The Data Examiner 02/12/2023

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Change In Shipments Of Cardboard Boxes

Turns out that cardboard box you just body-slammed into a recycling bin also happens to be an interesting gauge of economic conditions. During the pandemic, a pivot in consumer demand from services to goods helped push box prices some 55%. Industry leaders adjusted production capacity to meet demand. Now, though, like boxes, the economy is lying flat, and less material appears to be needed. According to reporting from FreightWaves: In Q4, U.S. box shipments dropped 8.4%, the worst dip since the Great Recession, and ~20% of U.S. box production capacity was untouched, the most since Q1 2009. At 4.3 weeks, supply of the packaging material containerboard was unusually high last quarter, and boxboard saw its lowest operating capacity on record, per the American Forest & Paper Association.

What’s happened? In a recent call to investors, the Packaging Corporation of America said inflation, rising interest rates, a shift from goods back to services, and a cooler housing market have all dampened box demand. Good news is, despite the slump, the Packaging Corporation of America expects shipments for Q1 2023 to be 6% higher than the same period in 2019.

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Ticketmaster’s Growing Ticket Empire

Ticketmaster is having a huge year for ticket sales – and controversies. Over the weekend, 1.7k Bad Bunny fans were denied entry to his concert in Mexico City after Ticketmaster sold them “fake” tickets. The incident comes just weeks after fans endured extreme technical difficulties while trying to nab tickets for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour presale. Ticketmaster, by far the most dominant ticketing platform in the world, now faces a class-action lawsuit from Swift fans. The DOJ has opened a broad antitrust investigation of Ticketmaster parent Live Nation. But Ticketmaster has been scrutinized many times before without serious repercussions. Is Ticketmaster – and parent company Live Nation – too powerful? Or is the system set up to squeeze live music fans, no matter who challenges Ticketmaster?

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Slow And Steady Wins The Race

For a while there, many felt like Cathie Wood’s bold bet on a trendy group of disruptive tech companies was one of the best in recent investing memory. To be clear, it could be one day. Just not yet. In a trend pattern that very closely resembles the tortoise and the hare: If five years ago you had invested in Wood’s high-flying ARK Innovation ETF – which holds shares in pandemic darlings like Zoom and Teladoc Health, and at one point skyrocketed 300% – you would now be down on your investment. Wood’s fund invests heavily in growth stocks that jumped when interest rates and inflation were low. As the economic tides have turned, so has the fund. For comparison: If five years ago you had invested in Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, which owns steadier, profitable, “boring” businesses, you would now be up 59%. Wood seems unphased. She’s countered critics by emphasizing her focus on a long-term outlook, and has even predicted the price of bitcoin will hit $1m by 2030.

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Unusually Cold Temperatures In The U.S.

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Troubling Signal From Interest Rates

The Data Examiner – (Notable) Remarks:

** China’s pressure on Hollywood and its own entertainment industry has the potential to challenge the American film industry as the chief narrator of this next century. In considering the fight for the upcoming generation of hearts and minds, look beyond movie theaters in the U.S. and China. Look to all those places on the frontlines of the fight for democracy – starting with Taiwan. Top Gun: Maverick has made about $8 million in the country, a pittance for Paramount. But according to reports from auditoriums there, audiences in Taipei are greeting the Maverick bomber scene differently than in America and certainly China. They are bursting into applause. —- Erich Schwartzel, writer and author of Red Carpet

** We need a committee that will be focused not on the specific actions of this or that individual but on the broad social conditions that threaten to bring American democracy to its knees. —- David Brooks

** If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. —- Stephen King

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The Data Examiner – Bookkeeping:

** The percentage of U.S. workers who are members of a union is now at an all-time low of 10.1%, compared to a high of 20.1% in 1983. READ

** A 1920s diamond cross pendant once worn by Princess Diana sells for $202,492 at auction – to Kim Kardashian. READ

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Examiner – Readers Have Spoken:


We asked Examiner readers in all 50 of the United States and in 26 foreign countries for their thoughts. The Data Examiner readers have spoken.

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Every Bite Of Junk Food Increases The Risk Of Dying From Cancer

Eating junk food – which scientists often call ultra-processed foods – including sugary drinks, sliced bread, and ready-made meals may be increasing your risk of cancer with every bite. A new study warns that these foods are generally high in salt, fat, sugar, and contain artificial additives and can also lead to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. They are often cheaper, more convenient to buy, and heavily marketed in comparison to other, healthier options. Now, researchers say they can increase a person’s risk of death from cancer – especially among women. “The average person in the UK consumes more than half of their daily energy intake from ultra-processed foods. This is exceptionally high and concerning as ultra-processed foods are produced with industrially derived ingredients and often use food additives to adjust color, flavor, consistency, texture, or extend shelf life,” says study first author Dr. Kiara Chang from Imperial College London’s School of Public Health in a media release.

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