Wayfair IPO on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
Lucas Jackson | Reuters
Check out the companies making headlines in midday trading:
Wayfair — Shares of the online retailer jumped 12.9% after Piper Sandler raised its price target on the stock and CNBC’s Jim Cramer said that the company had been “rescued” by consumer changes caused by the pandemic. Piper Sandler raised its price target to $225 per share from $220, saying that a recent boost in sales would stick around even after the stimulus checks from the federal government stop.
Western Union, MoneyGram International — The payment services stocks soared on Tuesday after Bloomberg News reported that Western Union had offered to buy MoneyGram for an undisclosed amount. Shares of Western Union surged 11.3%, while MoneyGram jumped 39.7%.
JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo — Bank shares rose broadly amid mounting bets on a successful reopening of the economy. This would, in theory, increase consumer spending, thus benefiting banks. JPMorgan Chase traded 0.3% higher while Citigroup gained 2.8%. Bank of America rose 0.8% and Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo climbed 2.1% and 1.1%, respectively.
Lands’ End – Shares of Lands’ End tanked 11.1% after the apparel retailer posted wider-than-expected quarterly loss. Lands’ End said it lost 64 cents per share for its first quarter, versus the 56 cent loss that analysts had anticipated, according to Refinitiv. Its revenue also came in below forecasts.
RH — Shares of RH soared 16.8% after investment firm Stifel upped its price target on the home furnishing retailer to $265 from $150 ahead the company’s earnings report. Stifel said as many people move out of big cities, RH could be a beneficiary.
Zoom Video — Shares of the company slid 1.9% ahead of the video conferencing name’s first quarter earnings results after the market closes. Earlier in the session shares rose to an all-time intraday high, before investor enthusiasm cooled. The stock has gained more than 190% this year.
Lowe’s — Shares of the homebuilder jumped 2.1% to hit a new all-time intraday high. The company has benefited from momentum in the housing industry as economies have begun to reopen, as well as recent data that has shown better-than-expected demand.
Southwest — Shares of Southwest rose 2.6% despite a Reuters report saying the airline expects fall flying capacity to drop by 30%. In documents reportedly obtained by the news outlet, Southwest also said: “While overstaffing isn’t tied 100% to capacity levels, it would be fair to assume that we are overstaffed in many areas by a similar percentage.” Southwest is offering workers buyout packages and temporary paid leaves, in what CEO Gary Kelly said is an effort to ensure the airline’s survival.
Vornado Realty Trust, Federal Realty, SL Green Realty — As parts of the U.S. start to reopen, shares of shopping center and mall operators jumped on Tuesday. Vornado Realty rose 3.6%. Federal Realty and SL Green Realty gained 4.1% and 7.4%, respectively. Mall operator Simon Property Group also ticked up 3%.
LabCorp, Quest Diagnostics — Deutsche Bank resumed coverage at both lab operators on Tuesday with buy ratings, saying that the lab industry should see a rebound in routine testing in the near term and should take market share in the longer term from less-efficient hospitals. Analyst Pito Chickering added that he thinks that the Covid-19 testing addressable market is greater than appreciated by the broader market. LabCorp rose 1.6% while Quest Diagnostics gained 3.5%.
Dick’s Sporting Goods — Shares of the athletic retailer jumped 3.7% after the company said its e-commerce sales more than doubled in the first quarter. The online sales were a bright spot amid COVID-19 related store closures. Dick’s added that the current quarter has gotten off to a strong start. The company, however, reported dismal quarterly results.
Cracker Barrel — Shares of the restaurant chain ticked 2.7% lower but closed down just 0.6% after reporting revenue that missed analysts expectations. Cracker Barrel also said same-store sales were down 41.7% for the quarter, which was lower than forecasts.
— With reporting from CNBC’s Yun Li, Pippa Stevens, Fred Imbert, Tom Franck and Jesse Pound.
Pinterest is reportedly in talks to acquire VSCO
So what can Pinterest do to jump higher up the list of social networking sites? According to a report by the New York Times, one possibility is acquiring the owner of VSCO, the app for editing / sharing photos and videos that has brought in-depth tools to mobile users for years. Neither side directly confirmed the negotiations, and there’s no word on a possible price, but maybe combining forces can bring some Instagram-like glow.
As it is, Pinterest is still mostly known for planning and organizing, and as the NYT article points out, other than some recent acquisitions, VSCO is currently best known for the “VSCO girls” meme.
A sealed copy of ‘Super Mario Bros.’ just sold for $660,000
A nearly perfect copy of Super Mario Bros. for the NES has sold for $660,000 at auction. In what turned out to be a 13-bidder contest, $550,000 went to the game’s original owner. The copy was one of the earliest shrink-wrapped versions of the games you could buy in the US (Super Mario Bros. eventually had 11 different box variants, according to WATA Games).
Heritage Auctions, the firm that oversaw the sale, told Ars Technica it dates back to late 1986. It was reportedly bought as a Christmas gift and sat unopened in a desk drawer for the better part of four decades. “I never thought anything about it,” the seller, who asked to remain anonymous, told the auction house.
The $660,000 this copy of Super Mario Bros. sold for is crazy when you consider the Nintendo PlayStation, a one-of-a-kind prototype representing a unique piece of gaming history, sold for $360,000 at auction last year. More recently, someone paid $156,000 to buy a pristine copy of Super Mario Bros. 3. It makes you wonder how much the owner would have walked away with had they simultaneously tried to cash in on the NFT craze somehow.
‘Lost Tapes of the 27 Club’ used Google AI to ‘write’ a new Nirvana song
Were he still alive today, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain would be 52 years old. Every February 20th, on the day of his birthday, fans wonder what songs he would write if he hadn’t died of suicide nearly 30 years ago. While we’ll never know the answer to that question, an AI is attempting to fill the gap.
A mental health organization called Over the Bridge used Google’s Magenta AI and a generic neural network to examine more than two dozen songs by Nirvana to create a ‘new’ track from the band. “Drowned in the Sun” opens with reverb-soaked plucking before turning into an assault of distorted power chords. “I don’t care/I feel as one, drowned in the sun,” Nirvana tribute band frontman Eric Hogan sings in the chorus. In execution, it sounds not all that dissimilar from “You Know You’re Right,” one of the last songs Nirvana recorded before Cobain’s death in 1994.
Other than the voice of Hogan, everything you hear in the song was generated by the two AI programs Over the Bridge used. The organization first fed Magenta songs as MIDI files so that the software could learn the specific notes and harmonies that made the band’s tunes so iconic. Humorously, Cobain’s loose and aggressive guitar playing style gave Magenta some trouble, with the AI mostly outputting a wall of distortion instead of something akin to his signature melodies. “It was a lot of trial and error,” Over the Bridge board member Sean O’Connor told Rolling Stone. Once they had some musical and lyrical samples, the creative team picked the best bits to record. Most of the instrumentation you hear are MIDI tracks with different effects layered on top.
One thing neither AI gave direction on is how exactly Cobain would have sung the song. Outside of cadence and tone, Hogan had to interpret how the grunge star, who famously suffered from crippling stomach pain, would have channeled his anguish into the lyrics.
Over the Bridge isn’t the first group to use AI to emulate a dead artist. But the intent here is different from similar past projects. “Drowned in the Sun” is part of the organization’s Lost Tapes of the 27 Club initiative. They set out to record AI-generated songs by musicians who died at the age of 27 to raise awareness about mental health resources musicians, and people more generally, can turn to when they feel they need help. The Toronto-based non-profit has a Facebook page where it offers support. It also offers online sessions and workshops.
If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or over an online chat.
Microsoft’s online-only Build conference starts on May 25th
Spring is fully upon us, which means the calendar is starting to fill up with high-profile tech events. And the latest addition? Microsoft confirmed today that its online-only Build developer conference will run between May 25th and May 27th, though there’s still no word on when registration will open. (If last year is any indication, our money is on “the end of April.”)
“Microsoft Build is where developers, architects, start-ups, and students learn, connect, and code together, sharing knowledge and expanding their skillset, while exploring new ways of innovating for tomorrow,” the company’s events page explains.
Unfortunately, Microsoft has yet to update its Build-specific webpage with information about this year’s priorities or schedule, but we’re almost certainly looking at another packed event. Last year, Microsoft went on (among other things) about improved collaboration tools for its suite of Office productivity apps, an AI-focused supercomputer running on its Azure cloud platform, and new cloud tools designed specifically for healthcare practitioners.
Historically, spring and summer are been jam-packed with large, in-person events where app and software developers get their first glimpse at upcoming platform and strategy updates, attend workshops and code reviews, and generally mingle with their colleagues. Starting last year, though, the worldwide coronavirus pandemic has forced companies that stage these events to rapidly rethink their approaches.
Some, like Microsoft and Apple, quickly pivoted to informative online-only affairs that include full days worth of sessions, demos and fireside chats. (For what it’s worth, Apple announced this week that its own Worldwide Developer Conference will also proceed as an online-only event from June 7-11.) Meanwhile, Google has not yet confirmed whether it plans to stage its Google I/O developer conference at all this year — the company cancelled the show entirely in 2020, but said last month that it does plan to host some version of its annual Google Cloud Next event this October.
Between a surge in COVID-19 vaccine production and news of relaxed restrictions for vaccinated travelers, Build 2021 may well be the last purely virtual developer conference Microsoft will ever need to put on. With any luck, devs will resume their pilgrimages to Seattle next year, and who knows — maybe those tiny emotional support horses from Build 2018 will show up again too.
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