Apr 29, 2021

Axios Closer

Hello! Hope King here from Amsterdam on assignment. Courtenay Brown is leaving Closer in my hands today and tomorrow so she can hold a cold pint in hers.

🔔 The dashboard: The S&P 500 closed up +0.68%.

  • Biggest gainer? Television provider Dish Network (+8.3%) after an earnings beat.
  • Biggest decliner? Online marketplace eBay (-10%) following lower than expected guidance.

🚨Situational awareness: Amazon and Twitter first-quarter earnings results out after the bell showed the former continuing to profit from pandemic demand while the latter disappointed on user growth numbers.

Today's newsletter is 699 words, or a 2.5-minute read.

1 big thing: CEOs <3 retail investors

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

As trading volume from retail investors continues to grow, public companies are finding it more important than ever to speak directly to this group.

Why it matters: Companies are bypassing middlemen to reach their intended audience and tell their stories directly. 

Driving the news: Trading app Public's "Town Hall" feature went live Wednesday and is a good example of what a direct line between individual investors and CEOs can look like.

  • Investors submit questions through the feature for CEOs (and their investor relations teams) to answer and then publish in a live event format. 
  • Public's first Town Hall with Lemonade's co-founder and president Shai Wininger answered 39 questions ranging from competition and growth strategy to ones about when the insurance company might accept cryptocurrencies. (His answer: "[W]e haven't seen a compelling argument that justifies investing in accepting crypto as a payment source so far.")

For companies: Retail investors are now a "perpetually influential constituency," Greg Marose, a New York-based financial communications consultant, tells Axios.

The big picture: While only about 14% of American families are directly invested in individual stocks, 52% have some investment in the market, according to a Pew study last year

  • “A lot of forward-thinking companies in the market are really starting to care more about their retail investors, because they realize that many of the most loyal customers tend to be shareholders in an era of fractional shareholders,” Jannick Malling, co-founder and co-CEO of Public, tells Axios.

Go deeper.

2. Charted: Economic engine roars
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

America's economic growth rate accelerated to 6.4% in the first quarter of 2021, picking up from 4.3% in the final quarter of 2020, writes Axios' Felix Salmon.

By the numbers: There was good employment news too. New filings for unemployment benefits came in at a post-pandemic low of 553,000 — the second week in a row that we've hit new lows on that front.

3. What's moving

📦 Amazon is giving more than 500,000 hourly workers a pay increase of from 50 cents to $3 an hour and keeping its starting wage at $15 an hour. (WSJ)

🚫 The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will move forward to ban menthol cigarettes and other tobacco products. (Axios)

🗽 New York City will be fully reopened July 1, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

4. A workplace culture crisis

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Black employees have more negative views of the state of diversity and inclusion than their colleagues, according to a new report today by career site Glassdoor.

Why it matters: Negative perceptions of workplace culture can affect performance and productivity and ultimately lead to turnover, writes Axios' Erica Pandey.

"It's a crisis if employees of different cultural backgrounds have a different lived experience in the workplace," says Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor.

By the numbers: As companies have ramped up diversity and inclusion efforts in the wake of racial justice protests, Black employees' perception of workplace D&I has actually fallen.

  • Black workers' average rating for the state of D&I across scores of companies on Glassdoor fell from 2.6 out of 5 stars in 2019 to 2.5 stars in 2021. At the same time, the average D&I rating among all other employees rose from 2.8 stars to 3.1. stars.
  • The three industries found to have the biggest gaps between Black workers and workers of other races — primarily white — are accounting, consumer services, and travel and tourism.

Go deeper.

5. Jeff Bezos teases space tickets

Photo: Getty Images

Jeff Bezos' space company Blue Origin teased the start of ticket sales for its New Shepard rocket today.

  • In a video, Jeff Bezos wears a cowboy hat (channeling Kimbal Musk) and drives a Rivian, an electric truck contracted by Amazon, to a New Shepard test flight landing site.
  • "Looks good in there," he's heard saying as he pokes his head into the crew capsule, designed to transport six people.

No details: The promo seems to be designed to collect email addresses and interest, saying details will come next Wednesday.

If you can afford it, a trip on top of a 60-foot rocket will take you above the Earth, at least 62 miles high, where you'll feel weightlessness for a few minutes before returning back to Earth.

Watch out: Bezos' biggest competitor will be Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, which saw its share price fall more than 3% after the New Shepard video posted.

  • Early tickets for Virgin Galactic were about $250,000. The company has said that price will be going up.
6. What they're saying

Image: Getty

"My lifelong mission has been to celebrate the matriarchy and [honor] female empowerment in the way that this world so desperately needs.'"
— Fashion designer Prabal Gurung, a Nepalese immigrant, on Vice President Kamala Harris wearing a suit he designed to President Biden's joint session address Wednesday night.

See you tomorrow! Take care of yourself!