May 20, 2022

Today's Topics

Hi, we've got 3 charts for you today:

  • A Marvelous acquisition. Disney's acquisition of Marvel was genius.
  • Buy now, pay later. Everything old is new again.
  • Overstaffed. Amazon and Walmart have a surprising problem.
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The cinemaverseYesterday filmmaker Anthony Russo, who co-directed the highest grossing movie of all time (Avengers: Endgame), outlined why he believes cinematic universes — where characters, plots and timelines converge over multiple movies — will continue to be the foundation of global cinema.

Marvelous Marvel

From Russo's director chair it would be hard to come up with any conclusion other than "cinematic universes are the future" considering the unbelievable success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — which has pumped out box office hit after box office hit since Disney's acquisition of Marvel Entertainment in 2008. Indeed, all told the 28 movies in the MCU have grossed more than $26 billion on the big screen, for a whopping $940m+ average per movie.

Marvel's latest entry in the series, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, is a great example of the incredible pull of the MCU. Doctor Strange is not exactly a character with the fame of Spider-Man, Thor or Captain America and yet the movie has already pulled in $720m globally. That is only just shy of the $768m pulled in by rival DC Comics' flagship character movie The Batman.

If it ain't broke

Perhaps what's most insane about the Marvel movies is that there are no signs of production slowing down. Two more MCU releases are planned for this year, with three more in the works for the year after that. In fact exec producer Kevin Feige revealed recently that the studio now has narratives and a plan for the MCU all the way out to 2032.

Everything old is new again

The simplest notion of credit, lending someone something, has been around in some form for literally thousands of years. Yet even in the 21st century people are still iterating on that core idea — the most recent innovation being "buy now, pay later" (BNPL) — a simple mechanism offered by companies like Klarna, Afterpay and Affirm that have become enormous businesses in the last few years.

BNPL companies allow consumers to pay for stuff in a set number of interest-free installments, taking a fee from the merchants that are doing the actual selling. Not ones to miss out on a convenient offer like that, 40-50% of all Americans have now used a BNPL service.

One of the earliest entrants into the space was Swedish company Klarna which last year was valued at $46 billion. Although consumer interest in BNPL is still at or near an all-time high Klarna hasn't been immune to the gloomy sentiment currently circling tech markets — the company is reportedly looking at slashing its valuation by around one-third in order to raise its next round of financing. BNPL companies have had a great run during relatively stable economic times — but how they fare during a prolonged downturn, where consumers will miss more payments, is a pretty big question mark.

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We've made a number of charts in recent months about how tight the labor market is and how hard it's been for companies to get enough workers. So it was a bit of a shock this week to hear that Walmart and Amazon — America's biggest private employers — both reported being overstaffed in the first quarter of this year.

COVID's fault

Amazon, which has grown into a 1.6 million strong workforce in record speed, reported that as COVID-19 subsided in the second half of the quarter and employees returned from leave, the company quickly went from being understaffed to overstaffed, which resulted in $2bn of extra costs. For years Amazon has been on a hiring spree — that might have finally changed.

More Data

1) Two-of-a-kind: a super rare 1955 Mercedes-Benz has sold for $143m — officially making it the most expensive car ever sold.

2) The Voyager 1 space probe, which is some 14.5 billion miles from Earth, has started sending seemingly random data back to Earth after 44 years of relative reliability.

3) The S&P 500 Index of US stocks is on the brink of a bear market as the likelihood of a recession inches higher.

4) It’s no surprise Citadel manages a cool $35 billion. The all new Composer app supercharges your portfolio with the power of algorithms, just like the pros. Power up today.**

5) Great population pyramid on reddit visualizing the demographics of the United States which led us to find out that on average 21 boys are born for every 20 girls around the world (source)... which was very much news to us.

6) The list of things seeing deflation, rather than inflation, is pretty short -- but chicken wings are on that list.

7) Cases of monkeypox have doubled to 20 in the UK.

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