Good morning, Quartz readers!
The S&P 500 and Nasdaq indexes both hit record highs this week, and the Dow flirted with its own all-time high. The message from the market—just in time for a three-day weekend in the US—is that everything is great!
Except it isn’t. Just this week, the Trump administration published aneconomically illiterate budget, nonpartisan number-crunchers said the president’s signature health care policy would leave 23 million Americans uninsured, and president Donald Trump’s most trusted advisor was pulled into the FBI’s Russia investigation (paywall).Markets rallied hard when Trump won, as investors banked on tax cuts and deregulation. But why are they still so happy?
Markets can act as a check on politics. In the months after the Brexit vote, the pound plunged so deeply that the currency became the de facto opposition to the British government. Last week, Brazil’s stock market dropped by 10% after the president was implicated in a bribery scandal. But while US markets do sometimes register disapproval of Trump—stocks had their worst day in eight months(paywall) last week, after it emerged that he tried to influence the FBI’s Russia probe—any skittishness has been short-lived.
Market signals suggest that traders have long since given up hope on the policy changes—tax reform, infrastructure spending, and bank deregulation—that boosted stocks immediately after the election. Instead of the “Trump trade,” they are focusing on the strengthening economy, signs from the central bank that interest rates will continue to rise, and the best quarter of corporate-earnings growth in five years.
Historically speaking, this is sensible. Research has shown that political crises rarely have a lasting impact (paywall) on markets. But don’t be surprised if, as stocks continue to climb, politicians misinterpret the movement and take credit for it.—Eshe Nelson
FIVE THINGS ON QUARTZ WE ESPECIALLY LIKED
A former religious extremist tries to make it right. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Ismail Royer went to prison after 9/11 found him running with an extremist crowd. Fourteen years later, he’s free, remorseful, and hoping for redemption. In Nushmia Khan’s video profile, Royer reflects on lessons learned from spending years in prison with some of the most reviled American terrorists.
IRL, Amazon sucks the joy out of book-buying. The e-commerce giant opened its seventh brick-and-mortar store this week, this time in New York City, and Thu-Huong Ha found it lacking. The store is too much like the website, in all the worst ways—cluttered with signs, with too much emphasis on user ratings and Amazon Prime membership.
Xi Jinping is beating Narendra Modi at his own game. India’s prime minister spent two years globe-trotting in an effort to establish his country as an influential soft power on the world stage. But as Modi contends with local conflict and the fallout from a currency crisis, Manu Balachandran and Zheping Huang look at how China’s Xi is building up a rock-solid strategic presence in India’s backyard.
The future of Slack is your boss using it to spy on you. The team messaging app’s 5 million daily users may be surprised to learn that Slack stands for Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge, and that employers can buy access even to private channels and messages. Lila MacLellan explores the less-than-private future being ushered in by Slack and other so-called productivity tools.
Dating gets industrialized. Watching the new season of hit Netflix series Master of None, Annalisa Merelli was struck by how well the show captures regional attitudes toward romance. In Italy, she says, “the emphasis is more about looking for love and less about looking to be in a relationship.” In New York City and other urban centers, by contrast, online dating makes singles decidedly more mercenary.
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FIVE THINGS ELSEWHERE THAT MADE US SMARTER
The sand supply is slipping through our fingers. Sand is the world’s most widely consumed natural resource, after water, but rapid development is making it increasingly hard to find. From India’s “sand mafias” to America’s eroding beaches, the New Yorker’s David Owen takes a granular look at the world’s dwindling reserves of sand (whose chief ingredient, incidentally, is often quartz).
To lie is human. Though deceit seems like a defect in the matrix of social behaviors, you might want to applaud (silently at least) when your kid starts telling fibs. In this month’s National Geographic cover story, Yudhijit Bhattacharjee highlights how lying is actually an evolutionary advantage, and a sign that childhood cognitive development is on track.
Did a Turkish security detail attack US protesters? Footage says yes. The New York Times parsed videos and photos from multiple angles (paywall) to figure out what exactly happened in Washington, DC last week, when 24 men, including armed members of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail, kicked and punched protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence.
Trump used to be a decent speaker. The US president is known for his dubious syntax and free-association ranting, but it wasn’t always so. STAT put 30 years of unscripted Trump talk in front of psychologists and psychiatrists, who concluded that his speaking style has noticeably deteriorated. That could be the result of cognitive decline, though it could also be stress, anger, exhaustion, or even deliberate strategy.
All hail ambient computing. After more than 25 years of writing a weekly tech column, Walt Mossberg, formerly of the Wall Street Journal and then Recode, has hung up his keyboard. He uses his final column to anticipate the age of ambient computing, in which technology is barely distinguishable as such. Within 20 years, Mossberg says, computers will be integrated into our daily lives the same way steel beams and engine blocks are today. Hello, Starship Enterprise.
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