Topley’s Top Ten – October 24, 2019

1. B Rated Junk Bonds Spread

“It’s Different This Time” Takes Root in the Junk-Bond Market Amid Parallels to Post-Lehman 2008

by Wolf Richter • Oct 23, 2019 • 32 Comments • Email to a friend

And so far, so good.

2. Dividends and Buybacks Exceed Free Cash Flows Since 2013

Binge watching: Could corporate debt sink the U.S. economy?—Capital Ideas Blog

3. Beyond Meat Drops Below $100

The day following the earnings report may also be stoking investor worry. It’s the day that the lockup period for a chunk of 48 million shares will expire, meaning they will be available to trade on the public market. 

The shares represent 80% of Beyond Meat’s total shares outstanding, which could lead to a selloff. One group that stands to gain is short-sellers, who have a $672 million wager against the company, according to recent data from financial-analytics provider S3 Partners.

Beyond Meat falls below $100 per share ahead of earnings after a series of wins for competitors (BYND)–Carmen Reinicke

4. Global Stocks Starting to Inflect Higher

Posted October 21, 2019 by Joshua M Brown

My Chart o’ the Day comes from the incredibly insightful Ari Wald at Oppenheimer, who is considering the possibility that, globally, stocks are acting better than current sentiment about the global economy might imply. If you’re more focused on the headlines than on price itself, you may have been missing this trend. Ari explains the implications…

The S&P 500 has rallied toward a test of its July peak (3,028), and although timing the next leg higher remains challenging, we think this setup is slowly developing. We’ve discussed key positives like the lack of investor enthusiasm, stabilized interest rates, an oversold economy, as well as renewed seasonal tailwinds, and this week we focus on the improvement in global participation too. Currently, 59% of the stocks in MSCI All-Country World (ACWI) are trading above their 200-day average. Readings between 60-80% have been followed by above-average S&P returns over the next 6-12 months since 1995, and we’d ideally like to see a higher-high vs. May’s print (69%) similar to the action in 2016. We believe incremental improvement in Europe, E.M., and US small-caps are the pillars for this to occur.

And here’s his chart, which contains tons of interesting information…

Josh here – when stocks around the world begin to make their move higher in concert, some interesting things happen during the course of the follow-through. Ari’s look at the next 6 and 12 month returns for the US stock market deserve consideration.

Three Charts Central to the Global Bull Case
Oppenheimer & Co – October 19th, 2019

Follow Ari on Twitter!


5. Natural Gas Cut in Half From Highs Rolls Back Over

UNG-Natural Gas CHart

6. Interesting Point….Major Cities Seeing Shrinking Tax Revenues Across Board.

Exclusive: Cities see signs of recession on the horizon

Data: National League of Cities City Fiscal Conditions Report; Chart: Axios Visuals

Almost two in three finance officers in large cities are predicting a recession as soon as 2020, according to a new report from the National League of Cities, as weakening major economic indicators and shrinking revenue sources put pressure on municipal budgets.

Why it matters: One of the first signs of changing economic conditions can be seen in city revenue collections. For the first time in 7 years — generally seen as the recovery phase since the Great Recession — cities expect revenues to decline as they close the books on the 2019 fiscal year.

7. Spending Comparison Average Households.

The Happiness Spending Threshold And What It Really Means To Live Within Your Means–Michael Kitces

8. 8 Out of 10 College Students Take on Debt.

Meanwhile, the cost of attending a four-year public college or university has grown significantly faster than income over the same time period.

More than 8 in 10 families tap scholarships and grants — money that does not have to be repaid — to help cover the cost.

More than half of families borrow, or take out loans, according to Sallie Mae’s most recent “How America Pays for College” report, pushing outstanding student debt to a stunning $1.6 trillion.

Among the almost 70% of students who borrow for school, the typical senior now graduates with nearly $30,000 in debt.

Why college tuition keeps rising-Jessica Dickler

9. Finally, the drug that keeps you young

Anti-aging pioneer Judith Campisi explains how a recent breakthrough could ward off age-related disease.

by Stephen S. Hall

Oct 23, 2018

Judith Campisi has been a leading figure in the biology of aging since the early 1990s, when her research on the basic mechanisms of cancer revealed an unexpected finding—that cells enter a phase known as senescence that prevents them from becoming cancerous. More than 25 years later, the insight has led to a new kind of drug that may slow or modestly reverse human aging.

This story is part of our November/December 2018 issue

See the rest of the issue

Campisi’s research is on the role of cellular senescence in cancer and other age-related diseases. Senescent cells undergo a transition into a twilight state where they are still active but no longer dividing; research by Campisi and others showed that this was a strategy to derail incipient cancers, which are characterized by runaway cell division and growth. But she and others also discovered that these senescent cells accumulate as we grow older, secreting an array of molecules that promote the tissue degradation associated with aging.

In the past five years, this insight has led to the pursuit of a new class of drugs known as senolytics, which eliminate senescent cells and, in animal experiments, restore more youthful characteristics. Campisi, a professor at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, California, cofounded a company called Unity Biotechnology in 2011, which launched a human trial of its first senolytic drug last July.

She recently discussed her work with Stephen S. Hall, a journalist who has been following anti-aging work for more than two decades.

Why should we suddenly get excited about anti-aging drugs again?

There are now tools available to biomedical scientists that simply didn’t exist when I was a graduate student or even a postdoc. So we’re finally able to do experiments that were either considered impossible in some cases or were just dreams 20 or 25 years ago. The other thing that has changed is that the field of senescence—and the recognition that senescent cells can be such drivers of aging—has finally gained acceptance. Whether those drugs will work in people is still an open question. But the first human trials are under way right now.

How specifically does senescence contribute to aging?

The correct way to think about senescence is that it’s an evolutionary balancing act. It was selected for the good purpose of preventing cancer—if [cells] don’t divide, [they] can’t form a tumor. It also optimizes tissue repair. But the downside is if these cells persist, which happens during aging, they can now become deleterious. Evolution doesn’t care what happens to you after you’ve had your babies, so after around age 50, there are no mechanisms that can effectively eliminate these cells in old age. They tend to accumulate. So the idea became popular to think about eliminating them, and seeing if we can restore tissues to a more youthful state.

You’ve suggested that health care could be transformed by senolytic drugs, which eliminate senescent cells. That’s a pretty broad claim.

If we think of aging as a driver for multiple age-related pathologies, the idea would be that a new generation of physicians—we call them geriatricians today—will take a much more holistic approach, and the interventions will also be more holistic. That’s the idea—it would revolutionize the way we’re thinking about medicine nowadays. And just to remind you, 80% of patients in the hospital receiving acute medical attention are over the age of 65. So the idea is that senolytics would be one weapon that geriatricians will have in their arsenal of weapons to treat aging holistically as opposed to one disease at a time.

10. How to identify the skills that energize you

Author Kayvan Kian explains why it’s important to not let fear keep you stuck doing only what you’re already good at, especially if it doesn’t give you energy.

[Photo: Swaraj Tiwari/Unsplash]


Is there something you’re not particularly good at, but that gives you energy when you do it?

We call these skills “hidden treasures” and the answers we’ve received from young leaders relate to things outside of work like playing soccer, writing poetry, or playing guitar. There’s nothing wrong with these answers, but what’s consistent is that they tend to overlook skills that relate to their job. It’s understandable—if you’re not good at something, you’re probably not going to do it at work because you don’t want to look incompetent or be embarrassed.

Or, their job doesn’t require them to use a particular skill that gives them energy. Someone might use strategic thinking often as an accomplished chess player, but they’re not asked to think strategically at work. As a result, they don’t get to apply that skill in a new context.

When we ignore these hidden treasures, we deny ourselves the energy that can help us deal with challenging times in our lives. Unlike strenuous gifts—those skills we excel at but that drain us—you want to identify these skills so you can practice them more often.


While there’s nothing wrong with drawing energy from soccer, poetry, or playing the guitar, I want to focus our attention on skills that relate to the workplace. To do this, I need you to broaden the scope of your thinking beyond your current job description. As we’ve seen, you might be interested in skills that you’re scared to practice at work or don’t “fit” into your job.

Creativity is a great example. Coming up with new ways to complete a task or solve a problem is a valuable skill, but if you simply check boxes at work, you won’t get to practice it.

Entrepreneurship is a skill that appeals to many young leaders. They have ideas for their own business, but the thought of building a company as big as the one where they currently work feels totally overwhelming. The small step of seizing an opportunity to build something new in their current job doesn’t even register with them, so this treasure remains hidden.

Humor is a skill one young leader used to think didn’t belong in the workplace. As she started negotiating, she realized that humor can, at the right moment, break the ice during tense negotiations, even if she wasn’t as funny as her favorite stand-up comedian.

Resourcefulness means mobilizing resources in an unconventional or creative way. If you don’t get the budget or team you want, can you somehow try to pull things together to still do the job? If the thought of doing this thrills you, resourcefulness might be one of your hidden treasures.

Organizing, strategizing, and writing are other examples of skills that can give you energy, even if you’re not good at them right now. If a skill is bubbling up in your mind right now and you feel resistant to it, keep in mind that skills require two things: feedback and practice.

Yes, you might not be good at a skill now, but it’s not entirely due to your innate ability. Unless you’re a violin prodigy, you’re going to be bad at playing the violin the first time you try it. But the more you practice that skill (especially if it energizes you), the better violin player you’ll become. This sounds obvious, but given the hesitation that exists around finding and cultivating hidden treasures in a work context, it’s important to remind professionals that it takes time to develop these new, energizing skills.


Sure, it would be nice to do things that provide you with energy, but what else will you get out of pursuing new skills?

For starters, you’ll find out your aptitude for learning something new. When you go from being below average or average at something to being exceptional at it, it gives you a huge confidence boost. You don’t have to continue to rely on your current skills because you now know that you’re capable of becoming adept at something challenging.

When that happens, you’ve discovered a new talent, and talents are valuable in the workplace. Not every hidden treasure will be a talent—because receiving energy is not 100% tied to our performance of that skill, but the possibility of uncovering a new talent is very real.

Developing skills that reveal talents can help advance your career. If you begin teaching workshops, writing content that improves your marketing efforts or internal communication, or take an entrepreneurial risk to develop projects that benefit the entire company, you’ll gain more visibility and become a more valuable part of your organization.

When you make the pursuit of hidden treasures a group effort, it can be inspiring for your whole team. One of the main impediments I’ve seen in developing new skills at work is fear. People are afraid they’ll look incompetent or be embarrassed. But if you asked each member of your department which hidden treasure they’d like to cultivate to feel more energized, suddenly that fear fades away.

Finally, hidden treasures help balance out your strenuous gifts and your weaknesses. For example, if you know crunching numbers for two straight days at work is going to zap your energy, doing something energizing after you get done is a great way to compensate for that draining (but necessary) activity. In fact, merely anticipating that reward is enough to give you energy while you’re working. Here’s how to uncover your hidden treasures.


If you perk up watching a colleague teach, you might be drawn to teaching. If you love reading stories about Elon Musk and the lives of startup founders, that might hint at unexplored entrepreneurial skills. You just might have never had the experience, coaching, and feedback to develop these skills. Your first reaction might be, “That’s not for me.” If that’s the case, but that same activity stills sparks your curiosity, it’s a good sign that you’ve found a hidden treasure.


If you enjoy organizing family gatherings and thinking through the logistics of those events, perhaps you could apply that skill in a work context. You might not have done that because your family doesn’t have the same level of standards as your employer. Nevertheless, you could organize something small at work and see how it goes. Did the experience turn out okay and actually give you energy? If the answer is yes to both of those questions, you just uncovered a hidden treasure.


Think all the way back to when you were in school. Was there a skill you were discouraged from pursuing as a career, or something you actually pursued but didn’t see much value in at the time? Writing is a great example. Many talented writers were told by their parents that there’s no money in writing, so they decided to give up that interest and not pursue it further.

Or perhaps you received unfair feedback that discouraged a skill. When a young, aspiring public speaker is told by classmates, “You’re just not cut out to speak onstage,” those words can be a powerful disincentive, especially at a more impressionable time early in their life.

Let go of the harsh feedback or discouraging words for a moment and focus on the present. Does that skill give you energy? Does it excite you? If so, it doesn’t mean you should quit your job to begin honing that skill. It means you can add some positive excitement into your work by applying that skill—be it teaching, entrepreneurship, writing, etc.—in a new way.


Find a colleague you trust and ask them, “What do you think energizes me and which skills would you encourage me to do more of?” Most times, those close to us can see us more clearly than we see ourselves. They might tell you, “I sense that you enjoy taking our customer’s perspective when we make decisions, but you’re holding yourself back there. Could you do more of that?”

Getting feedback from others can result in a light bulb moment for you. You might not have seen yourself that way, or you held back because a skill like coaching others is not part of your official job description. If that’s the case, I’d invite you to think about how your hidden treasures could not only give you more energy but also help you reach your goals.


If you wait for the “perfect” opportunity to come along at work, or someone else to invite you to do so, you might be waiting forever. Instead, think of small steps you can take today to cultivate a hidden treasure once you discover it.

Don’t let fear keep you stuck doing only what you’re already good at, especially if it doesn’t give you energy. That’s how you deplete yourself with strenuous gifts. Discover and develop your hidden treasures. At a minimum, you’ll feel more energized. They might even turn into new strengths that can benefit you, your teams, customers, and society in surprising ways.

This article was adapted from the book What is Water? How Young Leaders Can Thrive in an Uncertain World by Kayvan Kian, who is also a management consultant in McKinsey’s Amsterdam office.