☕ I’m gonna be (5,000 points)

How the vocab of layoffs is changing...
February 12, 2024 View Online | Sign Up | Shop

Morning Brew


Good morning. We expect this email will find more of you in your PJs than usual, since 16.1 million employees are expected to take off work the day after the Super Bowl, according to the UKG Workforce Institute. In all, 14% of US employees plan to miss at least some work on "Super Sick Monday," including the NFL script writers, who just wrapped up one of their most memorable seasons ever and deserve some PTO.

Neal Freyman, Dave Lozo














*Stock data as of market close, cryptocurrency data as of 4:00am ET. Here's what these numbers mean.

  • Markets: With its record close on Friday, the S&P 500 accomplished something it hadn't done since 1972: rise in 14 out of the last 15 weeks. All three major indexes are coming off five straight winning weeks thanks to strong corporate earnings and optimism around the economy.
  • Stock spotlight: Verizon has started the year just fine, but it could swing to a loss in Q1 after paying Beyoncé for a full-minute Super Bowl ad. Following the spot, the superstar dropped two singles and announced a new album.


The S&P 500 enters its 5,000 era

Stonks meme Special Meme Fresh

When the bell rings to open the stock market this morning, it'll mark the first time the S&P 500, an index that tracks the largest companies in the US, begins the trading day above 5,000 points.

Why is 5,000 important? Besides the cool fact that "five thousand" contains no letter of the alphabet more than once, it's a symbolic milestone that reflects investors' jubilation over a US economy that has continued to expand even as interest rates have soared, defying the odds.

The latest surge has been dizzying, with the S&P rallying 20% from early November. The index has doubled since September 2017, when it was at 2,500.

Your stock portfolio is probably looking flush. The S&P 500 is the most widely tracked index in the world, and as of 2022, investors had ~$11.4 trillion in investments passively indexed to the S&P or funds that use it as a benchmark, per S&P Global.

AI fever has powered the rally

While the S&P contains 500 companies, it's really just seven huge tech stocks—the so-called "Magnificent Seven"—contributing most of the gains. These companies, which include Meta, Microsoft, and Nvidia, account for 29% of the total weighting of the index, and their sway has only increased as investors bet they'll emerge as the winners of the AI revolution.

  • But might it become the "Sensational Six"? Some traders are questioning whether Tesla should be dropped from the club since the EV-maker has slid 22% to start the year.

Big picture: The ripping stock market is beginning to leave its imprint on the real world. Tech employees seeing their stock awards surge in value have helped rejuvenate a moribund real estate market in Silicon Valley, with San Jose homes selling at the fastest pace of any major US metro. And more boomers appear to be comfortable enough with their retirement funds to clock out once and for all—thanks to a recent spike in retirements, the US has 2.7 million more retirees than predicted by the St. Louis Fed.—NF



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Tour de Super Bowl headlines

Chiefs celebrating Super Bowl victory Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The game: The Kansas City Chiefs cemented their status as the NFL's latest dynasty, defeating the San Francisco 49ers 25–22 in an overtime thriller. The Chiefs are the first team in nearly two decades to win back-to-back Super Bowls, and this is their third Super Bowl victory in the last five years. The question you'll likely hear for the next few days: Will Taylor Swift attend the victory parade?

The commercials: Dunkin' brand ambassador Ben Affleck delivered catnip to Massholes by recruiting Tom Brady and Matt Damon for a boy band named "the DunKings." Celebrities were everywhere, from a deadpanning Aubrey Plaza pitching Mountain Dew to Christopher Walken calling BMW "the real deal." Chinese e-commerce giant Temu aired multiple ads encouraging consumers to "shop like a billionaire," while Uber Eats revamped its star-studded commercial after it was criticized for joking about peanut allergies. And we're very excited for the Wicked movie.

The halftime show: Usher had everyone Googling "How old is Usher?" during the 45-year-old's kinetic halftime performance that brought millennials back to their high-school prom. Guests were plentiful—Alicia Keys, H.E.R., Jermaine Dupri, Lil Jon, and Ludacris joined him on stage—while there was more roller skating than expected.

The Nickelodeon broadcast: Was predictably awesome.


'Involuntary career events' are surging

George Clooney and Anna Kendrick in Up in the Air Up in the Air/Paramount Pictures

What's the book every corporate executive is reading these days? The thesaurus, as bosses hunt for synonyms of "you're fired" to ease the blow for their laid-off employees and avoid criticism online.

Companies are dropping the harsh-sounding "fired" from their vocabulary and replacing it with euphemisms like "involuntary career event" and "rightsizing," even though it doesn't change the outcome.

  • Citi described cutting 20,000 jobs in November as creating a "simplified operating model."
  • UPS said its 12,000 layoffs were an attempt to "fit our organization to our strategy."

Speaking to Bloomberg, Stanford professor Robert Sutton compared this use of soft language to "jargon monoxide," which is intended to assuage the person receiving the ax but may have the opposite effect.

A reaction to social media backlash. Of the tens of thousands of people laid off so far this year, some have filmed themselves receiving the bad news and posted the awkward conversation on social media, sending the TikTok hashtag #layoffs to nearly 400 million views. Former Cloudflare employee Brittany Pietsch's nine-minute video in which she was laid off went viral in January, an example of what companies are desperate to avoid when firing (or task-based income displacing) an employee.—DL




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The week ahead

Jon Stewart running into a wrestling ring WWE via Giphy

Stewart is back: Jon Stewart will return to The Daily Show on Comedy Central tonight after leaving the program in 2015. He's back on a part-time basis, hosting on Mondays through the presidential election.

Wall Street eyes earnings, inflation report: It's another big earnings week with Shopify, Coca-Cola, Airbnb, Coinbase, and Crocs among the companies scheduled to report. Investors will also be locked into tomorrow's consumer price index report, which is expected to show more good news about inflation and raise hopes of a Fed rate cut.

The third-largest democracy will choose a new president: Indonesia (pop. 274 million) heads to the polls on Wednesday. With millennials and Gen Z accounting for 56.5% of voters in Indonesia, the three presidential candidates have been using TikTok gimmicks to connect with the youths.

Valentine's Day is on Wednesday. Whether you're deeply in love or hopelessly alone, it's important to remember Valentine's Day remains the perfect excuse to eat a lot of chocolate. Galentine's Day, a holiday created by Leslie Knope on Parks and Rec to celebrate women's friendship, is the day before.

Everything else…

  • The next occupant of Rep. George Santos's former seat will be decided in a special election for New York's 3rd Congressional District on Tuesday.
  • Tiger Woods will announce… something today, most likely his new apparel line (based on this cryptic tweet).
  • Laissez les bons temps rouler—Mardi Gras is on Tuesday.
  • NBA All-Star weekend is coming up, with the slam dunk and three-point contests on Saturday and the game on Sunday.


Key performance indicators

Trump gesturing at a campaign event
Julia Nikhinson/AFP via Getty Images

Quote: "I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want."

GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump said on Saturday that, when he was president, he told leaders of NATO countries he would look the other way if Russia were to invade an ally he felt wasn't spending enough on defense. When Trump was in office in 2017, he was initially critical of the agreement's Article 5 clause, which states an attack on any NATO member will be treated as an attack against all members, before reversing course. But the US' commitment to its NATO allies will come into question again if Trump retakes the White House, particularly after his speech raised alarm on both sides of the Atlantic. The White House called Trump's comments "appalling and unhinged," and the head of NATO said his suggestion "undermines all of our security."

Stat: The world's largest human migration is in full swing as the Lunar New Year began on Saturday. With Chinese travelers projected to take a record 9 billion trips to head home and celebrate with their families, the country's vaunted rail network is being put to the test: On a single day last Wednesday, 13.1 million people traveled on China's national railway system, nearly half of Amtrak's total ridership for the entirety of last year.

Read: We're not eating enough bacon, and that's a problem for the economy. (Wall Street Journal)


What else is brewing

  • President Biden warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against a planned ground offensive in Rafah without a plan to protect civilians. Egypt said it would suspend its 45-year peace treaty with Israel should Israeli troops push into the southern Gazan city, where more than 1 million Palestinians are sheltering.
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was taken to the hospital yesterday for a bladder issue and has transferred powers to his deputy, the Pentagon said. Austin was criticized for not informing the White House of a hospitalization last month.
  • Jailed former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan gave an AI-generated "victory speech" after his party's shocking success in elections they've accused of being rigged. The outcome has created a chaotic power vacuum in Pakistan.
  • Kelvin Kiptum, the 24-year-old who holds the world record for the men's marathon, died in a car crash in his home country of Kenya, along with his coach.
  • A crowd destroyed and set ablaze a driverless Waymo taxi in San Francisco on Saturday night.
  • Ivory Coast defeated Nigeria to win the Africa Cup of Nations on home soil.


Monday to-do list image

Watch: On the 100th anniversary of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," check out the storyline it received it in Fantasia 2000.

Life tip: Why you should choose process goals over outcome-based goals.

Listen: Grow your musical universe in the mixtape garden.

Look: The FAA's aviation maps are a masterclass in information design.

From numbers to narratives: See how CFOs are using data storytelling to drive successful outcomes.


The puzzle section

Turntable: With football season done and dusted, you'll have a lot more of your brain freed up for word games. Play today's Turntable here.

Presidential birthplace trivia

On this day in 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky, and he's the only president to have been born in that state to this day.

In this quiz, we'll give you the list of the states where the most presidents were born, but with one left blank. Can you figure out which state it is?

Two: North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont

Four: Massachusetts

Five: New York

Seven: ______

Eight: Virginia


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Word of the Day

Today's Word of the Day is: assuage, which means "to lessen the intensity of (something that pains or distresses)." Thanks to Delia from El Paso, Texas, and five others for the suggestion. Apologies to everyone who thought the Word of the Day was moribund.

Submit another Word of the Day here.

✢ A Note From EnergyX

Disclosure: This is a paid advertisement for EnergyX's Regulation A+ Offering. Please read the offering circular at https://invest.energyx.com/.


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