Dolly Parton is joining the metaverse. That’s right, y’all.
Dolly Parton is a musical genius who is one of the smartest businesswomen in the music industry, retaining not only the rights to her original catalog but the grace and dignity and sass that goes along with a nearly seven-decade career.
But Dolly, in the headlines once again for graciously declining her nomination to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, has planted those pretty little stilettos squarely into Zuckerberg’s territory.
The metaverse is beginning to take shape as an increasingly popular place for brands, celebrities, and actual people to stake their claims. Zuckerberg has been particularly keen on the metaverse, saying that he sees it as the most likely direction for the future of Facebook, and rapidly snapping up properties and goods and virtual real estate to create a place for users to buy new houses, find cool clothes and of course, spend money.
Followers of Miss Dolly know that she is nothing if not prolific. Not to be outdone by literally anything else happening at SXSW, a popular music festival in Austin, Texas, that is now as much about selling things as it is about music, Dolly basically did the biggest mic drop possible.
She introduced three new products: The Dollyverse, a new novel she’s written titled “Run, Rose, Run,” and just to be sure y’all are listening closely, she debuted an NFT in collaboration with FOX Entertainment’s Blockchain Creative Labs.
If anyone ever had a fanbase loyal enough to follow them literally anywhere, it’s Parton. And if anyone ever had a passion for a project so intense that it made people buy houses and clothes that don’t actually exist, it’s Zuckerberg.
So the synergy of these two could turn out to be a good thing if Zuckerberg plays his cards right. In the meantime, keep your eye out for Dolly’s new universe, dropping March 18.
“I’m almost always up for trying something new and different,” Parton said. “I’d say releasing NFTs at my first ever appearance at SXSW, with James Patterson by my side, definitely counts as new and different.”
Tech Giants Offer Digital Skills Courses to Fuel the American Dream
While unemployment in the U.S. has fallen with the economy adding better-than-expected jobs last month, the pandemic has worsened the digital skills gap among Americans. More than 90% of U.S. businesses accelerated their digitization plans in 2020, but skills among the workforce have not transformed at the same pace. The fast-changing requirements for employment demand that people should be equipped with the right skills and tools.
The Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream (MCAAD) and online education company Coursera (COUR) – Get Coursera Inc Report have formed a partnership to help provide underserved youth in America with skills and tools to increase their chances of higher-quality, higher-paid employment.
The American Dream Academy will offer entry-level certificates created by tech giants, including Alphabet-owned Google (GOOGL) – Get Alphabet Inc. Class A Report, IBM (IBM) – Get International Business Machines Corporation Report, and Meta for those do not possess a college degree or technical experience and prepare them for well-paying digital jobs in data analytics, IT support, project management, and user experience (UX) design that are needed in high-demand sectors.
Here’s a breakdown list of more technology and FAANG/MAMAA stocks to watch right now based on their performance over the past week:
If you’re looking forward to the latest suite of Apple (AAPL) – Get Apple Inc. Report products from its first launch event held online last week, there may be an unexpected kink that could disrupt your plans to upgrade to the new low-cost iPhone SE or the latest iPad Air 5 or the wildly popular Mac Studio. The biggest manufacturer of Apple iPhones, Foxconn Technology Group has “suspended” operations in China’s industrial hub Shenzhen following a spike in Covid-19 cases in the region.
Foxconn has specifically suspended production at its Longhua and Guanlan factories in Shenzhen, according to a report by Nikkei Asia. These production halts have typically led to global chip shortages that affect several sectors and lead to manufacturing delays for products including smartphones, laptops, other electronics, and auto equipment.
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Wedbush analyst Dan Ives estimated that if Covid restrictions persist for two to three weeks it could hurt overall iPhone production by 1% to 2% for the quarter, in an interview with Yahoo Finance. But, Apple also has a large manufacturing hub in Zhengzhou in Henan Province in China where things continue to run smoothly.
AT&T’s (T) – Get AT&T Inc. Report HBO Max launched two years ago during the summer, right as the world was starting to accept that the pandemic lockdown was going to be a long-term situation and people were grateful to have as much stuff to watch as possible. For years, HBO’s on-demand service HBO Go enabled subscribers to watch the channel’s slate of original television series and specials, plus whichever films were being featured on the channel at the moment. But after AT&T acquired WarnerMedia in 2016, the new parent unveiled plans to build a media group that could give Netflix (NFLX) – Get Netflix, Inc. Report a run for its money.
HBO Max had 73.8 million global subscribers as of the end of 2021, making it the third-biggest streaming service overall, behind Netflix (222 million) and Disney+ (DIS) – Get Walt Disney Company Report (118.1). That’s not bad at all, and certainly, Comcast’s (CMCSA) – Get Comcast Corporation Class A Report Peacock and CBSViacom’s (VIAB) – Get Viacom Inc. Class B Report Paramount+ would love to have those numbers, but HBO Max’s new owners have a plan that might help it get to triple digits soon (and it’s worth noting that HBO counts its cable subscribers among those numbers).
Last year AT&T said it planned to spin off WarnerMedia to Discovery Inc., (DISCA) – Get Discovery, Inc. Class A Report which owns Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, TLC, Food Network, HGTV, and Travel Channel. Last week Discovery’s shareholders formally approved the deal, which will see AT&T formally spin-off WarnerMedia, to be merged with Discovery. The resulting company will be named Warner Bros. Discovery.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to a significant spike in gasoline prices that has raised costs for anyone using an automobile, including ride-sharing services. The national average price of a gallon of gas on Sunday was $4.33, according to AAA data, which is 11.4% higher than last week, 19.7% higher than the price last month and 34.8% more than last year. Businesses are starting to pass the higher cost of gas on to consumers with ride-sharing company Uber Technologies (UBER) – Get Uber Technologies, Inc. Report leading the charge by adding a temporary fuel surcharge for its drivers and couriers to collect beginning Wednesday.
Uber drivers will add a fuel surcharge of either 45 cents or 55 cents on each trip and either 35 cents or 45 cents on each Uber Eats order, depending on the location with 100% of that money being paid to the drivers, according to a Friday statement. New York City, however, is exempt from the fuel surcharges as trips that start in the city and orders delivered to customers in the city are excluded from surcharges. The surcharges, which will be collected for at least 60 days, are based off of the average trip distance and the increase in gas prices in each state.
Uber ride-sharing rival Lyft (LYFT) – Get Lyft, Inc. Class A Report has not added a fuel surcharge at last check of its website and neither has food delivery services such as DoorDash (DASH) – Get DoorDash, Inc. Class A Report and Grubhub. But you can expect those services to follow Uber’s lead as gas prices continue to rise.
Amazon’s (AMZN) – Get Amazon.com, Inc. Report first stock split in more than 20 years has shares in the world’s biggest online retailer trading sharply higher, and may also pave the way towards its inclusion in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The 20-for-1 split, which will begin trading in early June, will effectively reduce the cost of buying one of the most expensive stocks — at least in nominal terms — from just under $3,000 to around $145 each and open up purchase options for a host of retail investors.
But it may also solve one of Amazon’s most significant challenges: its surging wage bill. The group’s fourth-quarter earnings were flattered by an $11.8 billion boost from Amazon’s stake in EV maker Rivian Automotive (RIVN) – Get Rivian Automotive, Inc. Class A Report, which formed the bulk of its $14.3 billion bottom line.
Oracle (ORCL) – Get Oracle Corporation Report shares moved lower in pre-market trading this past week after the cloud-focused software group posted weaker-than-expected third-quarter earnings that were offset by a solid near-term outlook. Oracle, which earns the bulk of its revenues from its cloud services and license support unit, missed Wall Street’s earnings forecasts by 5 cents with an adjusted second bottom line of $1.13 per share, thanks in part to an 8% jump in operating expenses as it invested in new cloud and hybrid offerings.
Organic revenue growth in application subscription products was 10%, at $3.2 billion, while overall organic revenues were up 7%, the strongest in ten years, Oracle said. The group will spend another $4 billion this year as it rolls out new data centers to meet customer demand but sees sales growing at a 6% to 8% clip and forecasts a fourth-quarter bottom line of between $1.40 and $1.44 per share.
Tech giants continue to grapple to find the best ways to protect user data for clients as hackers continue to discover blind spots. With organizations facing cybersecurity challenges that have accelerated in frequency, severity, and diversity, creating a global security imperative, Alphabet (GOOGL) – Get Alphabet Inc. Class A Report owned Google has responded by beefing up its war chest. In its second-largest deal ever, the search giant has signed a definitive agreement to acquire cybersecurity firm Mandiant, known for its strategic security advisory and incident response services, for close to $5.4 billion, the company said.
The company said the deal with Mandiant will complement Google Cloud’s existing strengths in security. With the addition of Mandiant, Google Cloud will enhance its existing data protection services like BeyondCorp and VirusTotal which analyzes suspicious files, domains, IPs, and URLs to detect malware and other breaches.
The stock market was a sea of red this past week, but investors can find some pockets of strength, particularly in tech. Amazon stock is rallying after a 20-for-1 stock split and a $10 billion buyback (here’s the trade setup on that one). And CrowdStrike (CRWD) – Get CrowdStrike Holdings, Inc. Class A Report is rallying 14% after the cybersecurity company reported better-than-expected results. The company delivered a top-and bottom-line beat and, more importantly, management issued a full-year revenue and earnings outlook that came in above analysts’ expectations.
Even in a difficult trading environment, it’s hard to sell this one lower on a report like that. That’s particularly true as CrowdStrike stock came into the event down 43% from the highs. But, even in a difficult trading environment, it’s hard to sell this one lower on a report like that. “If CrowdStrike stock can reclaim this zone and clear these measures, then it could open up even more potential gains, possibly putting the $225 to $228 area in play, followed by the 200-day moving average,” writes TheStreet’s Bret Kenwell.