🦠 Crypto contagion

Monday, November 21, 2022 by Snacks
Coin-tagion (Chesnot/Getty Images)

Coin-tagion (Chesnot/Getty Images)

Coin-tagion (Chesnot/Getty Images)

Coin-tagion (Chesnot/Getty Images)

Last Week’s Market Moves
Dow Jones
33,746 (-0.01%)
S&P 500
3,965 (-0.69%)
11,146 (-1.57%)
$16,619 (-2.30%)

Hey Snackers,

Just in time for cuffing szn: people can snuggle with a human-sized emotional-support plushy. It has the body of a man and the head of a bear. Slightly terrifying, but at least it doesn’t snore.

Stocks fell last week after optimism about cooling inflation was tempered by suggestions from central-bank officials that rate hikes may need to stay aggressive. The techy Nasdaq shed 1.5% for the week as hopes of a Fed slowdown dwindled.


1. FTX “contagion” spreads, highlighting the crypto industry's interdependence

One-two contagion punch… As the crypto industry reels from FTX's collapse, the billion-dollar question is, who might be next? We may know soon, as BlockFi's reportedly planning to file for bankruptcy. The crypto lender, which held nearly $4B in customer assets, paused withdrawals this month, citing "significant exposure to FTX." It also had loans out to Alameda Research, FTX's so-called sister firm. It's not the first time contagion’s come for BlockFi:

  • Terra-part: The TerraUSD stablecoin melted down in May, wiping out $40B in investor value. The resulting chaos felled crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital (3AC), which in turn threatened BlockFi, which had made loans to 3AC.
  • FTXtra Life: BlockFi was saved partly by a $400M credit line from FTX. Now FTX might be its undoing.

FTX's bankruptcy is a powerful blow… because crypto is a highly leveraged industry (think: using borrowed assets to make trades). That causes ripple effects when big players fall. Liquid, an exchange that FTX acquired this year, froze withdrawals last week. Crypto lender Genesis suspended new loans and redemptions. Gemini, the Winklevoss-helmed exchange that used Genesis to offer a yield product, also paused some redemptions. Retail exchange Genesis Block said on Friday that it would cease trading. And there's fear contagion could spread even further:

  • Crypto.com (picture: Matt Damon Super Bowl ads, Lakers’ stadium-naming rights) tried to reassure investors it would not follow FTX.
  • Nine exchanges now say they'll offer up "proof of reserves" to show they still have customers' assets.

Contagion thrives because crypto's interwoven… with leverage as the thread. If a crypto lender or exchange lends its customers' assets to a hedge fund (like: 3AC or Alameda), which then uses those assets to generate yield (aka: earn crypto interest) and make potentially risky bets… one wobbly domino risks toppling the whole lot. FTX’s bankruptcy isn’t the end of this story: Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao says he’s "very worried" about some forms of crypto leverage — and regulators are on high alert.


2. Coming up this week

“Power casual” Lulu fit… Workers are slowly returning to offices, and there’s less room for Zoom. While office occupancy is still lower than prepandemic, 88% of employers are offering workers incentives to return IRL. The number of workers returning to cubicles is rising, and 9 in 10 companies surveyed said they planned to require workers in offices (at least part time) by 2023. That hurts pandemic powerhouses like Zoom, which reports today. Last quarter it cut its sales forecast as growth majorly slowed from the pandemic Zoom boom.

Forks up, sweatpants on… wallets out. Thanksgiving is on Thursday, but grocery prices are already eating into budgets. A third of Americans plan to spend less on their feasts this year, with the average meal for 10 hitting $64, up 20% from last year. Turkey is up 21% while stuffing mix has soared 70%. Some retail giants are gaining customers by keeping prices (relatively) low: Walmart says it’s keeping Thanksgiving meal prices the same as last year, and more higher-income shoppers turned to the retailer last quarter for discounts.

Zoom Out

3. Stories we’re watching...

Ready for flu szn… As Americans look for easily accessible healthcare, retailers are racing into the industry. Last week Amazon launched its first virtual healthcare clinic to treat patients for everything from allergies to acne. Amazon also agreed to buy clinic chain One Medical in July. Last year, Walgreens took a $5B stake in VillageMD and is now opening an average of one clinic every three days. Meanwhile, CVS has grown its HealthHUBs, where shoppers can meet with medical pros in stores. Retailers could help capture 30% of the primary-care market by 2030.

Credit cards are red hot… because swiping is soaring. Card balances rose 15% last quarter from last year — the fastest jump in two decades — as cash-strapped shoppers leaned on plastic for inflated expenses. But as the Fed hikes rates, IOUs have gotten pricier: some cards have interest rates of 30%+ (translation: a $1K purse would cost $700+ in annual interest if you didn’t pay off the full balance on time). With 60% of Americans now living paycheck to paycheck, historically low delinquency rates are starting to rise.


4. Last week's highlights...

  • Swift: T-Swift’s world tour crashed Ticketmaster as millions of fans (and resellers) rushed to the Live Nation-owned platform. Swifties may have bad blood, but Live Nation’s music dominance makes it hard to escape.
  • Hunt: As more shoppers “treasure hunt” for bargains, discount retailers like Marshalls owner TJX and Ross are humming along — while mid-tier (not discount, not luxe) chains like Target and Kohl’s suffer.
  • 3BR: As wild mortgage rates and prices depress home-buying demand, JPMorgan said it’ll build $1B worth of single-family homes for renters. With mortgage revenue down, JPM hopes to capitalize on the “rent-aissance.”

What else we’re Snackin’

  • Blood: Disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison on Friday for defrauding investors through her blood-testing startup. Holmes had faced up to 20 years after being found guilty in January.
  • RT: As many as 1.2K Twitter employees may’ve resigned after Elon Musk sent staff an ultimatum to work “long hours at high intensity” or quit (with severance). Some are concerned about Twitter’s operational ability after a layoff halved its workforce.
  • Awk: Days before the World Cup kicked off yesterday, host country Qatar banned sales of alcohol at and around its stadiums, an awkward situation for the tourney’s official beer sponsor, Budweiser.

Snack Fact of the Day

Federally owned Amtrak hasn’t earned a profit in its five-decade history

This Week

  • Monday: Earnings expected from Agilent, Dell, Zoom, JM Smucker, and Urban Outfitters
  • Tuesday: Earnings expected from Medtronic, VMware, Dollar Tree, Baidu, HP, Best Buy, Warner Music Group, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Nordstrom, American Eagle, Abercrombie, and Jack in the Box
  • Wednesday: Earnings expected from Deere & Co.
  • Thursday: US stock market closed for Thanksgiving
  • Friday: Native American Heritage Day. Earnings expected from Natuzzi

Authors of this Snacks own: shares of Amazon, CVS, Warner Music, and Walmart

ID: 2603219

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