Numlock News: May 5, 2023 • Counterfeits, Guardians, Robusta
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
There is colossal industry built around the demonstration, extraction and sale of the genetic material of horses, a behemoth that hosts occasional promotional events called “horse races.” Last year, $12 billion was wagered on horse races in the United States, which is down from $15 billion in 2002 but still a lot of money. Right now, for the owners, the real money is in the breeding, so champion horses race less and stud longer than their forebears. Whirlaway, which won the Triple Crown in 1941, made 60 starts in his career, and Secretariat, which won in 1973, made 21 starts. The most recent two Triple Crown winners raced far less: American Pharoah had 11 starts, and Justify had just six. The purses to be won simply pale in comparison to the stud fees; one horse named Flightline was undefeated in six races to earn $4.5 million, but made the same amount of money for its owners in 11 days in the breeding shed. Although, that’s only the second-best outcome that can happen from a product of centuries of overly selective breeding with brief relevance and a fortune on the line; the best outcome is presumably getting a Coronation tomorrow.
Production of robusta coffee — the kind that goes into instant coffee — fell 7 percent last year in Vietnam, to 1.67 million tons. The market for robusta has been growing as consumers get cost-conscious and suppliers of arabica get pinched by climate change. One key reason for the decline of robusta in Vietnam was high demand for durians, which has been a very profitable transition for many. Futures for robusta were up 36 percent this year, the highest level in a decade, at $2,455 a ton. Vietnam’s shipped 1.16 million tons of coffee so far in the first seven months of the season.
The number of children aged 14 or younger in Japan hit 14.35 million as of April 1, down 300,000 year over year and a record low after 42 consecutive years of decline in child population. Right now children under the age of 14 make up just 11.5 percent of the Japanese population, the lowest figure since the beginning of when comparable data was first available. That’s also the lowest ratio of any of the 36 countries in the world with over 40 million people in them, with South Korea (11.6 percent) and Italy (12.4 percent) just a notch above.
American streaming platforms are dominant in Southeast Asia, but are facing renewed competition from Chinese streaming services, particularly on price. Netflix accounts for 42 percent of premium video viewing time across Southeast Asia, while Disney+ is the fastest growing platform in the region. Chinese platforms are a $1.32 billion and growing business in Southeast Asia, with platforms like iQiyi and WeTV entering the market in 2019. The competition is on: In Thailand, Netflix is down to 24 percent of the streaming market, while WeTV is up to 22 percent. In Indonesia, the $4.42 per month Netflix charges is considerably more than the 67 cents per month iQiyi asks.
The Federal Trade Commission will update the “Green Guides” it maintains to clarify language about when advertising touting the alleged environmental accomplishments of a given brand violates federal law about false advertising. For years, environmental groups have argued that fossil fuel companies, consumer packaged goods and food producers have developed pointless terms to describe futile initiatives in colossal ad campaigns in order to come off as a positive force environmentally without meaningfully changing their actual business, and an update to the Green Guides could address what kind of claims cross the line. The five largest oil companies have spent $3.6 billion on “reputation-building advertising” over the past 30 years, and a Harvard study found some manner of greenwashing in 72 percent of oil and gas companies’ social media posts.
Shortly after the development of “goods” and “services” there was rather promptly the invention of “premium goods” and “premium services.” Almost immediately after, we got the creation of something really special: the counterfeit premium good. Whether it’s copper ingots or Birkin bags, counterfeits have always been among us, but lately when it comes to handbags the fakes have become almost impossible to discern on sight alone, and it’s causing panic among fashion houses and the people who buy them. U.S. officials seized over 300,000 fake handbags and wallets in 2022, but the realities of import markets are that authorities can only inspect under 5 percent of what comes in, putting the odds in the counterfeiter’s favor. Increasingly the counterfeit bag makers will try to source the very same materials that the genuine article does, forming brands of their own, like 187 Factory, known for their Chanel fakes.
The third Guardians of the Galaxy film is out this weekend, with current projections putting its opening weekend at around $120 million domestically. That’s ahead of the $94.2 million opening of the first film but behind the $146 million opening of the second film, though producers think the film’s going to rack up solid word of mouth. One unknown for its ultimate box office is China, which delivered $86.3 million and $100.7 million to the first and second films, respectively. While Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 did manage to score a release — no easy feat — it’ll be up against Born To Fly, which opened great last weekend.
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