Wal-Mart stayed on top as its sales crept closer to half-a-trillion dollars. Apple moved into the top five. And UnitedHealth Group continued its steady climb. For the full list, click here.
Congressional inaction has resulted in a patchwork of state legislation that’s left big gaps across the country where being LGBT can be cause for termination
On Thursday, Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook confirmed what had long been believed: he is a gay man.
In coming out in Bloomberg Businessweek, Cook wrote, “Of course, I’ve had the good fortune to work at a company that loves creativity and innovation and knows it can only flourish when you embrace people’s differences. Not everyone is so lucky.”
That last statement is accurate, not just because of the prejudice that gay individuals face in their personal lives, but because of the lack of protections against the discrimination of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the workplace.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, in 29 states workers can still be fired for saying exactly what Cook wrote Thursday. They include:
Congress has failed to pass federal legislation that bans discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and transgender identity outright. But politicians in Washington have introduced legislation known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act for two decades. And, for two decades, it has failed to pass.
Congressional inaction has resulted in a patchwork of state legislation that’s left big gaps across the country where being LGBT can be cause for termination.
“When I talk about hot topics, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is front and center. The President and The White House are making incremental steps to move us in that direction because there is no federal protection,” says Selisse Berry, founder and chief executive officer of nonprofit advocacy organization Out & Equal.
In June, President Obama signed an executive order banning workplace discrimination based on employees’ sexual orientation and gender identity among federal contractors. In September, the EEOC filed its first lawsuits on behalf of transgender employees under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The business community in the U.S. is also doing its part to combat LBGT discrimination. Company by company, businesses have put sexual orientation and gender identify protections into their codes of conduct. “That way, people can come out at work and not be worried about being fired,” Berry says.
“Ninety-one percent of Fortune 500 companies include sex orientation protections. Seventeen years ago, it was 5%. People weren’t really talking it,” she says. Today, 61% of Fortune 500 companies include protection against gender identity bias.
The situation overseas, however, is significantly different. “There are 17 countries where [LGBT people] can be married,” Berry notes, “but 75 where we can be imprisoned or killed as LGBT people.”
Here’s what rights groups and other powerful people had to say about the Apple CEO’s announcement
Earlier today, Apple CEO Tim Cook published an essay in Bloomberg BusinessWeek publicly acknowledging for the first time that he’s gay. In so doing, he not only confirmed something that had been long assumed, he also became the only openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Naturally, the essay brought out a number of reactions from people in the business world, the media and politics, plus more than a few activist groups. Here are some of the major responses.
Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella, via Twitter:
The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce:
The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, the business voice of the LGBT community, commends Tim Cook for his moving and heartfelt coming out essay. While his story and success are unique, we are proud to say we hear about similar journeys every day from the LGBT Americans, including those who are part of NGLCC. Our goal is to expand economic opportunities and advancements for LGBT people. Tim’s words today will help us in that mission. They also serve as an opening of the door for other LGBT CEOs and senior executives to move forward in knowing there is a safe place for them in the business world.
StartOut, a group supporting LGBT entrepreneurs, CEO Gene Falk:
While there have been substantial gains for the community in representation and visibility in politics, entertainment, journalism and now even sports, in too many places the corporate closet continues to flourish, and there are virtually no role models in the senior ranks of the business community. Today that changed. Tim’s leadership of Apple has not been, and will not be, defined by his being out. It will only be enhanced because now he’s empowered to lead without hiding.
Anthony Watson, CIO of Nike and GLAAD Board of Directors, via Twitter:
Phillip Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide at Apple, via Twitter:
Jason Collins, first openly gay active NBA player, via Twitter:
Barney Frank, the first Congressman to voluntarily come out as gay, speaking on CNBC:
“When the man who has been the leader for several years with great success of one of the most important … businesses in America, says, ‘Oh by the way, you know those people about whom you have these negative feelings, well I’m one of them.’ That does such an enormous amount to diminish the negative feelings. I am very grateful for him doing it.”
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin:
Tim Cook’s announcement today will save countless lives. He has always been a role model, but today millions across the globe will draw inspiration from a different aspect of his life. Tim Cook is proof that LGBT young people can dream as big as their minds will allow them to, whether they want to be doctors, a U.S. Senator, or even CEO of the world’s biggest brand.
Arthur D. Levinson, chairman of Apple’s Board:
Tim has our wholehearted support and admiration in making this courageous personal statement. His decision to speak out will help advance the cause of equality and inclusion far beyond the business world. On behalf of the board and our entire company, we are incredibly proud to have Tim leading Apple.
John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, via Twitter:
Even as the global economy faces headwinds
The U.S. posted a better-than-expected jump in growth for the third quarter, the latest indication that the world’s largest economy is performing well even as the global economy faces headwinds.
Real gross domestic product, or the output of goods and services produced by U.S. labor and property, jumped at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.5% in the third quarter. The Commerce Department reported the increase was primarily due to consumer spending, exports, and higher government spending on the federal, state and local levels.
Economists polled by Bloomberg had projected a 3% increase in GDP, which comes after a 4.6% increase in the second quarter that was aided by a rebound in activity after a harsh winter.
“Finally the consensus is coming around that the U.S. has some above-trend growth,” said Bob Baur, chief global economist at Principal Global Investors. Baur estimates that the U.S. economy can reported growth of 3% or more over the next few quarters, driven by stronger consumer spending thanks to low interest rates, falling gas prices and an improving labor market.
The U.S. economy has performed well of late, consistently adding jobs and reporting sturdy sales of both homes and new automobiles. Meanwhile, many are optimistic that lower gas prices at the pump can lead to higher spending from consumers. Consumer confidence readings are at their highest level in seven years, something that will be music to the retail sector’s ears as the nation prepares for the holiday season.
The strong growth picture in the U.S. contrasts with some red flags that have been raised about the global economy. The International Monetary Fund earlier this month cut its outlook for global growth in 2015, citing a deterioration in expectations for the euro area, Brazil, Russia and Jaan. But the IMF raised its growth targets for the U.S. for this year and in 2015.
“Things are pretty good, we might not grow 4% in the fourth quarter and next year, but 3% [growth] is doable, despite global growth fears,” said John Canally, chief economist strategist for LPL Financial.
The Federal Reserve, which this month ended its most recent stimulus program, still struck a somewhat cautious tone about the U.S. economy. The Fed touted solid job gains and a lower unemployment rate, as well as rising household spending and more investment from businesses. But the Fed worries that the housing sector’s recovery remains slow, and inflation continues to run below the Federal Open Market Committee’s longer-term objective.
NatureBox is thinking about delivery methods for its healthy snacks beyond the usual subscription service
NatureBox is refusing to be boxed in as just another e-commerce company.
This Saturday, the subscription snack box provider will begin to stock snacks that will be offered to passengers on American Airlines international flights to and from Latin America and Europe. The company’s snacks will be included in a breakfast box that’s offered to all passengers flying economy class for those American Airlines flights, so the pact is a reoccurring revenue stream for the year-long deal that could have an even longer runway if successful.
NatureBox co-founder and Chief Executive Gautam Gupta told Fortune the pact was important for the NatureBox to prove its brand can live “online as well as offline.”
“We see this as the first of many [partnerships] over the next several years,” Gupta said.
NatureBox’s core business is a subscription service, which sends five snack packs to an individual customer per month. But the company is thinking about delivery methods beyond the subscription service. Earlier this year, it started selling its snacks to corporate clients and has landed more than 200 customers, including Twitter and Square. The corporate business has resulted in 20%-30% growth month-over-month since it debuted, so NatureBox is encouraged by its early efforts to go beyond direct-to-consumer delivery.
NatureBox says it is seeing strong interest from retailers that could one day stock its products. The company, which sells jalapeño cashers, wholewheat blueberry fig bars and other healthy goodies that have fewer than 200 calories per serving, stays on top of food trends by leveraging data it gathers from the subscription service via customer feedback. It can quickly determine when a new flavor is a hit, or perhaps needs to be reworked if it doesn’t take off. The data can be helpful as NatureBox mulls opportunities to sell its brand outside the delivery business.
Still, the direct-to-consumer business model is a key to NatureBox’s success. NatureBox is expecting to ship 3 million of its snack packages this year, up from 1 million in 2013.
Gupta said the American Airlines pact puts NatureBox “in the hands of consumers that haven’t heard about us and gives them an opportunity to try our product.” He said NatureBox is just beginning to make a name for itself in the snacks aisle.
And there is a lot of room for the startup to grow. U.S. consumers — in particular Generation X, Millennials, and today’s teens and kids — are snacking more between and even at traditional meal time. Research firm NPD Group believes snack foods eaten at main meals will grow about 5% to 86.4 billion earnings in 2018.
NatureBox isn’t the only direct-to-consumer e-commerce company that is refusing to rely solely on a subscription business. Kiwi Crate, a company that sends monthly do-it-yourself kits meant for kids, is now stocking its items in over 1,700 Target stores. And like NatureBox’s Gupta, Kiwi Crate CEO Sandra Oh Lin has said she’s thinking about how she can expand her company’s brand to the retail channel.
“One of our challenges is getting Kiwi Crate into more hands and allowing the product to market itself,” Oh Lin said. “The retail channel helps address this.”
Fiat Chrysler set to spin the brand off into a separate, independent company
Ferrari might be the car all people, even the strident non-gearheads, would love to be able to take out for a spin. Executives at the Italian automaker will be taking their company out for a spin next year, it was announced today, as Fiat Chrysler is spinning the brand off into an independent company.
Ferrari will also IPO, with a 10% stake in the company hitting the markets. The remaining 90% will be distributed among FCA shareholders, according to Reuters. Ferrari will likely list in both New York and on a European exchange. The spinoff and IPO is part of Fiat Chrysler’s attempt to grow by 48-billion euro ($61 billion).
“As we move forward to secure the 2014-2018 Business Plan and work toward maximizing the value of our businesses to our shareholders, it is proper that we pursue separate paths for FCA and Ferrari,” FCA Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said in a statement.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles made its Wall Street debut earlier this month, shifting the carmaker’s center of gravity away from Italy and capping a decade of canny dealmaking and tough restructuring by Marchionne.
The world’s seventh-largest auto group has sought the U.S. listing to help to establish itself as a leading global player through access to the world’s biggest equity market and the cheaper, more reliable source of funding it ultimately offers.
The news of its massive quarter has finally settled in
It took a few days, but Apple’s blow-out quarterly earnings report — driven by strong iPhone and Mac sales and bolstered by the largest stock repurchase program in the history of capitalism — has finally made its way through Wall Street’s algorithms and into Apple’s share price.
The stock closed Thursday at $104.83, up 1.8% for the day, 7.2% for the week and 50% from April 2013, the cruelest month, when it dipped into the high 300s.
Speculators who bought a lot of calls in September 2012, when Apple was approaching an intraday high of $705.07 ($100.72 post-split), will never get their money back.
But investors who held on to their shares through the rout of 2012 and 2013 are back in the green.
Apple is now not only the world’s most valuable public company, but it has left the nearest contenders in the dust. The top four market caps:
Apple: $617.9 billion
Exxon: $401.4 billion
Microsoft $371.0 billion
Google $369.0 billion
Big spending and lower-than-expected forecast for the holiday season put a cloud over the e-commerce giant’s shares
Amazon reported a disappointing third quarter on Thursday in the period leading up to holiday season. Investors responded by pummeling the stock in after-hours trading, driving it down 10% to $280 a share. Here are the key points from the earnings report.
What you need to know: Amazon traditionally funnels much of its profits into expanding its already gargantuan business, resulting in razor-thin margins — and this quarter proved no different. The e-commerce giant reported a loss of $437 million on revenues of $20.58 billion, a 20% revenue increase year-over-year, but well below Wall Street’s estimate of $20.84 billion.
A significant chunk of that money went into content and technology — a spending area that jumped 40%. That’s unsurprising given Amazon’s announcement last quarter that it would spend over $100 million on original video content, including the well-received original TV show, “Transparent” with “Arrested Development” actor Jeffrey Tambor.
The big numbers: $27.3 billion and $30.3 billion. That’s the sales range Amazon expects for this holiday season, the company’s busiest time of the year. That represents growth of between 7% and 18% versus last year, but again, less than what analysts forecast.
What you might have missed: Amazon had an extremely busy summer. It acquired Twitch, the video-game streaming site, for $1.1 billion, unveiled a credit card reader for the smartphone called Amazon Local Register and brought its same-day grocery delivery service, Amazon Prime Fresh, to New York. Amazon also launched the Fire phone, which is widely believed to be a dud. On Thursday’s earnings call, CFO Tom Szutak suggested it was too early to call the Fire phone a failure given its launch just 90 days ago. Said Szutak: “When ever you launch something new, there’s a wide range of outcomes, but it’s also early.”
Shares of the tech giant rose 4% in after hours after reporting a 25% sales bump in the first quarter of its 2015 fiscal year
Microsoft posted a 25% sales bump in its most recent quarter, beating Wall Street predictions on the strength of improved personal-computer sales as well as added revenue from the mobile phone business that the company Microsoft acquired from Nokia for $7.5 billion earlier this year. Here are the key points from Thursday’s Microsoft earnings report.
What you need to know: Sales improved to $23.2 billion in the first quarter of its 2015 fiscal year, which was also Satya Nadella‘s second full quarter as CEO of the company. But at the same time, Microsoft’s profits dipped more than 13%, to $4.5 billion, or 55 cents per share. The drop in profits was attributed to a $1.1 billion charge the company took in connection with massive layoffs, first announced over the summer, along with some ongoing costs of integrating Nokia’s handset business.
Microsoft got $2.6 billion from phone hardware sales in the most recent quarter, thanks to its new handset business, while the company’s unit that handles corporate sales grew revenue by 10% overall to $12.3 billion. The latter figure includes a 2.7% bump for commercial licensing sales, which cover server programs and corporate Windows and Office products.
The big number: Nadella has been putting a lot of focus toward selling Microsoft’s cloud-based business services, and the company said Thursday that its commercial cloud revenue, including sales from Office 365 and Azure cloud platform, grew 128% in the first quarter. Overall, the company reported a 50% jump in sales for its “Commercial Other” line, which includes the cloud products, to $2.41 billion. This is a closely-watched part of Microsoft’s business, as investors want to be sure that the tech giant is nimble and modern enough to be a big player in the cloud services market. Microsoft’s shares jumped almost 4% in after-hours trading, so it seems like investors were pleased with the company’s efforts.
What you might have missed: Microsoft also reported a 74% first-quarter revenue increase, to roughly $2.5 billion, for its computing and gaming hardware segment, reflecting sales growth for the company’s Xbox gaming console as well as the market-wide rebound in PC sales. Microsoft revealed Thursday that it sold 2.4 million Xbox consoles during the first quarter, representing a 102% bump. However, the company did not specify whether those sales came from the new Xbox One, which launched in 28 new markets during the quarter, as opposed to older iterations of the gaming system.
The Dow lately up some 300 points thanks to big gains from 3M, Caterpillar
U.S. stocks soared in afternoon trading on Thursday, buoyed by a handful of companies releasing strong earnings reports along with some positive economic reports in the U.S. and Europe.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was recently up over 300 points, or 1.9%, enjoying its best day since October 2013. The closely-watched index received a major boost thanks to two Dow 30 companies, 3M and Caterpillar, releasing strong quarterly financial reports on Thursday morning. Both companies’ shares were up more than 5% Thursday afternoon after 3M reported a sales bump and Caterpillar posted strong earnings thanks to effective cost-cutting. General Motors and apparel company Under Armour also posted strong earnings on Thursday.
The Nasdaq composite and S&P 500 are on pace to post their third winning day of the week, despite small dips on Wednesday, as the two indices were lately up 2% and 1.7%, respectively.
The market was also propped up today by news that jobless claims filed in the U.S. over the last month fell to their lowest average in more than 14 years. Another positive note came from the Conference Board’s index climbed 0.8%, suggesting continued economic growth in the U.S. carrying over into 2015. Meanwhile, investors were also encouraged by positive Eurozone economic reports, including a rebound in German manufacturing and a drop in unemployment in Spain.
After slogging through several volatile weeks recently, the U.S. market has managed to recover some of its losses this week. The Dow is also on pace today to notch its third positive finish so far this week, including Tuesday’s 215-point jump, and has already grown by 2.3% this week. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 actually had a four-day winning streak broken on Wednesday, when the blue-chip index dipped 0.7%. The S&P 500 is now up 3.9% for the week, while the Nasdaq has improved by almost 5% so far this week.