Everything You Need To Know About The Markets Today

Everything You Need To Know About The Markets Today

Markets in Asia struggled today to get any traction following yesterday’s lackluster markets in the US and the weakening data coming out of Europe. The European equity markets are mostly in the green (albeit only slightly) with the exception of the FTSE 100 which is slightly down as of mid-day trading.

The beleaguered Hong Kong stock exchange got a shot in the arm today as the initial public offering of AB InBev’s Asia Pacific business – Budweiser Brewing Company APAC Ltd (1876.HK) – raised $5 billion, the second largest IPO of the year behind Uber’s (UBER) $8.1 billion in May. The company had initially looked to raise closer to $10 billion two months ago but was forced to put the IPO on hold after investors balked at the price. That seems to be a growing trend these days.

Major events for the day will be… READ MORE HERE

Don’t get giddy as self-driving cars go for a vote next week

Don’t get giddy as self-driving cars go for a vote next week

Over the years, we’ve seen the positive as well as the negative impact of regulatory mandates. Given our Aging of the Population theme, we suspect there is growing demand to be had for the Disruptive Technology that is self-driving cars. We also see the technology changing retail and grocery as well. While some may get a tad giddy as the House goes to vote on a bill that allows for more testing of self-driving cars, we’d caution that

While some may get a tad giddy as the House goes to vote on a bill that allows for more testing of self-driving cars, we’d caution that past the House vote, the Senate remains, and again this is all for testing. A step in the right direction, but going from testing to market with a viable and affordable service… odds are that is going to take time.

House lawmakers are set to vote as soon as Wednesday on a bill that would allow the likes of Ford, Google and Uber to test more self-driving cars on U.S. roads.

The bill, called the SELF DRIVE Act, would permit automakers and tech giants to obtain exceptions to federal safety rules — the official U.S. standards that govern everything from steering wheels to seat belts — so that they can test as many as 100,000 experimental vehicles over time.“

With the SELF DRIVE Act coming to the House floor, we are beginning to unlock the full potential of self-driving cars to make roads safer, create new economic opportunities, and help seniors and those with disabilities live more independently,” said Reps. Greg Walden and Bob Latta, two Republican lawmakers leading the effort, in a statement today.

Source: The U.S. House is set to vote next week on a major bill regulating self-driving cars – Recode

With 2017 Poised to be the Year of Ransomware, More Cyber Spending is on the Way

With 2017 Poised to be the Year of Ransomware, More Cyber Spending is on the Way

With headlines swirling following the WannaCry attack that hit more than 230,000 computers across more than 150 countries in just 48 hours, on this episode of Cocktail investing we spoke with Yong-Gon Chon, CEO of cyber security company Focal Point to get his insights on that attack, and why ransomware will be the cyber threat in 2017. Before we get into that Safety & Security conversation, Tematica’s investing mixologists, Chris Versace and Lenore Hawkins broke down last week’s economic and market data as well as the latest relevant political events. With all the controversy in D.C., there was a lot to discuss concerning the likelihood that the Trump Bump, which was based on assumptions around tax reform, regulatory roll-back, and infrastructure spending is evolving into the Trump Slump as investors realize the anticipated timeline for such was decidedly too aggressive. With mid-term elections looming, we expect the Trump opposition will be emboldened by the controversy surrounding the administration and will put in best efforts to appeal to their constituents. For the market, it’s another reason to see the Trump agenda likely slipping into late 2017-early 2018, and that realization is likely to weigh on robust GDP and earnings expectations for the balance of 2017.

The markets on May 17th suffered their biggest losses in 2017, with the Nasdaq taking the biggest one-day hit since Brexit, as the turmoil in Washington dampens investors’ appetite for risk while raising questions over GDP and earnings growth. While some Fed banks are calling for 2Q 2017 GDP as high as 4.1 percent (quite a jump from 1Q 2017’s 0.7 percent!), the data we’re seeing suggests something far slower. We continue to think there is more downside risk to be had in GDP expectations for the balance of 2017, and the latest Trump snafu is only likely to push out team Trump’s reforms and other stimulative efforts into 2018. If 2Q growth is driven in large part by inventory build, which is what the data is telling us, expect the second half to be significantly weaker than the mainstream financial media would lead you to believe.

While the global financial impact of the WannaCry ransomware attack may have been lower than some other high profile attacks such as ILOVEYOU and MyDoom, the speed at which it moved was profound. We spoke with Yong-Gon Chon, CEO of Focal Point Data Risk about the incident to get some of the perspective and insight the company shares with its c-suite and Board level customers. While many are focusing on WannaCry, Yong-Gon shares that as evidenced by recent content hijackings of Disney (DIS) and Netflix (NFLX), ransomware is poised to be the cyber threat of 2017. Those most likely to be targeted are those organizations that prioritize uptime and whose businesses tend to operate around the clock, making backups and software updates extremely challenging.

While in the past IP addresses may have been scanned once every four to five hours, in today’s increasingly Connected Society, IP addresses are scanned one to ten times every second. As consumers and businesses in the developed and emerging economies increasingly adopt the cloud and other aspects of Connected Society investing theme, we are seeing an explosion in the amount of data as more and more of our lives are evolving into data-generating activities. From wearables to appliances to autos, our homes, offices, clothing and accessories are becoming sources of data that goes into the cloud. With the Rise of the New Middle Class in emerging markets, we are seeing the number of households participating in this datafication grow dramatically, exposing new vulnerabilities along the way. That increasingly global pain point is fodder particularly for cyber security companies, such as Fortinet (FTNT), Splunk (SPLK) and Cisco Systems (CSCO) that are a part of our Safety & Security investing theme.

During our conversation with Yong Gon we learned that companies need to understand that breaches must be viewed as inevitable in today’s Connected Society, network boundaries are essentially a thing of the past. Security can no longer about preventing nefarious actors from gaining entrance, but rather is now about managing what happens once a company’s network has been invaded. From a sector perspective, with all the regulation and reporting requirements in financial services, many of these firms are leading the way in how to best deal with such breached.Uber

For investors who want to understand the potential impact of cybercrime, Yong-Gon Chon suggests looking at how much data a company is generating and how the company is managing the growth of that data, with companies such as Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) and Uber examples of heavy generators. Investors need to look at a company’s cyber risk as a function of the magnitude of its data generation and the company’s level of maturity in addressing that risk. By comparison, companies not affected by attacks such as WannaCry need to be asking themselves why didn’t they get hit? Was it luck or did we do something right? If so, what did we do right and what is the scope of protection we have given what we’ve learned about the latest attack strategies?

We also learned about the new efforts underway globally to develop attribution of cyber threats so as to differentiate between those threats from professional cyber criminals versus the capricious tech savant engaging in ill-advised boundary exploration. Along with this shift is also a change in the boardroom, where cybersecurity is viewed in the context of its potential impact on the business, rather than as a function of a company’s IT department.

One thing we can be assured of is that hackers are watching each other and the good ones are learning what makes attacks fail and where organizations are weakest. As the Connected Society permeates more and more of our lives, these risks become more pernicious and their prevention more relevant to our everyday lives. The bottom line is we are likely to see greater cyber security spending in preventative measures as well cyber consulting as those responsibilities become a growing focus of both the c-suite and board room.

Companies mentioned on the Podcast

  • Amazon.com (AMZN)
  • Apple (AAPL)
  • CVS Health (CVS)
  • Disney (DIS)
  • Facebook (FB)
  • Focal Point
  • JC Penny Co (JCP)
  • Kohl’s (KSS)
  • Macy’s (M)
  • Microsoft (MSFT)
  • Netflix (NFLX)
  • Nordstrom (JWN)
  • TJX Companies (TJX)
  • Twitter (TWTR)
  • Uber
  • United Parcel Service (UPS)
  • Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA)

Resources for this podcast:

Buffett: Connecting the Creative Destruction Dots of Driverless Cars

Buffett: Connecting the Creative Destruction Dots of Driverless Cars

 

We continue to hear more and more about the potential for self-driving cars, which falls into our Disruptive Technology investing theme, but has implications across our Connected Society, Aging of the Population and other themes as well. Even the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett lamented on the disruption to be had when self-driving cars and trucks go from initial launch to mainstream —

“Driverless trucks are a lot more of a threat than an opportunity to Burlington Northern.”

 

“Autonomous vehicles, widespread, would hurt us if they spread to trucks, and they would hurt our auto insurance business. They may be a long way off. That will depend on experience in the first early months of the introduction. If they make the world safer, it will be a very good thing but it won’t be a good thing for auto insurers.”

 

 We appreciate Buffett’s connected the dots on this, and sharing his view on the creative destruction to be had when this Disruptive Technology takes hold. It’s poised to cause problems for more than just Uber, and offer opportunities to companies ranging from Amazon (AMZN) to JB Hunt Transportation (JBHT) and Ryder Systems (R).

Source: How Self-Driving Cars Could End Uber – WSJ

$100 Billion in Online Grocery Sales by 2025 Raises Competitive and Logistics Questions

$100 Billion in Online Grocery Sales by 2025 Raises Competitive and Logistics Questions

Each month it seems we get more data points that confirm the accelerating shift toward digital shopping. As we noted in a recent post,  non-store sales accounted for 19 percent of holiday shopping in 2016 vs. 17% in 2015, but the shift is moving way past holiday shopping. Amazon is moving into fashion, groceries and other verticals as it continues to collapse its time to customer. We’ve seen continued strength in what Nike and Under Armour call Direct to Consumer, and we suspect Kroger and Whole Foods are likely to see the way the tailwinds in grocery are blowing.

One of the lingering questions is how will all of these goods get to those who ordered them? United Parcel Service? FedEx? The US Post Office? Uber? Lyft or proprietary delivery services? Drones? Odds are there will be a partnering strategy as we doubt each retailer will want to develop their own national hub and spoke consumer facing logistics system.

While online sales make up a small fraction of the total market in the U.S., the market share is growing quickly. A new study from the Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen projects online grocery sales in the U.S. could grow tremendously in the next decade.By 2025, the report suggests that American consumers could be spending upwards of $100 billion on online grocery purchases, comprising some 20 percent of the total market share.

Source: Grocery Tracker: $100B By 2025 | PYMNTS.com

Voice Recognition Technology Hears Whispers of M&A

Voice Recognition Technology Hears Whispers of M&A

Earlier this month we had CES 2017 in Las Vegas, a techie’s mecca of new whiz-bang products set to hit the market, in some cases later this year, but in others in 2018 and beyond. A person tracking the CES trade shows over the years likely remembers the changes in inputs from clunky keyboards and standalone number pads to rollerball driven mice to laser based ones, which gave way to trackpads and touchscreen technology. Among the sea of announcements this year, there were a number that focused on one aspect of our Disruptive Technology investing theme that is shaping up to be the next big change in interface technology — voice recognition technology.

Over the years, there have been a number of fits and starts with voice technology dating all the way back to 1992 when Apple’s (AAPL) own “Casper” voice recognition system that then-CEO John Sculley debuted on “Good Morning America.” As the years have gone by and the technology has been further refined, we’ve seen more uses for voice recognition technology in a variety of applications and environments ranging from medical offices to interacting with a car’s infotainment system. As far back as 2004, Honda Motor’s (HMC) third generation Acura TL sported an Alpine-designed navigation system that accepted voice commands. No need to press the touchscreen while driving, just use voice commands, (at least that was the dream — but for those of us that tried to change the radio station and ended up switching the entire system over to Spanish, it wasn’t so useful!)

More recently with Siri from Apple, Cortana from Microsoft (MSFT), Google Assistant from Alphabet (GOOGL) and Alexa from Amazon (AMZN) we’ve seen voice recognition technology hit the tipping point. Each of those has come to the forefront in products such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home that house these virtual digital assistants (VDAs), but for now, one of the largest consumer-facing markets for voice interface technology has been the smartphone. Coming into 2016, market research and consulting firm Parks Associates found that nearly 40 percent of all smartphone owners use some sort of voice recognition software such as Siri or Google Now.

In 2016, the up and comer was Amazon, as sales of its Echo devices were up 9x year over year this past holiday season and “millions of Alexa devices sold worldwide this year.” If you’re a user of Amazon Echo like we are, then you know that each week more capabilities are being added to the Alexa app such as ordering a pizza from Dominos (DPZ), calling for an Uber, checking sports scores, shopping with your Amazon Prime account, hearing the local weather forecast and getting the latest news or perhaps some new cocktail recipes.

Not resting on its laurels, Amazon continues to expand Echo’s capabilities and announced that Prime members can voice-order their next meal through Amazon Restaurants on their Alexa-enabled devices including the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot. Once an order is placed, Amazon delivery partners deliver the food in one hour or less. Pretty cool so long as you have Amazon Restaurants operating in and around where you live. We’d point out that since you’re paying with your Prime account, which has a credit card on file, this also expands Amazon’s role in our Cashless Consumption investment theme as does Prime Now which lets Prime members in cities in which the service is available get deliveries in under two hours from Amazon as well as from local participating stores.

But we digress…

Virtual digital assistants cut across more than just smartphones and devices like Amazon Echo and the Google Home. According to a new report from market intelligence firm Tractica, while smartphone-based consumer VDAs are currently the best-known offerings, virtual assistant technologies are also beginning to emerge within other device types including smart watches, fitness trackers, PCs, smart home systems, and automobiles – hopefully, this time not switching us into Spanish.

We saw just that at CES 2017 with some landscape changing announcements for VDAs such as withAlphabet that had several announcements surrounding its Google Home product, including integration into upcoming Hyundai and Chrysler models; and acquiring Limes Audio, which focuses on voice communication systems, and will likely be additive to the company’s Google Home, Hangouts and other products. Microsoft also scored a win for Cortana with Nissan.

While those wins were impressive, the big VDA winner at CES was Amazon as it significantly expanded its Alexa footprint on deals with LG, Dish Network (DISH), Whirlpool (WHR), Huawei and Ford (F). In doing so Amazon has outflanked Alphabet, Microsoft and even Apple in the digital assistant market, but then who doesn’t find Siri’s utility subpar? To us, that’s another leg to the Amazon stool that offers more support to the share alongside the digital shopping/services, content, and Amazon Web Services businesses.

To be fair, Apple originally did not license out its Siri technology. It was only in June 2016 that Apple announced it would open the code behind Siri to third-party developers through an API, giving outside apps the ability to activate from Siri’s voice commands, and potentially endowing Siri with a wide range of new skills and datasets, potentially making a mistake similar to the one that originally cost Apple the Operating System market to Microsoft. Amazon, on the other hand, has been eager to bring other offerings onto its Alexa platform.

Tractica forecasts that unique active consumer VDA users will grow from 390 million in 2015 to a whopping 1.8 billion worldwide by the end of 2021 – Juaquin Phoenix’s Her is closer than you’d think!  During the same period, unique active enterprise VDA users will rise from 155 million in 2015 to 843 million by 2021.  The market intelligence firm forecasts that total VDA revenue will grow from $1.6 billion in 2015 to $15.8 billion in 2021.

In the past when we’ve seen new interface technologies come to market and move past their tipping point, we tended to see slowing demand for the older input modalities. Case in point, a new report from Technavio forecasts compound annual growth of just 3.63 percent for the global computing mouse market between 2016-2020. By comparison, Global Industry Analysts (GIA) expects the global market for multi-touch screens to reach $8 billion by 2020 up from $3.5 billion in 2013, driven by a combination of mobile computing and smart computing devices. For those who are less than fond of doing time calculations, that equates to a compound annual growth rate of 11 percent. We’d also point out that’s roughly half the expected VDA market in 2021.

One potential wrinkle in that forecast is the impact of VDAs. Per eMarketer, 31 percent of 14-17-year-olds and 23 percent of 18-34-year-olds regularly use a VDA.

Putting these two together, we could see slower growth for touch-based interfaces should VDA adoption take off. Looking at the recent wins by Amazon and Google, factoring in that Apple and Comcast (CMCSA) are favoring voice technology in Apple TV and XFINITY TV and growth in the smartphone market is stalling, there is reason to think the GIA forecast could be a tad robust, especially in the outer years.

Turning our investing gaze to companies that could be vulnerable should the GIA forecast prove to be somewhat aggressive, we find Synaptics (SYNA), whose tag line is “advancing the human interface,” and the “human machine interface” company that is Alps. Both of these companies compete in the smartphone, wearables, smart home, access control, automotive and healthcare markets — the very same markets that are ripe for voice technology adoption.

From a strategic and thematic perspective, one could see the logic in Synaptics and Alps looking to shore up their market position and customer base by expanding their technology offering to include voice interface. Given the head start by Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, and Facebook, while Synaptics and Alps could toil away on “made here” voice technology efforts, the time-to-market constraints would make acquiring a voice technology company far more practical.

Here’s the thing, we’ve already seen Alphabet acquire Limes Audio to improve its voice recognition capabilities. As anyone who has used Apple’s Siri knows, it’s far from perfect in voice recognition and voice to text. In our view, this means larger players could be sniffing around voice technology companies in the hopes of making their VDAs even smarter.

In many respects we’ve seen this before whenever a new disruptive technology takes hold alongside a new market opportunity — it pretty much resembles a game of M&A musical chairs as companies look to improve their competitive position. In our view, this means companies like Nuance Communications (NUAN), VoiceBox, SoundHound, and MindMeld among other voice technology companies could be in high demand.

Disclosure: Nuance Communications (NUAN) shares are on the Tematica Select List. Both Nuance Communications and Synaptics, Inc. (SYNA) reside in Tematica’s Thematic Index.

Why the On-Demand Economy Doesn’t Make the Thematic Cut

Why the On-Demand Economy Doesn’t Make the Thematic Cut

We keep hearing that thematic investing is gaining significant popularity in investing circles, especially when it comes to Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). For more than a decade, we’ve viewed the markets and economy through a thematic lens and have developed more than a dozen of our own investing themes that focus on several evolving landscapes. As such, we have some thoughts on this that build on chapters 4-8 in our book Cocktail Investing: Distilling Everyday Noise into Clear Investment Signals for Better Returns

One of the dangers that we’ve seen others make when attempting to look at the world thematically as we do, is that they often confuse a trend — or a “flash in the pan”  — for a sustainable shift that forces companies to respond. Examples include ETFs that invest solely in smartphones, social media or battery technologies. Aside from the question of whether there are enough companies poised to benefit from the thematic tailwind to power an ETF or other bundled security around the trend, the reality is that those are outcomes — smartphones, drones and battery technologies — are beneficiaries of the thematic shift, not the shift itself.

At Tematica Research, we have talked with several firms that are interested in incorporating Environmental, Social and Governance — or ESG — factors as part of their investment strategy. Some even have expressed the interest in developing an ETF based entirely on an ESG strategy alone. We see the merits of such an endeavor from a marketing aspect and can certainly understand the desire among socially conscious investors to ferret out companies that have adopted that strategy. But in our view and ESG strategy hacks a sustainable differentiator given that more and more companies are complying. In other words, if everyone is doing it, it’s not a differentiating theme that generates a competitive advantage that will provide investors with a significant beta from the market.

But there is a larger issue. A company’s compliance with an ESG movement is not likely to alter the long-term demand dynamics of an industry or company, even if certain businesses enjoy a short-term surge in revenues or increased investor interest based on a sense of goodwill.

For example, does the fact that Alphabet (GOOGL) targets using 100 percent renewable energy by 2018 alter the playing field or improve the competitive advantage of its core search and advertising business? Does it do either of those for YouTube?

No and no.

At the risk of offending those sensitive about their fitness acumen, it makes as much sense as investing in an ETF that only invests in companies with CEOs who wear fitness trackers. Make no mistake, our own Tematica Research Chief Macro Strategist Lenore Hawkins, a fitness tracker aficionado herself, would love to see more fitness trackers across the corporate landscape, but an ETF based on such a strategy means investing in companies across different industries with no cohesive tailwind powering their businesses, likely facing very different market forces that overshadow the impact of the one thing they have in common. To us, that misses one of the key tenants of thematic investing.

The result is a trend that is likely to be medium-lived, if not short lived. Said another way, it looks to us to be more like an investing fad, rather than a pronounced thematic driven shift that has legs.

Subscribers to our Tematica Investing newsletter know we are constantly turning over data points, looking for confirmation for our thematic lens, as well as early warning flags that a tailwind might be fading or worse, turning into a headwind. As we collect those data points, we mine the observations that bubble up to our frontal lobes and at times, ask if perhaps we have a new investing theme on our hands. Sometimes the answer is yes, but more often than not, the answer comes up “no”.

Now you’re in for a treat! Some behind the scenes action if you will on how we think about new themes and why one may not make the cut…

 

The On-Demand Economy:  Enough to become a new investing theme?

 Recently we received a question from a newsletter subscriber asking if the number of “on-demand” services and business emerging were enough to substantiate the addition of a new investment theme to go along with the other 17 themes we currently track.

By on-demand, we’re talking about those services where you can rent a car, (Lyft or Uber) or find private lodging (AirBnB) with the click of a button for only the time you need it rather than rent an apartment or studio for a week or month. It also refers to the many services that will deliver all the ingredients you need to prepare a gourmet meal in your own kitchen, such as the popular service Blue Apron or HelloFresh.

It was an interesting question because we have been debating this at Tematica Research for quite some time. We’re more than fans of On Demand music and streaming video services like those offered by Amazon (AMZN), Netflix (NFLX), Pandora (P), Spotify and Apple (AAPL).  Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that the real driver behind the on-demand economy is businesses stepping into fill the void created by a combination of multiple themes, rather than a new theme in of itself. Here’s what we mean . . .

Take the meal kit delivery services like Blue Apron, what’s driving the popularity of this service? We would argue that it’s not the fact that people like seeing their UPS driver more. Rather it is the result of underlying movement towards more healthy and natural foods that omit chemicals and preservatives — something we have discussed as the driver behind our Foods with Integrity theme — on top of a bigger Asset Light investment theme in which consumers and businesses outsource services, rather than accumulating assets and then performing the service themselves. The on-demand component of Blue Apron is not driving the theme, but is a beneficiary of what we call the thematic tailwind.

The challenge with the shift towards healthier cooking, that sits within our Foods with Integrity thematic, is the amount of work, and in many cases equipment, it takes to cook such foods — the shopping, the measuring, the cutting, special cooking utensils and preparation time, not to mention the cost. Recognizing this pain point, Blue Apron saw opportunity and consumers have flocked to it. As we see it, the meal delivery services are an enabler that addresses a pain point associated with our Foods with Integrity theme, rather than an independent theme unto itself.

There is also a clear element of the Connected Society investment theme behind these services, given how customers order the ingredients to prepare the meals – via an app or online – as well as our Cashless Consumption theme, given the method of payment does not involve cash or check and Asset Light whereby consumers pay for the end product, rather than investing in assets so that they can make it themselves. So that we are clear, the primary theme at play here is Foods with Integrity, but we love to see the added oomph when more than one theme is involved.

 

 Let’s look at Uber, the on-demand private taxi service. 

We’re big users of the service, particularly when traveling, and we love the ease of use. To us, while the service offered by Uber is very much On-Demand, from the customer perspective, it fits into our Asset Light theme, as it removes the need to own a car. If you think about, what’s?  the amount of time you spend using your car compared to the amount of time it spends parked at home, at work or in a parking lot? The monthly cost to own and maintain that vehicle vs. the actual number of hours it is used offers a convincing argument to embrace an Asset Light alternative like Uber.

We also like the payment experience — or the lack of an experience. We’re talking about having the ride fee automatically charged. No cash, no credit card swiping or inserting, no awkward “how much do I tip?” moments. It’s our Cashless Consumption theme in all of its glory, walking hand-in-hand with Asset Light — and the only thing better than a strong thematic tailwind behind a company is two!

The biggest users of the Uber and Lyft services, and the ones driving the firms’ valuations to stratospheric levels, are the Millennials who are opting to just “Uber “ around town — it’s become a verb — or use a car-sharing service like a ZipCar (ZIP) or the like.

Sure, Millennials have the reputation of being a more thrifty, frugal group compared to previous generations. But we have to wonder is it them being thrifty or just coming to grips with reality?

With crushing costs of college and student loans, as well as stagnant wage growth, many young workers are forced to cobble together part-time and contractor jobs rather than enjoying a full-time salaried position, so what choice do they have? Why buy a car and pay for it to sit there 95% of the time when you can just pay for it when you need it?

We call that the Cash-strapped Consumer theme meets Asset Light, and many businesses have also stepped in to service this rising demand for what has become known as the “sharing economy.”

 

Finally, what is the underlying function of all these on-demand services?

As we mentioned earlier, it’s the ability to connect and customize the services that consumers want through a smartphone app or desktop website, or from our thematic perspective, the Connected Society.

One of the key words in the previous sentence was “service.” According to data published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis in December 2015 and the World Bank, the service sector accounted for 78 percent of U.S. private-sector GDP in 2014 and service sector jobs made up more than 76 percent of U.S. private-sector employment in 2014 up from 72.7% in 2004. Since then, we’ve seen several thematic tailwinds ranging from Connected Society and Cash-strapped Consumer to Asset Light and Disruptive Technologies to Foods with Integrity that either on their own, or in combination, have fostered the growth of the US service sector. Given the strength of those tailwinds, we see the services sector driving a greater portion of the US economy. What this means is folks that have relied heavily on the US manufacturing economy to power their investing playbook might want to broaden that approach.

Now let’s tackle the thematic headwinds here

Headwinds involve those companies that are not able to capitalize on the thematic tailwind. A great example is how Dollar Shave Club beat Gillette, owned by Proctor & Gamble (PG), and Schick, owned by Edgewell Personal Care (EPC), by addressing the pain point of the ever-increasing cost of razor blades with online shopping. Boom — Cash-strapped Consumer meets Connected Society.

While Gillette has flirted with its own online shave club, the price of its razor are still significantly higher, and as far as we’ve been able to tell, Schick has no such offering. As Dollar Shave Club grew and expanded its product set past razors to other personal care products, Unilever (UL) stepped in and snapped it up for $1 billion.

Going back to the beginning and the impact of the food delivery services like Blue Apron — are we likely to see food companies build their own online shopping network? Most likely not, but they are likely to partner with online grocery ordering from Kroger (KR) and other such food retailers. That still doesn’t address the shift toward healthy, prepared meals and it’s requiring a major rethink among Tyson Foods (TF), Campbell Soup (CPB), The Hershey Company (HSY), General Mills (GIS) and many others. Fortunately, we’ve seen some of these companies take actions, such as Hershey buying Krave Pure Foods and Danone SA (DANOY) acquiring WhiteWave Foods, to better position themselves within the thematic slipstream.

The key takeaway from all of this is that a thematic tailwind can be thought of as a market shift that shapes and impacts consumer behavior, forcing companies to make fundamental changes to their business model to succeed. If they don’t, or for some reason can’t, odds are their business will suffer as they fly straight into an oncoming headwind.

Recall how long Kodak was the gold standard for family photographs, yet today it is nowhere to be seen, killed by forces that emerged completely from outside its industry. As digital cameras became ubiquitous with the advent of the smartphone and the cost of data transmission and storage continually fell, the capture and sharing of images was revolutionized. Kodak didn’t keep up, thinking that film would forever be the preferred medium, and paid the ultimate price.

As thematic investors, we want to own those companies with a thematic tailwind at their back — or maybe even two or three! — and avoid those that either seem oblivious to the headwind or won’t be able to reposition themselves, like a hiker who finds he or she has already gone way too far down the wrong path and is so utterly lost, needs to be helicoptered to safety.

Of course, when it comes to these “On-Demand Economy” darlings — Uber, Dollar Shave Club, Airbnb —few if any of them are publicly traded, which frustrates us so, since most of them are tapping into more than one thematic tailwind at once. If and when they do turn to the public markets for some added capital and we get a look into the economics of these business models, then we’ll also get to see the key performance metrics and financials behind these businesses.

In the meantime, stay tuned as we will be discussing more readily investable thematics next.

Where could Uber and GM partnering lead to?

Where could Uber and GM partnering lead to?

Uber’s business model is one that is centered in our Asset Lite investing theme, but add in it’s partnership with General Motors and it has even more disruptive potential for how people use cars. Implications abound, but let’s remember that most auto manufacturers are also working on @#$%^& and that would put all of this on steroids. More in the next issue of Tematica Insights.

Uber has announced that it will be teaming up with GM’s car-sharing company, Maven, allowing drivers to rent GM vehicles on a weekly basis in a 90-day pilot program to see how the arrangement works.

This is separate from, but similar to, GM’s Express Drive program, wherein the carmaker makes vehicles available to Lyft drivers on an all-in short-term rental basis when they lack their own vehicle to qualify for use with Lyft.

The pilot project with Uber is debuting in San Francisco, and will operate only in that city for the time being. Maven expanded its own services (which primarily focus on providing Zipcar-like short-term rentals to members) to San Francisco residents earlier this month.

Source: Uber and GM partner to offer drivers car sharing through Maven | TechCrunch

Food Network teaming with Instacart shows increasing reach of e-commerce 

Food Network teaming with Instacart shows increasing reach of e-commerce 

Following Amazon’s Prime Fresh and Walmart’s teaming with Uber and Lyft for grocery delivery, the intersection of Content is King and the Connected Society is driving a shift in where and how people buy groceries and ingredients. Much like other industry shaking events associated with the Connected Society, this will have a profound impact on both a direct and indirect basis.

xpansion of online fulfillment availability is giving retailers new avenues for selling goods via the Internet.Food Network is teaming up with Instacart to integrate the online grocery delivery service with the Recipe Box and Grocery List features available on FoodNetwork.com and Food.com. The offerings allow consumers to search for online recipes and then create and share shopping lists of the necessary ingredients.

Source: Commentary: Food Network offering shows increasing reach of e-commerce | Chain Store Age

Going after Amazon, Wal-Mart to test grocery delivery with Uber and Lyft 

Going after Amazon, Wal-Mart to test grocery delivery with Uber and Lyft 

As we wade deeper into the Connected Society, the largest US grocer better known as Wal-Mart teams with Asset-Lite companies Uber and Lyft to combat Amazon’s Prime Fresh grocery delivery. How long until Kroger, Whole Foods and the like get into the game? Perhaps its more than the mall that might be dead?

Wal-Mart Stores Inc will partner with ride hailing services Uber and Lyft to trial online grocery deliveries, as it looks to speed up shipment times and better compete with rivals like Amazon.com Inc

Online groceries are a $10.9 billion industry in the United States, and the market is expected to grow 9.6 percent annually through 2019, according to a December report by market research firm IbisWorld.

Source: Wal-Mart to test grocery delivery with Uber, Lyft | Reuters