Updated December 18, 2023
Adam Damko, CFA
The Piggy Bank
📈 The bulls’ charge into the holidays continues as the market notches its seventh weekly gain.
Inflation cooled in November, raising hopes among investors that the Federal Reserve might hold rates steady at its next policy meeting. Read more on that in our detailed inflation update below.
👀 What to Be on the Lookout for This Week
Keep an eye out for these economic reports:
Monday: December NAHB Housing Market Index
Tuesday: November Building Permits and Housing Starts
Wednesday: 30-Year Mortgage Rate Update, Existing Home Sales
Thursday: Q3 GDP (Final), Unemployment Claims
Friday: November Durable Goods, November Personal Income and Spending
Here are the major companies reporting earnings this week:
Tuesday: Accenture, FuelCell Energy, FedEx
Wednesday: General Mills, Winnebago, BlackBerry
Thursday: CarMax, Paychex, Nike
📰 In Other News
Epic Games Wins Head-to-Head Matchup. Three years after filing lawsuits against both Apple and Google, Fortnite-owner Epic Games has secured at least one “victory royale.” After facing a loss to Apple two years ago, Epic Games got a win this week, when a jury determined that the Google Play app store and billing service act as an illegal monopoly.
The reason Google lost while Apple won has to do with undisclosed agreements the former had in place. Over time, Google established revenue-sharing arrangements with smartphone manufacturers and big game developers. The jury unanimously determined those deals were strategically designed to eliminate competition from rival app stores.
El Salvador’s Bitcoin Bond Funds Volcano Mining. El Salvador is making progress toward introducing bonds backed by Bitcoin and aims to roll them out in early 2024. The country’s main goal is to secure $1 billion in funding through these bonds, which will be invested in Bitcoin mining infrastructure across El Salvador. Yes, you heard that right. El Salvador plans to issue Bitcoin bonds to support its Bitcoin mining efforts — and, to generate the energy required to do so, the country intends to harness the power of active volcanoes.
Netflix Pulls Back the Curtain on Streaming Data. Netflix has historically refrained from publishing streaming data for its shows. However, the streaming giant recently decided to offer more transparency by releasing its “Netflix Engagement Report.” The shows with the most hours streamed in the past six months were:
The Night Agent: Season 1
Ginny & Georgia: Season 2
The Glory: Season 1
However, Netflix acknowledged that using "hours streamed" as the primary metric can be skewed. This is because some shows have been on the platform for years, while others are very new. Additionally, some shows are available globally while others aren’t. When questioned about why Netflix has not released such data before, co-CEO Ted Sarandos claimed that it was to dissuade competitors from replicating their most popular shows and to reduce pressure on producers whose shows were slow to take off.
Paving Electric Roads. Two years ago, President Joe Biden signed legislation allocating $5 billion to establish a nationwide network of EV charging stations. Last Friday, the first of these stations opened in Ohio.
✨ November Inflation Cools, Sparks Investor Excitement
In November, the consumer price index rose 3.1% on an annual basis and 0.1% monthly, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This annual inflation rate of 3.1% marked the lowest reading in five months.
Lower energy costs played a role in reducing inflation, with energy prices decreasing 2.3% monthly and 5.4% annually. In particular, gas prices fell by 8.9% on an unadjusted annual basis. However, sustained higher rent prices (0.5%), medical care (0.6%), and motor vehicle insurance (1.0%) contributed to an overall increase in inflation.
The Fed’s Two-Year Journey
In ordinary economic circumstances, the Federal Reserve has two primary goals: Maintain low levels of inflation and unemployment. Achieving these two goals contributes to a robust economy. However, this week, the Fed admitted that in the past few years, it had prioritized reducing inflation, even at the risk of pushing the US into a recession.
Throughout 2021 and early 2022, inflation was spiraling upward out of control, coinciding with the unpredictable economic impact of the pandemic. In response, the Federal Reserve had to act swiftly. Uncontrolled inflation can cripple economies, as evinced in historical cases of hyperinflation.
Under pressure to combat inflation by any means necessary, the Fed initiated a rapid increase in interest rates, the fastest in decades. This move caused concern among investors and the general public. Now that inflation has eased to manageable levels, the Fed has reaffirmed its commitment to prioritizing both inflation and unemployment equally.
Market Rally Ahead?
Officially, the Fed maintains that inflation remains too high and that its commitment to reducing it stands firm. In the most recent meeting, Jerome Powell even indicated a likelihood of the central bank raising rates rather than cutting them in the upcoming meetings.
At the same time, the Fed released its official interest rate projections, setting a target federal funds rate ranging from 4.5% to 4.75% by the end of 2024. This suggests up to 75 basis points of rate cuts through 2024.
That said, the possibility of a recession still looms. Interest rates are still much higher than they were two years ago, and the impact of the Fed’s hiking campaign is still rippling throughout the economy. Sectors sensitive to interest rates, such as housing and manufacturing, could still face economic challenges.
On a positive note for the average American, the national unemployment rate is still very low and the stock market has rallied over the past month. This, combined with the Fed’s new stance, could be a sign that brighter times are ahead in the coming months.
❤️🔥The Cost of Finding Love Is Climbing
Just Keep Swiping
Money can’t buy love — but that won’t stop companies from charging you for it anyway.
Dating apps like Tinder, Hinge, and The League increasingly offer pricy premium options. In some cases, American singles are dishing out hundreds of dollars per month on dating apps before even going on a date.
Despite the stigma, dating apps remain popular in the US. According to data from Pew Research, approximately 3 in 10 adults have used one. Among these app users, approximately 35% reported paying for a premium subscription, hoping that the additional perks would help them find love.
While dating apps are a product of the internet age, the practice of paying to find love is not a new phenomenon. In the past, people have invested money in personal ads, speed dating experiences, and even personal matchmakers.
No More Subsidized Swipes
During the years of record-low interest rates throughout the pandemic, dating platforms were heavily funded by venture capitalists. This influx of funds allowed companies like Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble to offer their platforms for free or at significant discounts to users.
But now the economic tides have shifted, prompting investors to emphasize profitability over metrics like user growth. To boost revenue, dating apps are increasingly promoting premium subscription plans:
Hinge recently announced HingeX, a $50 per month subscription that promises to boost profile visibility on the app, improving the user’s odds.
Tinder recently rolled out a $499 monthly subscription that allows users to message individuals with whom they haven't matched, among other features.
The League offers a VIP membership priced at $999 per week or $2,499 per month. This membership lets users match with prospects in multiple cities and access a concierge service.
Despite this trend, most dating apps still offer a free subscription tier, allowing singles to swipe at no charge in hopes of making a match. However, premium plans are gaining popularity as users look to widen their dating pool and improve their chances of finding a meaningful connection. Unfortunately, this means that the experience for free users may decline.
Overall, Morgan Stanley estimates that the average dating app user spends approximately $19 per month, or $229 annually.
Some studies indicate that many individuals use up to four dating apps at a time. However, this system can yield diminishing returns. Since nearly all apps draw from the same dating pool, it’s common to encounter the same profiles across different platforms. This makes users feel frustrated, as it seems they never come across anyone new despite spending more time swiping.
Notably, experts also say paid features may not substantially change the dating app experience. Users can instead achieve better results by improving their profiles, taking breaks from apps, and focusing on self-improvement. Worth considering, before paying a premium for love.
⏳ Skipping the Script: Younger Generations Rewrite Life's Playbook
Forging a New Path
For decades, the “traditional life” meant getting married, buying a home, and having kids. But younger generations are forging their own paths. While many still reach these milestones, they're achieving them in a different order.
On the whole, young adults today are choosing to have children first, get married second, and purchase a home much later. Recent data shows that the average first-time mother is 27 years old, the average father is 30, and the average first-time homebuyer is 36.
Many young adults might worry about facing criticism from family and friends for deviating from the path their parents followed. However, financial experts emphasize the importance of making decisions that align with one's unique financial situation. Following the path of older generations, who experienced different economic conditions, could hinder the financial prospects of young adults navigating a different economic landscape.
Generation Z(ero Kids)
Another distinctive trait of Generation Z is their decreasing interest in having children when compared to their parents.
Gen Z is often referred to as the TikTok Generation. But if current trends continue, the cohort born between 1997 and 2012 may eventually earn the nickname Generation Z(ero Kids).
According to a 2021 study by Pew Research, 44% of non-parents aged 18-49 say that they’re unlikely to ever start a family. This rate is up 7% from 2018 levels. According to Pew’s study, 17% of respondents cited financial reasons for not wanting children, while the majority simply expressed a lack of interest in parenthood.
No “Right” Way
Deviating from the “traditional life” is a stressful thing to do — especially when it involves resisting familial or societal expectations. But, ultimately, today’s emerging adults must make financial decisions that align with their preferences and enable them to lead their desired lifestyle.
Older generations operated under different economic circumstances and a financial plan that worked decades ago might not still make sense today. For instance, the average down payment for a home in 2023 exceeds $31,000. A decade ago, it was just $10,000. Monthly housing costs have also risen, with interest rates sitting at the highest level seen in 22 years. With housing expenses soaring, many younger adults lack the luxury of buying a home, even when they feel ready.
Still, it remains crucial to establish financial goals, save, and invest for the future — regardless of what your future might look like, or what those goals are.
The share of workers who say they work entirely from home has been declining since February. Instead of working remotely, hybrid schedules are emerging as the most popular way to work.
Elder millennials are the least likely age group to feel “financially well”, thanks to rising childcare costs, declining wage growth, and the two recessions faced over the course of their careers.
The International Air Transport Association expects the sector’s net profits to reach $25.7 billion in 2024. The airline group anticipates 4.7 billion travelers next year, exceeding pre-pandemic levels.
Gen Z is the only generation that has reported improved finances this year. Among Gen Z consumers, 41% reported that their financial situation has improved, while just 31% said the opposite.
Americans plan to spend an average of $975 on holiday gifts this year. This holiday estimate is up $100 annually and $52 from October.
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