Amazon Buys Into AI, Writers Strike, $100 Oil

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If you can not be first on board, at least catch the train before it leaves the station. Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) and AI startup Anthropic announced Monday morning that Amazon will invest up to $4 billion in Anthropic’s Claude foundation AI model.

According to the announcement, Anthropic will train its Claude and future foundation models on Amazon Web Services (AWS) Trainium and Inferentia proprietary chips. Foundation models are the basis for AI applications like ChatGPT and Midjournery. They are used to generate applications for a variety of tasks.

Anthropic has agreed to use AWS as its primary cloud provider and expects to run most of its work on AWS, allowing AWS customers access to Amazon’s Bedrock, a managed service that gives companies the ability to build its generative AI applications. While public reaction to ChatGPT and other AI applications has been strong, the near-term target for the technology is likely to be corporations with deep pockets looking to develop custom applications to speed up new product development. Like a new fatwah.

For its investment in Anthropic, Amazon also gets a minority position in a company that was valued at around $5 billion in May and will be able to use Antropic’s foundation models to “incorporate generative AI capabilities into their work, enhance existing applications, and create net-new customer experiences across Amazon’s businesses.” Amazon’s stock traded up about 1% in Monday’s premarket session at $130.32.

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) on Sunday announced that it had reached a tentative agreement with studios, including the Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) and Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX). If union members approve the agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, the nearly five-month strike will end, and a new three-year deal will be put in place.

Details are scarce, but in an email to members Sunday night, the WGA said, “We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional — with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership.”

Citing unnamed sources, Bloomberg reported that the WGA obtained wage concessions, staffing increases on TV productions, a bonus payment structure, and a deal on using artificial intelligence. The studios still have to settle an actors’ strike by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA).

Shares of both Disney and Netflix were up about 1% in Monday’s premarket. Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. (NASDAQ: WBD) jumped 3.6%.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil traded up about 0.1% early Monday at just over $90 a barrel. Some industry analysts believe that the black stuff will reach $100 a barrel before the end of the year. The price is not expected to remain at that level for long, but the optics are not what the industry wants.

On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal noted that no one wants prices at that level–not the industry, not the politicians and certainly not consumers. Why? Because the cure for high prices is higher prices. At some point, consumers will find other ways to get around that do not require paying high prices at the pump.

U.S. consumers are not the only ones who are suffering. Russia has just announced a temporary suspension of exports of refined products like gasoline and diesel fuel. Wholesale gasoline (92 octane) prices fell by nearly 10% to around $83 a barrel. Diesel prices fell by about 7.5% to around $99 a barrel.

Wholesale prices have been rising in Russia as the country exports more oil and refined products in an effort to boost revenue. The export ban will remain in force for an indefinite length of time. Russian gasoline stockpiles totaled about 13.3 million barrels, and diesel stocks totaled around 20.6 million barrels as of last week. Analysts at J.P. Morgan told Reuters that the ban would last only a couple of weeks, while Citigroup analysts are looking at a six-week ban.

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