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Quest: A fractured world at Davos; Apple’s big check; China trade

Here's why real progress could be made at Davos

Quest’s Profitable Moment

Every year the World Economic Forum decides on a theme for its meeting of the world’s elite in Davos, Switzerland. Usually it’s highfalutin nonsense that no one understands and everyone ignores.

But this year, I think, the organizers have struck gold. The theme is “creating a shared future in a fractured world.”

I don’t think many people would disagree that the world is fractured. But that’s not what makes the theme right for Davos. It’s the presence of President Trump — who has been blamed for doing a lot of fracturing himself.

He abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership and has threatened to pull out of NAFTA. He mocks North Korea at a time of high geopolitical tension. He allegedly used a vulgarity to describe African nations. His administration threatened countries that opposed his decision on Jerusalem.

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That’s a lot of “fractured world” and not much “shared future.”

The test in Davos will be whether Mr. Trump and his team intend to listen to the criticism from other nations — or whether they simply want to reiterate the message: This is the way it will be.

If it’s the latter, the fractures will only spread.

Join me up the mountain.

Apple to write U.S. a tax check for $38 billion

apple store logo

Apple promises to bring a chunk of its overseas cash back to the United States, now that Congress has slashed corporate tax rates. Apple said the payment “would likely be the largest of its kind ever made.” It’s another example of American firms planning to invest more at home following corporate tax cuts. Apple also plans to spend $30 billion on U.S. facilities and create 20,000 jobs. And a source told CNNMoney many employees will get a $2,500 stock bonus as well. That could turn out to be very lucrative. Bank of America Merrill Lynch recently upgraded its price target on Apple to $220 — more than 20% above where it is now.

— Paul R. La Monica

In 2018, China could suffer from tariffs

china US flags

China had a really good 2017. The government said the world’s second-largest economy grew 6.9%. But this year is likely to be a little tougher. New measures to crack down on excessive borrowing in China could slow down the country’s economy. And if President Trump decides to enact tariffs on foreign imports of solar panels, China — which makes most of the panels used in the United States — will suffer. There’s reason to believe he’ll do so. The president has always talked tough on trade, in particular with China. He’s set to make a decision by the end of the month.

— Danielle Wiener-Bronner

You can’t get $1 out of the bank in Venezuela

venezuela cash crisis bank line 1

In most places around the world, people go to a bank or ATM, withdraw money and don’t think twice about it. But in the world’s most miserable economy, how hard is it to withdraw just $1? Not even $20, the typical minimum in the United States. Just $1. Nearly impossible. CNNMoney’s reporter in Caracas tried. He failed. It took him four hours to get six cents out the bank. And after all that time, his coffee cost about 20 cents. His horrifying ATM tale shows how much Venezuela’s economy has spiraled out of control. Another sign of the crisis: President Nicolas Maduro is offering pregnant women a monthly handout. It sounds big (700,000 bolivars) but it’s only worth about $3.80.

GM is thriving. Ford is not

Ford said on Tuesday that it expects a $1.6 billion hit from rising costs and volatile currency rates. The next day, the automaker’s stock fell by around 7%, its worst day since July 2016. GM, on the other hand, said on Tuesday that it expects strong earnings this year. CEO Mary Barra added in a statement that the company is becoming more “focused, resilient and profitable,” and expects an even better 2019. Ford is set to report fourth-quarter earnings and 2017 financial results next week.

— Danielle Wiener-Bronner

Quick takes

Businesses can’t find workers right now. Ending NAFTA could kill 300,000 jobs

Amazon reveals ‘short’ list of 20 cities vying host its second headquarters

Bleeding GE could break itself apart. But it still faces a $31B pension shortfall

Is Goldman Sachs still king of Wall Street? Citi suffers huge short-term tax loss

Nothing says video games like cardboard? Nintendo gear goes low-tech

Nestle unveils pink KitKat even as it unloads Butterfinger, BabyRuth & Nerds

What’s next

Richard and a full team from CNNMoney will be on the ground in Davos: Follow all of our TV and Digital coverage for updates, interviews and news.

NAFTA Round 6: Talks have not gone well so far, and no major progress on divisive issues between the Trump administration and Canada/Mexico has been made. Look for major compromises in Round 6…or the writing is on the wall for Trump to withdraw from the 24-year old agreement.

U.S. earnings season in full swing: Ford, Starbucks, Caterpillar, Netflix, Verizon, Procter & Gamble, GE, Johnson & Johnson…the list goes on. Next week will be a key check up on Corporate America, and a good opportunity for CEOs to talk about how much cash they’re bringing back from abroad because of tax reform, or what they plan to do with that extra cash.

Major announcement for Brazil’s presidential election: Brazil’s former President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, simply known as Lula, could be sentenced to jail on January 24. Lula has ambitions to run for president again, and he’s leading in many early polls. If a federal court doesn’t sentence Lula on alleged corruption charges, look for Brazilian markets to go south for fear of a populist leader returning. Brazil’s presidential election is in October.

CNNMoney (New York) First published January 19, 2018: 12:02 AM ET

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