AI could drive a natural gas boom as power companies face surging electricity demand

A chimney from the Linden Cogeneration Plant is seen in Linden New Jersey April 22, 2022. 

Kena Betancur | View Press | Corbis News | Getty Images

Natural gas producers are planning for a significant spike in demand over the next decade, as artificial intelligence drives a surge in electricity consumption that renewables may struggle to meet alone.

After a decade of flat power growth in the U.S., electricity demand is forecast to grow as much as 20% by 2030, according to a Wells Fargo analysis published in April. Power companies are moving to quickly secure energy as the rise of AI coincides with the expansion of domestic semiconductor and battery manufacturing as well as the electrification of the nation’s vehicle fleet.

AI data centers alone are expected to add about 323 terawatt hours of electricity demand in the U.S. by 2030, according to Wells Fargo. The forecast power demand from AI alone is seven times greater than New York City’s current annual electricity consumption of 48 terawatt hours. Goldman Sachs projects that data centers will represent 8% of total U.S. electricity consumption by the end of the decade.

The surge in power demand poses a challenge for Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Meta. The tech companies have committed to powering their data centers with renewables to slash carbon emissions. But solar and wind alone may be inadequate to meet the electricity load because they are dependent on variable weather, according to an April note from consulting firm Rystad Energy.

“Economic growth, electrification, accelerating data center expansion are driving the most significant demand growth in our company’s history and they show no signs of abating,”

Robert Blue

Dominion Energy, Chief Executive Officer

Surging electricity loads will require an energy source that can jump into the breach and meet spiking demand during conditions when renewables are not generating enough power, according to Rystad. The natural gas industry is betting gas will serve as the preferred choice.

Stock Chart IconStock chart icon

Natural gas prices year to date

“This type of need demonstrates that the emphasis on renewables as the only source of power is fatally flawed in terms of meeting the real demands of the market,” Richard Kinder, executive chairman of pipeline operator Kinder Morgan, told analysts during the company’s first-quarter earnings in April.

“The primary use of these data centers is big tech and I believe they’re beginning to recognize the role that natural gas and nuclear must play,” Kinder said during the call. Kinder Morgan is the largest natural gas pipeline operator in the U.S. with 40% market share.

Natural gas is expected to supply 60% of the power demand growth from AI and data centers, while renewables will provide the remaining 40%, according to Goldman Sachs’ report published in April.

Gas demand could increase by 10 billion cubic feet per day by 2030, according to Wells Fargo. This would represent a 28% increase over the 35 bcf/d that is currently consumed for electricity generation in the U.S, and a 10% increase over the nation’s total gas consumption of 100 bcf/d.

“That’s why people are getting more bullish on gas,” said Roger Read, an equity analyst and one of the authors of the Wells Fargo analysis, in an interview. “Those are some pretty high growth rates for a commodity.”

The demand forecasts, however, vary as analysts are just starting to piece together what data centers might mean for natural gas. Goldman expects a 3.3 bcf/d increase in gas demand, while Houston-based investment bank Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. sees a base case of 2.7 bcf/d and a high case of 8.5 bcf/d.

Powering the Southeast boom

Power companies will need energy that is reliable, affordable and can be deployed quickly to meet rising electricity demand, said Toby Rice, CEO of EQT Corp., the largest natural gas producer in the U.S.

“Speed to market matters,” Rice told CNBC’s “Money Movers” in late April. “This is going to be another differentiator for EQT and natural gas to take a very large amount of this market share.”

Natural gas market looks oversupplied right now, says EQT CEO Toby Rice

EQT is positioned to become a “key facilitator of the data center build-out” in the Southeast, Rice told analysts on the company’s earnings call in April.

The Southeast is the hottest data center market in the world with Northern Virginia in the thick of the boom, hosting more data centers than the next five largest markets in the U.S. combined. Some 70% of the world’s internet traffic passes through the region daily.

The power company Dominion Energy forecasts that demand from data centers in Northern Virginia will more than double from 3.3 gigawatts in 2023 to 7 gigawatts in 2030.

Further south, Georgia Power sees retail electricity sales growing 9% through 2028 with 80% of the demand coming from data centers, said Christopher Womack, CEO of Georgia Power’s parent Southern Company, during the utility’s fourt-quarter earnings call in February.

“Economic growth, electrification, accelerating data center expansion are driving the most significant demand growth in our company’s history and they show no signs of abating,” Dominion CEO Robert Blue said during the company’s March investor meeting.

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EQT shares over the past year.

The surging power demand in the Southeast lies at the doorstep of EQT’s asset base in the Appalachian Basin, Rice said during the earnings call. Coal plant retirements and data centers could result in 6 bcf/d of new natural gas demand in EQT’s backyard by 2030, the CEO said.

EQT recently purchased the owner of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which connects prolific natural gas reserves that EQT is operating and developing in the Appalachian Basin to southern Virginia. EQT is the only producer that can access the growing data center market through the pipeline, said Jeremy Knop, the company’s chief financial officer.

“I think we are very uniquely positioned in that sense,” Knop said during the call. Rice said the Southeast will become an even more attractive gas market than the Gulf Coast later in the decade. EQT is planning to expand capacity on the Mountain Valley Pipeline from 2 bcf/d to 2.5 bcf/d. The pipeline is expected to become operational in June.

The level of electricity demand could help lift natural gas prices out of the doldrums.

Prices plunged as much more than 30% in the first quarter of 2024 on strong production, lower demand due to a mild winter and historic inventory levels in the U.S. By 2030, prices could average $3.50 per thousand cubic feet, a 46% increase over the 2024 average price of $2.39, according to Wells Fargo.

Grid reliability worries

Dominion laid out scenarios in its 2023 resource plan that would add anywhere from 0.9 to 9.3 gigawatts of new natural gas capacity over the next 25 years. The power company said gas turbines will be critical to fill gaps when production drops from renewable resources such as solar. The turbines would be dual use and able to take clean hydrogen at some point.

“We’re building a lot of renewables, which all of our customers are looking for, but we need to make sure that we can operate the system reliably,” Blue told analysts during Dominion’s earnings call Thursday.

Renewables will play a major role in meeting the demand but they face challenges that make gas look attractive through at least 2030, Read, the Wells Fargo analyst, told CNBC.

An all of the above strategy is the only thing that we see as the way to maintain the reliability and the affordability that our customers count on.”

Lynn Good

Duke Energy, Chief Executive Officer

Many of the renewables will be installed in areas that are not immediately adjacent to data centers, he said. It will take time to build power lines to transport resources to areas of high demand, the analyst said.

Another constraint on renewables right now is the currently available battery technology is not efficient enough to power data centers 24 hours a day, said Zack Van Everen, director of research at investment Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co.

Nuclear is a potential alternative to gas and has the advantage of providing carbon free energy, but new advanced technology that shortens typically long project timelines is likely a decade away from having a meaningful impact, according to Wells Fargo.

Richard Kinder, executive chairman of pipeline operator Kinder Morgan, said significant amounts new nuclear capacity will not come online for the foreseeable future, and building power lines to connect distant renewables to the grid will take years. This means natural gas has to play an important role for years to come, Kinder said during the company’s earnings call in April.

“I think acceptance of this hypothesis will become even clearer as power demand increases over the coming months and years and it will be one more significant driver of growth in the demand for natural gas that will benefit all of us in the midstream sector,” Kinder said.

Environmental impact

Any expansion of natural gas in meeting U.S energy demand is likely to be met with opposition from environmental groups who want fossil fuels to be phased out as soon as possible.

Goldman Sachs forecast carbon emissions from data centers could more than double by 2030 to about 220 million tons, or 0.6% of global energy emissions, assuming natural gas provides the bulk of the power.

Virginia has mandated that all carbon-emitting plants be phased out by 2045. Dominion warned in its resource plan that the phase out date potentially raises system reliability and energy independence issues, with the company relying on purchasing capacity across state lines to meet demand.

Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good said natural gas “can be a difficult topic,” but the fossil fuel is responsible for 45% of the power company’s emissions reductions since 2005 as dirtier coal plants have been replaced. Good said electricity demand in North Carolina is growing at a pace not seen since the 1980s or 1990s.

“As we look at the next many years trying to find a way to expand a system to approach this growth, I think natural gas has a role to play,” Good said at the Columbia Global Energy Summit in New York City in April. The CEO said natural gas is needed as a “bridge fuel” until more advanced technology comes online.

“An all of the above strategy is the only thing that we see as the way to maintain the reliability and the affordability that our customers count on,” Good said.

Don’t miss these stories from CNBC PRO:

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China’s automakers must adapt quickly or lose out on the EV boom in the face of regulatory scrutiny abroad and competition at home

Chinese new energy vehicle giant shows off the latest version of its Han electric sedan at the Beijing auto show on April 26, 2024.

CNBC | Evelyn Cheng

BEIJING — Chinese automakers, including state-owned auto giant GAC Group, can’t afford to take it easy in the country’s electric car boom if they want to survive.

Adoption of battery and hybrid-powered cars has surged in China, but an onslaught of new models has fueled a price war that’s forced Tesla to also cut its prices. While Chinese automakers also look overseas for growth, other countries are increasingly wary of the impact of the cars on domestic auto industries, requiring investment in local production. It’s now survival of the fittest in China’s already competitive EV market.

“The speed of elimination will only pick up,” Feng Xingya, president at GAC, told reporters on the sidelines of the Beijing auto show in late April. That’s according to a CNBC translation of his Mandarin-language remarks.

GAC slashed prices on its cars one week before the May 1 Labor Day holiday in China, Feng said, noting the price war contributed to its first-quarter sales slump. The automaker’s operating revenue fell year-on-year in the first quarter for the first time since 2020, according to Wind Information.

To stay competitive, Feng said GAC is partnering with tech companies such as Huawei, while working on in-house research and development. The automaker is the joint venture partner of Honda and Toyota in China, and has an electric car brand called Aion.

“In the short term, if your product isn’t good, then consumers won’t buy it,” Feng said. “You need to use the best tech and the best products to satisfy consumer needs. In the long term, you must have a core competitive edge.”

Expanding outside China

Factories go global

Part of GAC’s international strategy is to localize production, Wei said, noting the company is using a variety of approaches such as joint ventures and technology partnerships. He said GAC opened a factory in Malaysia in April and plans to open another in Thailand in June, with Egypt, Brazil and Turkey also under consideration.

GAC plans to establish eight subsidiaries this year, including in Amsterdam, Wei said. But the U.S. isn’t part of the company’s near-term overseas expansion plans, he said.

The difference today is that the overcapacity now has come together with vehicles that are very competitive

Stephen Dyer

AlixPartners, co-leader of the Greater China Business

U.S. and European officials have in recent months emphasized the need to address China’s “overcapacity,” which can be loosely defined as state-supported production of goods that exceeds demand. China has pushed back on such concerns and its Ministry of Commerce claimed that, from a global perspective, new energy faces a capacity shortage.

“There’s always been overcapacity in the Chinese auto industry,” said Stephen Dyer, co-leader of the Greater China business at consulting firm AlixPartners, and Asia leader for its automotive and industrials practice.

“The difference today is that the overcapacity now has come together with vehicles that are very competitive,” he told CNBC on the sidelines of the auto show. “So in our EV survey I was surprised to find that about 73% of U.S. consumers could recognize at least one Chinese EV brand. And Europe was close behind.”

Dyer expects that to drive overseas demand for Chinese electric cars. AlixPartners’ survey found that BYD had the highest brand recognition across the U.S. and major European countries, followed by Nio and Leap Motor.

BYD exported 242,000 cars last year and is also building factories overseas. The company’s sales are roughly split between hybrid and battery-powered vehicles. BYD no longer sells traditional fuel-powered passenger cars.

Tech competition

In addition to price, this year’s auto show in Beijing reflected how companies — Chinese and foreign — are competing on tech such as driver-assist software.

Chinese consumers placed almost twice as much importance on tech features compared with U.S. consumers, Dyer said, citing AlixPartners’ survey.

He noted how Chinese startups are so aggressive that a car may be sold with new tech, even if the software still has problems. “They know they can use over-the-air updates to rapidly fix bugs or add features as needed,” Dyer said.

Interest in tech doesn’t mean consumers are sold on battery-only cars. Dyer said that in the short term, consumers are still worried about driving range — meaning that hybrids are not only in demand, but often used without charging the battery.

Elon Musk meets with China's Premier Li Qiang to discuss Tesla, full-self driving and restrictions

Even Volkswagen is getting in on the “smart tech” race. The German auto giant revealed at the auto show its joint venture with Shanghai’s state-owned SAIC Motor teamed up with Chinese drone company DJI’s automotive unit to create a driver-assist system for the newly launched Tiguan L Pro.

The initial version of the SUV is fuel-powered, for which the company’s tagline is: “oil or electric, both are smart,” according to a CNBC translation of the Chinese.

Battery manufacturer CATL had a more prominent exhibition booth this year, likely in the hope of encouraging consumers to buy cars with its batteries, as competitors’ market share grows, said Zhong Shi, an analyst with the China Automobile Dealers Association.

Automotive chip companies Black Sesame and Horizon Robotics also had booths inside the main exhibition hall.

What customers want

Lotus Technology, a high-end U.K. car brand acquired by Geely, found in a survey of its customers their top requests were for automatic parking and battery charging, which would allow drivers to stay in the car.

That’s according to CFO Alexious Kuen Long Lee, who spoke with CNBC on the sidelines of the Beijing auto show. He noted the company now has robotic battery chargers in Shanghai.

Lotus and Nio last week also announced a strategic partnership on battery swapping and charging.

“I think there is a handing over of the baton where the Chinese brands are becoming much bigger and much stronger, and the foreign brands are still trying to decide what’s the best energy route,” said Lee, who’s worked in China since 1998. “Are they still deciding on the PHEV, are they still thinking about BEVs, are they still thinking about the internal combustion cars? The entire decision-making process becomes so complex, with so much resistance internally, that I think they’re just not being productive.”

But he thinks Lotus has found the right strategy by expanding its product line, and going straight to battery-powered cars. “Lotus today,” he said, “is similar to what international brands’ position [was] in China, probably back in 2000.”

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February was a great month for Wall Street. These were our 5 best-performing stocks

Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., February 23, 2024. 

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

February was a strong month for stocks and the Club’s portfolio.

The advance came as investors parsed through fourth-quarter earnings results and fresh economic data, searching for clues about when the Federal Reserve will finally cut interest rates. The Nasdaq Composite led the march higher in February, gaining 6.1% and finishing the month at its first record close since November 2021. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 both hit a series of all-time highs throughout the month, climbing 2.2% and 5.2%, respectively.

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#February #great #month #Wall #Street #bestperforming #stocks

Why Sora, OpenAI’s new text-to-video tool, is raising eyebrows

Sora is ChatGPT maker OpenAI’s new text-to-video generator. Here’s what we know about the new tool provoking concern and excitement in equal measure.

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The maker of ChatGPT is now diving into the world of video created by artificial intelligence (AI).

Meet Sora – OpenAI’s new text-to-video generator. The tool, which the San Francisco-based company unveiled on Thursday, uses generative AI to instantly create short videos based on written commands.

Sora isn’t the first to demonstrate this kind of technology. But industry analysts point to the high quality of the tool’s videos displayed so far, and note that its introduction marks a significant leap for both OpenAI and the future of text-to-video generation overall.

Still, as with all things in the rapidly growing AI space today, such technology also raises fears about potential ethical and societal implications. Here’s what you need to know.

What can Sora do and can I use it yet?

Sora is a text-to-video generator – creating videos up to 60 seconds long based on written prompts using generative AI. The model can also generate video from an existing still image.

Generative AI is a branch of AI that can create something new. Examples include chatbots, like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, and image-generators such as DALL-E and Midjourney. 

Getting an AI system to generate videos is newer and more challenging but relies on some of the same technology.

Sora isn’t available for public use yet (OpenAI says it’s engaging with policymakers and artists before officially releasing the tool) and there’s a lot we still don’t know. But since Thursday’s announcement, the company has shared a handful of examples of Sora-generated videos to show off what it can do.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman also took to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, to ask social media users to send in prompt ideas. 

He later shared realistically detailed videos that responded to prompts like “two golden retrievers podcasting on top of a mountain” and “a bicycle race on ocean with different animals as athletes riding the bicycles with drone camera view”.

While Sora-generated videos can depict complex, incredibly detailed scenes, OpenAI notes that there are still some weaknesses – including some spatial and cause-and-effect elements. 

For example, OpenAI adds on its website, “a person might take a bite out of a cookie, but afterward, the cookie may not have a bite mark”.

What other AI-generated video tools are out there?

OpenAI’s Sora isn’t the first of its kind. Google, Meta, and the startup Runway ML are among companies that have demonstrated similar technology.

Still, industry analysts stress the apparent quality and impressive length of Sora videos shared so far. 

Fred Havemeyer, head of US AI and software research at Macquarie, said that Sora’s launch marks a big step forward for the industry.

“Not only can you do longer videos, I understand up to 60 seconds, but also the videos being created look more normal and seem to actually respect physics and the real world more,” Havemeyer said. 

“You’re not getting as many ‘uncanny valley’ videos or fragments on the video feeds that look… unnatural”.

While there has been “tremendous progress” in AI-generated video over the last year – including Stable Video Diffusion’s introduction last November – Forrester senior analyst Rowan Curran said such videos have required more “stitching together” for character and scene consistency.

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The consistency and length of Sora’s videos, however, represents “new opportunities for creatives to incorporate elements of AI-generated video into more traditional content, and now even to generate full-blown narrative videos from one or a few prompts,” Curran told The Associated Press via email on Friday.

What are the potential risks?

Although Sora’s abilities have astounded observers since Thursday’s launch, anxiety over the ethical and societal implications of AI-generated video uses also remains.

Havemeyer points to the substantial risks in 2024’s potentially fraught election cycle, for example. 

Having a “potentially magical” way to generate videos that may look and sound realistic presents a number of issues within politics and beyond, he added – pointing to fraud, propaganda, and misinformation concerns.

“The negative externalities of generative AI will be a critical topic for debate in 2024,” Havemeyer said. “It’s a substantial issue that every business and every person will need to face this year”.

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Tech companies are still calling the shots when it comes to governing AI and its risks as governments around the world work to catch up. 

In December, the European Union reached a deal on the world’s first comprehensive AI rules, but the act won’t take effect until two years after final approval.

On Thursday, OpenAI said it was taking important safety steps before making Sora widely available.

“We are working with red teamers – domain experts in areas like misinformation, hateful content, and bias – who will be adversarially testing the model,” the company wrote. 

“We’re also building tools to help detect misleading content such as a detection classifier that can tell when a video was generated by Sora”.

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OpenAI’s Vice President of Global Affairs Anna Makanju reiterated this when speaking on Friday at the Munich Security Conference, where OpenAI and 19 other technology companies pledged to voluntarily work together to combat AI-generated election deepfakes

She noted the company was releasing Sora “in a manner that is quite cautious”.

At the same time, OpenAI has revealed limited information about how Sora was built. 

OpenAI’s technical report did not disclose what imagery and video sources were used to train Sora – and the company did not immediately respond to a request for further comment on Friday.

The Sora release also arrives amid the backdrop of lawsuits against OpenAI and its business partner Microsoft by some authors and The New York Times over its use of copyrighted works of writing to train ChatGPT.

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Former hedge fund star says this is what will trigger the next bear market.

Much of Wall Street expects easing inflation, but an overshoot could dash hopes of a May rate cut, curtailing the S&P 500’s
SPX
waltz with 5,000, warn some.

Read: Arm’s frenzied stock rally continues as AI chase trumps valuation.

What might take this market down eventually? Our call of the day from former hedge-fund manager Russell Clark points to Japan, an island nation whose central bank is one of the last holdouts of loose monetary policy.

Note, Clark bailed on his perma bear RC Global Fund back in 2021 after wrongly betting against stocks for much of a decade. But he’s got a whole theory on why Japan matters so much.

In his substack post, Clark argues that the real bear-market trigger will come when the Bank of Japan ends quantitative easing. For starters, he argues we’re in a “pro-labor world” where a few things should be playing out: higher wages and lower jobless levels and interest rates higher than expected. Lining up with his expectations, real assets started to surge in late 2023 when the Fed started to go dovish, and the yield curve began to steepen.

From that point, not everything has been matching up so easily. He thought higher short-term rates would siphon off money from speculative assets, but then money flowed into cryptos like Tether and the Nasdaq recovered completely from a 2022 rout.

“I have been toying with the idea that semiconductors are a the new oil – and hence have become a strategic asset. This explains the surge in the Nasdaq and the Nikkei to a degree, but does not really explain tether or bitcoin very well,” he said.

So back to Japan and his not so popular explanation for why financial/speculative assets continue to trade so well.

“The Fed had high interest rates all through the 1990s, and dot-com bubble developed anyway. But during that time, the Bank of Japan only finally raised interest rates in 1999 and then the bubble burst,” he said.

He notes that when Japan began to tighten rates in late 2006, “everything started to unwind,” adding that the BOJ’s brief attempts [to] raise rates in 1996 could be blamed for the Asian Financial Crisis.

In Clark’s view, markets seem to have moved more with the Japan’s bank balance sheet than the Fed’s. The BOJ “invented” quantitative easing in the early 2000s, and the subprime crisis started not long after it removed that liquidity from the market in 2006, he notes.

“For really old investors, loose Japanese monetary policy also explained the bubble economy of the 1980s. BOJ Balance Sheet and S&P 500 have decent correlation in my book,” he said, offering the below chart:


Capital Flows and Asset Markets, Russell Clark.

Clark says that also helps explains why higher bond yields haven’t really hurt assets. “As JGB 10 yields have risen, the BOJ has committed to unlimited purchases to keep it below 1%,” he notes.

The two big takeaways here? “BOJ is the only central bank that matters…and that we need to get bearish the U.S. when the BOJ raises interest rates. Given the moves in bond markets and food inflation, this is a matter of time,” said Clark who says in light of his plans for a new fund, “a bear market would be extremely useful for me.” He’s watching the BOJ closely.

The markets

Pre-data, stock futures
ES00,
-0.41%

NQ00,
-0.80%

are down, while Treasury yields
BX:TMUBMUSD10Y

BX:TMUBMUSD02Y
hold steady. Oil
CL.1,
+0.79%

and gold
GC00,
+0.46%

are both higher. The Nikkei 225 index
JP:NIK
tapped 38,000 for the first time since 1990.

Key asset performance

Last

5d

1m

YTD

1y

S&P 500

5,021.84

1.60%

4.98%

5.28%

21.38%

Nasdaq Composite

15,942.55

2.21%

6.48%

6.20%

34.06%

10 year Treasury

4.181

7.83

11.45

30.03

42.81

Gold

2,038.10

-0.17%

-0.75%

-1.63%

9.33%

Oil

77.14

5.96%

6.02%

8.15%

-2.55%

Data: MarketWatch. Treasury yields change expressed in basis points

The buzz

Due at 8:30 a.m., January headline consumer prices are expected to dip to 2.9% for January, down from 3.4% in December and the lowest since March 2021. Monthly inflation is seen at 0.3%.

Biogen
BIIB,
+1.56%

stock is down on disappointing results and a slow launch for its Alzheimer’s treatment. A miss is also hitting Krispy Kreme
DNUT,
+1.99%
,
Coca-Cola
KO,
+0.24%

is up on a revenue rise, with Hasbro
HAS,
+1.38%
,
Molson Coors
TAP,
+3.12%

and Marriott
MAR,
+0.74%

still to come, followed by Airbnb
ABNB,
+4.20%
,
Akamai
AKAM,
-0.13%

and MGM Resorts
MGM,
+0.60%

after the close. Hasbro stock is plunging on an earnings miss.

JetBlue
JBLU,
+2.19%

is surging after billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn disclosed a near 10% stake and said his firm is discussing possible board representation.

Tripadvisor stock
TRIP,
+3.04%

is up 10% after the travel-services platform said it was considering a possible sale.

In a first, Russia put Estonia’s prime minister on a “wanted” list. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate approved aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

Best of the web

Why chocolate lovers will pay more this Valentine’s Day than they have in years

A startup wants to harvest lithium from America’s biggest saltwater lake.

Online gambling transactions hit nearly 15,000 per second during the Super Bowl.

The chart

Deutsche Bank has taken a deep dive into the might of the Magnificent Seven, and why they will continue to matter for investors. One reason? Nearly 40% of the world still doesn’t have internet access as the bank’s chart shows:

Top tickers

These were the top-searched tickers on MarketWatch as of 6 a.m.

Ticker

Security name

TSLA,
-2.81%
Tesla

NVDA,
+0.16%
Nvidia

ARM,
+29.30%
Arm Holdings

PLTR,
+2.75%
Palantir Technologies

NIO,
+2.53%
Nio

AMC,
+4.11%
AMC Entertainment

AAPL,
-0.90%
Apple

AMZN,
-1.21%
Amazon.com

MARA,
+14.19%
Marathon Digital

TSM,
-1.99%
NIO

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Need to Know starts early and is updated until the opening bell, but sign up here to get it delivered once to your email box. The emailed version will be sent out at about 7:30 a.m. Eastern.

Check out On Watch by MarketWatch, a weekly podcast about the financial news we’re all watching – and how that’s affecting the economy and your wallet.

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My brothers are co-owners on $1.9 million of our mother’s bank and brokerage accounts. She now has Alzheimer’s. How can I rectify this?

I have three adult siblings living in different states, and we are disputing the circumstances surrounding the joint accounts shared with our 85-year-old mother, who has early stage Alzheimer’s. Our mom has a net worth of around $2 million, which is spread across several different bank and brokerage accounts. Late in life, she added a different sibling as a co-owner on each of her accounts to help manage her money.  

My brother “Joe” is listed as the sole co-owner on the bulk of our mother’s brokerage accounts, totaling $1.3 million, while my brother “Andy” is the sole co-owner of a $600,000 bank account and I am the sole co-owner of a $100,000 brokerage account. I think our mom simply forgot to add my sister, “Sue,” as a co-owner on any account. Her intention has always been for the four of us to equally inherit her assets.

I suggested to my three siblings that we should change all the accounts to sole ownership under our mother’s name with four equal beneficiaries. I thought this could avoid many possible complications with gift taxes and distribution at the time of our mother’s death, since as it stands, each co-owner would have to divide the money from their co-ownership account and send it to the other siblings.

Sue is named as power of attorney and could manage our mother’s individual accounts as needed. However, Joe is adamant that the current setup of co-ownership of accounts is the best way to help our mother, especially to protect her against financial fraud in case she needs to move to a nursing home. He insists there will be no gift taxes with the eventual distribution and that this setup is straightforward and easy to co-manage.

This situation is causing a lot of stress and distrust among my siblings, which I hate. I suggested we change things in order to make our mother’s financial situation as simple as possible, especially at the time of death, and not because I don’t trust Joe. Right now, no one is touching our mother’s accounts, and I am paying most of her expenses, as she lives with me.

Please advise.

Frustrated Sibling

Also read: My wife and I sold our home to her son at a $100,000 discount. He’s now selling at a $250,000 profit. Do I ask for a cut?

“Sue, as power of attorney, should be able to withdraw money from your mother’s other accounts and/or set up a bank account with those funds in your mom’s name,” the Moneyist writes.


MarketWatch illustration

Dear Frustrated,

Your brothers have every reason to act like white truffle butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths.

Between them, they have sewn up your mother’s largest bank accounts, and you are very likely dependent on the kindness of these brothers to either add you to the accounts as co-owners or distribute the funds between all four siblings after your mother passes away. 

I would not hold my breath for Joe or Andy to do either of these things. They can just as easily resist with politeness and smiles as with anger and resentment. I’m sorry to say that the most damaging actions — for you and your sister— have already been taken. 

We may never know the conversations that took place when your brothers were added as co-owners. But there is a very important difference between a “co-owner” and a “co-signer” on an account. The latter can withdraw money but does not own the money in the account.

If your mother was not of sound mind or her mental capacity was diminished when your brothers were added to these accounts, or if she had intended to add them as co-signers, there may be a case where you can contest your brothers’ ownership of these accounts.

The legal framework around such cases vary depending on the state, but it’s usually up to the estate of the original owner of the account to prove that there was elder abuse and/or undue influence taking place. As always, you should consult an attorney who specializes in elder law.

Limitations to power-of-attorney duties 

Sue, as power of attorney, should be able to withdraw money from your mother’s other accounts and/or set up a bank account with those funds in your mom’s name. She should preserve these funds for additional medical bills and long-term care as her condition progresses.

But the bottom line is that without the cooperation of your two brothers after your mother dies, failing any legal case to reverse matters, you will remain with the sole ownership of the $100,000 brokerage account, and the four of you will inherit whatever else is left in the estate. 

It’s virtually impossible to say without more information, but Sue, as power of attorney, is unlikely to have the ability to change the ownership of these accounts unless that is specified in the terms of her POA contract. That would also depend on the laws of your state.

“The power of attorney permits the agent to access their parent’s bank accounts, make deposits and write checks,” Jupiter, Fla.-based Welch Law says in this POA overview. “However, it doesn’t create any ownership interest in the bank accounts. It allows access and signing authority.”

The law firm continues: “If the person’s parent wants to add them to the account, they become a joint owner of the account. When this happens, the person has the same authority as the parent, accessing the account and making deposits and withdrawals.”

But those with power of attorney cannot self-deal when it comes to their parent’s finances. “As a POA, they are a fiduciary, which means they have a legally enforceable responsibility to put their parent’s benefits above their own,” Welch Law adds.

You should not have to pay for your mother’s care out of your own bank account. Your sister, as power of attorney, should be managing that. Talk to your siblings about your mother’s Alzheimer’s and how the four of you plan to manage her care in the months and years ahead.

Will your brothers fulfill their promise and make you and your sister whole? Only time will tell.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

Previous columns by Quentin Fottrell:

‘I don’t like the idea of dying alone’: I’m 54, twice divorced and have $2.3 million. My girlfriend wants to get married. How do I protect myself?

‘If I say the sky is blue, she’ll tell me it’s green’: My daughter, 19, will inherit $800,000. How can she invest in her future?

‘They have no running water’: Our neighbors constantly hit us up for money. My husband gave them $400. Is it selfish to say no?



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#brothers #coowners #million #mothers #bank #brokerage #accounts #Alzheimers #rectify

My Tinder match asked if I ‘rent or own’ my apartment. Is it gauche to ask financial questions before a first date?

I met a guy on Tinder
MTCH,
+0.75%

and had an introductory telephone conversation, which I always think is a good idea before making the effort to meet in person. During our 15-minute telephone conversation, he told me about his divorce, his job and his hobbies. He described himself as easygoing and outdoorsy, and someone who likes to socialize and play sports. 

He talked a lot about his children, for five minutes or longer. He said he owned a small house. He asked what I did for a living, when my last relationship was, what neighborhood I lived in and — this stuck in my craw — whether I rented or owned my apartment and if it was a studio, one- or two-bedroom apartment. I felt uncomfortable, but I answered.

I live in New York City, and I happen to own my apartment, but I felt like he was sizing me up and trying to get a picture of my finances before he decided to meet me. He also asked how long I’ve been in my apartment, probably to assess how much equity I had in it. I replied, “a while,” as I already felt like he was getting too into my finances for a first conversation.

Once he was satisfied with my answers to these questions, he suggested we meet. I am busy this weekend, so he suggested driving into the city during the week. Based on his job and profession, I can reasonably estimate that I earn about twice his salary, though this does not mean anything to me, and I could care less. But given his money-related questions, I find that ironic.

I asked some friends. Some did a spit take, while others felt such questions were fair game. What do you think?

Irritated Even Before Our First Date

Related: I want my father to quitclaim his home so I can refinance it — and take out a $200,000 annuity for my sister and me. Is this wise?

“Based on his questions, it’s important to him that you have the same level of financial security that he does. If it were not an issue for him, he would not have asked.”


MarketWatch illustration

Dear Irritated,

He is not your real-estate agent or financial adviser, so I agree that it’s strange for a virtual stranger to quiz you on your living arrangements.

Based on his questions, it’s important to him that you have the same level of financial security that he does. If it were not an issue for him, he would not have asked. It’s as simple as that. Similarly, if he were wealthy beyond his wildest dreams, he may care less than someone who has climbed partly up the property ladder. But do I think it’s a bit much to ask in a first conversation? Yes.

Don’t give the Greek chorus too much importance. Whether or not other people are comfortable with such questions in a first call is immaterial; if you are not comfortable, you have your answer. You, after all, are the person who will have to date him, and expect him to show a semblance of emotional intelligence and sensitivity. It’s imperative to be able to read the room.

Let there be no mistake: If he is asking a question about your real-estate holdings or finances, he’s interested in them as a way of assessing (or judging) your suitability as a partner. Maybe he romanticizes his relationship prospects based on first impressions, and wonders whether he could combine assets and live in splendor. But words and questions have meaning.

Social acceptability vs. social mobility 

In America, it may be seen as more acceptable than in some European countries to ask what you do for a living, and even whether you rent or own in a big city like New York. The U.S. is a country of immigrants, and has more immigrants than any other population in the world, according to the Pew Research Center

The idea is to strive, work hard, and do better than the previous generation, although a majority of Americans reportedly doubt the attainability of generation-to-generation upward mobility, and millions of people are reassessing their relationship to work-life balance in the wake of the pandemic.

Wealth and looks play a role in whether someone swipes left or right, but the former appears to become more important when a connection is made with a partner who is deemed attractive. “When long-term interest is considered, the physical attractiveness of the model appeared to serve as an initial hurdle that had to be cleared prior to any other factors being considered by the participants,” according to this 2020 study.

People do swipe right based on economic factors. It would be foolhardy or idealistic to suggest that they don’t. If, however, a man poses in sunglasses with two thumbs up next to a Lamborghini, listing bitcoin
BTCUSD,
+1.57%

trading as one of his pastimes, chances are he doesn’t own that Lamborghini and, in my estimation, may have “Tinder Swindler”-level intentions.

And if a potential partner is both attractive and wealthy? That seems to be an appealing combination. Female online daters are 10 times more likely to click on profiles with men who have higher incomes, at least according to this study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, while male online daters are equally likely to click on women’s profiles, regardless of income. 

I don’t put too much stock in studies that say men are looking for attractive partners, while women are more interested in men who look wealthy. You could probably do an analysis of any online dating site and gather a sample that would give you conclusions that say pretty much anything you want them to say. It all depends on the individual: Someone who knows the exact size of their backyard and strives to keep up with the Joneses is more likely to ask whether you rent or own.

In other words, this fellow who grilled you over your own socioeconomic circumstances may still be a perfect match — for someone else.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

Previous columns by Quentin Fottrell:

I want my son to inherit my $1.2 million house. Should I leave it to my second husband in my will? He promised to pass it on.

My adult sons live rent-free in my house, while I pay for 50% of utilities in my second husband’s condo

My brother lives in our parents’ home, which we’ll inherit 50/50. I want to keep it in the family for my children. How do I protect my interests?



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#Tinder #match #asked #rent #apartment #gauche #financial #questions #date

‘I can’t afford to keep paying for two households’: My adult sons live rent-free in my house, while I pay for 50% of utilities in my second husband’s condo

In 2007, my now ex-husband and I bought a home, where we lived as a family with our two boys for just a few years before we divorced in 2009. I refinanced the house in my name, and have paid the mortgage and utilities as a single parent ever since. 

In 2016, I met and started dating a man. We lived apart, only about 10 to 15 minutes from each other. In 2021, after I battled cancer, he proposed and I accepted. Since we only lived a few minutes apart, I stayed at my husband’s two-bedroom condo Thursday through Sunday, and spent Sunday through Thursday at my house, where I worked from home. I did this for years. 

My oldest son moved back in with me in 2021. He graduated high school in 2017 and I gave him a gap year living at my house to decide on his next move, after which he moved out and started his career. He lived on his own for a year, then lived with my parents for a year. He met a girl; they signed a lease and then the pandemic hit. After their lease was up, they broke up, and he decided to go back to college full time. I agreed that he could live in my home while he attended college. His tuition is covered by grants and a 529 fund his grandmother set up.

In 2022, my then boyfriend and I married. However, we still didn’t move in together full time, as I still had my house, and my youngest son had not yet graduated high school. I wanted to be home with him. 

Helping to support two households

My youngest son, 19, graduated high school in 2023. Later that summer, I moved out of my house to stay with my husband full time. I pay 50% of the expenses living with my husband and 100% of the expenses for my house, where the boys live. 

I kept both households going so my youngest could have a gap year of his own, and to cushion my oldest, whom I really didn’t think would go to college, while he attended to his studies. They are young and finding their way, and I wanted to give them the support I felt like they needed. But here we are in 2024, and I can’t afford to keep both households running without impacting my ability to save for retirement.

Here’s my dilemma: I don’t know how to get my boys out of my house so I can clean it up, stage it and list it for sale. We live in an area where the average two-bedroom apartment rents for $1,800 a month. My youngest works full time following his passion for BMWs and makes about $2,400 a month. My oldest, 25, works part time in retail and makes about $1,000 a month while he attends college. They both work within 3 miles of my home. They simply can’t afford to move out, and I can’t afford to keep paying for two households.

To complicate matters, I have about $100,000 in equity in the house, and I’d like to use it to pay off some small debts and buy a car, as well as put the rest in retirement.  But my mother, who has had a long and successful career in real estate, thinks I should wait it out and let my equity continue to build, giving the boys some cushion while they are still finding their way. 

Do I shop around and find them an apartment, help them set up utilities and help them with movers? Do we build a project plan with a deadline, or just keep looking for places in the hope that we eventually find one we like? Do I subsidize their monthly expenses and give them each $400 a month for utilities, if they cover their rent? 

I know this is probably easy for other people, but I am at a loss as to how and when to do this. We all feel stuck, scared and anxious. Any advice is appreciated.

Wife & Mother

Related: My cousin left his estate to 6 relatives, but only one cousin, worth $30 million, received the inheritance — due to an ‘unexpected surprise’

“On the subject of mothers, listen to your own. If you can rent out your home, pay the mortgage and wait for the value to increase, do that.”


MarketWatch illustration

Dear Wife & Mother,

The longer you support your two adult sons, the longer they will lean on you and need you as their personal ATM. You’ve brought them over the finish line, and then some. You raised them, educated them, and fed and clothed and housed them. Now you are paying for their electricity and other bills. It’s time for your sons to stand on their own two feet and, as my Irish mother would say, cut their cloth according to its measure.

On the subject of mothers, listen to your own. If you can rent out your home, pay the mortgage and wait for the value to increase, do that. Your mother works in real estate and knows what she’s talking about. Real estate, in an ideal world, is a long-term game. It’s time for your sons to downsize to a small apartment, and experience the joys of paying their own way and standing on their own two feet. You need to cut the cord.

Act with integrity and intention. The best way to make a big move — and this is probably as big a move emotionally as it is financially — is to prepare. Sit down with your sons and an independent financial adviser, and do a forensic accounting of their income and expenditure and where they spend their money. I can almost guarantee you that their subsidized lifestyle lends itself to spending money in areas where they could easily cut back.

There is an underlying feeling of guilt in your letter. Have you done enough? Yes. Should you do more? No, you have done plenty, and you’re now putting your sons before your own financial peace of mind and retirement. Does it make you a bad person, or an unfeeling one, if you decide to cut them off? Of course not. Quite the contrary: You can lead by example by showing them what it means to make tough decisions and stick to them.

When you have accounted for your sons’ income and expenditure, look at rentals in your neighborhood or adjoining neighborhoods, if need be. The aim is for them to start taking responsibility for themselves. They don’t need a two-bedroom apartment. They can live in a one-bedroom condo and take turns sleeping on the sofa bed. This is a rite of passage, and it teaches young people the value of money and what it means to take accountability for oneself.

The share of adult children in the U.S. living with their parents has steadily risen since the 1960s. In 2020, during the pandemic, one-third of children ages 18 to 34 lived with their parents as non-caregivers. Men and 18- to 24-year-olds, respectively, were more likely to live at home than women and 25- to 34-year-olds, according to a study distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Parents get support at home; kids get to experience a low-cost lifestyle.

But while the NBER found social benefits to living with adult children and that it does not necessarily delay, retirement, the benefits of providing your children with a head start by giving them somewhere to live start to decline when your ability to save for retirement is impeded, and you’re burning money supporting two households. This is also money you can put towards vacations and new cars, and building a future with your husband. You deserve to enjoy life and put yourself first for a change. Tell your sons, “You’re ready. I’m ready. I love you. Let’s do this.””

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

Previous columns by Quentin Fottrell:

‘She’s obsessed’: My mom moved into my house and refuses to move out. She has paid for repairs and appliances. What should I do?

My parents want to pay off my $200,000 mortgage, and move into my rental. They say I’ll owe my sister $100,000. Is this fair?

‘I hate the 9-to-5 grind’: I want more time with my newborn son. Should I give up my job and dip into my six-figure trust fund?



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#afford #paying #households #adult #sons #live #rentfree #house #pay #utilities #husbands #condo

Why investors should be wary of New Year ‘head fakes’ for this hot asset class

The first trading day of the New Year looks set to challenge the Santa Rally theory, with Dow futures down over 200 points as bond yields surge. An Apple downgrade may not have helped investor confidence.

This week will bring the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last meeting and important December jobs data.

“Data that comes in too hot will kill the idea of rate cuts starting as soon as March, and data that comes in too cold will kill the idea of a soft landing. It means Goldilocks must return from her Christmas trip to Aruba and appear this week,” says Michael Kramer, founder of Mott Capital Management.

Read: A stock investor’s guide to the first trading days of 2024

Onto our call of the day from MacroTourist blogger Kevin Muir, who sees a rally in small-cap stocks as one big theme for the coming year, though investors should beware of getting in too soon.

In a post, Muir draws on a 2021 observation from Raoul Paul, co-founder and CEO of Real Vision financial media platform, who posted on Twitter now X, at the time about the perils of piling into “head fakes” or new ideas in January.

Paul noted how hedge funds and asset managers start the new year with a clean investment slate, but then two weeks later start moving into so-called consensus Wall Street year-ahead trades. And once the rest of the investment world gets in, the trend reverses or corrects, and those managers get back to flat or have to start over.

Muir says given the Fed’s pivot away from monetary tightening at the end of 2023, small-caps will end up as stock leaders this year. A bull on that asset class, he flagged his readers to buy in early November and December.

After a tough year, the Russell 2000
RUT
rallied late in 2023 as it became clearer that Fed interest rate increases, particularly hard on smaller companies, were drawing to a close.

As per this Russell 2000 chart, Muir says he did get the timing right on that bullish call:

However, Muir says he’s concerned that the rally was mainly from “hedge fund covering,” and not a solid signal that the bear market for those stocks has ended.

One reason, he notes was that the stocks blasting higher at the end of 2023 were the most heavily shorted — he offers the Goldman Sach’s most-shorted index chart here:

MacroTourist

The chart is evidence of how hedge funds that got caught out when the Fed surprisingly guided toward interest rate cuts at the December meeting. Within a few hours of the Fed announcement, the Most-Short index had rallied 15%. But along with that, the ARKK Innovation ETF
ARKK
also shot higher, a red flag for Muir.

That short index is tightly correlated to ARKK and the Russell 2000 small-cap index, he said.

So says it’s possible the small-cap push was “just a hedge fund short-covering rally that will sag back down now that the buying has flamed out.” And based on Raoul Paul’s theory, it makes sense that hedge funds and other investors may be piling into the asset class.

Muir says he stands by his view that small-caps are cheap and deserving of gains. “However, if this small-cap rally is for real, then it can’t be led by crap. We can’t have the GS Rolling Most-Short leading the charge. We need quality small-cap stocks to rally,” he said.

So the correlation between broader small-cap indexes and the most-shorted index (also tightly correlated with ARKK) will have to break down.

“As a proxy for this index, and a hedge against my small-cap long position, I am shorting ARKK. So far, the short covering drove all these smaller capitalized stocks higher, but my bet is that an actual small-cap bull market will see much better differentiation, and that new small-cap leadership will emerge (and it won’t be ARKK),” he says.

The markets

U.S. stock index futures
ES00,
-0.67%

YM00,
-0.26%

NQ00,
-1.19%

are falling sharply as Treasury yields
BX:TMUBMUSD10Y

BX:TMUBMUSD02Y
climb. Gold
GC00,
+0.32%

is up, and oil
CL.1,
+0.14%

is up 2% after Iran sent warships to the Red Sea after the U.S. Navy sank some Houthi militia-backed boats. The Hang Seng
HK:HSI
fell 1.5% after weak China factory activity.

Key asset performance

Last

5d

1m

YTD

1y

S&P 500

4,769.83

0.32%

3.81%

24.23%

24.23%

Nasdaq Composite

15,011.35

0.12%

4.94%

43.42%

43.42%

10 year Treasury

3.933

3.28

-24.22

5.23

18.77

Gold

2,082.50

0.87%

1.67%

0.52%

13.79%

Oil

72.78

-0.97%

-0.70%

2.03%

-9.60%

Data: MarketWatch. Treasury yields change expressed in basis points.

The buzz

U.S. nonfarm payroll data for December is due Friday, with the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing report and minutes of the Dec. 12-13 Fed meeting both on Wednesday. Construction spending is due at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

Read: Health of U.S. labor market looms large on markets’ radar this coming week

Apple
AAPL,
-2.97%

is down 2% in premarket after Barclays’ analysts cut the iPhone maker to underweight from equal weight, on signs of weak iPhone 15 and other hardware sales.

Voyager Therapeutics stock
VYGR,
+29.74%

is up 32% after the biotech announced a licensing deal with Novartis unit Novartis Pharma
NOVN,
+0.99%
.

Joyy
YY,
-14.65%

is off 11% after Baidu
BIDU,
-3.40%

cancelled a $3.6 billion offer for the Singapore-based live-streaming platform.

Bitcoin
BTCUSD,
+4.23%

is at $45,447, a high not seen since April 2022, on ETF approval hopes.

Tesla
TSLA,
-0.55%

said it delivered 484,507 EVs in the fourth quarter, producing 494,989. Deliveries grew 83% to 1.81 million for 2023 as a whole. Tesla shares are slipping. Meanwhile, China’s BYD
002594,
-2.73%

sold 3.02 million electric vehicles in 2023, eclipsing Tesla a second-straight year.

Japan’s western coast was hit by several heavy earthquakes on New Year’s Day, leaving at least 30 people dead and more quakes could come. A collision between a Japan coast guard plane and a Japan Airlines flight that caught fire on the runway on Tuesday resulted in the deaths of five people.

Best of the web

This year, resolve to pack a ‘go bag’ to be ready for the next disaster: Here’s what to put in it

Why Suze Orman never goes out to dinner

Topless massages, cage fights and private flights: CEO mishaps of 2023

The chart

More on small-cap caution from Chris Kimble at See It Market. He points out that investors may be getting greedy as some big resistance levels approach for the Russell 2000:


See It Market

Top tickers

These were the top-searched tickers on MarketWatch as of 6 a.m.:

Ticker

Security name

TSLA,
-0.55%
Tesla

MARA,
+7.47%
Marathon Digital Holdings

NIO,
-5.79%
Nio

NVDA,
-3.27%
Nvidia

GME,
-1.14%
GameStop

AAPL,
-2.97%
Apple

AMC,
AMC Entertainment

COIN,
-2.62%
Coinbase GLobal

MULN,
-4.69%
Mullen Automotive

RIOT,
+5.69%
Riot Platforms

Random reads

New Year’s Eve in a Japanese cat bar.

Woman sues Hershey for $5 million over a faceless Reeses pumpkin.

Viral Burger King worker buys first home after crowdsourcing.

Need to Know starts early and is updated until the opening bell, but sign up here to get it delivered once to your email box. The emailed version will be sent out at about 7:30 a.m. Eastern.

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#investors #wary #Year #fakes #hot #asset #class