Axios Closer

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May 17, 2021

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πŸ”” The dashboard: The S&P 500 fell 0.2%.

  • Biggest gainer? Seagate Technology (+6%), building on last week's (crypto-related) gains.
  • Biggest decliner? Comcast (-5%). After the AT&T-Discovery deal (more below), investors are saying: your move.

Today's newsletter is 618 words, about a 2-minute read.

1 big thing: Scam artists' new gold rush

Reproduced from the FTC; Chart: Axios Visuals
Reproduced from the FTC; Chart: Axios Visuals

The cryptocurrency hype is real. New numbers show how scammers are benefiting, Axios business editor Kate Marino reports.

  • Reported losses tied to crypto scams spiked 1,000% in the past year, the Federal Trade Commission said today.
  • That includes over $2 million that people have sent to Elon Musk impersonators. (Yes, really.)

Why it matters: Crypto trading has exploded alongside an unprecedented spike in retail investing. Online communities drive the activity, but they're also where investors are lured into scams.

By the numbers: Since October 2020, about 7,000 people have reported total losses of more than $80 million on crypto-related scams.

  • The median loss was $1,900.

Among the lines of attack are "Giveaways" that claim to be sponsored by celebs β€” like the Elon Musk ruse β€” that promise to multiply the crypto that a victim sends.

  • Online chat groups β€” and online datingβ€” are where scammers appear friendly and share "tips" or ask people to invest in schemes.
  • Scammers also pose as exchanges like Coinbase, or as government officials from agencies like the Social Security Administration.

What's next: Government agencies are trying to understand the full scope of illicit activity in the largely unregulated cryptocurrency markets.

  • Binance, the world's largest crypto exchange, is being probed by the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service, Bloomberg reported.

The bottom line: Scammers are cashing in on the "cryptocurrency FOMO" that's gripped swaths of the country.

2. Charted: Retail wreck slows

Reproduced from S&P Global Market Intelligence; Chart: Axios Visuals

Retail bankruptcy filings have slowed after the pandemic pushed a record number into bankruptcy court.

  • Department store chain Belk was the sector's biggest bankruptcy so far this year, per S&P Global Market Intelligence.

P.S. ... Huge retail earnings are coming. Walmart reports tomorrow and Target comes on Wednesday.

3. What's moving

πŸ’‰A COVID-19 vaccine from Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline is said to produce strong immune responses, according to Phase 2 trial results. (NBC News)

  • Sanofi and GSK shares rose 1%.

πŸ‘€ Apple's Tim Cook is set to testify in the Epic trial ... Hedge funds loaded up on SPACs last quarter, new filings show ... The World Economic Forum won't hold its elite in-person Davos conference, thanks to a spike in cases in Singapore.

4. The day's big deal ... by the numbers

AT&T

AT&T is ditching the media properties it scooped up a few years ago. They'll merge with Discovery's in a new, yet-to-be-named entity.

Here are the numbers behind the deal that creates a new mega-content giant...

22: The number of networks that'll be under one roof.

$20 billion: How much the new business plans to spend annually on content β€” $3 billion more than Netflix spent all of last year.

-5%: How shares of Discovery ended the day. Shares of AT&T fell 3%.

  • Investors are more confident AT&T will be able to manage its debt load if today's upward bond movement is any signal, the Wall Street Journal notes.

$230 billion: The size of AT&T's massive debt pile that's built up as it veered deeper into media.

$43 billion: How much AT&T said it would get from the deal (a mix of cash and debt). Some of the deal proceeds will go toward paying down the debt.

  • The deal (plus an imminent dividend cut) helps AT&T "reinvest capital into its wireless and fiber business opportunities," per Moody's.

$85 billion: What AT&T paid for Time Warner in 2016 after a contentious antitrust fight. Back then wireless companies wanted to own the pipes and the content. That trend is reversing.

The bottom line: The deal isn't doesn't just create a massive wrinkle in the streaming wars, but also the connectivity wars as AT&T shifts back to its telecom roots, Axios' Sara Fischer notes.

5. Wanted: More lifeguards 🏊

no lifeguard sign at lake huron
Lake Huron. Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The labor shortage strikes again: Lifeguards are getting even harder to find ahead of the summer.

  • It's happening in Milwaukee. The Parks Department wants "about 300 strong swimmers to help fill a lifeguard shortage that began several years ago and has only gotten worse," AP reports.

What's happening: Many lifeguards found other jobs "and competition with summer internships has also played a factor."

6. What they’re saying

"[It] goes to a place that is increasingly happening in this world, which is trying to get access to kids younger and younger, develop habits, patterns, disconnect them from parental or adult oversight."
β€” Nathan Dugan of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, responding to a company's new feature that lets kids as young as 3 years old shop for gifts (via WSJ).

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