Stifel Bits

March 8, 2023

The Appetizer

“ When you’re waiting at Starbucks for your black coffee but the person before you ordered venti ice crisscross apple sauce double shot check engine oat milk diet coke macchiato with light triangle ice cubes.”

  • Bashar Muslih, a 27-year-old systems engineer, in a Twitter rant on waiting times at Starbucks, according to The Wall Street Journal

Now, on to the numbers. Drum roll, please …

  • $21 billion: The amount that Americans collectively have in unspent gift cards. Almost two-thirds of consumers have at least one unspent gift card tucked away somewhere.
  • 351: The total number of points scored by the Sacramento Kings and the LA Clippers in a double-overtime thriller, the second-highest scoring game in NBA history.
  • $25,000: The amount in tax credits that former West Virginia residents who move back to the state to work could receive under a proposed state bill.
  • 100: The total number of meals per hour that five robot cookers can produce at the BOTS&POTS Sci-Food bistro restaurant in Croatia.
  • 200,000: The amount of chocolate Easter eggs a UK man admitted to stealing.
  • 700,000+: The number of SUVs that Nissan is recalling due to a key issue that can cause them to accidentally shut off while driving.

Dig In
What’s up With Inflation?

It was disappointing to see the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) consumer price index (CPI) reading tick up 0.5% in January. Stubbornly high inflation numbers show the Federal Reserve may still have more interest rate work to do – which could potentially dampen equity earnings, increase market volatility, and make a recession more likely. Not great, right?

Fortunately, rising shelter costs accounted for nearly half of the total increase. Wait, what?

Long story short, the BLS tracks changes in shelter costs by collecting rental data on thousands of specific units across the country. The catch is that the BLS surveys each unit only once every six months, creating a lag in the data. That’s important because the shelter component accounts for a whopping 34% of CPI.

More real-time data suggests shelter costs could be cooling. For example, higher mortgage rates led to a 17.8% drop in existing home sales in 2022, with average home prices falling 3.6% between June and December. Additionally, the median rent for new leases signed in January was 3.5% less than it was in August.

Things may be better than it seems. Check out Sight|Lines for a deeper dive.

Weekly Specials

For much of 2022, the hot labor market was the Little Engine That Could, which kept the economy going. However, that may be changing as jobs data from the private sector show signs of slowing. Recruiting companies ZipRecruiter and Recruit Holdings reported a drop in paid job listings, potentially signaling that companies might be less willing to fill open positions.

If your kid has ever asked what time it is on the moon, you may soon be able to give them a real answer. With lots of lunar missions on the horizon, the European Space Agency believes the moon needs its own time zone to better facilitate international coordination. There are some challenges, though, such as clocks running faster on the moon.

When Major League Baseball wanted to speed up its games, it decided to add pitch clocks. Well, mission accomplished. Spring training’s opening weekend saw 11 of 16 games end in around two and half hours, compared to 2022’s average three-hour time. The clocks will take some getting used to – the Atlanta Braves found out the hard way when a pitch clock violation ended a game with bases loaded.

You’re not alone if you think boarding an airplane is the worst part of the flying experience – it takes FOR-EV-ER. It’s bad for airlines, too. In effort to speed things up, Southwest is conducting some R&D at four gates in Atlanta. Some of the experimental changes include roving gate attendants, boarding countdowns, and disco music.

Talk about a killjoy. A proposed animal welfare bill in Florida would forbid dogs from sticking their heads out of a car window, with infractions resulting in a moving violation. The proposed legislation also covers new restrictions on cat declawing, cosmetic animal testing, and animal cruelty.

Earlier this week, KFC re-launched the Double Down for the first time since 2014. Instead of using bread, the fast-food chain sandwiches bacon, cheese, and sauce between two fried chicken filets. Our belts are feeling a little tighter just thinking about it.

Corporate Lunch

A new Mercedes model has a camera built into the dashboard, allowing passengers to film videos and perhaps post carpool karaoke sessions on TikTok. The car will also allow you to attend Zoom meeting from your car. Be sure to stay muted if you are prone to road rage.

Pfizer is in talks to acquire cancer drugmaker Seagen in a deal with an expected value of over $30 billion.

Amazon is expanding ultrafast (that means same-day) delivery options in a move to accelerate growth and retain Amazon Prime subscriptions.

BMW launched a demonstration fleet of hydrogen cars with an impressive top speed of 112 miles per hour.

Caterpillar reached a tentative six-year labor agreement with the UAW union, likely averting a strike.

Electric vehicle company Fisker is on track to begin deliveries of its Ocean SUV in spring 2023. It is planning to build more than 40,000 vehicles over the year.

TikTok set an automatic one-hour screen time limit for teens. Kids might just watch YouTube Shorts once they hit the limit.

Lilly cut insulin prices by 70%, capping prices at $35 per month for people with private insurance; love to see it.

And yes, Tom Brady is still retired.

drawing of a table setting

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