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June 26, 2020 – Covid-19 surges in young people, hydrogen fuel’s popularity continues to skyrocket and Bain Capital bets on Virgin Australia and the airline industry.

Today’s newsletter 1,123 words, a 6-minute read. Let’s get to it:

As Virus Surges, Younger People Account for ‘Disturbing’ Number of Cases

Over the last few weeks, the age group of new Covid-19 cases has skewed young to the point where UT Health epidemiology professor Joseph McCormick told The New York Times, “It’s really quite disturbing.” In Arizona, people ages 20 to 44 account for almost half the cases. The median age of Florida residents testing positive has dropped to 35, from 65 in March. In Cameron County, Texas, people under 40 make up more than half of new cases.

Why It Matters

The pattern is hugely concerning and could complicate any plans to open schools, resume athletics or inch back toward normal life. The rise in cases reflects a simple truth – as bars, restaurants and offices reopen, young people aren’t going to stay away. They’re more likely to go out socializing, which raises concerns that asymptomatic young people are aiding the virus’ spread to the more vulnerable population. Although, there’s no single answer fully explaining the surge among young people. But the CDC now estimates the scale of undiagnosed infections is much larger than previously thought.

“Our best estimate right now is that for every case that was reported, there actually were 10 other infections,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told The New York Times.

Numbers to Consider

  • 36,975 – The number of new cases recorded Wednesday, a new daily high for the United States.
  • 2,504,676 – The total number of U.S. Covid-19 cases, according to nCoV2019.live.

Full Story: (NEW YORK TIMES)

Is Hydrogen the New Wonder Fuel?

“There are good reasons for the hydrogen buzz, but the road to adoption is a long one,” The Wall Street Journal writes. We’ve all seen the hype. Nikola Motor, the hydrogen truck company, has been tremendously popular of late. But the fuel itself is expensive, as well as shares in the companies that could help “unlock that promise.”

Why It Matters

Interest in hydrogen rose briefly in the 1990s before fading away. The difference now is most governments plan to decarbonize, and the renewable energy required to make green hydrogen is now more widely available. Before anyone can fully dive in, producing green hydrogen needs to be fully industrialized to reduce costs and prices. When it does, demand will explode. But until then, for most companies, it’s a cost-intensive expenditure.

Hydrogen is on everyone’s mind, though – it’s a central part of this year’s fiscal stimulus plans in Europe and Asia. Those funds should go a long way in accelerating the technology’s widespread availability. But there is a risk this could result in a mature market, similar to what happened to the solar industry. Or investors could overpay at too early a point because of excitement. The bottom line is hydrogen can replace a lot of heavy carbon producing industries. Long-haul trucks could use the light, quickly refuellable cells, while hydrogen could generate the heat required for steel and cement production.

Numbers to Consider

  • 543 million – The expected hydrogen demand by 2050 in metric tons.

Full Story: (WALL STREET JOURNAL)

Virgin Australia Set to Keep Flying After Bain Agrees to Buy Airline

Virgin Australia was in pretty dire straits. But after U.S. private equity firm Bain Capital agreed to purchase the struggling airline, the future doesn’t look so bad. Bain won out in pursuit of Virgin Australia against private equity rival Cyrus Capital Partners, a key player in Australian domestic air travel, and plans to restructure Virgin’s business with fewer and smaller planes.

Why It Matters

Consumers are still wary of flying, and many national borders are still closed, but the aviation industry is bound to return to normal eventually, right? That’s what Bain is betting on and has indicated its intention to recapitalize the airline until demand returns. Virgin Australia will likely be able to cut debt and trim costs, but the short-term economic conditions will probably force the airline to lay off staff and pare back its international services.

Numbers to Consider

  • $964 Million – The bailout funds requested by Virgin Australia to stay solvent, which the Australian government ultimately declined.
  • $0.57 – Virgin Australia’s stock price Friday morning.

Full Story: (WALL STREET JOURNAL)

A Quick Look

Nike Sales Dragged Down by Store Closures

  1. Nike sales fell 38 percent in the latest quarter as physical store closures overshadowed surging online demand.
  2. The apparel giant’s push to reopen is well underway – 85 percent of its stores in North America, 90 percent in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and roughly 65 percent in Asia, Pacific and Latin American regions are now open.
  3. 75 percent spike in online sales cushioned Nike during the rough period, but sales still fell in the most recent quarter by $6.31 billion year-over-year.

Full Story: (WALL STREET JOURNAL)

Worth Your Time

Working Remotely: I guess it makes sense since working from home is becoming so essential, but Ford announced modifications to its F-150 truck that will transform it into a rolling workstation. Ford executives are “hoping” the redesigned, worker-friendly cabin, which features a broadband connection and makeshift desk, will fuel impactful progress in its corporate turnaround plan that has underwhelmed so far. (WALL STREET JOURNAL)

Taking to the Stars: Virgin Galactic has passed a key milestone in its path to commercial spaceflight. The successful test comes just four years after the company had a fatal crash testing its aircraft’s predecessor. Nothing is imminent. There’s still plenty of hurdles Virgin has to clear, but space tourism is getting closer to reality and could be here by the end of the year in a best-case scenario. (TECH CRUNCH)

Cash Rules Everything: Europe’s significant leap in money supply growth usually would be a sign businesses are drawing on loans to invest and consumers are spending. Instead, firms are drawing down on committed credit lines to avoid any liquidity shortages in the near future. People are also saving more, and that could quell fears of a surge in inflation. But in short, these are all indicators of economic weakness rather than strength. (BLOOMBERG)

A Watchful Eye: Antitrust cases rarely reach the attorney general level, but AG William Bar has kept a close watch on Google, getting regular updates. The AG’s interest has kept the Justice Department focused on Google and signals just how high the stakes for him and his office are. (NEW YORK TIMES)

A Couple Cents Content

In case you missed it, Justin Oh’s advises us not to get overly emotional about stocks in his bi-weekly live show (YOUTUBE)

Yesterday was a pretty active news day, so I wrote a quick late-night brief to fill the gap (POST)

Watch Justin Oh break down how the idea of opportunity cost relates to our daily lives (TIK TOK)

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Look out for our end-of-week roundup later today!

— Justin Birnbaum

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Responses

    1. Justin, there will be another option pretty soon and hydrogen will be an after thought for good.  there is a type of battery that is soon to be coming out soon and its called a solid state battery.  this battery is suppose to be able to take a charge super quick. one of the reason why our current battery cannot take a charge quickly is because it would catch on fire due to the liquid part of the battery being heated up super quick.  at the university of austin, they are working with another company from canada to make such battery. to dangle a piece of nugget, Tesla is rumored to be buying a large piece of land in austin, tx.  why are they doing that?  tesla has the resources to hire the best engineers to further advance their tech.  could tesla know about this battery and decided to build a house right where the source is at??  hmm.. this solid state battery rumor has been out for a while now and IF this is true, this IS the game changer to EVs because you could just go to a charging station and within minutes, charge up ur solid state car battery and continue on your journey.  do you think this is also a reason why nikola decided to go with a full electric semi first because he also knew hydrogen would be phased out soon?? im not sure but im betting on the solid state battery within the next 3-5yrs.. i know.. it takes a while for these things to come out. lol

      1. TSLA definitely wants to move to Texas vs California. California has swayed to the point where regulations hinder business speed. I do think that battery tech is a great way, but for some reason idk why they don’t do battery swap tech too! I think NKLA is one of those things where they have a nice prototype but the CEO is a salesman and thinks with enough money, he can solve the hurdles. I don’t think he can…

  1. Hydrogen and Nikola is just a fad imho. as a normal driver, i would not want to be driving around with that extremely explosive tank in my car. heck, i even get sort of testy everytime i lug my propane tank to have it refueled. Nikola shifted focus on making electric semis first instead of hydrogen powered because imo, he see that its the best and easiest way to get it up and running quickly vs producing a hydrogen powered truck. there are virtually no infrastructure to refuel these trucks readily on hand IF these trucks were to debut within the next couple of years and building these stations cost a lot. Nikola claimed to have a beer company placing a who fleet of orders on their trucks already but there have been videos of people placing bogus orders to purchase a bunch of these trucks WITHOUT any down payments!
    sure the govt have huge incentives on making a vehicle greener and produces less carbon emission BUT i highly doubt hydrogen will be here for long. what makes me wonder sometime is could Trevor, who started Nikola, created this hype to take advantage of this push for alternative fuel vehicles so that he can make money and get out? please everyone do you own research about hydrogen and nikola before you all get left behind holding large dirt bags.

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