We Live In A World Where Emojis Are The Fastest-Growing Means Of Communication, Plus Airbnb Has A Solution To Its Race Problem

morning-brew-new

“That war is over” — Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, in defense of BofA’s lagging stock performance the past five years. The war Moynihan’s referring to? That whole fallout from the ‘08 crisis thing. Moynihan claims to be ready and willing to buy back stock…but are you?

Big Picture

  • U.S. markets closed lower after the European Central Bank decided to hold interest rates steady, counter to the stimulus boost investors were hoping for

Alternatives to Watch

  • Oil jumped to a two-week high after the Energy Information Administration posted the largest crude supply drop since 1999

Market Movers

  • Shares of Apple fell 2.5% as the bold(ish?) changes to the iPhone revealed in yesterday’s keynote got investors hot and bothered

CORPORATE PRIMER

Everybody’s Doing It

…Why not Wells Fargo? The big bank will fork over $185 million for illegal business practices. Translation: it opened over two millions accounts for clients without their permission, all to meet compensation incentives and sales targets. Disappointing? Yes. As the largest U.S. bank, Wells Fargo has quite the reputation to uphold, which is why the bank took responsibility for its actions, expressed regret and—this is the big one—fired 5,300 employees. Does that make it all better, though? Not really. Warren Buffett was right: it takes years to build a reputation, and only minutes to crush it.

Alphabet’s Manifest Destiny

…Because being one of the most valuable companies in the world isn’t enough. Conquering new territory is the name of Alphabet’s game. Its next target? For a mere $625 million, Google is now the proud owner of Apigee, a cloud software company. Apigee is all about making software that connects companies to their customers digitally—and to be more specific, we’re really talking about APIs, which essentially connect a company’s system to various apps. It’s a bit technical, but the key takeaway is the software is widely used and can be pretty profitable, too. The long-run plan for Google seems to be diversifying its revenue portfolio away from online advertising and more towards other ventures. Keep doing you, Google.

Airbnb Knows It Has a Problem

…And it’s taking steps to fix it. The home-sharing giant has been heavily criticizedfor standing idly by while hosts racially discriminate against renters (look no further than the #AirbnbWhileBlack Twitter hashtag). Well, criticize no longer: yesterday,Airbnb unveiled a host of new policies aiming to eliminate the problem. Among the changes: reducing the prominence of photos during the booking process, expanding the “Instant Book” automatic booking program and—perhaps most significantly—promising that any Airbnb guest who is discriminated against will be hooked up with alternate digs—even booking the guest in a (gasp) hotel if necessary. For a company built on openness and inclusivity, the allegations of racial discriminationstood out like a sore thumb—making these policy changes sorely appreciated.

WORLD MACRO

Three’s a Magic Number

…For the ECB. In a move that shocked the world (but not really), European Central Bank President Mario Draghi announced yesterday that the ECB is holding all three major interest rates steady in Europe, and it will keep its $1.9 trillion stimulus program unchanged. So what? Many view the decision as a sign that policymakers don’t see Brexit as a major threat to the euro area. Interesting. Up next? Many investors expect the ECB to extend its quantitative easing program (aka bond-purchasing stimulus extravaganza) before it expires in March. We’ll keep you posted.

OTHER STORIES

ECONOMIC CALENDAR

WHAT DOES EGGPLANT REALLY MEAN?

Who would’ve thought that emojis would become the world’s fastest-growing means of communication? Certainly not Shigetaka Kurita, the original designer of the emoji. Since creating 176 emoji designs in 1999 for Japanese mobile phones, the emoji language has grown to encompass over 1,800 emojis, which are used by over 90% of the global online population. A new language? See for yourself:

  • It’s not just the number of emojis that have grown; the ways that people use them have changed as well. Just take the seemingly benign eggplant emoji: originally a harmless vegetable, this emoji is now being used to represent nudity (we’ll let you fill in the details). Props to the online world for getting creative with what they’ve got.
  • Emojis are getting more politically correct, too: in 2015, modifiers were added that allowed users to change the skin tone of an emoji. You’ll also soon be able to swap the gender of emojis depicting different professions.
  • Companies and private individuals can propose (but not buy) new emojis, which are then considered by an impartial panel that considers factors such as distinctiveness and whether or not it will contribute to the emoji vocabulary. Yep, it’s a language committee. Who knows, maybe a nude emoji is in users’ futures after all.

INTERVIEW QUESTION OF THE DAY

Name three situations in the market when the odds of successfully timing a short sale are better. (Answer)

BUSINESS TERM OF THE DAY

Kickback — The payment of something of value to a recipient as compensation or reward for providing favorable treatment to another party. It can take the form of money, gifts, credit or anything of value, and may be viewed as a corrupt practice that interferes with an official’s ability to make unbiased decisions.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Competition for warehouse workers at some of America’s largest companies (think Amazon) is getting fierce. Due to low unemployment rates, online shopping growth and rising minimum wages, holiday-season logistics workers are harder and harder to come by each year. It’s become so difficult that UPS has even started recruiting at college football games.

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