedrock of administrative law. It stipulates that agencies are the ones to interpret statutes in their areas of expertise, and that the courts have little power to challenge them. After all, “agencies know things that courts do not,” Justice Elena Kagan said, adding, “that’s the basis of Chevron.”
Kagan said that striking down the principle would be disruptive, because 70 Supreme Court decisions, and thousands more in the lower courts, rely on it.
Critics say that Chevron gives agencies too much power. Justice Neil Gorsuch contends that the Chevron deference ends up harming the vulnerable, citing “the immigrant, the veteran seeking his benefits, the social security disability applicant, who have no power to influence agencies.”
That said, powerful conservative voices, including the billionaire Charles Koch, want to see the doctrine gutted. And the Chamber of Commerce argued in an amicus brief that the doctrine had contributed to agency overreach and an explosion of rules that impose “astronomical costs” on business “reaching as high as $1.9 trillion per year.”
“If she doesn’t get traction in New Hampshire, you don’t throw money down a rat hole.”
— Ken Langone, the co-founder of Home Depot and a prominent backer of Nikki Haley, on whether he would give more money to her campaign heading into the Republican primary in New Hampshire next week.
Amazon bets on local sports
Amazon said on Wednesday that it would buy a minority stake in the country’s largest operator of regional sports networks, ramping up a wider competition by Big Tech to broadcast live games from some of the biggest professional leagues.
The tech giant will invest $115 million in Diamond Sports Group, which is bankrupt and which broadcasts about a third of all Major League Baseball, N.B.A. and N.H.L. games in some of the country’s biggest media markets under the banner of Bally Sports. Amazon will obtain the rights to air the games of more than 40 teams.
Amazon moved into live sports in 2017, when it acquired the rights to the N.F.L.’s Thursday night games. It has since expanded into soccer in Europe and North America. Apple, YouTube and Meta have also spent billions to stream sports, including N.F.L. games, soccer and tennis.
Diamond’s problems were closely monitored by the sports media world. Sinclair Broadcast Group acquired the company from Disney for $10.6 billion in 2019. But the coronavirus pandemic and a wider consumer shift to streaming platforms hammered regional sports networks.
The company filed for bankruptcy last March, squeezed by a $9 billion debt load. That led some teams to try to move their games to free-to-air-channels. Others, like the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz, effectively tried to become broadcasters by streaming games on their own platforms.
Amazon’s push into local markets may be aimed at moving beyond its typical demographic, with some analysts saying growth in Amazon Prime is at risk of stalling. Even if deals for regional sports teams reach only relatively few consumers, the company might still consider it a win if it drives more people to sign up to Prime.
The deal will need to be approved by a bankruptcy judge as part of Diamond’s restructuring agreement.
THE SPEED READ
Bobby Jain, the former Credit Suisse deal maker, reportedly aims to launch a new hedge fund in July with $5 billion to $6 billion in assets, falling short of his fund-raising target. (FT)
Citigroup’s former chief economist for China is among those who will reportedly leave the bank amid a wider restructuring that is expected to result in thousands of job cuts. (Bloomberg)
Amancio Ortega, a founder of the Spanish fast-fashion retailer Zara, is planning to cash in on the property downturn by expanding his commercial real estate holdings. (FT)
Best of the rest
“Making E.S.G. a Crime” (Bloomberg Opinion)
Why is Germany, once a powerhouse, in an economic rut? (NYT)
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