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Friday's Fast Five: Week of 6.28


They Built a $100 Million Watch Empire. Then the Market Tanked. (The Wall Street Journal):  The website Hodinkee reinvented watch culture, giving luxury timepieces the same air as a pair of rare Nikes. Now it faces a market downturn and accusations of mismanagement.

High-Yield Was Oxy. Private Credit Is Fentanyl. (Institutional Investor): Private equity assets have increased sevenfold since 2002, with annual deal activity now averaging well over $500 billion per year. The average leveraged buyout is 65 percent debt-financed, creating a massive increase in demand for corporate debt financing. Yet just as private equity fueled a massive increase in demand for corporate debt, banks sharply limited their exposure to the riskier parts of the corporate credit market. Not only had the banks found this type of lending to be unprofitable, but government regulators were warning that it posed a systemic risk to the economy.

Europe Has a New Economic Engine: American Tourists (The Wall Street Journal): Across southern Europe, an unprecedented tourism boom driven largely by American tourists is turbocharging growth in places that had become bywords for economic stagnation, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and filling the coffers of governments recently shaken by sovereign debt fears. Even as some worry the boom may be creating other problems, the Mediterranean rush is turning Europe’s recent economic history on its head.

The Napoleon of Your Living Room (The New York Times): Gary Friedman, who runs RH (formerly Restoration Hardware), is out to conquer the world, one luxurious sofa at a time. Next stop, Waterloo? RH sold $3 billion worth of products last year, but Mr. Friedman’s goal is not just to move $10,000 sectional sofas, most of them in earth tones and a style that could be called California Rich. He wants to forge a brand that is so ubiquitous — RH restaurants, RH hotels, RH clothing — that its impact is global.

The American Dream is getting really expensive (Sherwood): As wage growth struggles to keep pace with home price inflation, buying a house has felt increasingly out of reach for millions of Americans recently — a trend that’s been ongoing for the last 3+ decades.