Markets Overview

  • ASX SPI 200 futures down 0.8% to 6,964.00
  • Dow Average down 1.9% to 32,272.79
  • Aussie down 1.4% to 0.7096 per US$
  • U.S. 10-year yield rose 2.2bps to 3.0437%
  • Australia 3-year bond yield rose 1bp to 3.09%
  • Australia 10-year bond yield rose 6bps to 3.61%
  • Gold spot down 0.3% to $1,848.03
  • Brent futures down 0.5% to $122.92/bbl

Economic Events

US stocks fell for a second day with growth concerns in focus after Europe’s central bank became the latest to signal restrictive policies to combat inflation. The dollar gained and Treasury yields rose.

Selling accelerated in the last hour of trading, with the S&P 500 closing down 2.4% in the biggest one-day drop in three weeks. The tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 underperformed, with Apple Inc., Meta Platforms Inc. and Inc. all down more than 3%.

In a widely anticipated move, the European Central Bank made no change to the deposit rate but prepared to hike by a quarter-point next month, and again by either that amount or more if inflation — which now exceeds 8% in the euro area — warrants a tougher stance.

The dollar gained versus all of its major Group of 10 counterparts, amid signs of a pickup in demand for haven currencies with the yen and Swiss franc outperforming most of their peers. The euro dropped to the lowest in more than two weeks versus the greenback.

In the debt market, Treasuries fell across most maturities in sympathy with European peers, with benchmark yields holding above 3%. The rate on German government 10-year bonds jumped seven basis points.

ECB policy makers have lagged global peers at the Federal Reserve, Bank of Canada and Reserve Bank of Australia which have embarked on aggressive campaigns to subdue runaway inflation this year, hiking in 50-basis point increments.

On the inflation front, data due Friday will be closely watched for clues on the Fed’s rate path. The data is expected to show consumer prices picked up from a month ago, but eased slightly from a year earlier though stayed above 8%. That will likely keep pressure on policy makers to stay the course on aggressive rate hikes.

Other News

Having trouble grasping the point of buying a Dolce & Gabbana virtual tiara or a virtual home? You might want to be sober to fathom an even newer corner of the metaverse called the virtual bar.

In March, tequila maker Jose Cuervo said it would open the first distillery in the metaverse. Then, before anyone could figure out what it meant to drink in a digital world, a bar fight broke out over it.

Wisher Vodka, which bills itself as the “first and only craft spirit of the metaverse,” sent Jose Cuervo a letter effectively telling the tequila maker to cease and desist with its metaverse-pioneering claims. Next, it sent a truck through the streets of Los Angeles with a billboard that said: “Welcome to the Metaverse, Jose.”

Several other alcohol brands, too, have made forays into the digital universe, which some tech companies tout as the future of work and social interaction. In February, Miller Lite opened a bar in the metaverse with giveaways tied to the Super Bowl. Irish whiskey maker Kinahan’s said it is planning virtual tastings.

Now, back to the question that confused consumers like 26-year-old Maryana Ryumshin. “At first, I was like, oh, OK, how can I really drink?” she says.

The answer: She can’t.

Users enter the barroom metaverse through their computers. To get into Wisher Vodka’s online establishment, users must key in their birth dates, the digital equivalent of being carded.

Those 21 or older can stroll past the bouncer, a tall digital monkey. Users appear as avatars, some wearing glowing mouse ears, fairy wings or dragon costumes. The graphics are similar to those seen in videogames, giving the room a Star Wars bar scene feel.

The alcohol, alas, is virtual. Avatars can drink as much of it as they want. They won’t get digitally drunk, as players do in the videogame Grand Theft Auto, where visits to bars can turn screens blurry.

Ms. Ryumshin, who said she doesn’t much like to drink real alcohol anyway, is now a regular at Wisher’s. She said she goes to socialize with others at virtual events. Sometimes, she said, people joke around and pretend to be tipsy.

On a Friday night in April, Wisher hosted a concert, with a live stream of a real-life rapper projected onto the venue’s digital wall, in real time. Avatars could make their way up the back stairs to a VIP party where the rapper, between songs, shouted out their usernames.

To make money, some companies are linking their virtual drinks to their real-world products. Wisher Vodka sells NFTs of cocktails. Buyers are sent a six-bottle case of its actual vodka.

In April, Absolut Vodka got into the act, hosting a two-week online party tied to the popular California music festival, Coachella. Absolut offered a virtual bar, dance floor and music.

Ryan Guthrie, a 32-year-old who has frequented several bars in the metaverse, said he sneaked into Absolut’s virtual setup before it opened to the public. He snapped a few pictures and posted them to social media before being caught and asked to take them down, he said.

“I actually got in trouble because I figured out how to get onto the land before the event happened,” he said, laughing.

After the virtual bar opened, 260,000 people visited it, the company said. Among them were several Wisher employees and bar-goers whose avatars were wearing “Wisher Vodka” T-shirts.

At the real-life Coachella festival, Absolut set up a tent with computers that tapped into its virtual bar. Fortunately for festival visitors, there also was a flesh-and-blood bartender selling real vodka.

In April, Dutch beer maker Heineken said it had created the world’s first virtual beer, Heineken Silver, which it said — with tongue firmly in cheek — “is made only from the freshest pixels: no malt, no hops, no yeast, no water and also, no beer.” Then it brewed an actual beer with the same name.

Heineken said it was an “ironic way of poking fun at brands releasing products in the metaverse that are actually best enjoyed in real life.” It offered the beer at real-life events in Europe, where drinkers could wear fake virtual-reality headsets with cutouts to look through at the real world.

Despite that mockery, Heineken also built a digital brewery where avatars can enjoy the virtual beer and go on tours of the facility where it is made. After all, said Bram Westenbrink, global head of Heineken brand, “we want to be where the consumers are.”

(Wall Street Journal)