CEO employment prospects for middle aged white straight men are on the up

I’m in a sunny mood today as I have become convinced that my employment prospects as a business CEO are on the rise. In the event that I should need to come out of retirement and get back in the workforce, perhaps because the expense of keeping a wooden ocean going yacht has gone beyond eye watering levels, then I can see opportunities opening up aplenty. The reason is simple. Boards of directors appoint CEOs. Boards also sack CEOs. Boards are increasingly fearful of sacking a CEO who happens to belong to a protected species. Middle aged, white straight men are not a protected species. Everyone else is. So, the obvious conclusion is: appoint someone who, if they turn out to be hopeless, we can sack! Times are good, even for hopeless middle aged white straight men!

In the business pages

It’s sometimes refreshing to get a laugh out of the business press, especially when much news is rather gloomy. 

First up today is James Glynn (writing in the Australian) who attempts to defend the Reserve Bank of Australia. His headline says it is unfair to rage against the RBA. Long time readers of this blog will know that I have been a harsh critic of the RBA for many years, so I naturally expected this piece to start my day on a humorous note. James did not disappoint. 

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Corporate wokeism

Many people working in large corporations feel the same frustration as does Dr Jordan Peterson, well expressed in this monologue “Message to CEOs”. Corporate wokeism has been getting worse for a number of years and business leaders have been broadly weak and fearful in its face. Instead of pushing out the nonsense because it is damaging to customers and staff and therefore shareholders, they have en masse waved it through.

I am perhaps a little more optimistic than Dr Peterson is. I suspect that with hard economic times unfolding, corporate wokeism will become subserviant to corporate survival. The big business bottom line has been relatively easy to keep black for the last 10 years. But from here, red ink may be needed with increasing frequency. CEOs faced with the choice of being turfed out of their contract for missing financial targets vs giving more succour to diversity, equity and inclusion maniacs will see things more clearly. Ask yourself why wokeism has not infected small business. It’s because small business must focus on survival at all times.

Market failure?

Oh dear. The Australian Energy Market Operator has suspended the market. The Operator says the market was “impossible to operate”. Does this constitute a market failure? It’s definitely a failure of something.

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I say it’s not a market failure. That’s because it’s not a real market. The authoritarian left often decries market failure as reason for Government intervention in all manner of ways. Well, here’s an example of a highly restricted and distorted pseudo market failure right in front of our eyes at a time when the energy supply is tottering on the verge of blackouts.

The reason for this failure is precisely due to years of Government intervention, mismanagement and lies. Goodness knows what happens from here, but mark June 2022 as the month in which the creaking facade masquerading as an energy system in Australia crumbled.

Stock markets

Price inflation data for May 2022 was released yesterday in the US. Over the full year to end May, the consumer price index increased by 8.6%. The AFR reports that this is the highest 1 year increase in 40 years. The stock markets reacted badly. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 2.7% and the NASDAQ lost 3.5% in value.

That stocks have been broadly overvalued is well accepted. Part of the reason supporting high valuations was low discount rates. A year ago, the average P/E ratio on stocks in the S&P500 was over 37. Today, it is 21.5. That reduction will have been largely driven by recent market sell offs and revaluations with higher discount rates as yields on debt markets increase. But 21 still looks expensive. I’m not sure I want to pay $21 to buy a future earnings stream of $1pa. With the high likelihood of further increases in discount rates plus risks to underlying earnings owing to economic malaise, the P/E ratios are under pressure both on the top line and bottom line.

I’d expect there is more red ink to come.

Give the customers what they want

The best way to succeed in business is to give the customers what they want. This announcement from Rio Tinto clearly pleases one campaigner from the Conservation Foundation, but I’d be surprised if she is a Rio customer.

Source: Australian Financial Review

Rio customers looking for a supply of aluminium that is high quality, reliable and low cost are unlikely to be pleased with the outcome of this decision.

Investment in an inflationary environment

Investing in an inflationary environment is new to me in practical, but not theoretical, terms. It has been obvious for over a year now that this current inflation was emerging. But it hasn’t made the practical decisions of how to invest any easier. The last time the world’s major economies experienced significant inflation was at the end of the 1980s. I didn’t have any money to invest back then, so my understanding was theoretical, not practical. I read about it. Fast forward 30 years, I’m now living on the success or otherwise of my investment decisions in what is turning out to be an inflationary environment. At the beginning of 2021, I made my views clear in public professional circles that inflation was emerging as a looming threat. Many didn’t believe me. But we all have to deal with it now.

So, how to invest?

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