August 01, 2022
🎵 "Monday, Monday. Ba Daaaaaah. Ba Da Da Da," as The Mamas & the Papas used to sing. Another week of markets excitement awaits, which one hopes will be as eventful as July (more on that below). Let's get to it.
Today's newsletter, edited by Javier E. David, is 1,027 words, 4 minutes.
1 big thing: Big Tech hit by dollar's strength
Big technology companies are reaping the whirlwind of a strong dollar, as the sector becomes an unlikely victim of foreign exchange volatility, Axios' Javier E. David writes.
Why it matters: In normal times, car companies and other multinationals that sell physical goods are the most sensitive to fluctuations in the dollar.
- Needless to say, with rates soaring alongside inflation expectations — even as growth falters — these are hardly normal times.
- Particularly against the euro and yen, the U.S. currency is creating what the Financial Times referred to last week as a “currency shock [that’s] muddled an earnings period that was being closely studied for signs of a weakening global economy.”
It’s unusual to see Big Tech (certainly not this many companies at the same time) cite currency volatility as an issue. Most of them sell software-based services, rather than physical goods like cars or makeup.
What they’re saying: Still, foreign exchange volatility is “a headwind for Big Tech," as 35%-40% of the industry's sales are in Europe, veteran tech analyst Dan Ives tells Axios in an email.
- “As they sell in local currency this will be a negative theme over the coming year with a strong greenback,” Ives added.
What we’re watching: The Fed’s next policy moves. If the current economic angst gives way to a deep recession, the central bank may reverse course. That would narrow the interest rate differential boosting the greenback.
2. Charted: July's improbable rally
Driving the news: The S&P 500 jumped 9.1% in July, its best performance since November 2020.
- The Nasdaq soared 12.4% during the month.
- The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks jumped 10.4%.
Quick take: Bad news is good news, at least for now.
- Ominous economic indicators — including last week's growth data showing that the U.S. is essentially in a mild recession, or headed for one — pushed interest rates sharply lower. (As we've explained repeatedly, falling rates mechanically push up market valuations.)
In other words, investors think the economy is going to slow so fast that the Fed is going to abandon rate-hiking, sooner rather than later.
- And weirdly, expectations of lower rates are already generating a relief rally, well ahead of any sign of actual relief.
Matt's thought bubble: This is why trying to time the market is a mug's game! If you had sold after the brutal three-month stretch between the end of March and June, you would have missed out on a solid little rally that few saw coming. I fully confess I didn't.
3. Catch up quick
4. Don't be fooled by fake web reviews
Readers asked for tips on spotting fake reviews online after our story on this fairly widespread problem ran about a week ago, Emily writes.
Why it matters: Turns out that spotting a fake review online while you're shopping or trying to find services, like a doctor or a dog-sitter, is harder than you'd think. Borderline impossible.
What to know: There are things you can do.
- Consider the source: Be very skeptical of reviews on a brand's website, where they've likely curated the responses, said Jenny Gyllander, the founder of a startup that hosts independent product reviews. So if you're at BrandX.com and most people love Brand X, yeah, that doesn't mean a whole lot.
- Check the dates: If there's a cluster of positive reviews posted in a relatively short amount of time, that's a sign something shady is going on. Maybe a Facebook campaign promising "reviewers" free stuff if they post a rating.
- 5 stars, red flag: If a business has all five-star reviews, or if a five-star review directly follows a negative review, that's a bad sign, said Kay Dean, who investigated fraud cases for the U.S. Department of Education and runs FakeReviewWatch.
- 1 star, not ideal either: "Most fake reviews are at extremes," said Davide Proserpio, a marketing professor at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business who has researched the topic. Brands will pay for five-star ratings for themselves, or one-star ratings to trash their competitors.
- Check the profile: It's not a good sign if a reviewer has only written one review, given only positive reviews, uses a stock image as a profile pic, or — and this is a big no — has a geographically diverse pattern of reviews. Most people review services in the area where they live, Dean said.
- Go old school: Dean says it's just not simple to suss out fakes. "I recommend sticking to the tried and true method of getting your business recommendations from REAL friends and relatives, not virtual people," she wrote in an email.
What's next: Proserpio says that regulatory agencies are taking a closer look at fake reviews online.
5. "Industry" babies
Nearly two years after its premiere, HBO's "Industry" is back with a second season, following a cast of young traders at an elite bank in London as they make their post-pandemic return to the office, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva writes.
Why it matters: The show follows the ups and downs among a group of Gen-Z finance professionals at the fictional Pierpoint & Co. And like "Succession" (that other popular HBO business drama), "Industry" tackles universal workplace issues and current events — with lots of sex and drama in between.
Between the lines: “One of the big things in the show… is the cost of ambition… the cost of devoting your life to an institution,” writer and executive producer Jami O’Brien tells Axios.
- “Can they change an institution, or does the institution change them?” the characters ask themselves, adds O’Brien.
Our thought bubble: The narrative shifts into a higher gear this season, moving beyond initial introductions and set pieces. The show is more relatable in how it tackles both workplace and personal drama, while at times raising pointed questions about the status quo.
📧 1 thing Emily loves: Your emails! Last week, I asked if readers were checking their 401(k) balances. A majority of you said, absolutely not. "Don't look if you want to have a good weekend," said one email.
- A few brave souls do check, though. One reader said they "took a peek," and found they'd "regained" some money.
- Maybe the most contrarian take came from Lynne Crehan, who writes: "I check my investments every day... It actually takes the sting out of the anxiety I feel when asset values are declining if I stare them in the face."
Here's hoping we all go out there and stare our anxieties in the face this week — in whatever way works for you. See you back here tomorrow.