By Jonah Davis
Early in Sara Eisen’s journalism career, she taught herself to trade currencies. Eisen opened a demo account on a currency site and just started trading. It was this self-schooling in currencies that helped her build a foundation of knowledge in how the markets function and the economic forces that guide them.
More than a decade later, you can still see that knowledge base in the interviews she conducts as anchor of CNBC’s “Closing Bell.” Eisen interviews some of the most powerful and influential figures in business and economics on the planet: chief executives of Fortune 500 companies, current and former central bankers, investors and strategists overseeing billions, even trillions of dollars.
As part of ICR’s look at the themes that will matter in 2023, I spoke to Sara about the stories she is focused on for next year and how that’s guiding her programming on CNBC.
Jonah Davis: Let’s start with the obvious. What theme or themes interest you most heading into next year?
Sara Eisen: Generally, I view the world through the lens of investors and business and the people who follow what’s happening in the economy. My biggest focus of interest and intrigue is whether we will be in a recession next year, and if so, how deep and how long. Will the Fed stop raising rates? Will the Fed cut rates? Will the Fed continue to raise rates? Will inflation come down rapidly (which, by the way, economists are expecting to happen). Will the war in Ukraine persist? Will China open its economy? What do international relations look like and how will that affect the global landscape? These are a lot of big questions right now because this is a period of great uncertainty for businesses.
JD: So to help answer these questions, who is at the top of your list to interview?
SE: My philosophy on interviews – [they are] a huge part of what I do, and also my favorite part of what I do – is get to the bottom of these questions by giving viewers smart, critical information to figure out how to invest and make sense of the world. And we’ll get that from CEOs, global policy leaders, economists.
JD: So who specifically? Really, who are the big interviews you want to get?
SE: Jay Powell, Elon Musk, Taylor Swift. They’re the three most important people in the world in my opinion.
JD: Taylor would be great…not as much a fixture on business television like Powell or Musk. For the guests who are not Jay Powell, Elon Musk or Taylor Swift, what are your booking criteria? What do you look for in a guest?
SE: I look for newsmakers first and foremost – either CEOs or policy makers, and then expert, diverse voices on various subjects or sectors based on their backgrounds or job descriptions and willingness to be open and thoughtful. My basic goal is to provide my audience interviews that will help them make money and make sense of the world economy.
JD: On the economy, if we can look at the inflation question you mentioned earlier. What are the companies you talk to saying about rising costs and raising prices their customers pay? Because it’s a double-edged sword for them.
SE: I’ve gotten a more accurate representation of where inflation is going from companies than from economists. Companies have been talking more about the cost pressures they are facing. They’ve been talking about it earlier, more frequently, more consistently. I like to focus on staples – consumer companies – which are continuing to keep the price increases coming. So it’s not a surprise when the inflation numbers come out that food inflation is still stubbornly high.
JD: A lot of stories heading into the new year were set up to be either turnarounds or failures. Twitter, crypto, housing, IPOs, China. Which ones float to the top for you?
SE: I’m really focused on China. The market is telling you – and the market has been wrong about this before – and geopolitical experts are telling us that China is trying to open up and emerge from Zero-Covid policy. It won’t be smooth. That may have to involve them accepting western vaccines or endure a Covid outbreak and we’re seeing that now. But when and if they do reopen it could be a big tailwind for 2023. Ultimately, that could be a promising story.
Crypto is surviving a lot of turmoil and facing a big test. Look at prices of bitcoin. It’s not trading like it’s going away. I just spoke to Glenn Hutchins (North Island Ventures) and he says his faith hasn’t been shaken.
JD: Let’s look at some of the other companies and personalities on that knife’s edge. Speed round.
SE: Just spoke to Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)…he said Trump will not be the party’s nominee.
JD: Beyond Meat.
SE: Watch the health studies. These products were presented to the world as a healthier alternative to real meat but some studies are suggesting otherwise. It will be key to see how that will persist.
SE: Most interesting in Bob Iger’s return as CEO is whether Nelson Peltz joins the board. I think that’s why investors were optimistic when Iger came back.
JD: Any others on your radar?
SE: Pandemic stocks. It’s been a brutal year for them – Peloton, Zoom. I want to see how much these businesses will continue to shrink and if they can be good investments again.
JD: A quick backward look. What surprised you most in 2022?
SE: A big surprise for me was the persistence of inflation. It’s pretty incredible how hard the Fed had to fight. That has shaped the story in 2022 and you could have never predicted this.
Follow the entire ICR 2023 trends series on the ICR Insights blog.