The Next Big Theme: December 2022

Dec 23, 2022


Surprise Holiday Season Sales Surpass Expectations

Despite persistent inflation and return to store headwinds, U.S. holiday sales got off to a strong start this year, especially online. Compared to 2021, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday sales all increased. American consumers spent a record $5.3 billion online on Thanksgiving Day, up 3% over 2021.1 Merchants benefitted from big discounts and physical stores being closed on Thanksgiving. Notably, mobile shopping accounted for 55% of online sales, an 8.3% year-over-year (YoY) increase.2 Record online revenue from Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales totaled $9.12 billion and $11.3 billion, respectively.3 E-commerce giant Shopify generated $3.4 billion in revenue on Black Friday, a massive leap of 21% YoY.4 Cyber Monday sales increased 5.8% YoY. Many retailers offered steep discounts early on in the holiday season, including Amazon and Walmart, but they did not dampen demand on Cyber Monday.

Artificial Intelligence & Technology

Automation at Your Fingertips

More than a million people tried OpenAI’s ChatGPT in the days after its release in November.5 The widely accessible artificial intelligence (AI) bot has capabilities that span chatting to writing essays and computer programs. The bot retains threads of dialog so that it can refer to previous questions and answers to inform its next responses, and it can leverage huge volumes of information on the internet. Large language models train ChatGPT to automatically create text based on what it sees. To combat potential misuse of the chat feature, including plagiarism, OpenAI is developing a watermark to identify its work through a detectable signature. ChatGPT is OpenAI’s latest endeavor in the AI space, with previous successes such as GPT-3’s human-like written text and DALL-E’s generative art.

Renewable Energy Producers

Government Funding for Clean Energy Persists

The Biden Administration continued to invest in clean energy with $13 billion in new financing from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to expand and modernize the U.S. electric grid.6 An upgraded transmission system is crucial to President Biden’s mission to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50% below 2005 levels in 2030 and to achieve 100% clean electricity by 2035.7 The White House is also looking into approving new transmission lines to support wind-power transmission. The administration announced a $550 million investment to deploy community-based clean energy initiatives through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block (EECBG) Program.8 Similarly, the Department of Energy (DOE) awarded $100 million to eight companies working on the front lines of technological advancements in clean energy.9

Lithium & Electric Vehicles

EV Revolution Accelerates Manufacturers’ Lithium Plans

Electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers such as Tesla, BYD, and General Motors have big plans for 2023 and beyond. Tesla has a lithium refinery project in the final steps of negotiations with authorities in Texas. The company intends to invest about $365 million in the plant in support of Tesla’s sustainable product line.10 Chinese EV giant BYD is considering building a battery plant in the U.S. with investments in electric school buses and battery components. Additionally, the company is seeking EV production in Europe and securing lithium supply from Chile. General Motors secured a $2.5 billion loan from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for Ultium Cells, the company’s joint venture with LG Energy Solution.11 Ultium Cells will use the loan to expedite production at its lithium-ion EV battery plants in Ohio, Tennessee, and Michigan.


Buy Now, Pay Later—the 2022 Consumer’s Saving Grace

Americans are relying on buy now, pay later (BNPL) methods this holiday season amid inflationary concerns. Leading BNPL platform Afterpay announced that online and in-person transactions increased 120% compared to the pre-holiday period.12 Square and Afterpay’s Festive Forecast Report foresaw this trend when one in six Americans reported plans to use BNPL during the gifting season. Overall, BNPL usage increased by an estimated 68% in the week through November 27 compared with the previous week. BNPL revenue was up 72% for the same period.13

Internet of Things

U.S. Aims to Regain Domestic Dominance in Semiconductors

SK Siltron CSS, a new semiconductor manufacturing facility in Michigan, aims to domesticate supply chain processes in the U.S. The project is tied to the CHIPS and Science Act, which includes $52 billion in funding for U.S. companies involved in semiconductor manufacturing for industries such as technology, electric vehicles, appliances, and weapons systems.14 Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) will strengthen U.S.-based production of semiconductors with 4-nanometer chips when the company opens its $12 billion plant in Arizona in 2024.15 The company also plans to add a second plant nearby to ease supply chain concerns for major tech companies that rely on TSMC for chips, including Apple.


The following charts examine returns and sales growth expectations by theme, based on their corresponding ETFs.


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