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Today I took a survey in Catalan; it was the first one I've ever seen with the option "non-binary"!
I was taking a survey in Catalan (about linguistics). When I finished it, I saw that it was asking me my gender. I thought "Well, I will put 'other', as always". But then I saw that the options were male, female, non-binary and other! I felt so happy that I even said "Thanks for including non-binary identities" in the "other comments" section! Just wanted to share, because it's the first time I see the term "non-binary" in my mother tongue in an official or public place :)
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The morning alarm woke up Ghen. With an annoyed sigh, he stretched out his arm and silenced the foul-sounding chirps. Slowly sitting up in bed, he let out a deep yawn and got to his feet. Running a couple of chitinous fingers along his antennae to stimulate them to life, he made his bed and then went to his closet. Today was a work day, so he needed his suit. Once the pants were on, he stretched out his wings so that he could button up the shirt, then relaxing them once all the buttons were secured. Dressing for the day was done, now for the morning meal. Entering his kitchen, he took out the chilled leftovers of the evening meal last night and popped it into the radiator, first defrosting and then slightly cooking it. During that process, he also fished out a ceramic cup and placed it in his brewer, serving himself some synthesized caffeine. His idle thought led him to being amused that, when eaten directly off a plant, it has a concentration that could kill him three times over. But after going through some refinement and roasting, all it does is make him hyper. Once the meal was put together, his plate of heated leftovers and a cup of almost-piping-hot cup of Xia's, he took his time to enjoy it. His communicator vibrated. When he looked, he found it was from his boss. "Hello?" Ghen answered. "Ghen, the meeting's been moved up to a few minutes from now." His boss, Xkik, announced. "Apparently higher up has something important they want to say. We have a terminal ready for you, I'll message the login details." "Wha-, what's so important?" Ghen asked in bewilderment. "Did a water line rupture or something?" "No, nothing like that." Xkik replied with a slight chuckle. "It's actually about the rumors we've been hearing. That human corporation wanting to acquire us? That's what they're talking about." Ghen could feel everything inside his thorax drop to the floor. "That must mean it's true then, right? Did we get sold off by the Queen to this company then?" "Show up to the meeting and you'll get your answer." Xkik said simply. When he finished, Ghen got the notification on his communicator. There's the login details, allowing him to remotely attend the meeting. "They're about to start, hurry up." Once Xkik disconnected, Ghen worked fast to login and set up the remote viewing. Once everything was done, his screen started transmitting the meeting room. It was already packed. And off by the main board, he saw his answer. There was a human, resting against the wall on his two legs. Standing right in the center of everyone's view was the coordinator, Tizx, watching the clock periodically. As soon as the meeting's start time was reached, the coordinator began. "Alright everyone. I realize that this was rather short notice, so I want to say how appreciative I am that you made it. Now then, let's just get right to it. For some time now, many of you have been hearing rumors that a human corporation has been interested in us. Why? We never really knew. We're just an organization responsible for finding, extracting and providing water to the colony here all under the direction of the Queen herself. Well, as of now, I have the answer for you. Why don't I let Ryan say that?" Stepping back, Tizx motioned for the human, Ryan, to take over. With a nod, Ryan practically bounced over and then took the position. "Good morning to you all. I hope my Zazk is passable, heh. Anyways, the answer to those rumors, is yes. Terran Galactic Company is indeed interested in you all. Which now leads to me. I'm here to announce that, effective yesterday evening, this water company is now a subsidiary of Terran Galactic Company, under the name of Zilia Water Delivery." Many other sub-coordinators broke into hushed conversation, no doubt speaking their thoughts with each other about this move. Ghen could only wonder if this was even a good thing. What will the humans do? Will he still have his job? Will he have to learn how to deal with the ruthless humans? "Now, I am well aware this is quite the...uh, change." Ryan continued. "That's why I'm happy to inform you that, no, nothing negative or detrimental will happen to you. You just have new people to answer to. Operations will continue as normal, everybody here will still keep their jobs. The only real change any of you will personally experience is that Coordinator Tizx here will now report to someone else. On behalf of the Terran Galactic Company, we are extremely excited and are looking forward to working with you all. Thank you for your time." A week later. At least Ryan wasn't lying. After the initial shock wore off, things went back as they normally did. There were no terminations, no reductions in annual pay or anything. Nothing really changed. At least until this new meeting was called. Ghen was at the worksite this time, so he took his seat and watched as, once again, Ryan led the meeting. "Hello again, everyone!" He said cheerfully, his Zazk noticeably improved. "I hope I didn't end up looking like a liar, right? Everything's still normal, all that?" All the zazk in the room confirmed, providing comments to their pleasant surprise as well as lingering thoughts. "Awesome! Awesome." Ryan said jubilantly, his fleshy mouth revealing his bone-white teeth. "Now then, you're probably wondering why I'm here again, right? Well, I got another fantastic piece of news for you all! Two, actually. I'll start with the first: Zilia Water Delivery has just completed its IPO. The company is now publicly traded!" Ghen and the others voiced their confusion, having no idea what in the name of the Queen Ryan was talking about. What was Ryan talking about? What's an IPO? And why exactly is being publicly traded such a significant thing? "Oh, you guys don't know any of that?" Ryan asked in surprised confusion. After everybody confirmed, he let out a quick huff as he began his explanation. "Well, to begin, IPO is short for Initial Public Offering. Basically what that means is that, before today, Zilia was privately held. Only certain individuals could buy and sell shares here. But now that we're public? Literally anyone can buy and sell shares in the company, hence us being publicly traded." "Uh, what's a share?" Ghen asked, still completely lost. "Oh, boy..." Ryan muttered under his breath before returning to his peppy image. "To simply put it, a share is short for having a share of ownership in a company. When you buy a share, you're buying a piece of ownership, and when you sell, you're selling that amount." "So wait...if someone buys a share, they're a co-owner then?" One of the other team coordinators asked. "If they get enough, yeah." Ryan nodded. "You need a lot though, and that really depends on the company. If I had to give an answer though? I'd say usually you need to have a lot more shares than a lot of people combined to be officially a co-owner, but we call that being a majority shareholder." "And how do we do that?" Ghen asked, now growing curious but still not understanding why such a concept exists. "Simple. Buy shares." Ryan said simply. "And that leads into the second piece of awesome news. Zilia's corporate has a product in mind, a premium-package of water delivery. Instead of the usual water that you pump out, filter and ensure its potable before delivery, with the premium package, not only will you get that, but you'll also get all of the required nutrients and vitamins the zazk body requires! And they feel you guys have the best expertise and understanding to pull it off! So, here's what we're offering as a good-faith bonus: A 25% increase to your annual salary as well as being given stock options." Ghen wasn't sure about the second part, but the salary definitely got his attention, as well as everyone else's. Although his job was considered to have a good pay, Ghen isn't going to say no to a higher salary. In fact, he's been focusing his work on getting a promotion so he can come home with even more credits in pocket. "What do you mean by stock options?" Ghen asked after some time. Ryan let out that smile again, the one that revealed his teeth. "If you choose to transfer over to the new group, you'll be provided 50,000 shares in Zilia itself. Why's that awesome? Let me walk you through it. Right now, our last closing price per share was 3.02 credits. And if you have 50,000 shares during that time, you're sitting on 151,000 credits, if you cash it out immediately." "And why shouldn't we?" One of the coordinators demanded in an ambiguous tone. "Because the price per share changes a lot." Ryan explained promptly. "When we got done with the IPO? It closed at 2.73 a share. Right now? My money's on the closing price being 2.99 a share. However, we are extremely confident in this premium package being successful. If it does? Well, my bet is that the share price will skyrocket to 3.12 a share. If you hold those shares and the price gets to what my bet was? You'll instead get 156,000 credits. Just by holding onto them, you just made an additional 5,000 credits!" "And what if we have more shares?" Ghen questioned, now getting excited at the prospect of free money. "Even more money!" Ryan laughed a bit. "And don't forget about dividends, but that's for another time. The premium group is gearing up right now, we just need the workforce. If any of you wants in, I'll be back tomorrow with all the forms needed to make it official. Take the day and tonight to think it over, yeah?" Everything else melted into a blur. Ghen was practically on autopilot that whole day. Was this the secret to the humans' incredibly massive economy? How so many of them have amassed so much money out of nowhere? All you had to do was just buy this share out of a company and you get more money without even working? As soon as he got home, Ghen knew what he was going to do during the night. After feverishly looking through the galnet, now having the human race connected to it, he looked and gathered up as many books that were translated into zazk as he could find, all talking about the human economic system. The last time he undertook such an intensive study was during his primary education phase. And during his search, he even found forums on the galnet that were completely dedicated to the human's economy. All of them talking about strategies on what company, or stock, to pick. How to analyze a company's performance to determine if it was worth the money, or it had potential to grow over time. And that was when he discovered the humans found another method to the extremely simple buying and selling process. There were humans and some other immigrated aliens who made five times what Ghen could receive over a simple month just by watching the share prices during trading hours, and then buying and selling them at the proper times. Ghen's mind was just absolutely flabbergasted. He thought it was just some strange concept only aliens could make, but no, not with the humans. They've practically made their economy into an art or a science. No, not even their economy. Everything. If humans can see a way to make money off of it, they'll do it. And if there isn't, they'll look for a way. Healthcare was monetized. Galnet services, transportation, shopping at the store, they even made all of their utilities into profit-oriented companies. And it was there that Ghen paused, the realization slamming into him. Everything was monetized. Which means, if you don't have the money for it, you're not getting it. Right? Are the humans truly that ruthless? So obsessed with making money? To the point that they're willing to deprive their own people of the absolute necessities if it's a source of credits? Ghen let out a scoff. There's no way. Nobody is that cruel and callous. He's never been to the United Nations. He can't rely on what a bunch of random people on the galnet says. He decided that from here on out, he'll only go as far as saying that humans are a little obsessed with credits, nothing more. ... There he was. Ryan, sitting in the office provided to him. And there was a rather large line leading to him. Looks like word got around. Although, the line wasn't as large as he expected it to be. Maybe the others thought it was just a ruse? That there's no such thing as making free money by spending it on such a made-up concept? Ghen only knows that, if it is a ruse, it's an extremely elaborate one, where all of the humans are in on it. And he believes that's just extremely ridiculous. At the end, if he's unsure, he'll just take the transfer for the very real increase in his very real salary. And although he spent a very good chunk of the night reading up on how humans do things, he's still going to play it smart. He'll leave his 50,000 shares alone and see where it goes from there. "Good morning sir." Ryan greeted warmly once Ghen took his seat. "Now, name please?" "Ghen." He answered, barely keeping his nerves down. "Alright...and what's your position at this location?" Ryan questioned after scribbling on his form. "I monitor the pumping stations near the extraction sites." Ghen explained, staying on point. "To be more specific, I check to see if they're in need of maintenance, as well as reading the flow rate that's determined by the calculators installed there. If there's too little for what's needed, I pump out more. And if there's too much, I pull it back a little." "Nice...and how long have you been doing it for?" Ryan complimented with a nod. "As of tomorrow, ten years." Ghen replied, voice quickly changing to minor awe once he realized that fact. "Excellent. Do you have anyone in mind you'd like to replace you here?" Ryan questioned after another scribble. "If you don't have anyone, you're free to say so." Ghen took a moment to think it over. A bunch of names went through his mind, but one stuck with him. "Tilik. He's just been accepted here, but he's learned quickly. Very attentive and he always catches something subtle. I think he'll do really well in my position, even better actually." "Tilik, really?" Ryan questioned with a little shock, going through his completed forms. Ghen felt a short sense of panic in him. Did something happen, or was Tilik actually transferring? His answer didn't take long to reveal itself. "Right, Tilik was actually one of the first people to want to transfer here. He's actually requested to be part of the testing teams specifically. Do you have a second choice?" "Um...no, actually." Ghen replied, feeling a little ashamed. "Tilik was my only choice, to be honest." "Hey, don't worry." Ryan said assuringly with his hands raised. "Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, there's just nobody up to snuff, right? 'Kay, so, last question. Is there anything specific you'd like to do when given the transfer?" "If you need someone monitoring new pumps, I'd be happy to do that." Ghen stated. "So basically same job but with better payoff, am I right?" Ryan grinned. "I hear you. Sometimes, we're just not paid enough for what we're doing. I know I think that sometimes. Uh, our secret, yeah?" "Yeah, our secret." Ghen nodded, thinking it'd be better to have friendly relations with the human, just in case. "Awesome. Back on topic, that's it." Ryan announced, placing the form on his pile. "We'll give you a call when you're accepted." "Oh, uh, that's it?" Ghen questioned with a shrug in shocked surprise. "What, expecting a question like, why do you want to transfer?" Ryan chuckled a bit as he leaned in his seat. "You can bullshit all you want, but we both know the answer. Sweet money and stock options. Not saying that's a bad answer of course, just that it's pretty obvious." "I suppose it is." Ghen commented, realizing the point. "Also, you mentioned this...dividend? Is that for Zilia shares?" Ryan laughed a little bit before nodding. "Yep, announced before I came here. About 0.43 per share. Want to know why that's awesome? Instead of waiting for the proper price to cash out your shares, now? The company pays you for each share you hold." "A...Are you serious?" Ghen demanded, flabbergasted. Ryan nodded with his now-trademark grin. "Dead serious. If you get the transfer, and get those 50,000 shares? A little head math...right, if you hold onto those, in addition to your salary, you'll now annually be paid 21,500 credits, if you keep it at 50,000 shares. Only you can decide to sell or buy shares." Ghen just stood there silent and motionless, no idea of whether to believe it or not, to which Ryan just laughed. Once he walked out of the room, he managed to snap back to reality. Again, just focus on the very real pay-raise. He'll deal with the other parts later. After he returned to his spot, he spotted Tizx approaching by his desk. The coordinator seems to be as casual as always. "I saw you in that line a bit ago, Ghen." He said as he leaned on the desk. "Guess you're really taking that human's word?" "I mean, I don't know about all this share business or what not." Ghen began with a shrug, his tone sounding a little defensive. "But I mean, having a bigger salary? Course I'm going for it when I can. And if all this magic credits turn out to be real? You realize we can live like the royal servants, right? Get the best cars, the nicest food and all that?" "I'd be very careful, Ghen." Tizx warned in a sudden shift in tone. "Don't trust those humans. The way they just...obsess over money? Come up with more and more insane ways of getting credits? I don't know, it just makes my wings twitch." "You think this is a bad idea?" Ghen asked with a little surprise at the change-in-demeanor. "I think you should be careful, with the humans, and with what you're saying." Tizx replied, straightening his posture. "I wouldn't put it past those Earthmen to backstab you if it gets them a few more credits. And we all know how the royal servants get if any of us lowly commoners start thinking we can break into their circle." "I hear you, I'll be on my guard, promise." Ghen stated with a nod. With a confirming nod of his own, Tizx returned back to his duty, walking past Ghen's desk. Several weeks later. Everything became so much better. Ghen got the transfer. He didn't need to relocate to a new residence either. And after he was walked through into learning how to manage his stock account, and seeing that new form of payment in his hands, he already felt as though he made the best decision. But it was only when he decided to take those shares more seriously that he became privy to what he was given. After receiving the dividend payment, and actually seeing it was real, valid credits after transferring it to his main bank account, all he could describe was the most powerful high he ever felt. While his first thoughts were to buy himself a royalty-class car, some nicer furnishings for his home, or even a better home entirely, he ended up going the smarter route. After going back to his stock account, he discovered that Zilia's shares rose to about 3.22 credits in price. Knowing that this was the easiest money he could ever make, he took all of his dividend earnings and bought more shares in Zilia, bringing him to owning 56,891. And from his new regional coordinator, a human named Dylan, tomorrow is the grand release of the premium package. For just a monthly rate of 14.99 credits, the tap water will now include a sizeable portion of all nutrients and vitamins required in the zazk physiology. Still, Ghen has to admit. He's not entirely sure why anybody would want such a thing, if they'd even go for it. But, as long as he's practically swimming in easy credits, he won't pay much attention to it. And just like when he was intensively studying the basics of how the human economy worked, he barely got any sleep. His mind was constantly thinking about the things he would buy. Or rather, what other stocks to put his credits into. Even now he can still hardly believe it. Just spend your money on some, make-believe thing and, if you wait long enough and picked the right stock, you'll get more than you spent back? His mind even wandered onto what human colonies, or even their homeworld, Earth, was like. If everybody was making so much money, what kind of things would they offer? What kind of ridiculous service or product or item can you get? He's even debating on joining some forum and just asking around. Explain how he's new to how humans do things and was wondering what he should expect if he's successful. By the time he felt like he can go to sleep, the binary-stars of the system were rising from the horizon. After getting out of his bed and changing to clean clothes, his mind returned onto what-ifs. What if he bought better clothes? He's had his eye on that human brand of luxury clothes, Tessuti di Venezia, that's been all the rage amongst the royal servants. Or maybe he can go on vacation and just check out Earth for real? It was a short ride to his workplace from his home. After getting stuff his stuff and preparing to walk through the doors, he heard the roar of a car grow louder. When he looked, he saw the sleekest and quite possibly the coolest looking car he's ever seen. Each time the engine revved it would startle him, both from how harsh it sounded as well as just how intense it sounded. And after it parked, he saw the doors pop out and then slide along the body back. And there, he saw Tilik, the seat literally turning and extending out a bit before he got off. As soon as he saw Ghen staring, he struck a rather prideful pose after putting on his lab coat and then sauntered over to Ghen. "What do you think?" Tilik said, without any doubt inviting praise or compliments. "D...Did you actually buy that?" Ghen asked, unable to tear his eyes away from the car. "You're Queens-damn right I did!" Tilik laughed happily. "Thing takes off like a starship, has temperature-controlled seating, all-in-one center console, barely any bouncing on rough roads. Hoof, best decision I've ever made!" "How much did that thing cost?" Ghen asked after letting out an incredulous laugh. "Five million credits." Tilik replied, earning an absolutely shocked stare from Ghen. "And thanks to the incredible salary I have, in addition to all these shares and dividends, I'll pay back the credits I borrowed in no time!" Ghen needed a few moments before he could speak again. "All I've been doing is buying more shares." Tilik laughed and then patted the now-envious monitor's back. "Smart man. I got a little carried away, yeah, but not anymore. Any spending credits I got, going right back to investing. That's what it's called right, investing?" "Yeah, it is." Ghen nodded, feeling a fire light up in his thorax. "And also? Today's the day that the premium water thing is being released. Here's hoping it starts out well, right?" "Oh it will, trust me." Tilik chuckled as they both began making their way inside the workplace. "Lots of research, lots of study. By the Queen, so much of it...it'll make your head spin." And after hearing that, Ghen had a moment of realization. "Hey, Tilik? How did you get such a nice position anyways? Weren't you just studying under me before the humans came along?" Tilik let out a sigh after opening the door. "I'll be honest, I never wanted your job. Not because it's boring or terrible, just...I didn't suffer so many sleepless nights in the science academy just to be a glorified button pusher. This is what I've always wanted. Doing science, solving problems rather than just applying the solution, you know?" "Wait, you got an academic certificate?" Ghen questioned, completely floored. "How did you end up beneath me then? I should've been answering to you!" "Simple." Tilik gave a heavier sigh. "A royal servant was asking for the same job I was. Take a guess at who got it." "Ouch. Good thing the humans came along when they did, yeah?" Ghen was taken aback. He never heard anything about a servant taking a job at his place. "Looks like you're proving yourself to be well suited." "By the Queen, of course I am." Tilik nodded. "Like I said, I nearly broke my wings through so many nights, got certified top of my class, all just to get pushed to the dirt because someone who was born into a particular family wanted the same thing I did? I know I'm smarter than any of those empty-skull servants back in the Center. I know that, whatever, uh...corporate? Yeah, whatever corporate wants out of science, I will xeek give it to them." "Well, let me know how things go in the lab." Ghen said, admiring his drive as they neared the main office floor. "Because this is where the button pusher needs to go." Tilik let out a laugh as he nodded. "Hey, how about we meet up at Queen's Fine Eatery tonight. I'll pay, yeah?" Ghen, at first, wanted to admonish him for choosing such an outrageously expensive place to go. But he quickly realized that, he truly is good for it, thanks to the humans. "Well, hey, if you're paying for it." ... It was a fantastic opening. After being told what news sites to keep in mind for stocks, he first heard it from Dylan, and then got more detail on Business Today. There was such a massive demand right from the start that Zilia needs to increase extraction just to meet it. But what really got his attention was the effect it had. Zilia Water Delivery's share price just blasted off. After seemingly holding steady at about 3.15, by the time he got home and logged onto his account, it already reached 7.04 a share. The calculator on his account told him that he got a value-gain of 54.26%. Never in his entire life had he felt such...joy. With all of the shares he currently has? He's sitting at 400,512.64 credits. He knows that it is woefully pathetic compared to what the royal servants have just in their pockets, but the fact that he has such money, just by owning some intangible concept? Why even work at Zilia? Why doesn't he just sit at home, figure out what companies to invest in and make his money that way? What's even the point in working a real job, getting a pathetic pay when you can just take the money you have, determine where to spend it, and get triple back? All just sitting on your wings at home, researching? He was so wrapped up in his excited high that he completely forgot he was going to meet Tilik at Queen's. After quickly and haphazardly putting on his nicer clothes, he got to the place only a few minutes late. Tilik was there by the guide, no doubt having been waiting for him. As soon as he strode up, Tilik's wings stiffned out some. No doubt he must've seen the numbers as well. "I can see your wings, Ghen." Tilik began with an excited chuckle. "Made some serious credits?" Ghen let out an incredulous scoff, struggling to find the words for a moment. "Incredible. All I'm going to say." "Likewise." Tilik chortled some before nodding to the table guide. "All here. Table please?" "Right this way, sir." The guide said politely. It was a short walk, travelling between round tables. The vast majority were populated by zazk, but Ghen was surprised at seeing a few humans here as well. No doubt corporate workers checking out the local food. He did spot them having bowls filled with some kind of mass. Some were brown, others white with what looks to be black specks on them. They arrived at their table. A rather nice one, affording a view out the windows into the busy colony streets. Once Tilik and Ghen settled in, the guide handed out the menus. "May I suggest our rather popular option for tonight?" The guide began. "Human ice-cream. Ingredients sourced from Earth itself. Very cold, but incredibly sweet, and coming in many flavors. The most popular amongst us is called vanilla-bean. The vanilla itself soaks in the cream for much of the process, and then the innards sprinkled on top of it near the end. Rumor has it that the Queen herself has demanded personal shipments of such a treat straight from the home of vanilla, an island on Earth named Madagascar." Ghen didn't even spare a single thought. "Vanilla bean ice cream then, please." "Same." Tilik seconded when the guide glanced to him. With a slight bow, the guide proceeded to ferry their orders to the kitchen. Thankfully it was just a short wait before the guide returned, carrying a large plate containing bowls of ice cream. Ghen could feel the saliva on his mandibles as the bowl was placed before them. He could just feel the cold air around that glistening mass of sugary goodness. The white snow decorated with the black dots of vanilla bean. Once the guide left them, Tilik and Ghen both dived in at the same time. As soon as the ice cream entered his mouth, touched his tongue, he exploded in incomprehensible bliss. The sweetness, the smooth and creamy mass, even the taste of vanilla he wasn't sure about was just absolutely delightful. It was so overwhelming that his entire body limped, slumping in his seat as he was forced to ride on the surging tide of joy and happiness sweeping over him. Tilik was no different. He too was taken completely by the effects of the ice cream, his wings fluttering some against the seat. Ghen could hear some noise. It was the humans they passed by. They were chuckling, grinning, and glancing over at them discreetly. Unlike the two zazk, the humans seemingly just enjoyed the ice cream as if it was just another nice dessert to them. Or perhaps they couldn't allow themselves to succumb to the high? And as soon as the wave of indescribable bliss and happiness subsided, Ghen knew. He just knew. This was the life. He wanted this. The ice cream was just the beginning. So many things denied because he didn't have the credits, or worse, not the blood. Because he was just a drone in the great Collective, even if he had the credits, he wasn't allowed because of what caste he was born in. That fire that sparked in him when he saw Tilik's new car? It exploded into a raging firestorm. And when looking into Tilik's eyes, Ghen could see the same. He was on the same page as Ghen was. Both of them were sold. They have the credits. And the humans? If you can pay for it, they'll never discriminate. All they cared about is if you have the money. And by the Queen, Ghen and Tilik will endeavor to amass as much credits as physically possible. The rest of the night faded into a blur. A blur that evokes only one thing. Bliss. It was only when he walked through the door of his pathetic hut that Ghen's mind snapped back to focus. His mandibles felt sticky. And he felt a weight in his stomach. How much ice cream did he eat? Whatever it was, he ate such volume that the lower-section of his throax extended and rounded out, visible even under his shirt. He felt something odd in his pocket. It was a receipt. 43,000 credits for ten bowls of vanilla bean ice cream. Was that ten bowls for both of them? Or individually? Ghen didn't care. He's good for it. Returning back to his calculator, he acted upon the decision that he had made at that eatery. He's acquiring as many books about investing and stock trading as he could find, frequent and study all the discussions and arguments presented by other like-minded individuals such as he, all to ensure he can live the good life. And he had a very good feeling Tilik was doing the exact same thing. Well, first, the gurgling in his stomach, as well as the feeling of something rising demanded his attention. Looks like he'll need to take the night off to let his stomach get back to normal. Three Years Later. Ghen looked out beyond the horizon, seeing the colony that he grew up in. On the far side was where his old house was. With only a simple robe on, made from the finest silk from Earth's nation-state of China, he relaxed in his seat. It was a long road. Stockpiling credits from pre-existing investments and from subsequent pays, he and Tilik made it. From having only half a million in assets and cash, now transformed to over eight-hundred million. And now, his call contracts on American Interstellar? They've just announced a breakthrough in their next generation of warp drives, reducing the speed coefficient even further, resulting in far faster travel. And with that, their stock price climbed sharply. Another hundred million credits in the bank. Soon, very soon, he and Tilik are about to become the galaxy's first zazk billionares. But that's not enough. There are many humans who are billionares. Only those he can count on one hand are considered trillionares. He's going to break into that circle. He and Tilik. Looking beyond the colony, he saw the abandoned building of the workplace he transferred to when the humans arrived. Turns out, the reason for such a high demand was that the humans also slipped in sugar to the tap water. As soon as that broke, many influential royal servants demanded investigations and outright banning of Terran Galactic Company's influence over the former government division. Zilia's stock price plummeted. But thanks to an advance tip from his human coordinator, Dylan, he and Tilik made a put contract. And that's where they struck gold, as the human saying goes. Dylan warned that if they were citizens of the United Nations, they'd be investigated and convicted for insider trading. But, since they weren't, and the Collective were only just introduced to capitalism, there's no risk at all. Now the colony is going through a withdrawal phase, Zilia has been dissolved and reformed back as a government division and are currently at work re-establishing the standard, plain water delivery. "Well, shit." Tilik muttered as he walked up to Ghen's side, taking well to human speech. "Looks like you win. American Interstellar's announcement really was a good thing. There goes a million credits. Ah well, the Royal Shipyards will make it back for me soon." "Oh? Did they just go corporate?" Ghen asked curiously, glancing to Tilik. "Hell yeah they did." Tilik chuckled, sitting down. "Queen and her retard servants fought it hard, but Royal Shipyards is now officially a human-style corporation. And, to a surprise to all the xenophobes in the galaxy, they're already being offered contracts for ship production. That'll raise the stock price pretty good." "What's that human word...?" Ghen muttered, already having a reply in mind. "Dick? Yeah, calls or suck my dick, Tilik." Tilik roared in laughter. "Already made them. Forty credits a share by this day next month." "I have half a mind to go thirty." Ghen chuckled. "Either way, until then, I heard from Dylan that he knows a guy who knows several prime human women who happen to be into zazk." "You're interested in women?" Tilik said as his wings fluttered. "With how often you tell me to suck you off, I'd have thought differently." "Oh, I always thought it was you who was into men." Ghen responded dryly. "Just wanted to be a good friend, you know? Considering how you never seem to make it past, Hey sweet thing, I'm rich you know." "Oh, go fuck yourself." Tilik countered with a little laugh. After he stopped, wings stiffened, he looked to Ghen. "So, know any royal servants we can put the squeeze on for more revenue streams?" "I got just the one." Ghen nodded, sitting up. "Fzik. He's been fighting to control the ice cream trade. Worried it's a corrupting influence. Got done talking with the human CEO of Nestle earlier. If we clear the way, he'll know how to squeeze a little more gains in stock price when he makes the announcement." Tilik's wings stiffened even more, signaling his approval. "Alright, time to throw some credits around, yeah?" AN: Sorry for the period of no updates. College is starting up, lots of stuff to clear and work out. Not sure why but I just got a bug up my butt about incorporating money and the stock market into a short. Here it is. Sorry if it seems abrupt, character limit fast approaching. Let me know how you guys think about it!
Jeph's attempts to represent every major marginalized group in the United States have absolutely wrecked this comic, and ended up accurately representing nobody.
Jeph...is not a great writer. I know we all have fond memories of QC in its "glory days," but participating in the reread I've started to realize something. Jeph's ability to write a good story is limited to what he himself experienced in his formative days and while he was writing the early strips: life as a mid-twenties-something guy, pining after attractive girls that came and went from his little indie music scene.And he does it well, because he's drawing on what he knows. The dialogue is realistic! Comics don't all end with a shitty-punch-line delivered by a sp0rk-holding-rando...because Jeph probably didn't interact with people like that. The main characters come off as real people because most of them are probably based, consciously or not, off of people Jeph really knew and interacted with. It's also real. There's plenty of dialogue that reads as entitled, or would now be considered entirely unacceptable in Jeph's writing. See Sarah's "rape/hump" dialogue. This is how Jeph and his friends *probably* spoke. I know that I threw around the word 'rape' much more casually when I was young and immature than I do now. (It also bothers me that Jeph tries to hide the fact that he's grown out of this mindset, but that's a different post altogether.) Or look at Faye's alcoholism storyline - probably the best writing the comic has seen. It's compelling and readable because it's something Jeph himself has dealt with - he knows those feelings of helplessness and addiction. It's true to life, and as a consequence the writing is almost naturally well done. And it makes sense! Because things proceed like a person's life often does, for Marten. People come, people leave. You fall in love with one girl, she leaves and you meet another. It's realistic because it's based in reality. It's fun because it has goofy situations, interesting characters, and a "very-pretty-if-you-don't-look-too-hard-at-it" sci-fi angle. Then we come to today. Look at how the cast has changed. Aside from having no protagonist, there is not a single main character that Jeph can really relate to on any real-world-experience level. As far as I know, he does not identify as a woman, as a person of color, as someone who is queer, or as someone who is transgendered. There's nothing wrong with that or writing about it, but it's definitely going to make writing characters who *are* living those lives a little harder to write. You don't have the dialogue to draw on. You don't have those interactions with other characters as lived-experiences to draw on. So you've got two choices. You either write what you *imagine* them to be and sound like, or you do your research. Let's talk about the first, and more problematic of the two options, first. I would encourage everyone to go check out /menwritingwomen for some good examples of why it can be this way. Even if you're doing your best to write it realistically, it's probably going to come off as often-times awkward sounding dialogue. Effectively every female character in the comic has been reduced to this. When they're not serving Jeph's purpose to represent their marginality (May opining the life of a convict, Roko having a dissociative episode, Brun acting emotionlessly and/or discussing clocks, the list goes on) they're acting like Jeph probably *imagines* women act around other women. Because Jeph has never *been* a woman alone with another woman, and he doesn't know the intricacies of homogenous gender conversations of the opposite sex more than a cis-gendered woman could explain had by men alone. It invariably turns to stereotypes - boobs, appearances, relationships. It also gives you characters, even if you represent them well, who are defined by the one characteristic you created them for. Brun is my favorite example for this. Do we know *anything* about this girl? We know she's an out-of-work bartender, enjoys clocks , and has autism. We know *so* much about her autism and almost nothing else about her because that's probably what Jeph has to draw on. I don't know that he's ever met someone with autism, let alone spoken with them about their life and experiences. We also know that everyone wants to fuck her, but that's its own weird can of worms that I don't really want to address right now. So what's the alternative, if you want to write about a person who is different from you? I don't think that artists should be constrained and I also think representation is really important. I think that Jeph's *intentions,* to write a comic that accurately represents the lives of members of marginalized groups, *especially* considering everything that's been going on in the United States is an admirable thing. And he actually does hit some elements quite well, actually. I know this sub likes to bash on the realism of Clinton's perceived sexual revelations, but queerness doesn't require foreshadowing to appear in someone's life and Jeph understands this. But, if you're going to do it, do your research. Be forewarned that from this point onwards, I'm speaking *solely* on theory. I don't get the sense that Jeph has ever researched the communities and issues he's trying to write about, save for the woketwitter threads he reads. Everything he writes now reads like it came out of a 15-post-long twitter thread explaining the virtues or disvirtues of this and/or that. I do not get the sense that he's ever strived to understand anything more than the broad-strokes of an issue, know the key-phrases and topic catchphrases, and sets off to write about it. For starters, *talk* to these communities. Reach out, past Twitter and Deviantart, and get a real understanding of what you're writing about. Meet transgendered people. Work with children with autism. Work with convicted felons. That's what good writers *do* when they want to understand the subjects they're writing about. Yes, that's hard when you're trying to represent *everyone,* so maybe it's time to scale back and focus in a little harder on one issue that's important to you, Jeph. Here's how I want to conclude this: Jeph wants to represent the marginalized in his comic, and he wants to offer sincere political commentary. I do not believe he does it just for the woke points (although, yes, his Patreon is the specter that will always loom over him). But if it's going to be at all quality, Jeph needs to narrow things down tremendously. Choose your target, do your research, and continuously write about that character, giving them the chance to develop naturally. Otherwise, it's going to be more of this herky-jerky bullshit forever. Edit: Read comments, decided to add a bit more. A lot of this comes from Jeph's mixed attempt at what he's doing. On one hand, he's admitted he's trying to make this comic a safe space for trans and other non-binary folk, which I think is great. On the other hand, he's simultaneously telling the stories of the lives of marginalized folks and write social commentary about the world as he perceives it. And there's nothing wrong with that...except for that you end up with, frankly, shitty storytelling and messages that don't come across very clearly. He has these intense lead-ups, like Faye coming out to her mother, or Roko's dissociative episodes, or Elliott confessing his attraction to someone who (as far as he knows) is a straight man. And then it just...gets resolved. No difficulties, no problems, just smooth sailing. And hey, if Jeph just wants to tell a friendly story there's nothing wrong with that, but it isn't really telling the stories of the marginalized. Because the truth is that those stories usually don't have happy endings. They don't usually end with accepting parents, or a problem that can be resolved with a snap of the fingers. They're oftentimes painful and they're intense, and if Jeph as an author is going to tell these stories then it is his responsibility to tell the truth. I think doing anything else is irresponsible, frankly. He's giving his readers, many of whom are younger and impressionable, a false sense of how these stories usually go. And I don't agree with the, "It's just supposed to be lighthearted," angle either. Plenty of shows have managed to maintain a tone while handling serious issues. Adventure Time is a great example of this.
Trial Results: Should we suspend the Simple Questions rule?
tl;dr: probably not, no.
On July 28th, 2020, MFA_Nay asked openly for feedback on the "Simple Questions Rule" and how we as moderators handle content curation on the sub. We were responding feedback of many users who were concerned that the sub was stale and/or they were unable to "ask for advice" on the front page. It's been a while since we've considered test-running the counterfactual to our norm, so it seemed appropriate to give it a shot. On July 31st, 2020, we officially suspended the rule. We were originally considering doing a month-long trial, but came to the conclusion (based on rapid and strong feedback from many regulars, combined with exasperation on our end) that a week would be quite sufficient. On August 7th, 2020, we wrapped up the trial and solicited feedback in both comment and survey form. I don't intend to put too many personal takes up here, and will add them down below as a top level comment, but I did promise you some data and figures, so I will deliver those here. When evaluating the questionnaire, the goal was to find patterns that would pass reasonable muster. The data are too small and perhaps too biased* for any real power (*though there's a case to be made that the respondents are sufficiently representative of the population we wanted the most feedback from; never underestimate the convenience sample). Looking at respondents' primary reasons for being on MFA, it seems like most people are here to lurk. I'm surprised by how many people said their reason here is "To Give Advice", and wonder if the question should have instead been split into a binary by combining "To Lurk" and "To Get Advice". Looking at respondents' time on MFA, the mean/median/mode have been here a couple of years (2-4), and barely 15% report being here less than a year. Most respondents preferred heavier curation (mean 7.3), and their curation preferences were not associated with their tenure here. Looking beyond the survey at comment and post frequency, you can see that the volume of posts is driven almost entirely by questions and the comment volume is slowly decreasing but steady. What does this mean? Well, probably not much. Allowing simple questions does not drastically change the traffic, nor does it seem to make regulars (read: the content creators here) very happy. Multiple have expressed in comments and messages that that they are less inclined to create content, and on a 5-option Likert scale question asking "Did allowing Simple Questions on the frontpage make you more or less likely to create content?", half said "Much less likely", less than 10% said "Somewhat more likely", and I didn't even realize there was a fifth option until I was rereading the question and typing this post, because no one put "Much more likely".
WotV PvP Tactics & Mentality - Six Months of Mediena Bombs & how the Meta Evolves in PvP
*** Registration is Now Open until 9/15 for the latest Live PvP tournament, organized by u/LongTimeGaming. There is no entry fee and everyone is guaranteed at least five rounds of combat! Please PM him or myself for details on how to register! *** For today's entry I want to discuss one of the stronger live PvP strategies currently floating around the meta, particularly at the higher player ranks or with whales smurfing at lower ranks: The Medi (Mediena) Bomb.
The Medi bomb, as it currently exists, comprises three major components: a Shukuchi Mediena, Agility, and as much Magic/Magic Attack equipment and VCs as can be mustered together. If you take away any of these components the win probability of the strategy plummets. Let's examine each in turn:
Shukuchi (and forward deployment) - Without Shukuchi and pushing Medi as far forward as you can you leave a lot of squares open where the enemy team can be hiding. No highly competitive team in live PvP is sticking to the default 'three across' formation!
Agility - Medi's main weakness is her fragility. If Medi doesn't go first there's the chance that the opponent will have a high speed unit in place to OHKO Medi (i.e., Frederika) or will at least be able to reposition their faster units out of Medi's threat range. Shadow Runner on a Medi is a must of course, but VCs that yield AGI are crucial as well.
Magic Attack - Being able to OHKO at least one enemy unit is essential - a unit with 1 HP is as dangerous as a unit with 4000 HP. A Platinum Rod +5, and a high level Trousseau are the most important elements. Mag from Ramuh is useful. You won't have Medi's own mag passive available due to needing Speed + Movement.
Responses to the Medi Bomb - Sample Formations
So here are some sample formations I whipped up - note the screenshots are composites from my main account so levels and etc. are not going to be optimal. There are many variations possible, these are just starting points! Option 1 - Go Faster than Medi Gunner Girls that are faster than a Medi Bomb are close to a guaranteed win! The hardest counter to Medi bomb is a Fred that's faster than her - A properly kitted Fred can OHKO a Medi with sharpshoot off the bat without any external buffs. Because Medi + AGI VC is always faster then a Fred without, you will need to put AGI cards of your own on top of your Fred to ensure you go before the enemy Medi does. Option 2 - Be able to survive the Plume This is the second picture here - the first one had an impossible setup for Rain due to my photoshopping (I don't own Rain). There are of course characters that can survive a plume, even a plume from a super whaled out Medi. Rain is one of these - he's a magic tank off the bat and he has elemental advantage to Medi. Ayaka can stand your viktora back up post plume while Rain can OHKO the Medi. Option 3 - Be able to Evade the Plume Miranda is a super useful utility placeholder for these formations Vinera is pretty popular in live pvp these days due to her combination of speed, power, and high evade. She is essentially unhittable to teams that haven't geared with guaranteed hit options or stacked as much ACC as they can. I don't have a leveled up Vinera to test the above combination for exact hit percentages but an unbuffed Vinera should have about 150-200 evade depending on cards. Not exactly easy to hit with a plume!
A Brief History of the Medi Bomb
Finally, the changes in popularity to the Medi Bomb through time exemplifies the essential elements that define the 'meta' in live PvP: the outcome to nearly every match is a binary win or loss. Any team that is slightly better than another will win almost all the time holding all over elements equal. Medi's evolution in live pvp shows this perfectly. In the first weeks of WotV, Medi bombs were one of the most common formations available. Medi was I think the fastest launch character and once she hit level 40 she could OHKO most other units common at the time that were also at level 40 (Mont, Sterne, etc.). This meant that Medi could just run up and drop the other team. Lots and lots of Medi v Medi engagements were happening and Medi's dominance in PvE and PvP was often remarked on by jokes or commentary here and elsewhere. Flash forward to the FFT event or so and Medi bombs disappeared from competitive play. Two things happened: Frederika and increasing toughness of teams. Fred, as I said before, is a hard counter to Medi as long as she goes first and at this stage in the game almost no one had high AGI VCs so Freds melted Medis off the live PvP scene. A secondary effect was that everyone was getting to level 99 on their mains and starting to amass TMRs - Medi stopped being able to OHKO units. Medi Bombs stayed quiet for the months following FFT until Platinum Rod came out, then whales with +15% AGI off the House Beolve card could go first in most engagements and do enough damage to OHKO broad swaths of units. Now with FFT2 almost done plenty of dolphins or even minnows/f2p willing to proc 5-6 whimseys per day can have their 15% AGI cards so Medi bombs are more accessible. Essentially, the meta is an unstable equilibrium defined by a complex set of inputs and that binary output of winning/losing. As soon as Medi is one AGI slower then her hard counter *and that hard counter is common* she becomes worthless. Same with the tipping point between OHKO and survival. Right now medi bombs are fast and powerful - therefore viable against many team comps. Well that wraps up today's post - this one turned out to be longer than I was expecting. Let me know if its too long in the comments and if you have any suggestions for future topics that you'd like a detailed breakdown on please let me know! ------------------------------------------------ WotV PvP Tactics & Mentality is an irregularly updated series of posts about the most neglected aspect of WotV: Live PvP If you liked this post, feel read to my previous entries in the series:
Wall Street Week Ahead for the trading week beginning August 17th, 2020
Good Saturday morning to all of you here on stocks. I hope everyone on this sub made out pretty nicely in the market this past week, and is ready for the new trading week ahead. Here is everything you need to know to get you ready for the trading week beginning August 17th, 2020.
Stocks are ignoring the lack of a stimulus package from Congress, but that could change - (Source)
Stocks could hang at record levels but gains may be capped until Congress agrees to a new stimulus package to help the economy and the millions of unemployed Americans. Stocks were higher in the past week, and the S&P 500 flirted with record levels it set in February. In the coming week, there are some major retailers reporting earnings, including Walmart, Home Depot and Target, but the season is mostly over and the market is entering a quiet period. There are minutes from the Fed’s last meeting, released Wednesday, and housing data, including starts Tuesday and existing sales Friday. Investors had been watching efforts by Congress to agree to a new stimulus package, but talks have failed and the Senate has gone on recess. There is a concern that Congress will not be convinced to provide a big enough package when it does get to work again on the next stimulus round because recent economic reports look stronger. July’s retail sales, for example, climbed to a record level and recovered to pre-pandemic levels. “The juxtaposition of getting more fiscal stimulus and better data has paralyzed us in our tracks … we’ve seen this sideways [market] action,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Alliance. “It feels like we need more action from Congress, and the concern is the longer we wait, the better the data gets and the less impactful the next round of stimulus will be.” Some technical analysts say the market may pull back around the high, to allow it to consolidate gains before moving higher into the end of the year. The S&P 500 reached an all-time high of 3,393 on Feb. 19. Hogan said he expects stocks to tread sideways during the dog days of August, but they could begin to react negatively to the election in September. He also said it is important that progress continue against the spread of Covid-19, as the economy continues to reopen. Peter Boockvar, chief investment strategist at Bleakley Advisory Group, said the market could have a wakeup call at some point that the stimulus package has not been approved. “I think it will cross over a line where they care,” he said. “I think the market is in suspended animation of believing there will be a magical deal.” Boockvar said he expects a deal ultimately, but the impact is not likely to be as big as the last round of funding. “What they’re not grasping is any deal, any extension of unemployment benefits, is going to be smaller than it was, and the rate of change should be the most important thing investors focus on,” he said. “Not the binary outcome of whether there’s a deal or no deal. There’s going to be less air going into the balloon.”
It’s the economy
Still, economists expect to see a strong rebound in the third quarter, and are anticipating about about a 20% jump in third-quarter growth. But they also say that could be threatened if Congress does not help with another stimulus package. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, described the July retail sales as a perfect V-shaped recovery, but cautioned it would not last unless more aid gets to individuals and cities and states. Democrats have sought a $3 trillion spending package, and Republicans in the Senate offered a $1 trillion package. They could not reach a compromise, including on a $600 weekly payment to individuals on unemployment which expired July 31. President Donald Trump has tried to fill the gap with executive orders to provide extra benefits to those on unemployment, but the $300 federal payment and $100 from states may take some time to reach individuals, as the processing varies by state. He has also issued an order instructing the Treasury to temporarily defer collection of payroll taxes from individuals making up to $104,000. “I think in August and September, there will be a lot of Ws, if there’s not more help here,” said Zandi, referring to an economic recovery that retrenches from a V shape before heading higher again. “It’s clearly perplexing. It may take the stock market to say we’re not going to get what we expect, and sell off and light a fire.” Zandi said it could come to a situation like 2008, where the stock market sold off sharply before Congress would agree to a program that helped financial companies. “We need a TARP moment to get these guys to help. Maybe if the claims tick higher and the August employment numbers are soft, given the president is focused on the stock market, that might be what it takes to get them back to the table in earnest,” he said, referring to the Troubled Asset Relief Program that helped rescue banks during the financial crisis. He ultimately expects a package of about $1.5 trillion to be approved in September. The lack of funding for state and local governments could result in more layoffs, as they struggle with their current 2021 budgets, Zandi said. Already 1.3 million public sector jobs have been lost since February, and there will be more layoffs and more programs and projects cancelled. The impact will hit contractors and other businesses that provide services to local governments. “The multipliers on state and local government are among the highest of any form of support, so if you don’t provide it, it’s going to ripple through the economy pretty fast,” he said. Economists expect to see a softening in consumer spending in August with the more than 28 million Americans on unemployment benefits as of mid-July no longer receiving any supplemental pay. “The real irony is things are shaping up that September is going to be a bad month, and that’s going to show up in all the data in October,” Zandi said. “They are really taking a chance on this election by not acting.”
This past week saw the following moves in the S&P:
The S&P 500 Index is a few points away from a new all-time high, completing one of the fastest recoveries from a bear market ever. But this will also seal the deal on the shortest bear market ever. Remember, the S&P 500 Index lost 20% from an all-time high in only 16 trading days back in February and March, so it makes sense that this recovery could be one of the fastest ever. From the lows on March 23, the S&P 500 has now added more than 50%. Many have been calling this a bear market rally for months, while we have been in the camp this is something more. It’s easy to see why this rally is different based on where it stands versus other bear market rallies:
They say the stock market is the only place where things go on sale, yet everyone runs out of the store screaming. We absolutely saw that back in March and now with stocks near new highs, many have missed this record run. Here we show how stocks have been usually higher a year or two after corrections.
After a historic drop in March, the S&P 500 has closed higher in April, May, June, and July. This rare event has happened only 11 other times, with stocks gaining the final five months of the year a very impressive 10 times. Only 2018 and the nearly 20% collapse in December saw a loss those final five months.
As shown in the LPL Chart of the Day, this bear market will go down as the fastest ever, at just over one month. The recovery back to new highs will be five months if we get there by August 23, making this one of the fastest recoveries ever. Not surprisingly, it usually takes longer for bear markets in a recession to recover; only adding to the impressiveness of this rally.
“It normally takes 30 months for bear markets during a recession to recover their losses, which makes this recovery all the more amazing,” said LPL Financial Chief Market Strateigst Ryan Detrick.. “Then again, there has been nothing normal about this recession, so maybe we shouldn’t be shocked about yet another record going down in 2020.”
When a Few Basis Points Packs a Punch
US Treasury yields have been on the rise this week with the 10-year yield rising 13 basis points (bps) from 0.56% up to 0.69% after getting as high as 0.72% on Thursday. A 13 bps move higher in interest rates may not seem like a whole lot, but with rates already at such low levels, a small move can have a pretty big impact on the prices of longer-term maturities.
Starting with longer-term US Treasuries, TLT, which measures the performance of maturities greater than 20 years, has declined 3.5% this week. Now, for a growth stock, 3.5% is par for the course, but that kind of move in the Treasury market is no small thing. The latest pullback for TLT also coincides with another failed attempt by the ETF to trade and stay above $170 for more than a day.
The further out the maturity window you go in the fixed income market, the bigger the impact of the move higher in interest rates. The Republic of Austria issued a 100-year bond in 2017, and its movements exemplify the wild moves that small changes in interest rates (from a low base) can have on prices. Just this week, the Austrian 100-year was down over 5%, which is a painful move no matter what type of asset class you are talking about. This week's move, though, was nothing compared to the stomach-churning swings from earlier this year. When Covid was first hitting the fan, the 100-year rallied 57% in the span of less than two months. That kind of move usually occurs over years rather than days, but in less than a third of that time, all those gains disintegrated in a two-and-a-half week span from early to late March. Easy come, easy go. Ironically enough, despite all the big up and down moves in this bond over the last year, as we type this, the bond's price is the same now as it was on this same day last year.
At the headline level, July’s Retail Sales report disappointed as the reading missed expectations by nearly a full percentage point. Just as soon as the report was released, we saw a number of stories pounce on the disappointment as a sign that the economy was losing steam. Looked at in more detail, though, the July report wasn’t all that bad. While the headline reading rose less than expected (1.2% vs 2.1%), Ex Autos and Ex Autos and Gas, the results were much better than expected. Not only that, but June’s original readings were all revised higher by around a full percentage point. Besides the fact that this month’s report was better underneath the surface and June’s reading was revised higher, it was also notable as the seasonally-adjusted annualized rate of sales in July hit a new record high. After the last record high back in January, only five months passed until American consumers were back to their pre-Covid spending ways. For the sake of comparison, back during the Financial Crisis, 40 months passed between the original high in Retail Sales in November 2007 and the next record high in April 2011. 5 months versus 40? Never underestimate the power of the US consumer!
While the monthly pace of retail sales is back at all-time highs, the characteristics behind the total level of sales have changed markedly in the post COVID world. In our just released B.I.G. Tips report we looked at these changing dynamics to highlight the groups that have been the biggest winners and losers from the shifts.
100 Days of Gains
Today marked 100 trading days since the Nasdaq 100's March 20th COVID Crash closing low. Below is a chart showing the rolling 100-trading day percentage change of the Nasdaq 100 since 1985. The 59.8% gain over the last 100 trading days ranks as the 3rd strongest run on record. The only two stronger 100-day rallies ended in January 1999 and March 2000.
While the Nasdaq 100 bottomed on Friday, March 20th, the S&P 500 bottomed the following Monday (3/23). This means tomorrow will mark 100 trading days since the S&P 500's COVID Crash closing low. Right now the rolling 100-day percentage change for the S&P 500 sits at +46.7%. But if the S&P manages to trade at current levels tomorrow, the 100-day gain will jump above 50%. It has been 87 years (1933) since we've seen a 100-day gain of more than 50%!
Whether you want to look at it from the perspective of closing prices or intraday levels, the S&P 500 is doing what just about everybody thought would be impossible less than five months ago - approaching record highs. Relative to its closing high of 3,386.15, the S&P 500 is just 0.27% lower, while it's within half of a percent from its record intraday high of 3,393.52. Through today, the S&P 500 has gone 120 trading days without a record high, and as shown in the chart below, the current streak is barely even visible when viewed in the perspective of all streaks since 1928. Even if we zoom in on just the last five years, the current streak of 120 trading days only ranks as the fourth-longest streak without a new high. While the S&P 500's 120-trading day streak without a new high isn't extreme by historical standards, the turnaround off the lows has been extraordinary. In the S&P 500's history, there have been ten prior declines of at least 20% from a record closing high. Of those ten prior periods, the shortest gap between the original record high and the next one was 309 trading days, and the shortest gap between highs that had a pullback of at least 30% was 484 tradings days (or more than four times the current gap of 120 trading days). For all ten streaks without a record high, the median drought was 680 trading days.
Whenever the S&P 500 does take out its 2/19 high, the question is whether the new high represents a breakout where the S&P 500 keeps rallying into evergreen territory, or does it run out of gas after finally reaching a new milestone? To shed some light on this question, we looked at the S&P 500's performance following each prior streak of similar duration without a new high.
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(VIDEO NOT YET POSTED!) Here are the most notable companies (tickers) reporting earnings in this upcoming trading week ahead-
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Walmart Inc. $132.60
Walmart Inc. (WMT) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 7:00 AM ET on Tuesday, August 18, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.20 per share on revenue of $134.28 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $1.29 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 81% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 5.51% with revenue increasing by 2.99%. Short interest has decreased by 12.5% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 0.6% from its open following the earnings release to be 9.9% above its 200 day moving average of $120.64. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Tuesday, August 11, 2020 there was some notable buying of 12,381 contracts of the $135.00 put expiring on Friday, August 21, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 4.9% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 2.3% move in recent quarters.
NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 4:20 PM ET on Wednesday, August 19, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.95 per share on revenue of $3.65 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $2.01 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 84% expecting an earnings beat The company's guidance was for earnings of $1.83 to $2.06 per share. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 65.25% with revenue increasing by 41.53%. The stock has drifted higher by 31.0% from its open following the earnings release to be 57.7% above its 200 day moving average of $293.24. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Friday, August 14, 2020 there was some notable buying of 3,787 contracts of the $460.00 call expiring on Friday, August 21, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 7.7% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 4.0% move in recent quarters.
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (BABA) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 7:10 AM ET on Thursday, August 20, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.99 per share on revenue of $21.13 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $2.11 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 83% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 8.74% with revenue increasing by 26.22%. Short interest has increased by 30.1% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 25.0% from its open following the earnings release to be 20.0% above its 200 day moving average of $211.59. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. On Friday, August 7, 2020 there was some notable buying of 12,935 contracts of the $300.00 call expiring on Friday, November 20, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 6.2% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 3.1% move in recent quarters.
JD.com, Inc. (JD) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 5:50 AM ET on Monday, August 17, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.38 per share on revenue of $26.98 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.46 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 78% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 52.00% with revenue increasing by 23.25%. Short interest has increased by 16.7% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 24.1% from its open following the earnings release to be 36.9% above its 200 day moving average of $45.34. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Friday, August 14, 2020 there was some notable buying of 12,799 contracts of the $62.00 call expiring on Friday, August 21, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 8.0% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 6.4% move in recent quarters.
Home Depot, Inc. (HD) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 6:00 AM ET on Tuesday, August 18, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $3.71 per share on revenue of $31.67 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $3.75 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 78% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 17.03% with revenue increasing by 2.69%. Short interest has decreased by 39.8% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 16.7% from its open following the earnings release to be 22.4% above its 200 day moving average of $229.20. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Friday, August 14, 2020 there was some notable buying of 3,323 contracts of the $300.00 call expiring on Friday, August 28, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 4.2% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 2.5% move in recent quarters.
Lowe's Companies, Inc. (LOW) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 6:00 AM ET on Wednesday, August 19, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $2.93 per share on revenue of $21.29 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $2.97 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 78% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 36.28% with revenue increasing by 1.42%. Short interest has decreased by 19.2% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 25.9% from its open following the earnings release to be 31.2% above its 200 day moving average of $117.67. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Friday, August 7, 2020 there was some notable buying of 1,994 contracts of the $170.00 call expiring on Friday, August 21, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 6.0% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 5.8% move in recent quarters.
Target Corp. (TGT) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 6:30 AM ET on Wednesday, August 19, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.56 per share on revenue of $19.30 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $1.64 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 75% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 14.29% with revenue increasing by 4.77%. Short interest has decreased by 36.8% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 10.0% from its open following the earnings release to be 18.0% above its 200 day moving average of $115.73. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Monday, August 10, 2020 there was some notable buying of 4,479 contracts of the $135.00 call expiring on Friday, September 18, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 6.3% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 7.7% move in recent quarters.
Sea Limited (SE) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 6:30 AM ET on Tuesday, August 18, 2020. The consensus estimate is for a loss of $0.47 per share on revenue of $1.03 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is ($0.36) per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 74% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 34.29% with revenue increasing by 136.16%. Short interest has decreased by 8.5% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 91.7% from its open following the earnings release to be 98.1% above its 200 day moving average of $63.87. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. On Tuesday, August 4, 2020 there was some notable buying of 4,000 contracts of the $110.00 put expiring on Friday, January 15, 2021. Option traders are pricing in a 12.9% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 16.7% move in recent quarters.
Niu Technologies (NIU) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 3:00 AM ET on Monday, August 17, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.07 per share on revenue of $88.07 million and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.11 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 57% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 30.00% with revenue increasing by 13.97%. Short interest has increased by 18.9% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 129.8% from its open following the earnings release to be 90.3% above its 200 day moving average of $10.94. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. The stock has averaged a 3.7% move on earnings in recent quarters.
BJ's Wholesale Club, Inc. (BJ) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 6:45 AM ET on Thursday, August 20, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.57 per share on revenue of $3.64 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.60 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 73% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 46.15% with revenue increasing by 8.79%. Short interest has decreased by 3.2% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 33.8% from its open following the earnings release to be 46.7% above its 200 day moving average of $28.27. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Wednesday, August 12, 2020 there was some notable buying of 2,119 contracts of the $50.00 call expiring on Friday, September 18, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 12.4% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 10.0% move in recent quarters.
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