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Stocks up, crypto down—Bitcoin’s weekend sell-off rattles the markets

April 19, 2021, 9:43 AM UTC

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Good morning.

Global stocks are on an impressive winning streak as economic data and corporate results continues to surprise on the upside. That trend continues this morning. U.S. futures are climbing, following Europe and Asia higher.

Alas, the cryptocurrency market is as volatile as ever. Bitcoin is off its lows after this weekend’s rout, but there’s a lot of grumbling in crypto land that the recent dogecoin rally is making a joke of honest to goodness BTC speculators. More on that in today’s essay.

But first…let’s see what’s moving markets.

Markets update

Asia

  • The major Asia indexes are mostly higher in afternoon trading with the Shanghai Composite up 1.5%.
  • Global stocks, as represented by the MSCI All-Country World Index, hit an all-time high on Friday as data out of China and U.S. impressed investors.
  • Hong Kong-listed Evergrande NEV, which has made the pivot from property development to building EVs, is on one heckuva run with the stock up more than 1,000% in the past year. The one problem? The electric-car maker hasn’t sold a single car yet.

Europe

  • The European bourses were mostly flat at the open, before climbing. At 11 a.m. Rome time, the Stoxx Europe 600 was up 0.2%.
  • 15 of the world’s richest soccer clubs—from Liverpool to Real Madrid—are plotting a breakaway league, and fans and politicians aren’t happy. Here’s an idea for a “super” football league: no blatant dives, flops or whimpers; no racist players and no teams on the take.
  • Juventus is up a nickel, or 7%, on the news.

U.S.

  • U.S. futures are trading off their lows. That’s after the Dow and S&P closed at yet another new high on Friday, the fourth straight week of gains.
  • In hitting its most recent record, the benchmark S&P 500 just hit a level that’s making Fortune‘s veteran market watcher Shawn Tully wince as he recalls the peak of the Dotcom bubble.
  • More Fortune 500 giants will do earnings calls and AGMs this week. On the calendar are: Coca-Cola and United Airlines (today); Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and Netflix (tomorrow) and Intel (on Thursday).

Elsewhere

  • Gold is up again, after a fabulous week. It’s trading around $1,790/ounce.
  • The dollar is down.
  • As is crude. Brent trades above $66/barrel.
  • Bitcoin dive-bombed over the weekend to trade below $57,000—more than 10% off its April 14 all-time high. The sell-off generated all kinds of here-we-go-again commentary, including this from UBS Chief Economist Paul Donovan: “If cryptos were currencies, this would constitute a hyperinflation to rival Weimar Germany. The volatility is just a reminder that cryptos are not currencies.”

***

Good to be the doge

I get that dogecoin is named after a dog-headed Internet meme, one that dates back to the Obama years, when the S&P 500 traded below a measly two grand. But whenever I hear it mentioned, I think of the doge—the Venetian doge (pronounced DOH-jay)—only more so after last week’s bonkers rally sent dogecoin’s market valuation above $50 billion.

It was good to be the doge—the Venetian doge, that is. He was the trading power’s top dog. Elected by a cabal of powerful Venetian families, the doge (at first, anyhow) ruled for life. A magistrate, the doge was like a Supreme Court justice with the power to declare war—or order construction of a basilica to house the smuggled bones of a patron saint. 

In a republic built on trade, Venice needed a strong doge to protect its sprawling interests around the Adriatic, and to promote the capital city as a rising power. The latter duty was no passegiata. If you’ve ever been to Venice, you’ve got to admit it is a pretty inhospitable place to build a superpower. Here? In this murky lagoon? Are you joking?

The doge had a good run. He lived in a magnificent palace fronting the Grand Canal. The city’s many over-the-top celebrations were celebrated outside his window, right where the canal widens enough for floating caravans of barge-boozing and reveling.

The doge’s reign came to an end in the late 18th Century when the diminutive Frenchman, Napoleon—no doubt himself the subject of many a meme in his day—conquered Venice. 

Fast-forward to present day, and the internet is full of dodgy doge—the alt-coin kind—warnings. 

“Dogecoin is the new GameStop,” blared one warning that hit my inbox this weekend. It came from Nigel Green of DeVere Group, one of bitcoin’s earliest and most prominent promoters. 

“This week, since Reddit lifted its ban on the discussion of three cryptocurrencies—bitcoin, Ethereum and Dogecoin—activist investors and also some celebrity investors on social media have been urging others to invest their cash into Dogecoin–their new pet populist bandwagon,” DeVere said in a statement.

“In the same way that the GameStop frenzy was pitched as a battle-play of ‘Wall Street versus The Little Guy,’ Dogecoin is being pitched as a battle-play against the well-established crypto giants like bitcoin.”

That the old-guard bitcoin crowd sees dogecoin’s rise as a threat to serious crypto currencies was an angle I didn’t see coming. Are they scared that a pipsqueak, Napoleon-like alt coin will bring the bitcoin mania to a crushing end?

On cue, bitcoin plunged over the weekend, in what was being described as “a flash crash.”

A lot of people have looked pretty silly in predicting that a crypto bubble-popping moment is nigh, and so I won’t. 

But again I’m reminded of Venice’s doge. Connected to the doge’s impressive palace is, yep, the bridge of sighs.

***

Postscript

Milan gets the kudos as Italy’s most bike-friendly big city. But Rome is doing its part, too.

In recent years, the city refurbished a bike route that runs 55 kilometers along the length of the Tiber, from the hills of Prima Porta to the coast. It’s called the Regina Ciclarum, or the “queen of bike paths.”

For a good stretch, it follows the ancient Via Ostiensis, a major trade route connecting the city to the old Roman port in Ostia Antica. Pedaling along the route yesterday, I stopped every now and then to check out the many engineering relics from that epoch when Rome was a global force on the rise.

Here’s a bridge span dating back to the 2nd Century B.C. It’s remarkably intact.

That said, I can’t believe some knucklehead thought it would be a good idea to build a modern road immediately above it. Still, you still get the idea of ancient Rome’s engineering prowess.

Closer to town, a 20th century gem comes into view. Built in 1938, the Colosseo Quadrato is one of the best pieces of Fascist era architecture. It’s now the headquarters of Fendi.

That’s it for today’s cycle tour… back to work!

Bernhard Warner
@BernhardWarner
Bernhard.Warner@Fortune.com

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Today's reads

America's priciest zip codes. As you know, the U.S. housing market is running at a white hot clip (more on that below in today's Market Candy). Fortune's Lance Lambert runs the data on the 10 fastest growing high-end markets in the country. There are four in California, three in New York and New Jersey, including Brielle, N.J., which is up 76% year-on-year. Here's the full map

What Cathie Wood's buying. We saw late last week that the architect behind ARK Invest was going all-in on Coinbase, snatching up shares after its volatile trading debut. Before that, the star fund manager spoke with Fortune's Anne Sraders and shared the 10 stocks she's buying this year—and the trio she won't go anywhere near. 

What's driving the rally. The good news about the 2021 bull market rally is that it's not just tech and health care propelling it higher. The S&P 500 is up 11% so far this year, and, this time around, a far broader range of S&P firms are contributing to the gains, the Wall Street Journal reports.

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Market candy

Why this housing boom is very different

House prices in the U.S. are, by one closely watched measure, up a staggering 11% year-on-year. And Ben Carlson from Ritholtz Wealth Management reckons there's only one way for prices to go: yep, even higher. But he sees this housing market as a far different one from the volatile one that preceded the housing crisis of 2007. For starters, the buyers are creditworthy and there's epic supply shortfall of new homes.