This is the web version of the Bull Sheet, Fortune’s no-BS daily newsletter on the markets. Sign up to receive it in your inbox here.
Happy Friday, Bull Sheeters. A risk-off mood has descended over markets as COVID worries intensify. From Tokyo to Frankfurt, there’s red on the screens, and U.S. futures aren’t doing much better. Meanwhile, the Bitcoin bears are out in force; the digital currency is having another rough session.
Below, in the weekly “By the Numbers” section, I get more into the wild ride of the crypto trade, and whether this is a mere blip, or the sign of more pain to come.
In Postscript, I make good on my promise from earlier in the week. You have homework this weekend, dear reader.
But first, let’s see what’s moving markets.
- The major Asia indexes are closing out the week with a whimper, with the Hang Seng down 1.6%.
- The much anticipated Ant Group IPO could be worth less than 700 billion yuan ($108 billion)—or, half the size of what underwriters were expecting just a few months ago.
- The China-Australia trade spat has cost the latter about $3 billion—not a huge sum, but it’s putting the pinch on Australian winemakers and other exporters.
- The European bourses stumbled out of the gates with the Stoxx Europe 600 down 0.4% at the open.
- The COVID numbers out of the U.K. are truly frightening, and now PM Boris Johnson is signaling the current lockdown measures could extend into the summer. The pound is lower this morning.
- The deadly winter coronavirus surge knows no borders. France announced that any visitors from aboard—including EU nations—will have to present a negative COVID-19 test to get into the country. And Portugal has suspended all flights to and from the U.K.
- The U.S. futures point to a weak open after a mixed trading session on Thursday. Still, all three major exchanges look as if they’ll finish the week in the green.
- The Nasdaq closed at a fresh all-time high yesterday, helped by big gains from Intel. Alas, the chipmaker is down 4.6% in pre-market trade this morning after disclosing mixed results—record sales, but a bottom-line miss.
- Gold is lower, trading around $1,860/ounce.
- The dollar is up as equities falter.
- Crude is down, with Brent steady around $55/barrel.
- Bitcoin has had a brutal week. It’s down a further 8.7%, trading below $31,000. At one point, it had broken $30k.
By the numbers
Bitcoin bulls, I’ll give you the good news first. The notoriously volatile digital currency, is up 6.3% so far in 2021. Before you get out the cigars, take a peek at the past two weeks. Since hitting its all-time high of $41,940 on Jan. 8, it’s down 26.2%. That’s solidly in bear market territory. The rapid plunge has triggered all kinds of warnings about how low it could go. But cryptocurrency investors aren’t sweating it—they’ve lived through wild swings in the past. Some even see the swoon as a perfectly understandable and necessary correction. With all this in mind, Fortune‘s Robert Hackett answers the question on a lot of investors’ minds these days: Should you add Bitcoin to your portfolio in 2021?
Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the Wuhan lockdown, a news headline that shocked the world at the time. Now stay-at-home orders, border closures and travel restrictions are commonplace the world over. According to the New York Times COVID-19 tracker, official reports show 97,528,800 people have been sickened around the world with at least 2,090,500 deaths. The numbers are worse than anybody thought in those early days. And the near future doesn’t look much better, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warning of a further 100,000 deaths over the next few weeks. The stock market rally aside, it’s been a brutal year.
There’s another recent milestone that means a lot to me. Jan. 21, 2020 was the launch date of the Bull Sheet. The Nasdaq closed that day at 9,370.21, which means the tech-heavy index is up 44.4% since I’ve been writing this newsletter. Had you put 10 grand on QQQ that day, you’d be looking at a pretty impressive return… I want to thank you all for your support in year one. I’m looking forward to the ride in 2021.
As I mentioned earlier this week, my inbox filled up with requests for our ribollita recipe. I’m a man of my word.
Before I share the ribollita recipe, I should explain a bit about its origin. It falls squarely in the cibo povero, or peasant food, category. And it’s Tuscan through and through. You may find something similar across the border in Umbria or here in Lazio, but the Tuscans perfected it.
We pay homage to all those nonne toscane in strictly sticking to the Tuscan version. Our recipe was inspired by the version you find in and around Pienza (I can smell the pecorino cheese whenever I think of that gem of a hill town).
First, a warning… this is a recipe that may trip up kitchen novices. But don’t get discouraged. You’ll earn serious points with loved ones for the effort. And once you’ve perfected it, you’ll be the envy of your investing club.
Ingredients: jar of passata di pomodoro (tomato paste) 400g, white beans (dry) 350-400g, leeks 250g, carrots 80g, 2-3 potatoes, green cabbage 250g, chard 300g, Italian black cabbage 300g, pig bone, laurel leaf, sprigs of fresh rosemary+sage+marjoram, salt.
Step one: the night before you decide to cook the ribollita, soak your white beans overnight.
Step two: You’ll need two big pots. Put your soaked white beans + pig bone + laurel leaf in one of the two big pots. Let’s call this Pot 1. Fill with 2 liters of water and cook over medium heat. Skim off the muck that floats to the top every now and then.
Step two: about 45 minutes later, you can start on your second pot. Let’s call this Pot 2. You start here with your sofrito. Pour in olive oil and cubes of your leeks, carrots and potatoes, plus salt. Let them cook for a bit, then pour in the jar of passata del pomodoro. A good five minutes later, your mix will have thickened.
Step 3: Ladle the boiled broth from the Pot 1 into Pot 2. Add the rest of your cabbages, diced, into Pot 2. Add the sprigs of fresh rosemary+sage+marjoram at the end. We usually tie the sprigs together on a thin string that we can then fish out of the cooking broth at the end. I usually sprinkle a bit more salt in Pot 2 at this point.
Step 4: After you’ve ladled out all the broth from Pot 1, you’ll be left with the pig bone and the white beans. Discard the bone. Scoop out the remainder of the white beans and blend half of those white beans into a paste. Add the white bean paste and the remainder of the whole white beans into Pot 2.
Step 5: At this point, you’re down to a single pot, Pot 2. Let Pot 2 cook for another 45-60 minutes under medium heat.
Serve: Place into your bowl a big slice of toast or, even better, a piece of stale bread; then pour your soup on top. Add a bit of pecorino romano shavings, and a dollop of olive oil.
Pair with Sangiovese or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a big-bodied Italian red. You won’t find me drinking a Pino with this dish.
Please share your ribollita photos with me!
Have a nice weekend, everyone… But first, there’s more news below.
As always, you can write to [email protected] or reply to this email with suggestions and feedback.