Punting

It is often instructive to see what corporates do with their cash. Some buy more machines or their own shares or a new tech stack. Some go wallet out to an auction of NFTs and drop $150,000 on a CryptoPunk with clown green eyes. Quite what shareholders muttered to themselves on reading VISA’s decision to get in on the current digital brouhaha is not yet known but Cuy Sheffield, the company’s head of crypto is clearly ready to get it on down. “We think NFTs will play an important role in the future of retail, social, media, entertainment and commerce,” he wrote in a blog post. Indeed, they might. Given VISA rakes in $20bn in annual revenue, what they punt the loose change found behind the cushions on the C-suite sofa may be largely symbolic, but it’s what you do with the pennies that often matters. Other companies are clearly taking a different view of a world awash with cash, hot data and increasingly steamy geopolitics. Palantir is a software company that specialises in big data and has fingers in a lot of pies. Pies that range from counter terrorism, fraud, and all sorts of other services providing intelligence to people who want intelligence. The company’s original clients were federal agencies of the US Intelligence corps. One might assume they have a lot of information to base their decisions on. Whilst VISA are getting in on NFTs, Palantir is getting in on gold. Not gold ETFs or some other paper-based derivative, but actual gold ingots that can be locked up in an empty meeting room. Palantir did not respond to questions on why they did this, so no one knows what they know. If indeed, they know anything. Perhaps its all PR, and they just want people to think they know something with an eye on picking up a few new contracts. Either way gold is an asset that has no real purpose when markets are all va va voom, but might yet come into fashion if it starts to rain and it turns out there is a very big hole in the roof. With robust balance sheets and gushing cash at spot prices, the gold miners are some of the cheapest stocks around.