When it comes to the nonstop news stream around business and finance (and the political influences that often drive both), it’s hard to stay on top of all the stories that matter — to our country and to your bottom line. Here’s your cheat sheet to this week’s top business and finance headlines.
The S&P 500 closed on March 16 at 2751.01 and closed March 23 at 2588.26, a loss for the week of -5.95 percent. Weighing on the markets this week were concerns about market-leading stocks, such as Facebook, and continuing fears of ramping trade issues, especially with China.
6 of the Week’s Key Headlines You Should Know About:
1. Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg finally comments on Cambridge Analytica
Cambridge Analytica, a data-mining firm and political consultant, gained access to approximately 50 million Facebook profiles through the use of a quiz app. Although only a few hundred thousand people installed and used the app, Facebook’s privacy settings previously allowed the collection of data from the users of the app and their friends. Facebook changed their data policies and ordered all data collected previously by this method be deleted. Cambridge Analytica is said to have not complied and went on to use this information in the 2016 presidential election.
Facebook’s response to this revelation regarding the misuse of personal information was highly criticized. As the week went on, Facebook’s stock price was punished by Wall Street investors as the company seemed to be responding very slowly to the unfolding crisis. Mark Zuckerberg addressed the controversy via his Facebook page, but many in the investment community were waiting to hear from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, the founder of the “Lean In” movement and widely considered to be the most powerful woman in tech.
On Thursday, Sandberg gave an interview to CNBC, apologizing for Facebook’s shortcomings and giving investors and customers her plan for the company going forward. Although Zuckerberg may be the official head of Facebook, many investors believe Sandberg is the more important of the two leaders, so her first public comments on the situation were highly anticipated and well received.
2. Things aren’t exactly looking up for women in the labor force
Working ladies, this isn’t great news: A new study released by the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality showed that gains made on reducing the gap between men and women in the workforce have slowed or even stalled entirely. The report details the gains made by women in the late portion of the 20th century and shows how the trajectory of those gains has fallen off in the first part of this century.
The labor force participation rate for women stands at 56.7 percent, reported most recently by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Just prior to the Great Recession, this number stood at 59.4 percent. Recently, countries such as Japan have made strong efforts to induce women to enter or reenter the labor force, and other countries such as Norway are considered models for how a country’s economy can grow by tapping into all of the potential among its population. Education, anti-discrimination laws, childcare availability, equal pay, and work-life balance are all keys to getting women to join and remain in the workforce. Progressive communities and companies continue to lead the way on issues like leave for all new parents, sick leave, and new proposals placing controls on the extent to which an employer can interfere in their employee’s time outside of work (see below).
3. NYC workers might get the law on their side when it comes to those late-night texts and emails from their bosses
As smartphones, laptops, and virtual meetings and offices continue to blur the lines between the home and the workplace, employees are finding it increasingly difficult to “shut down” for the night. This is bad for business, as the Harvard Business Review warned, when it told bosses, “Your late-night emails are hurting your team.” With New Yorkers among the most overworked in the country, proposed legislation could offer them some much-needed relief. A City Council member is introducing a bill that would give employees the “right to disconnect,” effectively making it illegal for employers to demand contact with employees after-hours.
4. Citigroup takes a stand on guns
In mid-February, New York Times columnist, CNBC anchor, and bestselling author Andrew Ross Sorkin called on banks to step up their social consciousness and review their practices when doing business with companies that make and sell firearms, ammunition, and accessories like bump stocks. Citigroup seems to be heeding his call and has toughened standards for how the company will do business going forward with companies who deal in weapons.
5. Benzinga brings together top women in business and finance to chip away at that glass ceiling
Benzinga, an online financial community, held its first ever Women’s Wealth Forum in Boston this week. Leaders from a wide range of companies including J.P. Morgan, TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab, Fidelity Investments, and many more converged to work toward the shared goal of increasing women’s access to financial education and literacy to help them become more financially empowered.
6. And the interest rates are…
On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve completed its most recent meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee and gave its decision on Interest Rates and its update on economic conditions. The FOMC raised its target rate for Fed Funds to 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent and upgraded its economic outlook. Based on information given by the FOMC, three total rate hikes are still planned for 2018. The Fed Funds rate influences everything from rates that savers are paid on deposits, to interest charged on credit card balances, to mortgage rates — good news for savers; pricier loans for borrowers.
Meanwhile, the Fed’s inflation forecast remained at 1.9 percent for 2018.
More from Make It Better:
- How to Nail Your Next Job Interview: HR Experts Share Top Interview Tips
- Overcoming Gender Bias in the Workplace — What Women and Organizations Can Do
- Joe Biden at Northwestern: The Former Vice President Talks Working Women, Inequality, and Optimism
Joshua Streckert is the founder and managing partner of SJ Equity Partners, L.P., a private investment partnership focusing on short-term long/short equity-trading strategies. Previously he worked in fixed-income derivatives trading, valuations, and risk management for Lehman Brothers and Bank of America. A graduate of Northwestern University, he is passionate about supporting his alma mater, as well as the American Red Cross.