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The dollar could do something it has not done in 20 years...
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May 23, 2022 View Online | Sign Up | Shop

Morning Brew

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Good morning. FYI: I had to include an image of a spider in this newsletter, but just know I did my best to find the cutest spider on the internet, and I think I may have succeeded.

Neal Freyman

MARKETS: YEAR-TO-DATE

Nasdaq

11,354.62

S&P

3,901.36

Dow

31,261.90

10-Year

2.785%

Bitcoin

$30,277.11

Oil

$112.26

*Stock data as of market close, cryptocurrency data as of 8:00pm ET. Here's what these numbers mean.

  • As a new week dawns on Wall Street, we’re all wondering, “How low can this go?” Maybe even lower, considering the current market plunge hasn’t yet spooked investors like downturns in years past. Bank of America’s private clients are still dedicating 63% of their portfolios to stocks, compared to 39% after the 2008 financial crisis.

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CURRENCY

It’s the dollar’s world, we’re just living in it

Soccer fan in eagle mask cheering FIFA via Giphy

Thanks to a surging US dollar and a faltering euro, many analysts expect that the two currencies could reach parity this year—meaning one dollar would fetch you one euro.

It would be a historic moment for the global economy. The two currencies haven’t reached a 1:1 exchange rate since 2002, three years after the euro was introduced in an effort to bring stability to Europe.

In the past two decades there have been a few close calls, but a tumultuous macro environment has traders betting that 2022 will be the year that these two currencies cross paths again. The euro closed Friday at about $1.057 against the dollar, just 5% above equal value with the US currency.

Why is this happening? It’s a result of everything we’ve been covering in the Brew these past few months: the Fed moving aggressively to tame inflation, a potential energy crisis simmering in Europe due to the war in Ukraine, and stagflation concerns all over the world.

Seeing the storm clouds roll in, investors are ducking for shelter in the almighty US dollar, which, despite the existence of dogecoin, remains the currency of choice when things get hairy. At the same time, they’re fleeing the euro because Europe is more vulnerable to a severe economic downturn than the US.

What are the implications of a stronger dollar? For one, fire up Google Flights and book that trip to Paris you’ve been putting off: A weaker euro means a less expensive trip to Europe for Americans. In fact, even with soaring inflation, many activities in Europe are cheaper now than they were in 2019, Bloomberg points out:

  • Visiting the Acropolis in Athens costs $21 now, compared to $22.60 in 2019.
  • A gondola ride in Venice costs $84 now, compared to $90.40 in 2019.

Of course, the consequences of a stronger dollar go beyond cheaper European delights. Among them:

  • It could make inflation even worse in other countries with weaker currencies, because all the world’s major commodities are priced in dollars.
  • It could dent sales for US manufacturers selling in other countries, since their products become more expensive for foreigners.

Bottom line: This isn’t just a dollar > euro story; it’s a dollar > everyone story. The dollar has gained more than 13% vs. a basket of the world’s major currencies over the past year.

        

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WORLD

Tour de headlines

Sonia Niazi, covers her face in a live broadcast at Tolo TV station in Kabul Sonia Niazi covers her face in a live broadcast at Tolo TV station in Kabul on Sunday. WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images

The Taliban enforce face covering requirements. All female TV news anchors in Afghanistan are required to cover their faces during broadcasts, according to a new order the Taliban introduced last week. The policy is part of broader restrictions on women that the Taliban have announced in recent months, despite promises to ease up when they took over last summer. Girls have also been banned from attending school after sixth grade.

Biden talks monkeypox. As he was traipsing through Asia, President Biden said that the mysterious monkeypox outbreak is “something that everybody should be concerned about.” While the disease is most common in central and West Africa, it’s now been detected in 15 countries, though scientists say monkeypox presents little risk to the general public. US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that the US has effective vaccines, if they’re needed.

It’s not peanut butter and jelly time. J.M. Smucker recalled more than 45 Jif peanut butter products after finding a potential salmonella contamination, which has been linked to 14 illnesses. The FDA said to check your pantry and, if you see a Jif product with a lot code between 1274425 to 2140425 (it’s next to the “best-if-used-by” date), toss it.

LOGISTICS

They’re airlifting baby formula now

Airmen stand in the cargo bay of a U.S. Air Force C-17 carrying 78,000 lbs of Nestlé Health Science Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior formula Jon Cherry/Getty Images

An international flight landed in Indianapolis yesterday, and to our relief no one clapped after it touched down. That’s because the cargo wasn’t humans but baby formula—78,000 pounds worth, or enough to fill more than half a million baby bottles.

It’s the first emergency shipment in a series that will be sent by European manufacturers to help ease a crippling shortage that’s left more than 21% of shelves carrying baby formula empty.

How did we get here? Covid-related supply bottlenecks played a part, but a huge hit to availability came when Abbott Laboratories recalled some products and shut down a plant in Michigan after the FDA found potentially deadly bacteria there.

It’s exposed a heavily concentrated industry

Abbott and just one other company, Reckitt Benckiser, account for about 80% of the US market. And Abbott’s shuttered Michigan factory alone is responsible for up to 25% of all supply.

And how did we get there? One leading cause: The government has effectively enshrined baby formula monopolies through a program called the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides baby food to lower-income families. Once a company enters a WIC contract with a state, it becomes a monopoly there, making it nearly impossible for competitors to enter the market.

Big picture: Abbott CEO Robert Ford wrote an Op-Ed in the Washington Post apologizing to Americans for exacerbating the formula shortage. He pledged to take steps to ensure a disruption like this would never happen again, and expects the Michigan plant to fire up again the first week of June.

        

CALENDAR

The week ahead

A general view shows the resort of Davos ahead of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

Davos is back: The global elite are headed to the Swiss mountain resort retreat for the first gathering of the World Economic Forum since January 2020. This year, the Veuve Clicquot-fueled discussions will look a little different: Typically held in the depths of winter, the meeting got moved to May due to Covid. And the war in Ukraine may overshadow other items on the agenda, such as economic inequality and climate change.

Another batch of retail earnings: After Walmart’s and Target’s miserable earnings sent markets into a tailspin last week, what does the calendar throw us but another slew of retail reports this week. Costco, Best Buy, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Dick’s will all share important insights on the state of the American consumer.

New releases: The new Top Gun arrives on Friday, and so does Stranger Things season four.

Everything else:

  • The second anniversary of George Floyd’s murder is Wednesday.
  • Memorial Day Weekend begins Friday.
  • Sports fans feast: Besides the ongoing NHL and NBA playoffs, the French Open is underway, the Champions League final is on Saturday, and the Indianapolis 500 is on Sunday.
        

GRAB BAG

Key performance indicators

Cute spider Lucas the Spider/Fresh TV via Giphy

Stat: Y’all hear about the online spider market? It’s huge. More than 1,200 species of spiders, scorpions, and other arachnids are being traded around the world, according to a study published in Nature last week. The bigger problem: Nearly 80% of the trade is not monitored or regulated, which is problematic for the sustainability of these species.

Quote: “It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitative as a professional sports team. ... What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring—caring deeply and passionately, really caring—which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naivete—the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball—seems a small price to pay for such a gift.”

The legendary baseball writer Roger Angell might have been the best who ever did it. Angell died at 101 on Friday.

Read: A sleek presentation on the state of crypto. (Andreessen Horowitz)

BREW'S BETS

Dive back into the week:

See how the 1% live: Architectural Digest’s Open Door series takes you inside the homes of the rich, famous, and sometimes tasteful. The latest video features Travis Barker’s “tranquil” house in Calabasas, CA.

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WHAT ELSE IS BREWING

  • A man fatally shot another man on a moving NYC subway car Sunday morning. The suspect is still at large.
  • Australia’s elections on Sunday marked a victory for lawmakers vowing to take climate change far more seriously than the previous government.
  • Manchester City won the Premier League for the fourth time in five years.
  • The NYT explored Haiti’s economic misery in the context of reparations to former enslavers.
  • An Arkansas man paid a unique tribute to Johnny Cash in the musician’s birthplace.

FROM THE CREW

An IT Brew just for you

IT Brew

If you haven’t already heard about the hottest IT newsletter on the block, today’s the day. IT Brew dropped this month, and it’s already delivering the latest industry news, trends, and insights to the inboxes of over 50,000 IT pros. From the latest on ethics in open source development to “smishing” attacks, Log4J, and more, this newsletter makes sure you don’t miss a beat. Check it out.

GAMES

The puzzle section

Turntable: There are 33 words up for grabs in today’s Turntable. Can you make like Ash Ketchum and catch ’em all? Play here.

What’s in your wallet?

Since the introduction of the euro, many other currencies have gone into retirement. In this quiz, we’ll give you a currency that had been used by one of the 19 countries that adopted the euro, and you have to name the country.

  1. Drachma
  2. Schilling
  3. Markka
  4. Guilder
  5. Lats
  6. Lira (can you name all four?)

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ANSWER

  1. Greece
  2. Austria
  3. Finland
  4. The Netherlands
  5. Latvia
  6. Italy, Vatican City, San Marino, Malta
         

Written by Neal Freyman

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