November 11, 2022

Today's Topics

Hello! Yesterday inflation went down and stock markets went up — not a phrase we've written for a while. Today we're exploring:

  • Flipping hard. Redfin's home-buying business is shutting down.
  • Marvelous. The Marvel franchise marches on.
  • Hershey's. Not many things are recession-proof, chocolate might be.

This Veterans Day — thank you to those who have served and are serving.

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Real-estate brokerage Redfin announced on Wednesday that they would be sunsetting their home-flipping business, RedfinNow, and joining the long list of companies with layoffs, cutting 13% of their workforce.

Flipping hard

If you binge-watched home-renovation TV shows during the pandemic, you might have been tempted to get into home-flipping. The idea, of course, is simple enough: buy, renovate and then sell — hopefully for more than you paid.

Redfin launched their home-flipping venture in 2017, buying and selling thousands of homes over the last few years, competing with the likes of Opendoor and Zillow. The model worked — to varying extents — thanks to rock-bottom interest rates and the hot US housing market. In fact, data from ATTOM shows that home flipping sales represented 9.6% of all home sales in the first quarter of this year.

But now, with mortgage rates hitting 7%, the market is starting to turn. An increasing number of home-sellers are dropping prices, leaving Redfin and others with considerable inventory on their books that they can’t shift, and that they’ve likely already spent thousands on fixing up.

Since their respective peaks in Feb '21, Opendoor shares are down 94%, Zillow's have shed 83% and Redfin stock is down 95%. Even with access to millions of data points on what makes houses valuable, home-flipping is really, really hard.

Marvel forever

The latest Marvel offering, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, could administer a much-needed shot in the arm for the box office business this weekend, as fans flock to watch the sequel following the tragic death of original titular star Chadwick Boseman in 2020.

The film is expected to smash through this year’s domestic opening weekend record, held — unsurprisingly — by another Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which took in a whopping $187m back in May.

Hero’s journey

Launching in 2008 with Iron Man, the star-studded superhero stable of the MCU has been expanding ever since. Indeed, with each year that passes, Disney’s $4.2bn acquisition of Marvel in 2009 looks better and better, even by the House of Mouse’s high standards.

Since the deal, Marvel have been relentlessly prolific, racking up more than $10bn at the US box office in a meteoric rise to the top. Long-standing classic movie franchises like Star Wars (also now Disney-owned) and the James Bond films now pale in comparison, despite getting a multi-decade headstart on the world of Marvel.

The scariest news for Marvel’s franchise foes? The MCU is only in its 4th ‘phase’ of 6 and, with the company’s ability to endlessly world-build under Disney, there could be many more installments to come in the super series.

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Higher grocery store prices don’t seem to be tempering the nation’s collective sweet tooth, with The Hershey Company reporting sales that rose nearly 13% in its latest quarter, as Americans increasingly turn to sweet treats for an affordable pick-me-up.

Golden kisses

The 128-year-old food co. behind Twizzlers, KitKats, Jolly Ranchers, SkinnyPop, Reese’s, and of course their own iconic offerings such as Kisses, has been a remarkably consistent performer over the last 30 years. Through recessions, market crashes and pandemics, Hershey’s has grown steadily — and the business now looks sweeter than ever, with management expecting revenues to blow past $10bn for this fiscal year.

Chocolate and candy got a boost during the pandemic, but unlike so many things that have since returned to normal, demand for the cocoa confection hasn’t gone anywhere. Food giant Mondelez, owner of Toblerone and Cadbury, reported similarly — with chocolate sales rising 9% in its most recent quarter.

They say there’s a smile in every Hershey bar. Happily for Hershey execs, that's never been more true.

More Data

• The art collection of late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has smashed auction-house records after it sold for $1.5bn, with all proceeds going to charity.

• There wasn't just one winner from the historic $2bn Powerball jackpot, as the 75-year-old gas station owner who sold the lucky ticket also received a $1m retailer selling bonus.

AI is at it again — this time it's computer-generated houses that don't actually exist.

Hi-Viz

• Fascinating exploration of the most popular days for fireworks in different countries.

• The latest live midterms results in charts and maps.

• What are the most popular shapes, colors and designs for international flags? Great visual summary by ferdio.

Off the charts: Data showed US inflation cooling yesterday, but in which categories have prices risen most since 2020? [Answer below].

Answer here.

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