🐤 When the chips are down

Computer microchip production might be heading back to the U.S. because of this government investment.

Wednesday | March 1st, 2023
Early Chirp

Happy Wednesday, chirpers! It’s the first day of March, which means Tax Day is just around the corner.

Be sure you have all your documents in order and don’t forget to sign your tax return as required. And if you don’t particularly care for your current signature, you can always turn to someone who can give it a “makeover.”

A growing number of social media influencers are providing new designs to refresh stale signatures — and for a few bucks, a fresh John Hancock could be yours!

-Chris Agee

-$11.44 (-0.10%)
Dow Jones
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S&P 500
-$12.09 (-0.30%)
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-$378.81 (-1.61%)
Norwegian Cruises
-$1.68 (-10.18%)
*Market data for this issue is from March 1st, 2023 at 2:26pm EST

🏦 Markets: Well, we made it to the end of another month and most investors can’t wait to put February 2023 in the history books. It’s been a month of serious volatility and widespread losses, capped off by a decline in all three major indexes as of Tuesday’s closing bell.

Although the year started out on a fairly positive note, continued inflation concerns are leading to uncertainty on Wall Street and Main Street alike.

The Consumer Confidence Index showed a significant dip in February as increased interest rates take their toll.


The Breakdown

A quick look around the world.

A group gathered in support of student loan forgiveness outside the Georgia capital Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for People's Rally to Cancel Student Debt

👨‍🎓 Leave me a loan: President Joe Biden’s executive action to forgive a significant portion of the nation’s student loan debt has faced numerous challenges by state and federal lawmakers and the issue has escalated all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices heard arguments in two separate cases related to the issue on Tuesday in hopes of providing some clarity to a divisive and confusing topic. Meanwhile, borrowers struggling to pay back their student loans are stuck in limbo as they wonder whether they’ll actually get the relief that the Biden administration promised. As of this writing, the conservative majority on the court seemed to be leaning toward overruling the debt relief program.

📺 Big shoes to fill: More than two years after longtime “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek died, fans and showrunners alike are having a hard time getting used to any replacement. Actress Mayim Bialik and champion contestant Ken Jennings have been sharing the duties, but neither one has gained the adoration of fans that Trebek built over his years on the show. That fact was on full display when producer Sarah Foss announced that Jennings would be hosting from March 10 to April 28, at which point Bialik will take over throughout the summer months. Social media users who are clearly fans of Jennings’ on-air personality were outraged that Bialik would be getting so much screen time. One Twitter critic wrote that “she just is not an engaging host.” Bialik did have her share of defenders, though, which is further proof that Trebek was a rare type of host who could appeal to just about anyone who watched the show.

⚾ You’re out: With baseball season just around the corner, fans like me are anxiously awaiting those early games when every team sets out to make the most of their respective rosters. Unfortunately, at least a few clubs will be forced to start without some of their most promising players in key positions. That’s the case for the Tampa Bay Rays, who learned that an oblique injury will be sidelining pitcher Tyler Glasnow for up to eight weeks. Team manager Kevin Cash said that he expects the right-hander to miss the beginning of the season, but sarcastically found a bright spot in the news, explaining: “It gives us better workload management for him so he’s not yelling at me every time I take him out in the fifth inning.”

🚗 Southern expansion: Tesla continues to grow its global footprint with an announcement this week that the electric automaker will be opening a new factory in Monterrey, Mexico. The international deal came together after the company reached an agreement to use recycled water in light of the shortage that Mexico is currently experiencing. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador praised Tesla CEO Elon Musk for his receptive attitude during recent conversations on the issue. “He was very responsive— understanding our concerns and accepting our proposals,” he said, noting that the new plant will provide “many, many jobs” for local citizens.

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This Huge Investment Could Resuscitate US Computer Chip Market

Biden's CHIPS and Science Act is offering some big incentives to Big Tech.

This Huge Investment Could Resuscitate US Computer Chip Market Photo by Annabelle Chih/Getty Images

Back in the early days of the PC revolution, the computer chip was alive and well within the United States — particularly across California’s Silicon Valley, which got its name from the key ingredient in modern microchips.

As with countless other sectors, however, less expensive foreign markets were able to take over an increasing segment of the industry. But the Biden administration thinks it has found a way to revive domestic chip production.

The power of money

While President Joe Biden’s fiscally conservative critics like to blame him for spending too much and ramping up the nation’s debt, allies on the left insist that the federal government must make sizable investments in the future in order to maintain a healthy and robust economy.

That brings us to a $39 billion investment included in the CHIPS and Science Act that Biden signed in August to encourage the construction of new facilities across the U.S. where such microchips will be manufactured.

A modern necessity

The outsourcing of chip production long predated the COVID-19 outbreak, but pandemic-era interruptions exacerbated the demand on the supply chain. It resulted in a shortage of chips that caused prices to skyrocket and many products to be largely unavailable for purchase.

The Department of Commerce will be in charge of distributing the federal grants and the application process started this week.

Read the fine print

Before you start applying for your slice of the cash, there are more than a few restrictions. For starters, any company that receives $150 million or more must provide childcare options for employees.

As Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo advised: “We are not writing blank checksto any company that asks.”

There are still some innovative ways to use the cash, though, and several top firms are already putting their plans in place.

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Here’s How Oreo Defeated Hydrox To Become ‘Milk’s Favorite Cookie’

This might be the sweetest history lesson ever.

Here’s How Oreo Defeated Hydrox To Become ‘Milk’s Favorite Cookie’ Tenor

If you’ve been down the cookie aisle recently (I know I have), you’ve probably seen endless variations of the ubiquitous Oreo cookie. But if you look really hard, you might find a package of Hydrox, the chocolate cookie filled with creme that came out years before Oreo’s debut.

So how was Oreo able to fend off the competition and become a junk-food heavyweight? We’ll explore some of the top theories.

Is it the taste?

Despite the similar appearance, there are some pretty significant differences in the tastes of these two cookies. Oreos tend to be sweeter and more cookie-forward while Hydrox boasts more creme and an overall less sugary taste.

But there are many competing food products with modestly different flavors that are still able to remain competitive (Pepsi and Coke, for example), so taste alone doesn’t account for Oreo’s dominance.

Is it the marketing?

“Hydrox” might not sound like a very appetizing name, but when it was introduced the word was used for a variety of tasty treats. Besides, “Oreo” doesn’t really seem to mean anything at all.

And the early ads for both products looked like carbon copies of each other. They had a lot of text extolling the taste of the product and featured black-and-white images of the cookies.

Nothing here really explains why Oreo came out on top.

It’s all about the packaging

While there are surely many factors that played to Oreo’s advantage over the years, the key to its lasting success might just be that its parent company introduced a revolutionary new way to package cookies (and crackers and other foods) so they’d stay fresher longer.

When consumers began associating the brand with freshness, it was only a matter of time before Oreo left Hydrox in the dust.

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Should You Really Be Joining All Of Those Restaurant Loyalty Programs?

There are some benefits, but you've got to be smart about how you use them.

Should You Really Be Joining All Of Those Restaurant Loyalty Programs? Tenor

These days you can hardly visit any type of business without being encouraged to sign up for a card or app touted as an exclusive “loyalty program.”

So is it worth it? Let’s take a look.

Companies are cutting back

As you might have noticed, inflation is still taking its toll on prices across the board, especially at restaurants. For that reason, businesses that once offered rewards based on the amount of money loyal customers spent found themselves doling out more free stuff than ever before.

To combat this trend, a number of popular programs scaled back generosity a bit.

  • Starbucks increased the number of stars needed to redeem for free drinks.
  • Dunkin’ more than doubled the amount you’ll have to spend to get a free latte.
  • Chipotle customers now have to spend $162.50 to get a free burrito.

Needless to say, many folks were upset by the changes.

Pay attention to your privacy

The news is filled with stories about hackers accessing personal data, and you almost always have to give up some of your identifying information to sign up for loyalty programs. For folks like Lizzy Laufters, it’s worth the trade-off if companies provide valuable incentives.

She said: “I am downloading the restaurant apps and giving them my information. I value my privacy, so the rewards are what they are giving me in return.”

Go in with eyes wide open

Before signing up, make sure you realize that companies wouldn’t offer loyalty programs if they didn’t benefit them directly. But you can also benefit from the perks if you choose the right ones and make sure you’re not spending more than you otherwise would just for the thrill of getting something for free.

If you’re wondering which programs to join, here’s a list of recommendations.

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Early Chirp

Written by Chris Agee

90 N Church St, The Strathvale House
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