February 27, 2023

Top stories today: 1) Twitter lays off another 10%, 2) more details on Apple's VR headset, 3) Buffett calls anti-buyback "economic illiterate", 4) Energy Dept. says Covid likely came from China lab, 5) U.S. says China has given no weapons to Russia, and 6) latest Fox poll: Trump 43% x DeSantis 28%.

Hi, and welcome to today's Bay Area Times daily newsletter. Top stories today: 1) Twitter lays off another 10%, 2) more details on Apple's VR headset, 3) Buffett calls anti-buyback "economic illiterate", 4) Energy Dept. says Covid likely came from China lab, 5) U.S. says China has given no weapons to Russia, and 6) latest Fox poll: Trump 43% x DeSantis 28%.

0. Data and calendar

All values as of 3 AM PT / 6 AM ET, other than S&P500 close (1 PM PT / 4 PM ET).

All times are ET.

1. Twitter lays off another 10%, now down to 1,800

  • 76% fired since Musk's acquisition in October. And the company is still fully functional; some would say with a higher pace of new feature launches. - NYT

2. Apple's Reality Pro headset won't require an iPhone and will have an M2 chip

  • Won't require an iPhone, although its in-air typing is much worse than typing on the iPhone.

  • M2 chip, which is not as powerful as Apple would like: for example, FaceTime will support realistic VR representations of at maximum 2 people at a time.

  • To be announced at WWDC in June, released at end of 2023. - Bloomberg

  • Apple unlikely to create a new major category? Based on Meta's VR flop, and unless Apple can really solve AR (which is unlikely with today's technology), we expect sales to be in the billions, peanuts vs. Apple's $394B annual sales. Still, we're 100% buying one.

3. Buffett calls anti-buyback "economic illiterate"

  • "Or a silver-tongued demagogue (characters that are not mutually exclusive)." - Buffett wrote this on this year's Berkshire Hathaway annual report, released on Saturday (as usual, to give investors 2 days to analyze the results). This comes after Biden proposed an increase of the stock buyback tax, from 1% to 4%. With the GOP controlling the House, this tax hike seems impossible to get passed in the short term.

  • Berkshire's operating earnings fell 14% to $6.7B in Q4, $30.8B for the year, a record.

  • Buffett sold $14B in equities, slashing its position in TSMC. Cash on hand ended at $129B, and the insurance float increased from $147B to $164B. - Berkshire annual report, Bloomberg

  • Why doesn't Buffett use the cash to buy AAPL et al? Buffett always says he's looking for excellent opportunities, but he could use his cash reserves to buy more stocks he already has (and presumably likes). Apple's market cap is $2.3T -- Buffett could easily buy more.

4. Energy Department report says Covid came from a lab leak, with "low confidence"

  • In contrast to 2021 government reports of natural transmission. Back then, most government agencies supported the natural transmission theory, except for the FBI, which had "moderate confidence" in the lab leak hypothesis. - WSJ

  • We should see other report leaks in the next months. National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden had ordered the government to use "every tool" it had, but didn't confirm or deny the Energy Department report.

  • Can only worsen U.S.-China relations. While the most likely scenario is still the status quo, we see increased risks of economic sanctions against China, especially if the story below unfolds badly.

5. U.S. says China has given no weapons to Russia

  • But if China gives weapons to Russia, there will be "severe sanctions," according to Biden. President Biden, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, and CIA Director William Burns went on the Sunday shows with that rehearsed message. - WaPost's 2-min summary

  • In related news, Putin said the West's aim is to disband the former Soviet Union. - Reuters

  • MAGA GOPers are increasingly anti-Ukraine aid. Establishment Republicans and the American people still support aid, so the risk of aid stopping over the Biden presidency is low. - Axios

6. Fox poll: Trump 43% x DeSantis 28%

DeSantis is also absent from this week's CPAC

  • CPAC 2023 is March 1-4 in Washington, DC. Expect Donald Trump and Nikki Haley to be leading speakers, but not DeSantis. - The Hill

Prediction markets have Trump as the favorite, at 44%

  • DeSantis did Florida weekend event for 150. He is trying to increase his name recognition, and test the waters for 2024. DeSantis' new book comes out on Tuesday. - POLITICO

  • GOP candidates will have to pledge to support their nominee, according to RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel. That clearly is targeted at Trump, although we suspect it won't make a difference, as he's the most likely GOP nominee. - POLITICO

7. Other headlines


  • China to launch 13K satellites to compete and "suppress" Starlink.

  • 69K chip patents filed in 2022: China, TSMC lead.

  • Amazon expands same-day delivery, which cost $3.30/package vs $1.75 for traditional.

  • Sequoia Capital steps down from Citizen anti-crime app, not investing anymore.

  • SpaceX to launch 4 NASA astronauts to space, for 6-month mission, at 1:45 PM ET.

  • Xiaomi launches phones 13 and 13 Pro to rival iPhone.

  • Nokia has a new logo.


  • Pfizer in talks to acquire cancer drug developer Seagen for $30B+.

  • U.S. oil exports to Europe increase after Ukraine war.

  • Goldman Sachs will have Investor Day on Tuesday, as CEO is expected to clarify the unprofitable consumer banking division.

  • Goldman Sachs approved a $30B buyback plan, with no timeline.

  • Fed-associated paper: no instance of Fed-induced disinflation without a recession.


  • Solana again goes down over the weekend; as of Monday it is back online.

  • Centralized DeFi: Molly White argues Jump's recovery was due to it.

Washington and more

  • Several newspapers requesting U.S. capitol video database from McCarthy.

  • Telemedicine prescriptions to be partially banned starting May 12.

  • Supreme Court to hear arguments on $400B Biden student debt forgiveness on Tuesday; decision exp. June.

  • DeSantis supported sending weapons to Ukraine as a Congressman, before Trumpism.

  • Joe Manchin declines to identify as a Democrat but continues to vote with the party.

  • Fox News host says network is not allowing him to cover Dominion lawsuit.

  • Iranian schoolgirls targeted in a series of misogynistic poisoning attacks.

8. Interesting tweets, memes, and images

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