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October 18, 2023

The Appetizer

“A world record was not on my mind today, but I knew one day I would be a world record holder.”

  • Kelvin Kiptum when discussing his record-breaking marathon performance of 2 hours and 35 seconds. It was just the third marathon of his career.

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

  • 19.5: The average composite score on the ACT test for the class of 2023, the lowest score since 1991.
  • 50%: The increase in computing power that China is targeting by 2025 as it competes with the U.S. in AI and supercomputing applications.
  • 180: The number of post-pandemic business openings in New York City’s Times Square district, surpassing the 179 closures that resulted from the pandemic.
  • 21.19%: The average interest rate for all commercial bank cardholders in August 2023, the highest on record, according to Federal Reserve data.
  • ~200,000: The number of pirated books used to develop the Books3 dataset, which is used to train generative AI systems.

Dig In
A Shift in Consumer Spending?

Remember that just a few weeks ago we likened the labor market to the Energizer Bunny? The same goes for the consumer and, in fact, the two go hand in hand. No job = no spending.

But we might be seeing a change in the air. Why? Well, excess savings are dwindling, energy prices are on the rise, credit card interest rates are at recent highs, and the end of the student debt moratorium could squeeze wallets.

Early signs of change may already be visible … Louis Vuitton’s latest earnings report showed the company is facing slowing demand for high-end goods in the United States. Maybe less spending on the pristine Louis bag, and more on household essentials? Tuesday’s retail sales report said not so fast, sales smashed expectations and rose for the sixth straight month.

The real litmus test might be one of the best day(s) of the year, *cough cough* Amazon Prime day. This should show some insight on the consumer’s spending habits. As third quarter earnings season kicks off, we’ll be keeping a close eye on company results and what guidance is for the future.

Weekly Specials

Did you know 40% of the U.S. population has a fear of flying? Well it won’t help knowing that a scam by AOG Technics resulted in planes around the world having fake parts. The plot involved buying used parts, restoring and then selling them with forged paperwork. Yikes! But rest assured, engineers are hard at work to identify and replace the parts.

If you’ve ever snagged a ticket from a resale site, you’ve likely felt the sting of those sneaky “service fees.” But hey – here’s some good news – the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has proposed a rule to put a stop to bogus and hidden charges that are estimated to add up to 20% to the initially advertised cost.

New York City has snagged the number 1 spot for job applications from fresh college graduates, and it’s a real battleground out there. But hey, who can resist the allure of the “city that never sleeps?” We just hope new grads are aware of what the average rent is.

Siberia, the “refrigerator for the Northern Hemisphere” is like our winter weather fortune teller. Believe it or not, the snow in Siberia in October has a 75% success rate at predicting how wild our winter will be. So, if Siberia’s getting buried with snow, it may be time for us in the U.S. to brace for a winter wonderland.

Corporate Lunch

Guess what, folks? The banks have thrown on their boxing gloves and started third quarter 2023 earnings season with a bang. Citigroup, JPMorgan, and Wells Fargo beat earnings estimates, all thanks to higher rates.

Google is rolling out new generative AI capabilities for doctors. Hopefully this will help doctors write legible prescriptions.

MGM Resorts refused to pay ransom to cyber attackers, resulting in a $100 million loss. The same cyber attackers infiltrated Caesars, demanding a $30 million ransom. Caesars wanted to pay $0, so they split the difference and settled for $15 million.

Exxon Mobil is going all in on fossil fuels by acquiring Pioneer Natural Resources for $59.5 billion.

Novo Nordisk’s world-famous weight loss drug, Ozempic, showed success in lowering the chances for kidney-related conditions for diabetes patients.

Alaska Airlines made a coffee that smells and tastes better in the sky. The secret is marshmallows, browned butter, toffee, a “delicate hint” of citrus oils, and cherry essence. Is this coffee or a seasonal Yankee Candle?

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