First Amendment, Pay Later, and Direct Air Capture

Even though politics are dominating headlines, I will cover the ones that are also making the world go round.

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Markets

Boom in Buy Now and Pay Later

  • Affirm (NASDAQ: AFRM) went public this week and shot up 138% in its opening week.

  • The Buy Now, Pay Later (BPNL) space has been exploding during the pandemic. It has led to 3 founders to reach billionaire status during the pandemic, including Affirm’s found Max Levchin. - Business Insider

  • The space has exploded because it offers something customers want: low fees and high transparency. Levchin says that traditional credit cards and their small fine print make consumers wary when using them to finance big purchases - Business Insider.

My Take:

  • The success in this space makes me weary. I think Affirm and companies like it are pushing the credit industry in the right direction, but the world’s over-reliance on debt financing is, and probably always will be, concerning to me.

  • The sky high-valuation in BNPL companies means that many consumers are buying things they cannot afford. The average interest rate for an Affirm payment plan is 18%. The interest cost might be easy to understand, but it definitely isn’t low. - productmint

Auto Stocks Rocket Up

  • Auto stocks were on the move this week, with GM (NYSE: GM) and Ford (NYSE: F) moving up 15% and 10%, respectively.

  • GM announces it will be launching a new startup called BrightDrop. It will be offering electric pallet movers, electric vans, and accompanying software. - Detroit Free Press

  • (Full disclosure I am a Ford Employee) Ford announced it is shutting down its Brazil Operations. Which has been a money-losing region for many years. - The Street

  • Even with these moves, Ford and GM combined are only worth 14% of Tesla’s (NASDAQ: TSLA) market cap. 

My Take

  • Because of Tesla’s dramatic move, investors have been looking for the second coming, which has caused them to scramble into other companies that haven’t even produced a vehicle and have been bidding up their valuations to the moon. 

  • In a market full of companies with sky-high valuations, it can cause more conservative investors to look for value plays, and right now, GM and Ford fit that bill.

Politics

Parler Banned Everywhere

  • Conservative-leaning Twitter alternative Parler was taken offline last week. First, it was banned by the Apple and Google App Store and then being kicked off their hosting platform Amazon Web Services (AWS).

  • Other countries have taken note and wonder what regulations they need to put on these tech companies if they are going to be in the business of shutting down or promoting certain content. - Politico.eu

  • Many who agree with these companies’ actions are using the Supreme Court’s ruling on Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission to justify Big Tech’s right to deny service. - Christianity Today

My Take

  • I am NOT defending the things that were being said on Parler. Some of the posts are egregious and not protected by the first amendment. But to ban Parler for what was posted on their platform, while not holding the other social media giants, mainly Facebook, to the same standard has some people scratching their heads.  - Salon

  • I think big tech companies may have moved too quickly, and these knee-jerk decisions could lead to some unintended consequences down the line. I could see their services being deemed a public utility. This would subject them to price control and heavier regulation since they will be government-protected monopolies.

Good News

I wanted to call it Some Good News, but I think CBS owns that now. - CNN

Cancer Death Rate Falling

  • From 2017 to 2018, the Cancer Death Rate dropped 2.4%, which was its largest single-year decline on record. - Wall Street Journal

  • ‘We have a lot of good progress. We should celebrate that, but we shouldn’t declare victory.’ Deborah Schrag, chief of population sciences, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Oil Company Turned Anti-Carbon Company

  • Occidental Petroleum (NYSE: OXY) is working on the world’s first large-scale direct air capture (DAC) plant.

  • Basically, this plant will capture carbon in the air and pump it into the ground, basically the opposite of what most companies do now.

  • “I do believe that in 15 to 20 years, more of our income will be from carbon management than from oil and gas,” says Chief Executive Officer Vicki Hollub. - Bloomberg Business Week

Random

Apple Turning Down the Volume

  • If you listen to music too loud for 15 minutes, Apple will notify the user and cut the volume to a safer level. In certain regions, you will not be able to turn the volume back up based on regulation. - Forbes