☕️ Promising pill

Hollywood workers are behind the scenes no more...
October 02, 2021 View Online | Sign Up

Daily Brew

The Motley Fool

Good morning. Do you know what it feels like to have your whole squad roll up to Chipotle in Morning Brew joggers and you're wearing plain ol' unbranded sweatpants? Don't find out.

You can snag your Brew joggers by referring five people to the newsletter, but this is the final time we'll mention it—the giveaway ends tomorrow and won't come back for an entire year.

Get your joggers before it's too late. Then, have a gr8 weekend.

Jamie Wilde, Neal Freyman, Matty Merritt

MARKETS

Nasdaq

14,566.70

S&P

4,357.04

Dow

34,326.46

10-Year

1.463%

Bitcoin

$48,209.04

Merck

$81.40

*Stock data as of market close, cryptocurrency data as of 5:00pm ET. Here's what these numbers mean.

  • Markets: Great start to Q4, everyone. The Nasdaq snapped its 5-day losing streak and even bitcoin popped off. Exciting data from Merck's Covid antiviral pills sent the drugmaker and other "reopening" stocks higher.
  • Economy: A measure of inflation watched by the Fed increased the most in 30 years in August. US officials have stressed that higher inflation is a short-term result of pandemic supply chain imbalances, but higher prices have lasted longer than initially predicted.

ENTERTAINMENT

Trouble in La La Land

A sign says "lights camera strike"

Francis Scialabba

60,000 of Hollywood's behind-the-scenes workers, including camera operators, script coordinators, and makeup artists, could soon go on strike, halting much of the movie and TV production that had resumed after a long pandemic shutdown.

The International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) called for the vote Sept. 20, after conversations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP)— which represents big studios and streamers alike—broke down.

Voting took place yesterday, and Variety reported that workers are overwhelmingly expected to vote in favor of striking.

What do they want?

Higher wages from streaming companies, for one thing. A 2009 agreement allowed streaming services with fewer than 20 million subscribers to pay workers lower-than-standard wages. It was intended to help streaming become more popular at the end of the Blockbuster era, but it's persisted to this day, when new services are ramping up the pace of content production.

They're also demanding shorter work days. Grueling 14+ hour days are the norm for behind the scenes crew in the entertainment industry, with as little as eight hours before the next shift. New terms would require at least 10-hour "turnarounds" to let workers commute and sleep on weekdays, and 54 hours on weekends.

Everyone's feeling the need to weigh in. Ben Stiller, Seth Rogen, and other actors expressed their support for the workers they couldn't be successful without. 119 members of Congress signed a letter yesterday pleading with the warring parties to "reach a consensus agreement" because "a strike would dramatically disrupt the industry, the economy, and the communities" the legislators represent.

Big picture: Workers vs. entertainment companies has become a hotter debate in Hollywood than the acceptable circumference of sun hats. On Thursday, Scarlett Johannson resolved her high-profile dispute with Disney over her earnings from Black Widow.

But if ScarJo was the frying pan, this is the fire. This strike would be the first among behind-the-scenes workers since 1945 and far bigger than the 2007–2008 strike of 12,000 screenwriters.—JW

        

COVID

Merck's Jagged Little Covid Pill

Merck's antiviral Covid pill

Merck

Merck's antiviral pill for Covid, molnupiravir, cuts the risk of hospitalization or death in half, according to results from a late-stage trial. That's a super result—so good that an independent committee of scientists said, "We've seen enough," and stopped the trial to allow the company to apply for authorization from the FDA.

If authorized, this antiviral drug, developed in partnership with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, would be the first oral antiviral medication available for Covid-19. Scientists say these pills are crucial in the fight to keep coronavirus patients from overwhelming hospitals.

Other treatments for Covid-19 do exist. Known as monoclonal antibody treatments, they are effective at reducing severe health risks, but cost $$$ and are more complex since they are typically given intravenously. Pills you pop in your mouth offer a cheaper, more convenient way to keep people out of the hospital from Covid. For example, Merck's drug is intended to be taken twice daily for five days for people recently diagnosed with Covid.

Zoom out: Other drugmakers, like Pfizer and Roche, are also testing antiviral pills. We'll likely have results from their trials before the end of the year.—NF

        

GOVERNMENT

The Postal Service's Bold New Strategy

Nathan For You meme that reads "The plan? Increase revenue by offering worse service.

Oct. 1 didn't just mark the first day you were allowed to play Hocus Pocus on repeat. It was the start of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's new 10-year plan to get the USPS out of the red, which is expected to make the mail more expensive and take longer to deliver.

Here's the plan:

  • More road trips. The Postal Service is cutting the share of mail it delivers via airplane from 20% to 12%, meaning the 3-day delivery guarantee for your letters will be updated to a 2–5 day range. You can see how your neighborhood will be affected here.
  • Price surges. Costs for services like Priority Mail could run up to $5 more during the holiday season (Oct. 3–Dec. 26). And even after the holidays, prices for most mail services will stay elevated.

Bottom line: The Postal Service already has $188 billion in liabilities and is expected to lose an additional $160 billion in the next 10 years if DeJoy's cost-cutting measures can't turn things around.—MM

        

SPONSORED BY THE MOTLEY FOOL

What Are These Bills Doing Here?

The Motley Fool

Something's amiss...we keep finding dollar bills scattered around, like the ones above, which somehow scattered in exactly the shape of a dollar sign. 

There's only one explanation for all that money flying around: People are getting wind of The Motley Fool's "All In" Stock Buy Alert. On average, stocks selected for the "All In" signal have returned about 629%, blowing the S&P 500 into next weekend (or beating it by almost 5x, however you want to put it). 

You can go All In, too. The Fool just issued another All In alert—which they've only done 93 times in their history. 

But extraordinary stocks call for drastic measures. This one's a tiny internet company right in the middle of the advertising market, which is 10x bigger than the online streaming industry. 

Learn more about The Motley Fool's All In stock pick here

GRAB BAG

Key Performace Indicators

Tesla parked in a driveway

Sigrid Harms/picture alliance via Getty Images

Stat: Battery electric vehicles accounted for 77.5% of new car sales in Norway in September, up from 61.5% last year. Tesla's Model Y was the No. 1 selling vehicle, followed by Tesla's Model 3. Maybe Elon Musk should name his next child Oslo?

Quote: "We want to end this pandemic. We are all exhausted by it."

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said yesterday that all elementary through high school students will need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 once vaccines are fully approved for kids. It's a first-of-its-kind policy in the US.

Read: Maybe Russian microwave beams aren't causing Havana syndrome? (BuzzFeed News).

        

MONEY

Venezuela's Hollow New Currency

A man holds Bolivar bills a street market in Caracas' Catia neighborhood, on April 6, 2021, amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

PEDRO RANCES MATTEY / Contributor via Getty Images

Venezuela's government introduced a brand-new form of currency yesterday that it's calling the "digital bolívar" with six fewer zeroes than previous notes.

Slight problem. This new currency is not actually "digital," no one has been able to get their hands on it, and even if they could, it wouldn't really solve anything. This is the third time Venezuela's leaders have lopped off some zeroes on its currency in an attempt to address the country's hyperinflation.

  • Venezuela's rate of inflation will reach 5,500% by the end of the year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Ultimately, the only thing the move will really accomplish is simplifying everyone's math. Current payment systems and businesses couldn't handle the number of zeroes on previous notes.—MM

        

WHAT ELSE IS BREWING

  • Ozy Media is shutting down less than a week after a NYT report detailed a history of sketchy (if not downright illegal) business practices. That was fast.
  • PwC is allowing 40,000 of its US employees to work remotely indefinitely, the first of the "Big Four" accounting firms to pivot to remote work so drastically.
  • Google is scrapping its plan to offer bank accounts directly to its users.
  • Today in higher prices: Coal prices reached their highest level on record amid the global energy crunch. And lumber prices (remember them?) are back up 40% from late August.
  • The National Women's Soccer League canceled all of its matches this weekend following allegations that a coach, the now-fired Paul Riley, sexually coerced players.

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Weekend conversation starters:

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Written by Neal Freyman, Jamie Wilde, and Matty Merritt

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