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Market scorecard

Yesterday, US markets closed slightly lower. The most notable achievement was the old-school Dow Jones Industrial Average crossing 40 000 for the first time ever. It's up nearly 40% from its lows in September 2022 and has more than doubled since May 2020, amidst the tumult of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In company news, farm equipment-maker Deere (NYSE: DE ) dropped 4.7% after revising its 2024 guidance downwards. Conversely, Walmart (NYSE: WMT ) surged 7% to reach new highs as it surpassed quarterly earnings and revenue estimates, largely driven by affluent shoppers using its online platform. Finally, Take-Two (NASDAQ: TTWO ) Interactive dipped 2.5% in after-hours trade due to decreased net bookings and the postponement, again, of its Grand Theft Auto VI release to 2025.

In short, the JSE All-share closed up 0.19%, the S&P 500 fell 0.21%, and the Nasdaq closed 0.26% lower.

One thing, from Paul

Here's some advice for a Friday: build your own platform. I got this idea from Ryan Holiday, who says that all creative workers should have their own megaphone. You can't be at the mercy of factors outside of your control.

To communicate with the world, you need distribution. You need to have a direct connection to your audience. That could take the form of your own email list or social media profile (on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok or YouTube). If you own your audience you can't get cancelled.

The ultimate platform is a service business that you own, with its receptive customer base, and a daily newsletter. That's what we've built at Vestact, and it feels good.

Byron's beats

According to Michael Batnick from Ritholtz Wealth, inflation is up 21.1% since the beginning of 2020. While prices have been cooling lately, they are still a lot higher than they were four years ago. That's tough for low-income consumers but the broader US economy has been strong enough to shrug off the pressure.

Thanks to resilient economic growth, the stock market has become less concerned about high interest rates. We now expect fewer rate cuts this year than was anticipated, but the market is up handsomely in 2024.

As it turns out, stocks have been a pretty good hedge against inflation. Remember, the companies we own now sell their products at higher prices. Over the same four years, the S&P 500 is up 65%. Of course, you had to hold your shares through some tough times to beat inflation so handily.

Michael's musings

Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX ) is moving into live content in a big way. On Wednesday, they announced an exclusive deal with the NFL to broadcast two Christmas Day matches, with the option to renew in 2025 and 2026. It is rumoured that Netflix paid $150 million for these rights. Effectively paying $75 million per match, wow!

Live events are valuable because there is extra impetus for viewers to get stuck in, sign up and watch. If you aren't a Netflix subscriber, you can't delay thinking about joining the streaming service. It forces people to take action, and hopefully you'll stay a subscriber. Advertisers also love to be part of the buzz surrounding live events and are willing to pay premium prices for advertising slots. Good news for Netflix's new advertising division.

Netflix recently aired a live roast of Tom Brady, hosted by Kevin Hart. The live Mike Tyson vs. Jake Paul boxing match is coming up soon. Unfortunately for us, most of these events are aired in prime North American time slots, when we are asleep.

I wouldn't be surprised to see some South African live shows popping up on Netflix, where the focus is on local stars to draw new regional viewers.

Bright's banter

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) recognises that Siri, its virtual assistant, has fallen behind, particularly in this new world of AI. Users have noticed Siri's limitations in understanding and responding to queries, prompting Apple to work on an upgraded version that will be more conversational and capable.

Apple now faces the challenge of advancing AI without disrupting its iOS software and App Store revenue. Despite these risks, Apple is investing in developing its own AI system and servers to maintain relevance and independence in the evolving tech landscape.

I'm keen to check out the new Siri, when it gets a ChatGPT upgrade. ChatGPT's new voice assistant is very advanced, and it's got me curious about what Apple's revamped Siri will bring to the table.

Signing off

Asian markets are mixed this morning, sending the MSCI Asia-Pacific down for the first time in six sessions. Benchmarks fell in India, mainland China, and South Korea but rose in Japan and Hong Kong. This follows falling home sales data from China that showed fresh economic weakness.

Locally, Barloworld (JO: BAWJ ) anticipates a decline in its basic headline earnings by 24% to 26.8% for the half-year period ending in March, following the successful unbundling of its car rental and leasing business, Zeda. On a different note, Sanlam (JO: SLMJ ) released an operational update, revealing a 15% increase in new business, a 14% improvement in client cash inflows, and a 15% growth in operational earnings driven by enhanced investment returns.

US equity futures are in the red pre-market. The Rand is trading at around R18.21 to the US Dollar.

TGIF! Have a lekker weekend. We sure are enjoying summer's long tail on the Highveld.

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