Welcome to Bespoke Brunch Reads — a linkfest of the favorite things we read over the past week. The links are mostly market related, but there are some other interesting subjects covered as well. We hope you enjoy the food for thought as a supplement to the research we provide you during the week.

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Second Order Effects

Fewer Traffic Collisions During Shutdown Means Longer Waits For Organ Donations by April Dembosky (Kaiser Health News)

With far fewer cars on the road, there have been fewer fatal accidents, and as a result there haven’t been as many organs available for transplant. [Link]

U.S. Adults Report Less Worry, More Happiness by Megan Brenan (Gallup)

While many parents report brutal experiences trying to balance careers and children at home from school, since late March/early April there’s been a substantial improvement in levels of happiness, with less worry and boredom as well. [Link]


The Day Coronavirus Nearly Broke the Financial Markets by Justin Baer (WSJ)

March 16th saw stocks fall at a record pace, huge scrambles for liquidity, and totally broken markets across asset classes that are typically regarded as very safe. [Link; paywall]

Frustrated sports punters turn to US stock market by Richard Henderson (FT)

With no soccer, no baseball, no basketball, and cancelled Olympics, the sports gambling behemoth slowly laid eyes on stocks as an outlet for those regularly risking cash on uncertain outcomes. [Link; paywall]

Options Market Signals a Dire Picture for Stocks by Ash Alankar and Myron Scholes (Bloomberg)

Despite a huge bounce since the March lows, equity options are pricing a relatively dire downside scenario that is more akin to what was priced at the lows than during a typical equity rally. [Link; soft paywall]

Pandemic Flight

First They Fled the City. Now They’re Building $75,000 In-Ground Pools by Gina Bellafante (NYT)

While debates rage over the safety of beaches – let alone public pool facilities – the wealthy are busily bolstering their environments with private swimming facilities. [Link; soft paywall]

Returning New Zealanders push population to record 5m by Jamie Smyth (FT)

Monthly net migration figures show a record 42,800 net additions to the small island nation, driven by citizens flocking back to the oasis of low case counts and remote living in the furthest southern reaches of the Pacific. [Link; paywall]


An Unemployment Crisis after the Onset of COVID-19 by Nicolas Petrosky-Nadeau and Robert G. Valletta (FRBSF)

Labor markets have taken a massive hit from the COVID crisis, but how fast will they bounce back? This analysis presents a disheartening range of outcomes that tilt firmly against rapid returns to very low unemployment that persisted pre-recession. [Link]

The Irish Shock to U.S. Manufacturing? by Brad Setser (Council on Foreign Relations)

US tax policy is incentivizing a huge shift away from domestic production and towards imports in an industry that doesn’t typically get discussed as a source of the US trade deficit. [Link]


How MLB’s Old Schedule Makers Would Set Up the 2020 Season by Emma Baccellieri (SI)

A profile of the couple that hand-wrote every MLB schedule from 1982 to 2004, balancing all of the intricate tradeoffs around fairness, weather, TV scheduling, and the myriad other concerns that afflict the 2,430 matchups in a 162 game calendar. [Link]

Minor League Baseball Is in Crisis by Robert Sanchez (SI)

Baseball teams are facing the same challenges as every other business and doing so without the stores of cash that Major League owners can call on. [Link]

Michael Jordan: A history of flight by Wright Thompson (ESPN)

Tracing MJ’s roots in Wilmington, filled with tobacco fields, and the man who The Last Dance only partially captures. [Link; soft paywall, auto-playing video]


Is a Pandemic the Right Time to Start a Business? It Just Might Be by Amy Haimerl (NYT)

While new business formation has slowed substantially, there are many new entrants finding a niche amidst the collapse in activity across the country; as society changes in response to the virus, new forms of opportunity are opening up. [Link]

A pizzeria owner made money buying his own $24 pizzas from DoorDash for $16 by Bijan Stephen (The Verge)

In an effort to win business, DoorDash is pricing some menu items below cost and effectively creating a massive arbitrage opportunity that is possible to bilk for real money. [Link]

Five robots that hope to save the US food supply chain by Patrick McGee (FT)

Cleaning floors, delivering packages, weeding fields, and more: these machines are helping to keep food flowing around the economy amidst the COVID-19 crisis. [Link; paywall]

Retail Reality

Shopping Malls Are Reopening, but Visits Are Still Way Down. Here Are the Numbers. by Evie Liu (Barron’s)

While many malls around the country are starting to reopen thanks to eased stay at home or business closure orders, recent location tracking data suggests that consumers are not exactly beating down the doors to buy. [Link; paywall]

It’s a dogfight at America’s pet stores as COVID-19 upends the $96 billion industry by Phil Wahba (Fortune)

While shelters have been cleared out as Americans respond to COVID loneliness with adoption, pet supply stores are facing monumental challenges after decades of secular growth. [Link]

It Took a Pandemic, but 7-Eleven in Japan Is Letting Stores Take a Break by Hisako Ueno and Ben Dooley (NYT)

Historically 7-11 operators in Japan had to adhere to a brutally strict set of dictates about open hours, but the COVID pandemic is changing much about the country’s approach to retail. [Link; soft paywall]

Home Depot, Lowe’s Primed for Historic Growth During Coronavirus by Matthew Townsend (Bloomberg)

Americans stuck at home under stay at home orders spent a huge amount of time and money upgrading their living space if Q1 results from the home improvement retailers are any indication. [Link; soft paywall]


Students are failing AP tests because the College Board can’t handle iPhone photos by Monica Chin (The Verge)

AP exam takers were foiled by image formats on their iPhones, because the website portal was not set up to handle the image format used by Apple and more recently Samsung phones. [Link]

Head Of NASA’s Human Spaceflight Program Resigns A Week Before Crucial Launch by Nell Greenfieldboyce (NPR)

The NASA administrator charged with overseeing human space travel has resigned ahead of a May 27th launch of American astronauts that will be the first since 2011. [Link]


America’s most illegal record has been obliterated by Cameron Kirby (Which Car)

The legendary speed run from New York City to Los Angeles has seen no less than seven new records in just over a month as empty roads tempt illicit drivers to take the journey at lunatic speeds. [Link]


Why do some COVID-19 patients infect many others, whereas most don’t spread the virus at all? by Kay Kupferschmidt (Science)

While average transmission rates are useful for understanding the scale of outbreaks, in reality most COVID patients don’t infect many other people; instead, a few “superspreaders” drive big outbreaks, and understanding when and why that happens is a key to making the world safe until a vaccine can be found. [Link]


FBI finds al Qaeda link after breaking encryption on Pensacola attacker’s iPhone by David Shortell and Evan Perez (CNN)

For the first time since 9/11, a terrorist attack with fatalities directed by foreigners has taken place on American soil, as the FBI discovered links between a Saudi military trainee and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. [Link]


Do civilisations collapse? by Guy D Middleton (Aeon)

A critical treatment of the narrative that many civilizations fall apart due to their own hubris, or a catastrophic reliance on a shifting environment. In reality, easy narrativization is a mistake that obscures more complicated reality. [Link]

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Have a great weekend!

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