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US markets finished on a quiet note on Friday, ahead of their Labor Day long weekend. It was a good five day period though, with the S&P 500 notching its best week since June. The latest jobs report showed a bit of cooling in the labour market, and the general view is that the Fed now has every reason stand down.

In company news, the cable TV wars continue, with Charter and Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS ) falling 3.6% and 2.4%, respectively, on a dispute over new financial terms and the airing of ABC and ESPN. Elsewhere, computer-maker Dell rallied 21% when the company reported surprisingly strong numbers and issued a robust full-year outlook. Finally, on this day in 1998 Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL ) was incorporated by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two students at Stanford University. More about Google below.

On the final session of the week the JSE All-share closed down 0.22%, the S&P 500 rose 0.18%, and the Nasdaq was flat. Ok, it was 0.02% lower.

One thing, from Paul

To invest well over a longer time frame, you need to catch the really big trends. If you pay attention and see those coming, you'll own the companies that sell the right goods and services, and capture a lot of the revenue growth.

We've been all over the technology boom in the last 15 years, moving early to buy shares of mobile phone makers, software vendors, internet gateways, electric car manufacturers and e-commerce leaders. We've scored big, and helped a lot of clients make serious money.

Here's another trend which we're watching with interest - the future shrinking of the human population. This blog post by Noah Smith does a great job of summarising the fact that, outside of Africa, people are having far fewer children.

The evidence suggests that once the total fertility rate falls below the replacement level of about 2.1 live births per woman, it never recovers. Tax incentives and long parental leave helps a bit, but not much.

My initial thought is that a world with a lot of older people and not many young workers will result in accelerated spending on automation and on healthcare.

We are also well positioned in the second arena, in companies that make complex pharmaceuticals and joint replacements. There may be other opportunities to ferret out.

Byron's beats

Artificial intelligence (AI) is hugely useful as a search tool. Sometimes, it's a struggle to think of the correct search term, or the results are not quite what you were looking for. Luckily, the kings of search, Google have your back. They have been experimenting with generative AI capabilities through a program called Search Labs, which was launched a few months ago in the US.

The Search Generative Experience enables people to better understand topics, uncover new viewpoints and insights and generally makes the search experience more efficient. "Instead of asking a series of questions and piecing together that information yourself, Search now can do some of the heavy lifting for you," according to Google.

They are about to launch it in India and Japan with plans to expand all over the globe. As more people use the product, it will only get better because it will learn what people really want over time. Fantastic.

Michael's musings

Google is going head-to-head with Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ), offering its own suite of AI-powered tools. In July, Microsoft unveiled the test version of its AI-enhanced office offering, Copilot, for select customers at $30 per month per user. Last week, Google announced that its own AI enhancements will also cost $30 a month.

Although less popular than Microsoft Office, Google does have competing products for Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Currently, Google corporate plans vary in price from $6 to $18 a month per user, depending on your chosen features. So to add an extra $30 to those packages will see a significant jump in revenue. It will be good to see Google diversify more, away from its main advertising revenue streams.

Even though these tools seem relatively expensive, Google and Microsoft are banking on them saving employees countless hours, and maybe even reducing the headcount at some organisations. For results like that, $30 a month sounds like a bargain.

Bright's banter

Mercedes-Benz just unveiled an electric car that can go farther on a single charge than any current Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA ) model. This car, a near-production version of the CLA sedan, can travel over 750 kilometres on one charge.

What's cool is that it's the first car from Mercedes to be built on their new electric vehicle platform, and it can add 400 kilometres of range in just 15 minutes of charging.

Mercedes knows they need to expand their electric vehicle lineup, especially after facing some sales challenges in China. They had to cut prices on some of their electric models to stay competitive. And they're not the only ones in the game - BMW is also getting in on the action with their next-gen electric coupe.

In China, where EVs are really taking off, Mercedes wants to keep up with local favourites like BYD and Nio. Their goal is to sell almost only electric cars by the end of the decade and are planning to set up eight battery factories through partnerships.

This new CLA concept car is interesting because it's designed to appeal to younger customers in the entry-level luxury market, where Mercedes competes with the likes of Volkswagen (ETR: VOWG_p ) and Toyota.

Signing off

Asian markets are looking good this morning. Benchmarks rose in Japan and South Korea, while mainland China outperformed after the CCP's latest efforts to stabilise the property sector. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose by over 2.3% as the trading resumed after it was closed on Friday due to bad weather.

The Rand is grinding along at R18.76 to the US Dollar.

OPEC+ is expected to limit oil supply, sending Brent crude to its eighth straight day of advances. It's trading at $85 per barrel on the NY Mercantile exchange.

US markets will be shut today for Labor Day. We don't like US public holidays, makes for a rather boring day at the office.

Best wishes.

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