Axios AM

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February 03, 2024

πŸ₯ž Good Saturday morning! Erica Pandey is your host: @erica_pandey.

  • Smart Brevityβ„’ count: 1,477 words ... 5Β½ mins. Edited by Lauren Floyd.

1 big thing: Main Street boom

Share of U.S. retail sales, by type
Data: Census Bureau, FRED. Chart: Axios

For all the transformation brought by the web, brick-and-mortar shopping still makes up 84% of retail.

  • Why it matters: The retail apocalypse β€” predictions for which grew especially loud during the pandemic β€” never happened, Axios' Emily Peck writes.

πŸ›’ Between the lines: Americans love shopping. "We are social beings, we enjoy being out and one of the things we like to do when we're out is to shop," says Thomas LaSalvia, head of commercial real estate economics at Moody's Analytics.

  • That's why the whole notion of a retail apocalypse "never made sense in the first place."
Data: Cushman & Wakefield; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Cushman & Wakefield; Chart: Axios Visuals

Side effect of the boom: A good retail space is getting harder to find with the vacancy rate for shopping centers β€” essentially any retail spaces outside the mall β€” at a 15-year low.

  • Reality check: Malls, particularly the less high-end ones, have been on a slow decline for several years and aren't faring as well. The national mall vacancy rate was 11.2% in the third quarter of 2023, about 2 percentage points up from pre-pandemic levels, per Moody's Analytics.

The bottom line: What's emerged is a more resilient landscape.

  • These days e-commerce and physical retail now complement each other. Opening a brick-and-mortar store can even increase a brand's online sales, according to a recent study.
  • Closing a store has the opposite effect.

Go deeper.

2. America retaliates in Middle East

Soldiers carry casket
President Biden attends the dignified transfer of the remains of the U.S. service members killed in the drone attack in Jordan. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. began striking Iran-linked targets in Syria and Iraq yesterday in response to last weekend's deadly attack on U.S. forces in Jordan, the U.S. Central Command said.

The big picture: While President Biden faced pressure from some lawmakers to strike inside Iran, U.S. officials have stressed the administration does not want to see a wider war in the region, Axios' Barak Ravid reports.

  • The retaliatory strikes, which were launched at Biden's direction, are expected to last several days.
  • They come nearly a week after the U.S. says an Iran-backed militia killed three American soldiers and wounded more than 40 others in a drone attack near the Jordan-Syria border.

CENTCOM said the strikes hit more than 85 targets linked to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and affiliated militia groups in Iraq and Syria.

  • The Iraqi government said 16 people were killed and 25 were wounded in the U.S. strikes. The Islamic resistance in Iraq said last night that it attacked two U.S. bases in Syria and one U.S. base in Iraq in retaliation.
  • The Syrian military said soldiers and civilians were killed in the U.S. strikes in Syria.
  • The Iranian foreign ministry condemned the strikes and called it a strategic mistake.

The bottom line: Attacks targeting U.S. bases and forces have increasingly drawn America more directly into the Middle East crisis, but officials are also working to contain the risk of an all-out regional war.

  • Secretary of State Tony Blinken will make his fifth trip to the region next week, with stops in Israel, the occupied West Bank, Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the State Department said yesterday.

Read on.

3. πŸ’Έ Biggest single-day stock surge

Data: YCharts. Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: YCharts. Chart: Axios Visuals

Meta's stock jumped 20% on Friday, adding $197 billion to the company's market cap and closing at an all-time high of $474.99 per share.

  • The surge, which followed an impressive earnings report, was the biggest single-day gain in market history, per Bloomberg.

⚑︎ Flashback: Just two years ago, Meta set another record β€” the biggest single-day slide β€” when its stock plummeted 26%, erasing $251 billion.

  • The tech giant's investments in AI are reversing its stock's post-pandemic drubbing, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

πŸ”­ Zoom out: Microsoft flaunted its head start in generative AI this week as Big Tech reported earnings, Axios' Hope King writes.

  • Any first-mover advantage may shrink over time, but for now, investors clearly see Microsoft as leading the generative AI race.
  • The company's market cap stands at nearly $3.1 trillion, greater than all of its peers.

Go deeper.

4. 🎨 Pic du jour

Skyscraper with graffiti
Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Graffiti is spray painted on 27 floors of an unfinished skyscraper in downtown Los Angeles.

  • The development, stalled since 2019, is across the street from the arena, where the Grammys will be held tomorrow night.

5. πŸ§ͺ Next U.S.-China tech clash

Illustration of a dna strand as a flagpole with an American flag at the top

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Beijing's biotech ambitions are sounding alarms on Capitol Hill with new proposed legislation that could derail China's biggest biotech company's operations in the U.S., Axios managing editor Alison Snyder writes.

  • Why it matters: The need to quash outbreaks, quickly create medicines and stress-proof crops is providing a lucrative arena for biotech companies to sell their services β€” and putting biology at the center of geopolitics.

What's happening: The House Select Committee on China last week introduced a bill to ban groups that receive federal funds from buying equipment and services from "foreign adversary biotech companies," Axios' Peter Sullivan and Adriel Bettelheim report.

  • A target of the new bill is Chinese genomic sequencing behemoth BGI Group, which appears on the U.S. Department of Defense blacklist of Chinese military-linked companies that operate in the U.S.
  • The bill points to BGI's global genomic data collection efforts, its obligation under Chinese law to transfer data to the country's government if requested and its alleged links to the Chinese military as national security threats.

Between the lines: BGI and its affiliates draw in clients from around the globe by offering an array of products and services, including DNA sequencing machines, diagnostic tests and data storage.

  • That kind of one-stop shopping isn't available from Western companies.

"The U.S. doesn't have anything akin to BGI," says Anna Puglisi, a senior fellow at Georgetown's Center for Security and Emerging Technology.

6. 🎰 Gambling war for media talent

Illustration of a stack of gambling chips with a play button in the center.

Illustration: AΓ―da Amer/Axios

Gambling platforms want to become the next great sports media companies.

⚑ What's happening: For years, ESPN partnerships were the golden goose for FanDuel, DraftKings and their peers. Now they are competing for the same talent to take advantage of a shifting media landscape, Axios' Tim Baysinger writes.

  • FanDuel has content partnerships with Spotify-owned The Ringer, former NFL Network host Kay Adams and CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein, among others, for its streaming TV network, FanDuel TV.
  • DraftKings has partnered with popular sports podcasts like The Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, Pablo Torre Finds Out, and All The Smoke
    β€” and bought gambling media company Vegas Stats & Information Network.
  • ESPN got into the game itself in November with the launch of ESPN Bet.

πŸ‘€ Zoom in: The content play is working.

  • ESPN Bet took 8% of the market in November, according to gambling consulting firm Eilers & Krejcik. That was good enough for third place in its first month.
  • DraftKings and FanDuel accounted for 69% of the market, the lowest share in more than a year.

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7. 🦊 Fox leaders visit Israel

Fox executives

Murdoch, Scott and Wallace tour the war-torn area with the IDF. Photo Sofie Watson/FOX

Fox Corp. executive chairman and CEO Lachlan Murdoch, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and Fox News Media president Jay Wallace visited Israel last week to meet with the network's journalists on the ground, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

  • Fox News is one of several news networks that has had journalists on the ground in Israel since the war broke out in October.

The trip kicked off with diplomatic meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz and Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant.

  • Executives also met with journalists in its Jerusalem bureau, including foreign correspondent Trey Yingst and senior producer Yonat Frilling, a spokesperson confirmed to Axios.
  • The group visited several key war locations, like Kfar Aza, a Kibbutz close to Gaza where dozens of people were killed and taken hostage by Hamas on October 7th.

"I appreciated the opportunity to visit our FOX Jerusalem Bureau to see firsthand the amazing job they are doing covering the war from the front lines," Murdoch said in a statement to Axios.

  • "It was also incredibly moving to tour some of the areas that suffered such devastation from the October 7th attacks."

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8. πŸ“š 100 books

Illustration of a book with frosting and a lit birthday candle.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

One of the world's largest and most influential publishers, Simon & Schuster, celebrates its 100th birthday this year.

  • To mark the centennial, the publisher has unveiled a list of 100 notable releases β€” a blend of bestsellers, prize winners, headline makers and cultural sensations, AP reports.

πŸ”– Featured titles include classics like "Eloise" and "Catch-22."

  • From 1924-1976, all of the authors listed are white. A handful of Black writers appear from 1977-2000, starting with Ntozake Shange's "for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf," before the list broadly diversifies in the 21st century.
Selection of book covers
Images: Simon & Schuster

The final entry is a book from 2023, Safiya Sinclair's acclaimed memoir "How to Say Babylon."

  • "I have distinct memories of being in the room when some of these books were being presented and feeling the energy they generated," says Simon & Schuster's vice president Wendy Sheanin.
  • "'How to Say Babylon' had that kind of energy and felt like a book that people will keep on reading."

See the full list.

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