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(Bloomberg) -- Follow our full coverage of Davos 2018 here.
It was the moment Davos was waiting for, though many may have denied it. Ninety minutes before U.S. President Donald Trump was scheduled to speak on this final day of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, lines weaved through the Congress Center. When Trump finally began his speech, it was to make a sales pitch, urging business leaders to invest in a newly protectionist America. Claiming credit for an economic surge that began under his predecessor, Trump said his push to cut taxes and regulation should make companies eager to do business in the states. Not everyone was happy with Trump’s appearance, however. When he launched into an attack on journalists, he was booed.
Davos isn’t Dallas, Mr. Trump
“America is open for business,’’ Trump declared while struggling to square his “America First” agenda with globalism. “When the U.S. grows, so does the world,” he explained. “American prosperity has created countless jobs around the globe and the drive for excellence, creativity and innovation in the U.S. has led to important discoveries that help people everywhere live more prosperous and healthier lives.” The subdued Trump still managed to alienate the crowd with a trademark attack on the press. Angered by multiple reports that he sought to fire the special counsel investigating his campaign for potential collusion with Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, Trump launched into a tirade that may have gotten a better reception in Dallas than in Davos. He was roundly booed for his effort.
Central bankers in the Swiss resort and elsewhere have currencies back on their radar after a week when the dollar was whipsawed by contradictory comments by Trump’s advisers. While he ultimately spoke up for a “strong” greenback, investors continue to speculate that the president is comfortable with the dollar’s worst start to any year since 1987. That may encourage the Federal Reserve to keep raising interest rates, but could prevent foreign counterparts from following as their currencies climb against the dollar. “Central bankers will be paying more attention to currencies, setting monetary policy,” Ray Dalio, founder and co-chief investment officer of Bridgewater Associates LP, said Friday. “Ordinarily it’s growth and inflation, but growth and inflation and currency will be the factor in the next year.”
The last two editions of the WEF’s annual meeting were somber affairs for oil industry chieftains and commodities tycoons. The consensus back then was that oil was going to stay low, OPEC would fail to lift prices, and the mining industry faced a difficult time. Roll forward to 2018 and there’s been a near-universal shift in sentiment as strong and synchronized global economic growth drives demand for raw materials. “We have not seen this kind of growth since before the global financial crisis,” OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo said in an interview. The Bloomberg Commodity Spot Index, a gauge that tracks raw materials from oil to wheat, has risen 41 percent over the last two years to trade at highs last seen in November 2014.
#MeToo in Davos
In its own way, Davos had a #MeToo moment. At least two panels tackled sexual harassment head on, the first time in recent history it’s been a topic of official discussion at the meeting. The forum’s seven co-chairs this year were women, and while the attendees are still overwhelmingly male, among the younger set, half are female. Along the promenade, Procter & Gamble Co. sponsored a multimedia installation that dispelled myths about women at work. The “Girls Lounge,” a woman-centered space at the event, was renamed the “Equality Lounge.” The business elites nevertheless made plain the challenges remaining in the broader corporate world. Women made up 20 percent of the attendees, roughly equal to the percentage of women in board rooms. In the program, mentions of biodiversity outnumbered mentions of human diversity by 50 percent. And at least three times as many discussions were devoted to blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies than to sexual harassment and gender balance.
There was some good news on the equality front, however. Bank of America Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan said there’s a “50-50 chance” the bank’s next chief will be a woman. “We’ve been after diversity and inclusion in our company for a long time. Our management team is basically half women, 40 or 45 percent of the people in our company are managed directly by a woman.” While men oversee all of the bank’s biggest businesses, Moynihan said he’s working to ensure that his board has a “very broad” set of candidates to choose from when the moment comes to pick the next chief.
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