This is Bloomberg Opinion Today, a half-baked SPAC of Bloomberg Opinion’s opinions. Sign up here.
SPACs and Coins May Break Our Bones
The good thing about mystery boxes is that you don’t know what’s in them. There could be something great inside, like cash or a puppy. Unfortunately, that’s also the bad thing about mystery boxes. There could be something lame inside, like socks.
Then there are the mystery boxes known as SPACs — blank-check companies into which you pour money hoping a pleasant surprise comes out. Sometimes a SPAC will even tell you what’s inside the box, but you still don’t get what you expected. This is looking like the case for a company called Canoo, a candidate for the Most SPAC Name Ever. It sadly doesn’t make electric canoes but other kinds of electric recreational vehicles. It went public via SPAC late last year but just a quarter later “deemphasized” a major revenue stream, despite still being revenue-challenged. It also shuffled management and suggested its past statements about business relationships could have been a little less hope-y. Oops. The stock had doubled after the Canoo purchase but has erased all its gains since. Chris Bryant suggests this is a cautionary tale of SPACs taking companies public when they aren’t fully baked for public consumption.
SPACs have been hot with investors despite these risks. So have cryptocurrencies and their attendant fleet of companies, which carry other risks. Whether they are Chinese financial weapons, we’ll leave to Peter Thiel. But there are more mundane risks. For example, crypto exchanges aren’t really regulated, warns former CFTC chairman Timothy Massad. That means they can do stuff other exchanges can’t do, including trading against you, the investor. A recent CFTC action against the soon-to-be-public Coinbase addressed one narrow activity, wash trading, but much more must be done to make crypto trading fully regulated. Mystery-box buyer, beware.
Further Hot-New-Thing Reading: Clubhouse has rising competition and growing pains, but it is still the online-audio-chat app to beat. — Tae Kim
The power of PayPal online, now in person.
PayPal gives your business a way to accept touch-free, in-person payments. Generate your QR code from the app, then display it on your device or print it out. No new equipment required.
Download the app.
Customer must have PayPal account and app to pay.
Nigeria’s Strength Is Its Weakness
Like Saudi Arabia and Russia, the petro-states we profiled earlier this week, Nigeria is also rich in oil. Unlike them, it has been unable to use that oil to build even the appearance of political stability or a booming economy, writes David Fickling. Instead oil has mired the country in violence, corruption and a stagnant private sector. The other two nations seem either afraid of or in denial about, respectively, what falling oil demand will do to them. Nigeria, on the other hand, could use oil’s fade to its advantage and finally live up to its potential as a developing nation.
Further Africa Reading: Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia are heading for a cold war over the Blue Nile that none of them can afford. — Amr Adly
We Are the World, Covid Edition
The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is sort of shaped like a crown (really, a ball with crowns all over it), but everything else about it is shaped like a K, hurting some people much more than others. Today we’re realizing even the inflation it’s causing is K-shaped, with higher costs for food and basics hitting poorer people hardest. This could soon apply on a global scale, too, with poorer countries struggling to vaccinate their people and thus suffering longer than the rich countries getting shots in arms. The IMF, which is meeting this week, has been helping these countries financially, but it must build better mechanisms for delivering such aid in this and future crises, writes Bloomberg’s editorial board. One thing it really needs to do is help pool rich-nation money to help buy and distribute vaccines in poor nations.
Here in the richest country on Earth, vaccines are steadily being administered, but cases are rising again, alarmingly fast in some places. Variants are spreading and people are giving up on fighting the disease. But Cathy O’Neil suggests this may soon feel less terrifying, because the most vulnerable people are being vaccinated first, meaning Covid will mostly be spreading in people who can survive it. Here’s hoping.
Further Pandemic Reading: America’s health experts shouldn’t fear being candid with the public. — Ramesh Ponnuru
People will keep shopping for clothes online even as the pandemic fades, writes Sarah Halzack.
It’s one thing for President Joe Biden to respect the Fed’s independence. It’s another to neglect it, as he’s been doing. — Jonathan Bernstein
We’re about to have a big fight about whether tax cuts or spending help the economy more. — Conor Sen
Biden can’t revive the Iran deal without addressing the hidden weapons program the first deal missed. — Eli Lake
Amazon’s size, reach and general PR goofery make it a perfect foil for a growing new labor movement. — Noah Smith
The GOP and companies can bluster at each other but can’t do much real damage. — Tim O’Brien
A new law banning transgender treatments is probably legal, even if morally repugnant. — Noah Feldman
How Bill Hwang lost $20 billion in two days.
How AstraZeneca’s vaccine became so troubled.
Austin is a magnet for Silicon Valley expats.
People are bad at spotting simple solutions. (h/t Ellen Kominers)
Superman comic sells for $3.25 million.
Area reporter interviews man who keeps posting pics of her feet.
Area man searches for the strangers who helped pack him into a crate to ship him home. (h/t Scott Kominers for the last three kickers)
Notes: Please send simple solutions and complaints to Mark Gongloff at email@example.com.
Sign up here and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.