# 656 – 🗳️ The most important election you’ve never heard of – The Average Joe
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    # 656 – 🗳️ The most important election you’ve never heard of

    victorlei

    March 20, 2024

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    Good morning. Each year, March Madness promises one thing: chaos. All the upsets and Cinderella runs can make it hard to pick who will come out on top, but luckily, the WSJ has some stat-backed tips:

    • Don’t pick the odds-on favorite (UConn) because — sort of like value investing — you have less to gain from being correct when 32% of fans are also picking them to win.

    • The “value picks” are Houston and Purdue — two very talented teams many amateur bracketologists overlook.

    • And if you’re trying to think outside the box, consider 4-seed Auburn, which actually might be one of the best teams in the country based on advanced stats.

    Of course, there’s always the option of making random guesses. It’s a surprisingly effective strategy that has earned many victories in office bracket pools.


    TRENDS

    Proxy Elections Could Change Corporate America — But Most Americans Don’t Even Know About Them

    Corporations run the world, but who runs the companies? It’s not just the board or the executives — it’s the shareholders participating in proxy elections. Proxy voting empowers shareholders to weigh in on corporate decisions like how much a CEO gets paid or who sits on the board. These votes have become battlegrounds for corporate control in recent years, with a record 1,151 activist investor campaigns in 2023.

    Shareholders represent: While these campaigns could reshape American businesses, just 28% of shares owned by individual investors were cast in proxy elections last year. Compounding the issue, most American investors hold stocks through mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which typically don’t allow shareholders to vote. Instead, major ETF providers like BlackRock (iShares), State Street (SPDR), and Vanguard — controlling nearly 75% of the ETF market combined — cast votes on their behalf. But for the first time, ETF investors will have a say:

    • Index funds now allow individual retail investors the opportunity to direct their shares’ votes based on their preferences, aiming to boost shareholder participation.

    • Instead of direct voting, BlackRock offers ETF investors the choice to delegate their votes to one of six different policies, including options like Socially Responsible Investment, Catholic Faith-Based, and Climate.

    Why vote?

    Votes have value and can influence the fate of the stocks you own. In 2021, Exxon Mobil ($XOM) faced a monumental boardroom battle —resulting in the appointment of board members prioritizing a shift to green energy. Companies like Salesforce ($CRM) and Illumina ($ILMN) have also faced proxy campaigns in recent years. Even Disney ($DIS) is currently fending off an attack by billionaire investor Nelson Peltz.

    • Peltz believes $DIS is underperforming, so he’s seeking board seats to overhaul CEO Bob Iger’s strategy ahead of its April 3 annual shareholder meeting.

    • Got 500K Disney votes? One mystery buyer was willing to pay $100K on Shareholder Vote Exchange at the beginning of this month.

    Just so you know… The ETF proxy voting initiative isn’t a perfect representation of shareholder democracy, but some representation is better than none. Two dominant companies in the proxy industry will manage the new policy-based voting. Even so, companies might find ways to resist change — Exxon recently sued to prevent new activist proposals from voting. But that might be all the more motivation to vote, potentially paving the way for change.


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    Eli Electric Vehicles isn’t like other electric vehicle companies, and you can become a shareholder as they bring their new city driving concept from Europe to the US.

    Here’s what makes Eli’s investment potential so promising…

    1. Micro-EVs are a $470B market. Oversized cars cause cities to get more congested by the day, exposing demand for more common-sense car design. Eli’s vehicles are up to 70% smaller than a traditional sedan.

    2. Hundreds of sales in Europe. Scaling success across Europe and the South Pacific is fueling their US expansion in 2024.

    3. 3,000+ investors are onboard. They must be doing something right.

    Those are just a few of many reasons to become an Eli shareholder today.

    Deadline: Invest in Eli by 4/4 and get 5% free shares with your investment.


    LARGECAP RECAP

    🇯🇵 Japan raises interest rates for the first time in 17 years

    In 2016, Japan’s central bank cut interest rates to -0.1% as part of a radical policy change meant to fight deflation and return the country to economic growth. Nearly two decades later, after yielding limited results, the Bank of Japan is embracing a new policy. On Tuesday, it nudged interest rates up to 0.1%, a slight increase representing a generational shift in the country’s monetary policy.

    • Japan is now the final major economy to ditch negative interest rates and stimulus measures, with the central bank noting that these efforts have “fulfilled their roles” (NYT).

    • Robeco’s Arnout van Rijn called the effort a “milestone in the normalization of monetary policy in Japan,” while Citigroup’s Keita Matsumoto told Reuters it could be “the beginning of a new era.”

    Land of the rising yield: In recent weeks, optimism in the Japanese economy has helped the country’s Nikkei 225 stock index reach all-time highs not seen in almost 40 years. However, the real impact of Japan’s actions will likely affect the bond market the most. Reuters suggests that the country’s $8.7T+ of government debt could see its value drop as Japan’s interest rates rise and it scales back its years-long stimulus efforts.

    🔧 American manufacturers dream of zero defects, thanks to AI

    Striving for perfection isn’t a walk in the park, but American manufacturers aim for it anyway. From car brands to snack food companies, executives set ambitious “zero-defect” goals to minimize employee errors. To achieve this, they’re investing in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic vision systems, streamlining workflows, and automating manual tasks.

    • For instance, Apple ($AAPL) recently acquired DarwinAI, an AI-powered quality inspector also utilized by Lockheed Martin ($LMT) and BMW ($BMWYY) to enhance manufacturing efficiency.

    • Companies are banking on these pricey quality control investments to cut down the significant financial blows caused by production delays or paying out warranty claims.

    Vertical integration to the rescue? Companies’ manufacturing investments might make once-appealing outsourcing look costly — especially considering the mistakes of Boeing ($BA), which is in talks to acquire its troubled supplier Spirit AeroSystems ($SPR). Such efforts may prompt companies to explore alternative cost-cutting methods — but they might have to spend to unlock them.


    JOE’S MARKET PULSE

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    Markets & Economy

    Bitcoin has fallen 10K+ in a week: In fairness, it hit an all-time high of 73K last week — but now it’s slumping and dragging Ether and Dogecoin down with it. Analysts say that the rise of Bitcoin ETFs means more currency is being bought up, which makes these dramatic swings more likely. [Read]

    Oil prices hit four-month high: Exports from Saudi Arabia and Iraq, OPEC’s two biggest producers, are falling — while demand is rising in China amid a strong economic start to 2024. TLDR; supply is low, and demand is high — prices are doing their thing. [Read]

    US and Japan team up to ban nukes in space: You can sleep better at night knowing 114 countries have signed on to the Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits the development or deployment of nuclear weapons in space. It comes about a month after the US accused Russia of developing an “anti-satellite weapon” — something Russia denies. [Read]

    Business & Wealth

    The college majors that pay the worst five years out: It’s tough out there for humanities majors. Within five years of graduation, majors in the liberal arts, performing arts, and religion make just $38K/year on average. History, fine arts, and anthropology majors don’t fare much better at $40K annually. [Read]

    Nvidia ($NVDA) unveils its fastest chip year: Sporting his trademark black leather jacket, CEO Jensen Huang showed off the B200 — Nvidia’s new flagship chip, performing tasks 30x faster. While impressive, will it be enough to hold off a growing group of chipmaker competitors? [Read]

    MrBeast gets Amazon ($AMZN) Prime reality show: Beast Games will feature a thousand contestants competing for a $5M prize as the ridiculously popular YouTuber makes the jump to streaming. The show will have a higher budget than his YouTube fare, but he promises it will still have “the Beast feel.” [Read]

    *Thanks to our sponsors for keeping the newsletter free.


    CHART


    DIGIT OF THE DAY

    Women-Owned Businesses Surged 17% In 2023 As the She-conomy Soldiers On

    Women girlbossed so brilliantly last year that pundits have crowned it the “Year of the Girl.” From girl math to girl dinner, women influenced major cultural trends across various industries, showcasing their role as key drivers of economic growth. They also made their mark in entrepreneurship, narrowing the gender gap in a traditionally male-dominated field.

    • In 2023, women launched over 58K new businesses — up 17% from the year before, according to Yelp’s “She-conomy” Trend Report.

    • Gusto’s payroll data revealed that women accounted for 49% of new business owners last year, surpassing men at 45%.

    She’s all that: During COVID-19, female workplace participation rates took a significant hit, but they have rebounded strongly in 2023, particularly among prime-age (millennial) women in countries like the US, Australia, and Japan. Factors contributing to this resurgence include increased hiring, higher education, and flexible work-from-home options. Ned Davis Research found that the growing presence of millennial women in the workforce could have far-reaching positive effects on the economy, stock market, and retail spending as they spend more, buy homes, and enhance productivity.


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