The Davos consensus on the presidential election
Publicly, the global business leaders who gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, haven’t wanted to predict the winner of the upcoming U.S. presidential election. The closest they’ve come? Referring to it as a “geopolitical risk.”
But talk to executives privately, and they’re more explicit: They expect Donald Trump to win and while many are worried about that, they are also resigned to it.
The predictions of a Trump victory came in different forms. Many pointed to the headlines and the mood in the U.S. One senior banker told DealBook that you only had to look at the polls to figure out that Trump was on track to win.
Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase also got a lot of attention for his comments. In an interview with Andrew on CNBC, he didn’t predict that Trump would win, but suggested that dismissing the former president and his supporters would be a mistake.
“Just take a step back and be honest,” Dimon said, listing the things that he thought Trump got at least partially right: NATO, immigration, the economy, China and more. “He wasn’t wrong about some of these critical issues, and that’s why they’re voting for him,” he said.
“I think this negative talk about MAGA will hurt [President] Biden’s campaign,” he added.
That said, the Davos crowd often gets things wrong. A common critique of those who attend the forum is that they are a contra-indicator of what’s to come, so their expectations could bode well for Biden or for Trump’s Republican rivals. “Trump is already the president at Davos — which is a good thing because the Davos consensus is usually wrong,” Alex Soros, the son of George Soros, said on a panel.
A little history: The Davos consensus was that Hillary Clinton would beat Trump in 2016. And in 2020, the prevailing view was that there were few risks to the economy … as the pandemic began to explode.
Seen and heard:
Perhaps the biggest complaint among attendees was about the long lines everywhere, especially at the Grandhotel Belvédère. Many complained that the process of entering the building — with wait times sometimes reaching an hour — was worse than ever and it didn’t matter whether you were a business titan or a less famous guest. One executive complained to DealBook that the security was more restrictive than at U.S. airports because he had to take off his Apple Watch every time. At previous gatherings, executives wanted a room at the Belvédère because the hotel was considered the best in town and was closest to the main venue — but many told DealBook that they no longer do.
Despite the rigid class system — people are assigned different colored badges that grant various levels of access — the event has odd ways of leveling the playing field, at least a little. At last night’s Salesforce party, the hottest ticket of the week, even billionaires had to wait outside with everyone else to get in to watch Sting perform.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
Congress approved a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown. President Biden is expected to sign the bill into law on Friday to keep the federal government operating through to early March. It’s the third such stopgap bill since October.
Jamie Dimon gets a big bump in pay. JPMorgan Chase’s board granted its C.E.O. $36 million in compensation for 2023, a year in which the bank weathered a banking crisis and rising interest rates, and generated record profit. The 67-year-old, the longest tenured chief of a large American bank, has not given any indication on when he might retire.
Reddit reportedly considers a March public listing. The social media platform is said to be moving forward with a long-held plan to file for an I.P.O. in the first quarter, according to Reuters. The market for new listings has been a bumpy one and the outlook looks little improved this year.
Macy’s will cut thousands of jobs. The country’s biggest department store operator will lay off 2,350 employees, about 3.5 percent of the work force. The cuts come as Tony Spring, a veteran retail executive, prepares to take over as C.E.O. next month. Macy’s has been struggling with slowing sales since the pandemic-inspired shop-from-home boom shook up the retail sector.
BYD doubles down on overseas expansion. The Warren Buffett-backed Chinese maker of electric vehicles plans to invest $1.3 billion in a new Indonesian factory as it continues its aggressive push beyond its home market. Indonesia is home to the world’s largest reserves of nickel, a crucial mineral in production of E.V.s.
The E.S.G. exodus intensifies
The money flowing out of E.S.G. funds has gone from a trickle to a torrent as investors sour on a sector hit by greenwashing concerns, red-state boycotts and boardroom debates.
The investing strategy has become increasingly politicized after being used by companies to address environmental, social, and governance issues among their employees, customers and other stakeholders. In a sign of the times, the phrase has been scrubbed from the World Economic Forum’s official program in Davos, after being on the agenda in previous years.
Investors pulled $5 billion out of E.S.G.-focused “sustainable” investment funds last quarter, according to a new report by Morningstar. The withdrawals occurred despite a wider market rally at the end of 2023.