Axios Closer

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Thursday โœ….

Today's newsletter is 629 words, a 2ยฝ-minute read.

๐Ÿ”” The dashboard: The S&P 500 closed up 0.1%.

  • Biggest gainer? Estee Lauder (+6.3%), after a bullish analyst call and the beauty giant's debut on Amazon's platform.
  • Biggest decliner? Carnival Corp. (-5%), as the cruise operator warned that the Baltimore bridge collapse could shave up to $10 million from this year's earnings.

1 big thing: SBF gets 25

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Yuki Iwamura/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge slapped Sam Bankman-Fried with a 25-year sentence today for his role in bankrupting cryptocurrency platform FTX and defrauding its customers, completing his downfall from quirky billionaire philanthropist to felon.

Why it matters: Judge Lewis Kaplan chose a much harsher sentence for the disgraced crypto mogul than the defense's request of five to seven years, Axios Crypto's Brady Dale writes.

  • In pre-sentencing comments, Kaplan ripped the disgraced entrepreneur for his "apparent lack of any remorse."
  • "He knew it was wrong, he knew it was criminal, he regrets he made a very bad bet about the likelihood of getting caught," Kaplan said.

The big picture: FTX's bankruptcy is seen as the climax of the crypto crash that wiped out more than $2 trillion in global wealth. The rout deepened as the terra stablecoin blew up, which exposed the house of cards that Three Arrows Capital had become.

๐Ÿ’ญ Brady's thought bubble: SBF believed he could play with other people's money, make lots more, pay them all back, and do all sorts of good โ€” such as preventing the next pandemic.

  • Instead, the company got out over its skis, stopped processing customer withdrawals, declared bankruptcy, fired hundreds of employees, and gave thousands of users two very stressful years.

Go deeper: FTX timeline

2. Charted: Easter, interrupted

Top-selling Easter candies, 2023
Reproduced fromย Instacart; Note: "Top-selling" candies were ranked by total number of items sold in each state during the week ending Easter Sunday; Map: Axios Visuals

Consumers are feeling the pinch of inflation this year with skyrocketing cocoa prices reaching new heights, Axios' Kelly Tyko writes.

Why it matters: Cocoa prices topped $10,000 per metric ton for the first time this week.

The big picture: Consumers are expected to spend $3.1 billion on candy this year, down from $3.3 billion for the holiday in 2023, the National Retail Federation's annual holiday survey found.

Go deeper

3. What's happening

๐Ÿ€ A-Rod and Marc Lore's Timberwolves deal fell apart. (Axios)

๐Ÿš˜ Xiaomi released an electric car $4K cheaper than Tesla's Model 3. (CNBC)

๐Ÿ“ˆ U.S. 2023 GDP checked in at a healthy clip. (Bloomberg)

4. ESG on the ropes, not completely out

ESG investing is dead. Long live ESG investing, Axios' Javier E. David writes.

Driving the news: A Pitchbook analysis of the often derided environmental, social and governance investing trend paints a mixed picture of what some critics have denounced as "woke capitalism."

  • Pitchbook notes that asset managers are retreating from ESG commitments โ€” at least in public.
  • But it also found others are leaning into it as a method of "value creation and protection โ€ฆ in the challenging macroeconomic environment."

Zoom in: Pitchbook's study found that programs were being downplayed in favor of more silent support for ESG (known as "greenhushing" in certain circles).

  • Additionally, the analysis cited the "extreme" political backlash โ€” in combination with macroeconomic factors like still-high inflation rates โ€”as reasons for asset managers to reconsider their stance.

What they're saying: Marcos Carrington, CEO and founder of Environmental Stock Exchange (ENVX), tells Axios that "ESG is a qualitative construct created to influence behavior" that on various metrics, hasn't been "well-suited or adapted for investment in global financial markets."

Yes, but: Pitchbook insists that it's found little evidence that ESG practices sacrifice returns in the name of environmental or social goals.

Read more

5. Dealmaking fizzles anew

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Dealmakers picked up their pace at the end of 2023, but apparently, their destination was a rusty vat of molasses, Axios ProRata's Dan Primack writes.

Driving the news: Global M&A activity fell more than 20% between Q4 2023 and Q1 2024, according to preliminary data from LSEG.

  • The downturn didn't discriminate by geography, with declines in the U.S., Europe and Asia-Pacific.
  • The only silver lining was a 33% dollar increase over Q1 2023, although that had been the slowest first quarter in a decade.

What's happening: Buyers think prices are too high.

Read more

6. What they're saying

"My job is to stand out of the way and hire really good people."
โ€” Private equity guru David Rubenstein to Dan about his purchase of the Baltimore Orioles.

Today's newsletter was edited by Javier E. David and copy edited by Sheryl Miller.

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