Tuesday Morning Reads
- Big Push Into Helium
- Stimulus Compromise
- Restrictions on TikTok
- Robinhood Is Losing Thousands of Traders
- ‘Hybrid Auction.’ What That Means—and Why It Matters.
- Now It’s a Wall Street Darling.
- Calm Meditation App Hits $2 Billion Value
- When You’ve Already Won the Game
Over in the U.S., hospitals are rushing to firm up plans for deciding which high-priority groups can receive the COVID-19 vaccine first, with initial supplies widely expected to fall short. December vaccine deliveries are forecast to only be enough for about 20M people, according to federal officials, slightly less than the 24M needed to vaccinate all front-line medical professionals and long-term care residents. President Trump is meanwhile expected to sign an "America First" executive order today designed to ensure that U.S. efforts to assist other countries in vaccinating their populations against COVID-19 take on a lower priority than domestic inoculations. The "Vaccine Summit" at the White House will also feature talks with administration officials and drug distributors, who will discuss the process of reviewing vaccine candidates and distributing them, just days before the FDA is expected to authorize a promising vaccine made by Pfizer (NYSE:PFE).
Q from your company Slack channel: Can your boss fire you if you refuse to get a COVID vaccine? Yes, but there are may be a few exceptions (medical reasons, if the workforce is unionized, or if taking it is against a "sincerely held" religious belief).
Roughly four in 10 Americans say they would "definitely" or "probably" not get a vaccine, according to a recent survey by Pew Research. To achieve herd immunity, experts say that about 70% of the population needs to be vaccinated or have natural antibodies.
What do increasing service disruptions on trading platforms like Robinhood and the pandemic market rally have in common? It's a sign of the DIY investing atmosphere. In many ways, the retail investor has become a more powerful collective force than the professional investor, and they simply don't care about the same things as the experts. In fact, individual investors now account for roughly 20% of stock-market activity on average and nearly one-quarter of trades on peak days, according to Joe Mecane, the head of execution services at Citadel Securities (the firm is the leading retail market maker in the U.S.).
Quote from Jim Cramer: The returns of the individual investor have changed the "entire character of the market," and the professionals are no longer the only cohort that matters.
Ever since the dot-com bubble in 2001, every big market move has been framed as "what could go wrong." Conventional wisdom also said stocks could not be trusted as an asset class, and should be traded together as a unit, as they tend to lose their value quickly if things go awry. That theory only grew in popularity after the financial crisis, leading many institutional investors into ETFs or index funds (and the rest into the safety of bonds) instead of picking individual stocks. A new generation of investors, which entered the market after the rise of commission-free trading, is turning that mentality on its head. They're much more upbeat than the older generation and they're doing their own research on platforms like Seeking Alpha, instead of paying attention to the upgrades and downgrades of Wall Street analysts. The retail bros also don't care about traditional parameters of valuation (P/E and P/S ratios) and could always trade out of a stock for free because of commission-free trading.
Mentality of the retail investor: 1) Distrust of index funds (they like stock picking), 2) Rigorously independent (trades based on their own research), 3) Risk taking (buying during the height of the pandemic), 4) ESG investing (believe in environmental sustainability as a business model, not just an ethos - i.e. Tesla).
Uber (NYSE:UBER) is swapping its self-driving car operations for a minority stake (26%) in Aurora Innovation, the driverless vehicle startup backed by Sequoia Capital and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN). CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who will join the Aurora board, has already moved to restructure the ride-hailing giant to deliver on a promise to make the company profitable, scaling back many of its expensive side projects like electric bikes and flying cars.
Full details: Uber will invest $400M in the startup and transfer over about 1,200 employees from its self-driving unit, tripling the headcount of Aurora. The latter is led by autonomous-driving pioneer Chris Urmson, who helped launch Google's (GOOG, GOOGL) autonomous-driving project, and would notch a $10B valuation following the transaction with Uber (it was last valued at $7.25B in April 2019).
Reports have been surfacing that CNN (NYSE:T) President Jeff Zucker will depart the network after the presidential inauguration, but he may not be the only mainstream media leader to leave the position. Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC (NASDAQ:CMCSA) for the past twelve years, will step down shortly after Joe Biden's inauguration in January, a major shakeup at a news channel that has raised its profile with political coverage, but has struggled to keep pace with rivals.
Bottom line: While November was MSNBC's most-watched month in its 24-year history, the channel finds itself in a challenging competitive landscape at the end of President Trump's time in office. MSNBC still ranked third in cable news behind CNN and Fox News (NASDAQ:FOX) last month.
Rashida Jones has been named as Griffin's successor, launching her to one of the highest echelons in TV news and making her the first Black female executive to run a major general news cable network. "She has an outstanding track-record and she leads with a laser-like focus and grace under pressure. I know she will be an excellent leader for MSNBC," NBCUniversal News Group Chair Cesar Conde wrote in an internal memo.
What else is happening...
Monday's Key Earnings
In Asia, Japan -0.3%. Hong Kong -0.8%. China -0.2%. India +0.3%.
In Europe, at midday, London -0.5%. Paris -0.7%. Frankfurt -0.3%.
Futures at 6:20, Dow -0.4%. S&P -0.4%. Nasdaq -0.2%. Crude -0.4% to $45.57. Gold -0.1% at $1864/90. Bitcoin -1.9% to $18851.
Ten-year Treasury Yield flat at 0.93%