🛢 Oil’s big comeback

The Hustle

Yesterday we learned that in 1927, the US Supreme Court ruled you must pay income tax on any property you stole in a given year, unless you return it to its rightful owner during the same year. In 1931, this ruling helped the government sentence notorious gangster Al Capone to prison for tax evasion.

The more you know.

Today’s rundown:

  • Energized: For the first time since 2016, Energy is the top-performing sector on the S&P 500.
  • Kim’s geek squad: The hackers keeping North Korea’s economy afloat.
  • COVID lawsuits: Can employees sue a company if they get sick at the workplace?
  • Around the web: Deleting your random web accounts, mastering jigsaw puzzles, cute ducklings, and more.

Let’s do it.

The big idea
oil gif

How Energy became the top-performing sector in 2021

It was a shocking sight.

In April 2020 — as COVID-19 fears gripped the world for the first time — the futures price of WTI oil hit -$37.63 (as in negative).

While the price shock didn’t last long, many predicted doom for the energy stocks.

Energy is now on pace to be…

… the top-performing sector on the S&P 500 this year (beating out 10 other sectors including Tech, Consumer, and Health Care). It’s a feat Energy hasn’t accomplished since 2016, per Bloomberg.

While the benchmark S&P 500 is up ~29%, the Energy sector is up ~47%.

The sector’s performance — unsurprisingly — coincides with the rise in oil prices, which jumped over the past year as the world restarted. In October, WTI oil crossed $85 (a 7-year high) and it now sits at $73.

Energy companies are typically classified…

… by their operations, per Investopedia:

  • Upstream companies discover, drill, and extract oil. They are also known as exploration and production companies (e.g., Schlumberger).
  • Downstream companies refine the raw inputs into consumer products like diesel, natural gas, lubricants, and pharmaceuticals. They may also provide marketing services (e.g., Phillips 66, Marathon Petroleum).
  • Integrated companies provide both upstream and downstream services. The largest players — like ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron — are called supermajors.

Meet the best-performing energy company

Oklahoma-based Devon Energy — which provides upstream oil exploration services — has gained 170%+ in 2021 and is the top stock on the entire S&P 500.

Investors are loving the stock for one big reason, per Bloomberg: It’s “spewing cash” and giving it back to shareholders in the form of dividend hikes and aggressive buybacks.

While WTI oil is currently forecasted to be in the $60s next year, the Energy sector — and appetite for it — are a long way from **checks notes** negative dollars.

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SNIPPETS

Comfy shoe news: Crocs will acquire Italian footwear company Heydude for $2.5B. #ecommerce-retail

Solar storage: Only ~4% of home solar installations had a backup battery last year, but they can be beneficial. Here’s how they work. #clean-energy

Woof: Robot dogs are expensive, but they’re already hard at work working in oil and gas, defense, and other sectors. #emerging-tech

Rock of crypto?: Gibraltar regulators are considering a proposal that would turn the 33k-population territory into a global crypto hub. #fintech-crypto

Boom: The owner of a 1300 Tesla Model S decided he’d rather blow it up in a Finnish quarry than pay a $22.6k repair bill. #big-tech

Now on MFM: How The Hustle’s Steph Smith plans to become a billionaire, million-dollar companies with 1 employee, and more. #mfm

Kim’s Geek Squad
North Korea flag

Matt Anderson / Getty Images

How hackers keep North Korea’s economy afloat

North Korea isn’t exactly known for its flourishing cross-border economic relationships.

Intense sanctions make it extremely difficult for the country to conduct trade (which is why they do it on secret boats).

To make up for this, North Korea has built some lucrative side hustles, including an elusive state-run cybercrime unit responsible for ~8% of the country’s economic output in 2020.

Kim Jong Un is a fan

In 2010, there were just ~1k members in North Korea’s cyberwarfare guidance unit. Today, it’s estimated there are 6k+.

According to the US Army, the unit consists of multiple divisions, including Bluenoroff, a group of 1.7k hackers on a fairly straightforward mission to “conduct financial cybercrime.”

Under Kim’s reign, the country’s cybercrime operations have garnered ~$2.3B in returns since 2011.

What type of crimes we talkin’?

Big ones. The group’s resume includes:

  • An attempt to steal $2B from networks run by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.
  • Deploying a malware that tricked people into thinking they were trading on a cryptocurrency platform — which banked the hackers $316m.
  • A wildly elaborate attempt to steal $1B from Bangladesh’s central bank that got stopped because of one tiny overlooked detail. (The story is straight out of a movie.)

Speaking of movies, remember that time North Korea hacked Sony and threatened to attack US movie theaters if the studio screened The Interview?

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COVID Lawsuits
See's Candies

A See’s Candies shop in Palm Springs, California. (Source: Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

Employees are suing over workplace COVID infections. Do they have a case?

Matilde Ek worked on a packing line at See’s Candies, a California-based confectionery that Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Corporation has owned since 1972.

Ek claims employees weren’t properly distanced, while visibly sick employees remained at work, per Law360. Nothing changed, even after employees and their union brought these issues to supervisors.

Ek caught the virus and passed it to her husband, who died. Now, Ek and her 3 daughters are suing See’s.

See’s wanted the suit dismissed…

… claiming they were only responsible for workers’ comp. But last week, a California appeals court disagreed, allowing the case to move forward.

Could this be a trend?

It already is. There are claims against Tyson Foods in Iowa, a mental health provider in Connecticut, and a Publix grocery store in Florida.

In fact, the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) has an entire database of similar lawsuits here.

Most are still pending, and some companies — including Tyson and Publix — have offered the same defense as See’s.

Whether they’ll move forward currently lies with state courts. The See’s decision is the 1st of its kind in California, per The San Francisco Chronicle. But:

  • Akin to the See’s case, a Florida court dismissed Publix’s request
  • But a Delaware court decided a plaintiff must file a workers’ comp claim first
  • And in Texas, a new law makes it harder for employees to sue over workplace COVID exposure

So what’s next? The legal landscape isn’t clear. But with 800k+ Americans dead from COVID, more lawsuits from surviving family members against workplaces will undoubtedly follow.

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TRENDS

How 2 Trendsters crushed a $170k+ affiliate program

Pretty impressive, right?

Doing it under 20 days is a different game, though.

Kelsey and Lori are community-building specialists who recently synergized to execute an affiliate program and product launch for a cannabis company.

2 of their key tips for community-building success:

  • Create exclusivity: Your influencers are your low-key VIPs. Try a tiered commission system that incentivizes long-term relationships.
  • Leverage relatability: Grassroots growth is incredible. Small-time influencers are absolute beasts for qualified leads across niches.

Learn how to leverage microinfluencers and make your affiliate program something special. Read the whole Trends article in depth.

And for weekly research reports, trends spotting, and access to our 17k+ community of professionals…

Join Trends for $1 →
AROUND THE WEB

🏈 On this day: In 1958, the Baltimore Colts defeated the New York Giants, 23-17, in the NFL’s 1st sudden-death overtime game. It became known as “The Greatest Game Ever Played.”

🧹 Useful: Just Delete Me quickly shares how to delete your account from various platforms and websites.

🧩 How to: According to Valerie Coit, president and co-founder of the USA Jigsaw Puzzle Association, this is the best way to do a jigsaw puzzle.

🚗 Wait, what: There is apparently a difference between a moonroof and a sunroof. PopSci explains that, plus the history of this auto feature.

🏕 Wow: At 100 years old, Betty Reid Soskin is the oldest park ranger in the US.

🐥 Aww: And now, just so many ducklings.

Meme of the Day
gas prices marquee

How the prices at gas stations *really* look (Source: Budget101)

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Data shows where markets are headed.

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