FT Business Book of the Year Long List

This is an audio transcription of the FT press briefing podcast episode: FT Business Book of the Year Long List

Marc Filipino
Hello from the Financial Times. Today is Friday August 19th, and this is your FT press briefing.

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Middle Eastern states are eyeing a windfall over the next few years. US retail earnings were out this week. What do they say about consumers’ consumption habits?

Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson
Inflation has not hit consumer spending as hard as it has hit consumer sentiment.

Marc Filipino
And our journalists are busy reading hundreds of books, one of which will be the FT’s business book of the year. We’ll tell you about the long list. I’m Marc Filippino, and here’s the news you need to start your day.

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Middle Eastern states are eyeing a windfall of more than $1 billion in additional oil revenue over the next few years. That’s according to the International Monetary Fund, and it’s thanks to high energy prices driven by Russia’s war in Ukraine. These additional revenues will feed the region’s sovereign wealth funds, including the Saudi public investment fund. These funds have pumped money into global stocks and other investments in recent years. Many have focused on sectors like technology and healthcare, both for returns and to develop new industries that will make the region’s economies less dependent on energy.

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Many of the largest US retailers reported mixed earnings this week. Walmart and Lowe’s did better than expected. Home Depot reported its highest ever quarterly sales and profit. But Target missed expectations, and Kohl’s cut its forecast for the rest of the year. I’m now joined by Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson of the FT, who has more to say on all of this. Hi Edge.

Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson
Hello marc.

Marc Filipino
OK. Let’s start with the retailers who had good news to report this week. What did they say about why they are doing better than expected?

Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson
What we discovered this week is that inflation does not affect all Americans equally. It is true that families with the lowest incomes have trouble finding room in their budget after filling up their cars and filling their grocery baskets. But middle-income families and even the wealthiest families often turn to stores like Walmart and Target from high-end stores they would have gone to before. So it balances out pretty well for those stores.

Marc Filipino
OK. Well, what about Targets and Kohls? Why aren’t they doing so well?

Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson
Target, frankly, misread the inventory they would need. It’s been an incredibly confusing picture for all of the retailers trying to figure out where consumer spending would be right now, trying to figure out what they should actually be ordering at a time when supply chains are still pretty much everywhere . But some of those retailers, especially Target, ended up with the wrong stock on their shelves. The problem with Kohl’s, which has some bearing on both Target and Walmart, is that the category in which Americans are really cutting back is apparel. So if you’re heavily into clothing, it’s a very unpredictable market right now. And that’s an area where a lot of Americans are budgeting as they try to find more room in their budgets, not just for gas, for gas and for food, but also for the things they want to do after two and a half years of a pandemic, like eating out and traveling.

Marc Filipino
I see. So, overall, what should we take away from this week’s earnings reports? Is there a?

Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson
I think the big takeaway is that inflation hasn’t hit consumer spending as hard as it has hit consumer sentiment. We’ve seen some very ugly pictures of consumer sentiment surveys lately, but in reality, most Americans manage to keep spending much the same as before. I think some of the concerns about the potential severity of a recession, if we’re heading into a recession, or even the potential likelihood of a recession, have eased a bit in the last few days.

Marc Filipino
Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson is the FT’s US economics editor.

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It’s the month of August, the time for vacations, beaches and reading on the beach. Dozens of FT journalists pored over stacks of business books as part of the selection process for the annual FT Business Book of the Year award. Over 600 entries have arrived, and our Senior Business Editor Andrew Hill joins us now to talk about the long list of 15. Hey, Andrew.

Andrew Hill
Hi there.

Marc Filipino
So, Andrew, what are the common themes that emerged this year in the books that were submitted?

Andrew Hill
Clearly, we’re in the midst of a world of interest rate hikes, inflation, tight labor markets, and then all the geopolitical and environmental crises that have converged on us in kind of the last stage, again, from the pandemic. And a lot of books address that, not necessarily directly, but we have a lot of heavy stories this year. We have Brad DeLong’s book Advance towards utopia, which is a kind of economic history of the long 20th century, as he defines it. We have Gary Gerstle The rise and fall of the neoliberal order, which looks at how, you know, the New Left and the, and Reagan and others unleashed the kind of power of capitalism, but also some of the consequences that we’re going through right now. And we have Helen Thompson’s book, Disorder, which directly relates to some of the things that have exploded this year in Ukraine. And then we have a bunch of books on sort of big business situations. Bill Cohan with his book on General Electric. I mean, it’s kind of a flavor of some of the big themes.

Marc Filipino
Andrew, are there any books or writers that surprised you?

Andrew Hill
I was personally quite struck by Gaia Vince’s book, nomadic century. I think it’s unique in this year’s lineup. First of all, it’s the only book that deals directly with climate change, which is obviously a vital issue on the minds of all businesses. Essentially, what she paints is this grim picture of impending catastrophe. She feels that the climate emergency, as she calls it, has reached a point where it cannot be reversed in the short term and as a result large parts of the world will become unlivable, essentially. And she points to the fact that although this is a disaster, we can prepare for it by migrating, basically by preparing for a great northward migration to the northern part of the northern hemisphere and part of the southern part of the southern hemisphere. And that’s something that we could, if we have a joint effort of politicians, business and society, that we could foresee. And therefore, over a generation or two, when technology catches up and we can cool the rest of the globe, we can prepare for people who migrated to return to the areas they left behind. . So it’s a radical, radical vision. And as I say, not very positive in the short term, but which I found very indicative of something that I hadn’t thought of, how you could potentially transform migration for the benefit of the world.

Marc Filipino
Andrew, another hot topic this year has been supply chains. They have become so incredibly disturbed by the pandemic and then the war in Ukraine. Two books on supply chains make the long list this year. Can you talk about it?

Andrew Hill
Yes, it’s true. There is one couple in particular. One deals with the kind of general question of how we ended up with this kind of dangerous growth of powerful intermediaries and long supply chains. This is Direct by Kathryn Judge, and she details the rise of the midstream economy, as she calls it. And that not only includes extended supply chains for manufacturers, but also banks, retailers, even real estate agents, all the middlemen that get in the way. And she argues for a return to some sort of more direct trading system, which she says would improve accountability and resilience. And then there is a second book, Flea war by Chris Miller, which largely discusses the specifics of the semiconductor supply chain and its complexity and vital importance to many of the digital and electrical products and services we use.

Marc Filipino
It’s a great overview of all the great business books out there, Andrew. And as a reminder to listeners, the shortlist for the FT Business Book of the Year will be out next month. We were just talking about the long list, and then the winner will be announced on December 5. Andrew Hill is the FT’s Senior Business Editor. Thank you very much for that, Andrew.

Andrew Hill
Thanks.

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Marc Filipino
Before leaving, American scientists say they have discovered a way to destroy these things called chemicals forever. They are ubiquitous chemicals that have been used for decades in industrial and consumer products, from fire-fighting foam to non-stick cookware. They are considered indestructible and accumulate in the environment, causing serious health problems. But yesterday, in an article published in the journal Scienceresearchers from UCLA and Northwestern said they have developed a cheap, low-energy process that breaks down two of the most important classes of these compounds and turns them into harmless organic molecules.

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You can read more about all these stories on FT.com. This has been your daily FT News briefing. Be sure to check back next week for the latest trading news. The FT News Briefing is produced by Sonja Hutson, Fiona Symon and me, Marc Filippino. Our editor is Jess Smith. We had help this week from Joanna Kao, Gregory Meyer, Michael Lello, David da Silva and Gavin Kallmann. Our executive producer is Topher Forhecz. Cheryl Brumley is the FT’s Global Head of Audio, and our theme song is by Metaphor Music.

This transcript was generated automatically. If by any chance there is an error, please send the details for a correction to: [email protected]. We will do our best to make the change as soon as possible.

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