A student of Austrian Economics, Kevin found Bitcoin in 2011 and has been an evangelist ever since. His interests lie in Bitcoin security, open-source systems, network effects and the intersection between economics and cryptography.
Tesla CEO and Twitter chief Elon Musk has informed Twitter employees that the company’s “economic picture ahead is dire.” Noting that “bankruptcy isn’t out of the question,” the billionaire stressed that “Without significant subscription revenue, there is a good chance Twitter will not survive the upcoming economic downturn.”
Elon Musk, the billionaire who bought Twitter for $44 billion about two weeks ago, sent his first email to all Twitter employees Wednesday informing them of the social media platform’s grim financial situation. “There is no way to sugarcoat the message,” Musk wrote, adding:
Frankly, the economic picture ahead is dire.
He proceeded to detail that the economic situation is worse for a company like Twitter which is highly dependent on advertising in a challenging economic climate. “70% of our advertising is brand, rather than specific performance, which makes us doubly vulnerable,” he stressed.
Musk continued, “That is why the priority over the past ten days has been to develop and launch Twitter Blue Verified subscriptions,” elaborating:
Without significant subscription revenue, there is a good chance Twitter will not survive the upcoming economic downturn. We need roughly half of our revenue to be subscription.
However, Musk said the social media company will still be “significantly reliant on advertising,” so he is working to “ensure that Twitter continues to be appealing to advertisers.” The billionaire emphasized: “The road ahead is arduous and will require intense work to succeed.”
The Tesla and Spacex CEO added that Twitter’s policy will be changed and remote work is no longer allowed. Starting Thursday, everyone employed by the social media giant is required to be in the office for a minimum of 40 hours per week unless they are physically unable to travel or have critical personal obligations.
Moreover, Musk held an emergency all-hands meeting with Twitter employees Wednesday. He reportedly said:
Bankruptcy isn’t out of the question.
Following the meeting, two Twitter executives, Robin Wheeler and Yoel Roth, reportedly left the company. Last week, Musk laid off about 50% of Twitter employees, claiming that he had no choice since the social media company is losing over $4 million a day.
Musk admitted Wednesday that his new $8-a-month verification system has problems. “Far too many corrupt legacy Blue ‘verification’ checkmarks exist, so no choice but to remove legacy Blue in coming months,” he tweeted. Nonetheless, he insisted that usage of Twitter has risen since he took over the platform.
This week, he outlined how Twitter could generate revenue as a payment company after it filed paperwork with the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to start a payment business.
Investors have got the jitters as a big week unfolds — several central bank meetings including the Fed, earnings from Apple and Amazon.com, and jobs data. Yikes.
Any investor out there who isn’t nervous, perhaps should recheck his gut, says our call of the day, from Standard Chartered’s global head of research, Eric Robertsen.
“We do not expect an extreme economic hard landing, but we think the proverbial Goldilocks scenario is too optimistic,” Robertsen told clients in a Sunday note, adding that they are “now turning cautious on risky assets.”
Robertsen explains the two sides of an important market debate right now — the just-right Goldilocks crowd and the “recessionist” bears.
The former is growing confident with their view that inflation and central bank tightening is nearing a peak and any recession will be “shallow and short-lived,” he explains. The reduction of that “central-bank driven left-side tail risk” matters more to markets than any slowdown, that side also says.
“A central bank pause, declining inflation, and attractive yields and valuations will prompt investors to reduce their underweight exposure and increase their allocation to risky assets, the Goldilocks camp argues,” he said.
He says the varied year-to-date performance across asset classes reveals 2022’s laggards are 2023’s outperformers so far. “This suggests that short-covering may be a significant contributor to performance so far, rather than overwhelming faith in the Goldilocks economy.
“The outperforming sectors are distinctly pro-cyclical – which is surprising with recession themes all the rage,” he says, noting that “ominous message about the health of the labor market” from tech job cuts.
On the other side, the bears say investors are overstating a decline in volatility and understating economic risks, writes Robertsen, who is on board here, hence his caution on riskier assets. The so-called fear gauge, the CBOE Volatility Index, or VIX
didn’t register new highs last year when stocks tumbled, leading some to say it was a broken indicator.
“Real-time indicators are showing a loss of economic momentum, while others – such as the U.S. labor market – have yet to reflect growing economic headwinds,” he said. “Underlying the bear case is the view that we have yet to feel the full cumulative impact of the most aggressive monetary tightening cycle in decades.”
He says “volatility measures have fallen too far and the improvement in risky assets is due for a pause.” The catalyst for this pause could be any number of things: aggressive rate cuts priced into the U.S. money-market curve that will be unwound, a too-tight move from the European Central Bank or even an actual tightening from Bank of Japan, for example, said Robertsen.
Risk assets may also struggle with the Fed’s message this week if it fails to reassure the rate-hiking cycle is complete, says Robertse,n who expects the central bank will push back on “aggressive easing priced into the money-market curve.”
creeping up and oil
pulling back. The China CSI
rose slightly as the market reopened after a week off. The Hang Seng
slumped 2.7% as Alibaba fell (more in buzz) and Taiwan’s index
surged 3.7% as Taiwan Semi
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The A-listers of earnings are lining up this week, with not just Apple
but Alphabet’s Google
are tracking a slump in Hong Kong amid speculation the company will shift headquarters to Singapore. Alibaba dismissed the rumors. And shares of Baidu are bucking a weaker landscape for tech, with reports the China tech group is developing its own AI search engine.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will lead to lower oil and gas demand and a move to greener sources, says BP
The data calendar is quiet for Monday, but the week is busy with updates on the housing market, manufacturing, unit labor costs and nonfarm payrolls.
A 25-basis point hike is forecast from the Fed this week, while a 50-basis point cut is expected from the ECB and Bank of England, which could narrowing the differential between the two sides.
A short seller report has now wiped $72 billion in value from companies of the world’s number-eight billionaire.
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Rio Tinto is looking for a lost radioactive capsule the size of a coin in Western Australia.
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These were the top-searched tickers on MarketWatch as of 6 a.m. Eastern:
|Lucid Group I|
|AMC Entertainment Holdings preferred shares|
|Bed Bath & Beyond|
|AMC Entertainment Holdings|
Ain’t no greased pole greasy enough for Philadelphia Eagles fans celebrating that NFC win over the San Francisco 49ers.
But lighting up the Empire State Building in Eagles green was a step too far, some New Yorkers were fuming.
Boris Johnson says Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to take him out as the war in Ukraine began.
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From pricey parking to pat downs at security and long lineups everywhere you turn, air travel these days can be unpleasant.
“I get on a plane now at least once a month and to me, it’s like riding on a bus in the sky. Herd me on, sit me down, get me off. They’ve taken away the lure of the travel,” said Susan Barnes, 75, of Halfmoon Bay, B.C., who has been a frequent flyer for more than half a century.
Barnes, who was a flight attendant in the 1960s and ’70s, says she remembers when flying was like a Mad Men cocktail party in the sky. She jetted around the globe pouring free champagne for passengers flying CP Air, a carrier that operated until 1986 when it was taken over by Pacific Western Airlines (PWA) and then, Canadian Airlines.
Barnes said her job was to provide top notch treatment to every passenger, even those sitting in economy. That meant handing out hot towels before and after every meal. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were served on real china, with silverware and cloth napkins — then out came coffee, tea and a fruit basket.
“We were treating these people as if they were in a first-class establishment. We just happened to be in the air,” Barnes said.
Barnes and other retired CP Air, Canadian and Air Canada flight attendants interviewed by the Cost of Living described flying back then as “a pleasure.”
It’s a far cry from the experience thousands of Canadians had with airlines this past holiday season. Staff shortages, weather issues and computer outages resulted in lost baggage, cancelled flights and stranded passengers who are now battling air carriers for compensation.
If you’ve been caught in that tangled web of travel chaos, you may be asking yourself what happened. Experts say it comes down to costs, and competition — and that we’re unlikely to ever return to that golden age of flying.
Keeping prices competitive meant airlines had to be more ruthless about the bottom line, said Fred Lazar, an associate professor of economics at York University.
“Here’s a fare, it gets you a seat from A to B. Anything else costs more.”
What most Canadians remember as the golden age of flying was the era when commercial aviation was regulated, explained Lazar. It was a time when airlines didn’t have to cut costs to stay competitive, because the federal government didn’t allow them to compete with one another.
“So it was essentially the government saying this is where you can fly, when you can fly and these are the prices.”
Up until 1986, the two big players were private carrier CP Air and government-owned Air Canada (formerly Trans-Canada Airlines), said Lazar, and the government did not allow much overlap on routes.
In the absence of competition, experts say Canadian carriers were guaranteed to attract customers and make money, which meant they could afford to offer perks on their flights to passengers.
According to Julie LeBlond Parker, who started as a flight attendant for CP Air in 1968, airlines also invested in their staff. She received extensive training in “decorum” and “finesse” before taking to the sky.
“The service was based on old European service. It was a very high standard,” said LeBlond Parker, who now lives in South Surrey, B.C.
Domestic and international flight prices, 1959 vs. 2023
But the golden age of air travel was also out of reach for many Canadians. Fare schedules from collectors and the archives of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum reveal that throughout the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, flying was incredibly expensive.
In 1950, a return flight on Trans-Canada Airlines from Vancouver to Johannesburg, South Africa, cost over $21,000 when adjusted for inflation. Flying Toronto to Vancouver in 1962 on CP Air was roughly $1,900.
With prices like that, LeBlond Parker, said the regulars on her flights were business travellers, not vacationers. Leisure travellers were usually newlyweds, couples and families embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
“What was really amazing about it is that they all dressed up. They probably got a new outfit just to fly because it was special. It was a very special thing.”
Goodbye blankets, hello bargains
Barry Prentice, the director of the Transport Institute at the University of Manitoba, said Canadians saw a “tremendous drop” in airfares south of the border when the U.S. deregulated its airlines in 1978.
“They went from $700 to $200, or something. And everybody in Canada was sitting there, you know, wondering, ‘well, why don’t we have that?'”
WATCH | Is air travel broken?
Prentice said the Canadian government followed the U.S., loosening its grip on the airline industry throughout the 1980s and ’90s. During that time, Air Canada became privatized and more carriers entered the Canadian market. As competition ramped up, airfares went down.
But that’s not the only reason flying became cheaper, explained Prentice.
Advances in aviation technology meant planes became more fuel efficient and larger, which increased air cargo and passenger capacity. Prentice said that — along with the 1980s oil glut, brought down the price per seat.
Even when crude prices rebounded, legacy airlines like Air Canada couldn’t go back to charging passengers as much for flights as they did before deregulation because they were up against the à la carte pricing model of no-frills carriers, said Lazar.
“Many people said, ‘We didn’t have to pay for bags, we got food for free, we didn’t have to pay for earphones,” Lazar said.
“Well now, in the lowest-fare categories, you do, because the airlines want to compete with the ultra low-cost carriers. And that’s the only way they can do it.”
Lazar, who has also worked as a consultant for Qantas, Air Canada and Porter Airlines, said stripping away the luxuries and packing more seats on planes is a “major contributing factor to making flying in economy much less comfortable and attractive, yet much more affordable.”
Snafus at security
While Canadians often blame airlines for a lousy flying experience, chaos at airport security and gates can also contribute to the overall unpleasantness of air travel. Experts say that’s because airports aren’t designed for the realities of today’s travel.
Between 1973 and 2008, Anthony Wade-Cooper was a flight attendant for CP Air, Canadian and Air Canada. He says before 9/11, he could make it from the check-in counter to the gate in 20 minutes.
“It was just so different. You just walked into the airport and you got on a flight,” he said Wade-Cooper, who is now retired in a town called Mooloolaba on Australia’s Sunshine Coast.
Nowadays, airlines ask passengers flying domestic to arrive at the airport two hours in advance and Wade-Cooper said he often spends most of that time standing in a queue.
Security snafus are also a result of a steady increase in air travel over the last decade — peaking in 2019 with nearly 163 million passengers passing through Canadian airports, according to Statistics Canada.
According to Lazar, most airports were not built for a post-9/11 world where every traveller has to take off their belt and shoes. There are also design problems when passengers arrive at gates. Lazar says some airports are designed like malls — a lot of shops and restaurants but not a lot of seating.
“There’s no place to sit. You know, if you have long delays, where are you going to go?”
But what we get in exchange for fewer perks and busier airports, said Prentice, are cheaper flights — and that means more people than ever can afford to fly. Which he thinks is a “really good thing.”
“More families can travel and, over time, families have split up wider and wider. My grandchildren are in Montreal and I’m in Winnipeg and I wouldn’t see them very often if it weren’t for air travel.”
If you’re wondering if there’s a way to get back a bit of the elegance or at least the enjoyment of flying, Lazar said you can’t expect to pay rock bottom prices.
He said the only way back to the golden age of travel is to fly first class or rent a private jet.
“Otherwise, just accept the fact that air travel is really the same as travelling on a bus. Except it gets you from A to B much more quickly.”
Stock futures were modestly lower on Sunday evening as investors geared up for a week of key corporate earnings and a possible interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve.
Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 56 points, or about 0.2%. S&P 500 futures ticked down 0.2%, and Nasdaq 100 futures edged lower by 0.2%.
Wall Street is coming off a winning week as the stock market’s January rally continued. The Nasdaq Composite gained 4.3% for the week, while the S&P 500 and Dow added 2.5% and 1.8%, respectively.
There are several tests this week for this 2023 rally. A busy stretch of corporate earnings season includes reports from McDonald’s and General Motors on Tuesday followed by tech giants Apple, Meta Platforms, Amazon and Alphabet later in the week.
The Federal Open Market Committee meets on Tuesday and Wednesday, when the Fed is expected to hike rates by one-quarter of a percentage point. Investors will be looking for clues about how much higher the central bank will take rates in the fight against inflation.
“Inflation has shocked the Fed to the upside; they need to be cautious not to inadvertently lower rates too early. Don’t buy into this gobbledygook about a couple of rate cuts being priced into December. For now, the Fed is only around to help in the very unlikely event of a crash landing,” David Zervos, chief market strategist at Jefferies, said in a note to clients.
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