Tech heavyweights lead U.S. futures higher—crypto, too, rebounds
Buongiorno, Bull Sheeters.
I’m back in the Eternal City, and, on cue, the U.S. futures point to a strong open. Tech futures, including FAANG stocks, lead the way higher as bond yields drop. Watch Nvidia at the open. It’s certainly lighting up the investor message boards.
Elsewhere, Europe is flat, Asia is down and crypto is mostly higher.
In today’s Buzzworthy section, we look at soaring EV stocks and the unmistakable cost of inflation. Speaking of oddball pricing, in today’s Postscript—yes, Postscript is back—your correspondent gets an education about Nike’s crazy reseller market as he goes in search of a rare pair of Air Jordans.
But first, let’s see what’s moving markets. We begin out East.
- The major Asia indexes were a blur of red with the Hang Seng closing down by nearly 1.3%, hurt by tech stocks.
- The HSTech was down 3.2% ahead of Alibaba’s earnings call.
- The MSCI China is off more than 25% since its February high, but investors have been pouring back in in recent weeks as it trades at a big discount to the closely watched MSCI World index, Bloomberg reports.
- The European bourses were mixed at the open, with the Stoxx Europe 600 up nearly 0.1% an hour into the session. Travel and leisure and auto stocks led the way higher.
- If the Stoxx Europe manages to finish in the green today that would make 18 gains out of the past 20 trading sessions, matching a streak the benchmark hit in June.
- As COVID cases once again surge around the continent, the Netherlands will head back to a partial lockdown this weekend with restaurants and bars ordered to shut early and Sweden will insist on vaccine passes for large public gatherings.
- The U.S. futures have been gaining all morning. The major averages stumbled yesterday with Visa, caught in a spat with Amazon over credit card fees, among the big losers.
- Shares in Nvidia are popping this morning, up as much as 7% in pre-market, after the chips giant reported big top- and bottom-line beats after the bell yesterday.
- Staying with tech stocks… Cisco shares fell more than 6% in pre-market after the tech conglomerate issued lackluster earnings and sales guidance.
- Gold is flat on the day… and the week. It trades above $1,860/ounce.
- The dollar is down a touch.
- Crude is under pressure as China looks to release some of its strategic reserves on the market. Brent trades below $80/barrel.
- Bitcoin is flat. It trades below $60,000, or about $10K below the all-time high it set last week.
EVs to the moon
I had a bunch of Rivian-related Tweets ready to go yesterday afternoon, and then the stock sank more than 15%. Still, its market cap is above $100 billion and revenues are more or less $0.
The Staples Center, home to the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, has a new name: the Crypto.com Arena. The name-change did nada for crypto prices, however.
Chipping away at EVs
Every Saturday morning here in Rome I head to the local market to stock up on the basics: fruit and veg, fish, a bit of prosciutto and pecorino cheese, bread and pizza, and maybe some spices. Before I buy, I go to various stands inspecting the goods, making a mental note of prices along the way.
Economics professors have a fancy name for that: price-discovery. As the term implies it’s the process of ascertaining the price of something—anything—a key bit of intel for any transaction.
Sometimes price-discovery is straightforward. Other times it’s frustratingly opaque. Whenever we call in a plumber, for example, I have no idea what the work will cost me. In Rome, plumbers almost always want to be paid in cash (economists have a name for that phenomenon, too), and so I try to get an estimate upfront in case I need to dash out to the bank for the needed funds.
The last time a plumber came to our place, both my wife and I asked him multiple times what the work would set us back. The peppering seemed to eat at his patience. Finally, he told my wife; “Signora, I’m not finished. How can I give you a price if I’m not finished?”
When it came time to pay him, we were of course short on cash, and had to plunder the kids’ birthday money for a few crisp notes to settle the debt. In case you’re wondering, I am pro-children-paying-for-plumbing-works-if-those-same-children-use-the-plumbing.
Episodes like this make me dread handy-man transactions. I hate being totally in the dark when it comes to price-discovery.
Which brings me to Michael Jordan.
My daughter put a new pair of Air Jordan sneakers at the top of her Christmas list. The retro kind—Air Jordan 1, they call them. I was just about to recount the tale of my hoops glory days, back in the ‘80s, and my first pair of Air Jordans, when my wife held up her iPhone to show me the price: €460.
Prezzo fuori controllo. Nutty pricing. I figured that price-tag had something to do with scarcity (I was right) and some Europe-specific issue (I was wrong), and that I’d simply find a reasonably priced pair while in the U.S. of A (wrong again) last week. Which brings me to:
The scene: A Nike outlet in New Jersey.
Me: Do you have Air Jordans, in a girl’s size?
Nike store rep: Air Jordans? Ooh, that won’t be easy. I think we have one pair. On the back wall. Good luck.
The shoe was an Air Jordan 3, not at all what my daughter wanted. Don’t waste your money, my wife coached me via text. This isn’t going to be easy, it dawned on me.
Next scene: My last day in New York. A Nike shop in midtown Manhattan. Two floors. Hundreds and hundreds of sneakers on display.
Me: Do you have the Air Jordan 1, in a girl’s size?
Nike store rep: Air Jordan 1?
Nike store rep: Do you have any idea what you’re going to pay for those?
Me: No… No, that’s the problem. I have no idea.
Nike store rep: A lot.
Me: What does that even mean, a lot?
Nike store rep: (head down smiling at the vintage Air Jordan 1 shoes on his feet) What do you think?
Me: I don’t know. Two hundred?
Nike store rep: Pffft.
Me: You’re wearing a pair of Air Jordan 1’s. What did you spend?
Nike store rep: A lot.
Me: You work here, and you still spent a lot on those shoes. They’re really cool, by the way.
Nike store rep: (Sottovoce) I didn’t get these here. I didn’t get these from Nike.
Me: Where did you get them?
Nike store rep: Flight Club. Broadway, below 14th Street… It’ll cost you. A lot.
Me: You’re saying that in this giant Nike store, there’s not one pair of Air Jordan 1?
Nike store rep: (Shaking his head). Flight Club. Check ‘em out… It’ll cost you.
I took his advice and headed to Flight Club. First rule of Flight Club…oh, never mind.
Flight Club is unmistakably cool. There’s hip-hop thumping. A bunch of younguns admiring the goods. The vibe is sneaker-store-meets-art-gallery-party. There are people milling around who know everything there is to know about what’s displayed on the brick walls. What’s different here, it strikes me, is the foot traffic. There are buyers and sellers.
Flight Club does brisk business as a re-seller, a tattooed Flight Club rep tells me. She’s decked out in black Air Jordans, matching black-T shirt and green camo pants. She has giant fake eyelashes, coils of gold chains. She’s preternaturally cool.
If you’ve got mint-condition Air Jordans, she continues, and you’re looking to make a buck, Flight Club will take ‘em off your hands. Flight Club then re-sells them to some schlep like me who comes in off the street and tells them his kid is nuts for Air Jordan. (They have other brands too, but everyone is checking out the Air Jordans when I’m there.)
One pair of Air Jordan 1s really jump out at me. They’re in black and Tarheels blue—as in UNC Tarheels blue. The price hits me like an in-bound pass with mustard. They range from $435 to $1,495. I wince behind my mask, and move on. Finally, I come to the pair my daughter wants: the classic red-and-black. They look like the pair Jose, the point-guard on my grammar school team, used to wear. I ask the rep about them, and she pulls out her iPad. A few taps reveal the Flight Club inventory: the price, the sizes. Yep, we’ve got ‘em, she informs me. And the price is journalist-friendly. My heart is racing.
I send some excited, mission-accomplished texts back to Rome. My wife, who kinda wrote off the Air Jordan quest, is suddenly popping with excitement. “She’ll be over the moon,” she texts me back with full approval.
At checkout, I regale the guy ringing me up with the story of my first Air Jordans. It must have been 1985, I calculate. Yeah, ‘85, I repeat.
“Whoa, you’re older than my dad,” he blurts out. He then tells his colleague about me and my ‘85 Air Jordans. Judging by their laughs, I can tell this is doing nothing for my cool cred.
No matter. I got what I came for. I send a photo of the goods to my wife.
“They definitely look cool,” she shoots back.
Have a nice day. I’ll see you here tomorrow… Until then, there’s more news below.
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Target’s and Walmart’s Shelves Overfloweth—Wall Street Journal
Despite some choppiness in recent days, the S&P 500 is up nearly 4.9% over the past month. But at the very bottom of the leaderboard are two re-opening darlings: financials and energy. In that span, energy is off 0.8%, the lone S&P sector in the red over that period. Financials is little better, up a mere 0.2%. Meanwhile, tech is up nearly 7.9% over the past month.