Your Financial News Roundup
March 8, 2023
1. Economy: A federal judge ruled that Starbucks violated workers’ rights to unionize; banks are raising their interest rates to compete with money market and bond returns.
2. Tech: Dr. Nicola Fox became NASA’s 1st female Head of Science; Salesforce announced a new generative AI fund.
3. World: Former biotech founder, Vivek Ramaswamy, is in 3rd place for the Republican presidential nomination; the U.S. and China vie for global dominance in AI research.
Personal Finance Concept [Part 6/8]: A Primer on Commodities
🪧 Union Busted: The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that Starbucks illegally fired employees in Buffalo and Rochester, NY for attempting to unionize. The judge claims Starbucks broke labor laws and disregarded employees’ fundamental rights. The formerly worker-friendly coffee chain had surveilled and threatened workers and prevented them from discussing pay. Now, Starbucks must rehire the fired workers and pay out others affected. (BBC)
Our Take: Unions are making a comeback after decades of decline. Over the past year, unions have been gaining momentum as workers across the retail, services, healthcare, and transportation industries rose up in support of better employee rights and benefits.
📈 Competitive Interest: Favorable interest rates on money market accounts and bonds have led consumers to make a net withdrawal of $278B from U.S. banks in 2022 — the first time since 1948. To offset this, banks are raising interest rates on 1-year certificates of deposit (CDs) to an average of 1.5%, with Capital One offering 5% and Wells Fargo offering 4%. As banks prepare for a slowdown, they anticipate less lending, which means less interest — hurting smaller banks the most. (Yahoo Finance!)
Our Take: CDs are great savings vehicles to earn interest but you have to lock up your funds for at least a few months. Instead, you can earn more and have more liquidity if you store your money under a high-yield savings account (HYSA) or hold 4-week treasury bonds.
🌖 Breaking Glass: Former NASA Heliophysics director, Dr. Nicola Fox, became the space agency’s 1st female Head of Science. A longtime solar scientist, Fox started her NASA career in 2018 in the Heliophysics division to study the sun’s effects on the solar system. Since then, she’s won NASA’s Outstanding Leadership award in 2020 and the American Astronautical Society’s Carl Sagan Memorial Award in 2021, among other accolades. (BBC)
Our Take: Given her extensive background and accomplishments, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate will be in good hands.
⚙️ Generative AI Hype Train Continues: Cloud-based software behemoth, Salesforce, launched a $250 million fund geared towards “responsible generative AI” via its VC subsidiary, Salesforce Ventures. The fund already has 4 startups under its portfolio, including search engine startup You.com, sales automation startup Anthropic, natural language processing (NLP) startup Cohere, and a stealth startup Hearth.AI. Salesforce is also piloting Einstein GPT, which uses ChatGPT-like features, across its platform. (TechCrunch)
Our Take: If 2022 was the year of crypto, 2023 is the year of generative AI. The hype will likely continue to grow as more startups race to build novel products.
✊🏽 Indians Take to Politics: Former biotech founder, Vivek Ramaswamy, is an up-and-coming contender for the Republican presidential nomination. His beliefs reflect mainstream right-leaning positions, including lessening U.S. dependence on China, anti-wokeness, and reducing identity politics in favor of a unifying, merit-based American Dream. While some South Asian conservatives praise him, liberal Asian Americans critique his positions and question his relationship with his heritage. (BBC)
Our Take: As more AAPI community members come to the forefront of politics, it’ll increase diversity and inclusion in the American government and across the political spectrum.
✈️ AI Arms Race: In the midst of the ChatGPT buzz, the AI-guided flight of an F-16 fighter went largely unnoticed. Competition to build the best military AI tech is yet another front in the China-U.S. global tug-of-war. Both countries are piling billions into AI research as they battle for the tech, data, and scarce human capital needed to develop AI, which has intensified as the trade war continues. (NBC)
Our Take: While China and the U.S. compete against each other, it’s likely each will be a leader in a specific AI function. For now, China leads in facial recognition while the U.S. dominates large language model development.
Finance Concept of the Week
What’s This Asset? — A Primer on Commodities [Part 6/8]
A Series Exploring Different Asset Classes and How to Invest in Them
The coffee in your cup, fruit in your meal, and circuitry in your phone are all commodities. Commodities are essential goods produced and traded in large numbers.
They are made up of several categories, such as agriculture, energy, metals, and livestock. You can trade them as physical commodities, futures, or funds.
- Diversification: Because commodities move inversely with stocks — they rise in value when the stock market is bearish — making them good assets to hold in tough market conditions.
- Short-Term Profit Potential: Even with a price floor, there is a high potential for savvy investors to profit in the short-term if they know the market for a certain commodity well. Their prices are driven by supply and demand, which creates room for profit when the supply is low and demand is high — such as with oil in 2022.
- Inflation Hedge: Commodity prices tend to rise during periods of high inflation. They can help preserve your portfolio’s value while other assets’ values fall.
- High Volatility: Commodities can be highly volatile and hard to forecast. Natural disasters, inflation, tech disruptions, and geopolitical events can lead to significant price swings.
- Storage Costs: If you buy physical commodities, such as gold or silver, you’ll need a place to store them. Those costs can eat into your profit — buy a commodity ETF instead!
- Market Access: Some commodity types, like agriculture or energy, may not be easily accessible to regular investors.
- Lack of Income: Unlike dividend stocks, bonds, and real estate, commodities do not produce income for investors until they are sold at a gain.
How to Make the Most of It:
- Getting Exposure to Commodities: There are a few different ways you can invest in commodities.
- Physical Commodities: Investors can purchase physical commodities like gold or silver and store them themselves or in a storage facility.
- Futures Contracts: Investors can trade futures contracts that allow them to buy or sell specific commodities at a future date at a set price.
- Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs): Investors can invest in ETFs that track the performance of a specific commodity, commodity index, or diverse set of commodities. ETFs are the most convenient way to hold commodities. Examples include USCI, PXJ, and BCD.
- Mutual Funds: Mutual funds that invest in commodities can provide exposure to a diversified portfolio of commodities and are the 2nd most hassle-free way to invest in commodities.
- Proceed with Caution: Commodities come with a unique set of risks compared to other assets. Make sure to research the specific commodities you would like to invest in and the various factors that can impact their price.
Risk Level: High; Commodity prices are highly sensitive to external events, increasing their volatility. Commodities also have fewer investment options and limited use cases compared to stocks or bonds.
Common Accounts to Use:
- Brokerage Accounts: Investors can open brokerage accounts to invest in physical commodities or commodity ETFs/mutual funds.
- Futures Accounts: Investors can open futures accounts to trade futures contracts.
- Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs): Some IRAs allow investors to invest in physical commodities, commodity ETFs/mutual funds, or futures.
Tip of the Week
💵 If you find it difficult to save money, prioritize your savings by paying yourself first. Allocate 10-20% of your monthly income towards investing or saving before spending money on other expenses.
Personal Finance Resources
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