Numlock News: July 5, 2019 • Memory, Tarantino, Swimming Pools
By Walt Hickey
Typically, fires in businesses are understood to be a negative situation, but apparently the production of computer memory operates by the same principles as The Producers because Wester Digital saw its shares pop 5 percent after a fire in one of its production facilities knocked out 6 exabytes of production capacity for September — roughly half that month’s production. The reason is there’s a serious glut in the memory market, with the spot price for 256 gigabytes of memory down from $9.29 in the third quarter of 2017 to $2.41 in the first quarter of 2019, with a projection of $1.99 in the second quarter. So while it’s a bummer that the factory caught on fire, the resulting scarcity could pull the pricing out of the death spiral.
A new survey from Nielsen found that the average American takes 7.4 minutes to make a selection on a streaming service. Younger adults are either choosier or at least more willing to wait and see if they can’t find some sort of diamond in the rough to salvage a night in, with adults aged 18 to 34 taking on average 9.4 minutes to make a selection. Furthermore, the study found that 21 percent of streaming service viewers just give up, unable to find a suitable program or unwilling to lower their standards any further to consume the latest Netflix Original.
It’s a bad time for the pool business. There were 75,000 new swimming pools installed in the U.S. in 2017, only slightly recovered from the 54,000 installed in 2009, the worst recession-era year for the business. That is down from 129,000 installations in 2008, when I think we can all agree that we were maybe overdoing it a bit. But things are getting worse, with pool installation and repair actually dipping 4.6 percent this year.
Amazon, obviously, is the online shopping juggernaut, but America’s largest brick and mortar retailer has spent an absurd amount of money to guarantee they’re not left out of the fun. In 2016, Amazon accounted for 32 percent of online sales, while today they account for 38 percent. Meanwhile, Walmart has doubled their share from 2.6 percent three years ago to 4.7 percent today. And while that is hardly market domination, it’s certainly finding a way to stay in the game.
In other corporate fire-related news, 1.4 percent of Beam Suntory’s bourbon in Kentucky went up in smoke, with a fire claiming 45,000 barrels of Jim Beam. The company operates 126 warehouses in Kentucky containing 3.3 million barrels of the good stuff, and given that the company can make somewhere between 150 and 210 bottles per barrel that sell for $15 to $35, we’re looking at $90 million to $300 million in bourbon that got a little too smokey for even the most peaty palate. The larger-than-normal angel’s share was insured, so it’s not the end of the world.
About 32 billion to 50 billion tonnes of sand and gravel are used globally each year, but it’s worth noting that sand is not exactly a super renewable resource. The pace of natural renewal — basically, the rate at which erosion makes sand — is way less than the pace at which its used for concrete, glass and electronics. While sand goes for about $10 per tonne now, by 2100 it could very well double in price. Desert sands are too smooth to be of use, and the angular sand useful for industrial purposes comes mostly from rivers, the extraction of which has unfortunate ecological impacts. Some of this sand mining is off the books: from 2006 to 2016, less than 4 percent of the 80 million tonnes Singapore imported from Cambodia was confirmed by Cambodia as being legitimately exported.
Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is tracking to a $30 million opening weekend, in line with the $30.1 million Django Unchained made in December 2012, but less than the $38.1 million hauled in by Inglorious Basterds in 2009. Some forecasters are eyeing an even higher opening weekend, with the Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio two-hander plausibly opening to $50 million.
In last week’s paid subscriber special, I spoke to Adam Chandler, the author of the new book Drive Thru Dreams: A Journey Through the Heart of America's Fast-Food Kingdom, and we had a great chat about fast food’s place in American society
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