6 July 2020

1) Newest job report is out with America gaining 4.8 million jobs as people return from the shutdown to work again. This gives an unemployment rate of 11.1%, which is still in the recession category, but is coming down over time. These returning jobs were mostly in the restaurant, hotel and retail sectors. There remains the question of how many restaurant jobs will finally return, with significant numbers of privately own businesses failing financially because of the shutdown.

2) The cornerstone of Ford’s reorganization, its F series Ford pickups, has dropped 22% in sales. Most of these are the F-150 full size pickups, with a new version just recently released. Total Ford sales are down 33.3%, with Ford executives making it clear just how critical the F-150 is to the future of Ford. Before the pandemic crisis set in, Ford had implemented a major restructuring of its operations intent on remaining a strong profitable company, and had expected to pay for this plan in part with the strong sales of the F-150. The F series models have been a part of Ford’s product line since 1948.

3) It’s reported that the developing world loses billions of dollars in money from migrant workers. These migrant workers range from Polish farmhands in the fields of southern France, to Filipino workers on cruise ships in the Caribbean, almost all of them losing their jobs because of the pandemic shutdown. These workers routinely sent cash home, so the third world economy is suffering too. Migrant workers comprise tens of millions of Indians, Filipinos, Mexicans and others from the developing countries, who sent a record $554 billion dollars back home last year. This is more than three times the development aid from foreign governments. Family members depend on this cash to pay for food, fuel and medical care. This drop in money sent home is four times the fall in the 2008 Great Recession.

4) Stock market closings for – 3 JUL 20:

Dow 25,827.36 up 92.39
Nasdaq 10,207.63 up 53.00
S&P 500 3,130.01 up 14.15

10 Year Yield: down at 0.67%

Oil: unchanged $40.32 back home

3 July 2020

1) The aircraft manufacturer Boeing Aircraft is discontinuing production of it’s iconic 747 jumbo jet after a fifty year run. The last 747-8 will be completed in two years. This marks the end of an era of giant airliners with Airbus also discontinuing its A380 production. The number of routes in the world which requires a jumbo jet are few, with airline companies preferring the twin engine aircraft for long range flights. The 747 made its debut in 1970, and went on to rack up 1,571 orders over its production life, a record seconded only by the wide body 777. Boeing has lost 40$ million dollars for each 747 since 2016, with production down to just 6 units a year. The last 747 for passenger service was Air Force One. With air travel curtailed by the Covid-19 crisis, air carriers don’t expect air travel to recover fully until the mid decade, so airlines are culling out aging jetliners and four engine jumbos from their fleets to limit spending.

2) With interest rates near zero, the most used tool for the Feds to stimulate a sagging economy is becoming ineffective in reversing the pandemic induced recession. Therefore, the Feds are considering using quantitative easing or large scale assets purchases. This is where the U.S. central bank buys hundreds of billions of dollars in assets, most of which are U.S. Treasury and mortgage backed securities. By taking bonds (mostly 2 and 10 year Treasuries) off the market it replaces them with cash in the system, meaning there is now more cash available for lending to consumers, businesses and municipalities.

3) The Senate is considering a bill which would punish retailers for refusing cash payments. Retailers have been pushing for electronic payments to reduce the risk of virus contamination from contact of paying cash. The objective of the bill is to prevent disenfranchise of minorities who have limited to no banking access.

4) Stock market closings for – 2 JUL 20:

Dow 25,827.36 up 92.39
Nasdaq 10,207.63 up 53.00
S&P 500 3,130.01 up 14.15

10 Year Yield: down at 0.67%

Oil: up at $40.32

2 July 2020

1) The airline industry is one of the hardest hit segments of the economy from the pandemic, with an estimated 36% drop in traffic this year. But the International Air Transport Association is warning that it could worsen with a 53% drop if boarder curbs on emerging market countries and the U.S. remain in place. The U.S. – EU (European Union) air travel market generates $29 billion dollars a year is threaten by the ban on non essential flights from the U.S. as the EU attempts to avoid an resurgence of the virus. Air travel was down over 90% for April and May, with little prospects for improvement in the near future, leaving the future of air carriers in doubt too.

2) The maker of electric automobiles Tesla has become the world’s most valuable automaker, surpassing Toyota’s for the first time on record. Tesla’s valuation is roughly $206.5 billion dollars compared with Toyota’s valuation of about $202 billion dollars. This underscores the vast investor enthusiasm for the automaker, which has yet to turn a profit on an annual basis. While it’s valuation exceeds Toyota, its car production of 103,000 cars lags far behind Toyota’s production of 2.4 million vehicles. The valuation comes from the stock in the company, with investors piling money in since there aren’t any other electric vehicles investments available, with Tesla stock soaring to $1,135 per share.

3) Electricity bills are set to surge this summer because of millions of Americans sheltering in place. This added demand will mean higher electricity costs for months to come. This will mean an additional $30 to $40 per month on electric bills in cities like New York and Philadelphia. Increases are anticipated to be highest for the northeast area of the country, decreasing when going westward. This comes when people’s finances are already stretched tight because of the coronavirus crisis.

4) Stock market closings for – 1 JUL 20:

Dow 25,734.97 down 77.91
Nasdaq 10,154.63 up 95.86
S&P 500 3,115.86 up 15.57

10 Year Yield: up at 0.68%

Oil: down at $39.71

1 July 2020

1) The credit worthiness of automakers has been lowered by Moody’s Investors Service, downgrading about $130 billion dollars in global automakers’ debt. Nine out of 22 global car makers have had their ratings lowered. General Motors Co. has a Baa3 rating for unsecured notes, the lowest investment grade rating and has a negative outlook. Ford Motor Co.’s senior unsecured debt is rated at Ba2, which it two notches below investment grade and also has a negative outlook. Thirteen of the automakers were not downgraded because of their better operating profiles and liquidity, but 75% have a negative outlook. World automakers were having troubles before the pandemic, but now are facing more declining auto sales and low prospects for near term improvement.

2) China has adopted a national security law that allows Beijing to override Hong Kong’s judicial system. The intent of China is to strangle and suppress political opponents in Hong Kong and subjugate the freedom of its citizens. This is another example of the re-emergence of Red China as a totalitarian state, and therefore represents a threat to surrounding nations. It strips the territory of autonomy promised under the handover agreement with Britain, with possible retaliation from America. The move by China has resulted in visa restrictions on officials from both sides, and a threat of future retaliation measures coming.

3) Fears of another virus pandemic have surface with the discovery of a new swine flu virus in Chinese pigs. The new strain, called G4 H1N1 has many of the same characteristics of H1N1 that caused the 2009 global pandemic, and can bind to, infect and replicated in tissue cells located in human airways. While not an immediate threat, the virus bears watching, but on top of the Covid-19 pandemic, the problem of controlling either outbreaks would be multiplied, especially with the now overstretched health care and hospital systems.

4) Stock market closings for – 30 JUN 20:

Dow 25,812.88 up 217.08
Nasdaq 10,058.76 up 184.61
S&P 500 3,100.29 up 47.05

10 Year Yield: up at 0.65%

Oil: up at $39.86

30 June 2020

1) The Boeing Aircraft Co. has started it re-certification process for the 737 MAX with the take off of a test aircraft for the first flight. An FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) pilot was on board as test flights begin, to determine if the aircraft is safe for flying with passengers. The first flight test is to fly maneuvers for about three hours, the test craft being fitted with a number of instruments and monitoring equipment to test and record how the aircraft performs. Test include the ‘wind-up turn’ which is a steep turn that essentially approaches a stall, with wings almost at 90 degrees of bank. This maneuver should trigger the Boeing software system that played a role in both crashes, which caused the aircraft design to be grounded. The software caused the aircraft’s nose to be repeatedly pointed downward at the ground until pilots lost control. These certification flights are expected to take approximately three days, and while they are an important milestone, there remains a number of key tasks to be completed.

2) According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 47.2% of American adults are now jobless, almost half the adult population. This is a direct result of losing 30 million jobs because of the coronavirus crisis. While there was an unexpected snap back in May, there are now signs of a slowdown in the labor market improvement because of fears of a Convid-19 resurgence increased these last few weeks. The massive loss of jobs is what is now dragging the economy down. Both Texas and Florida have paused plans for further reopening because of a record spike in coronavirus cases.

3) Lending institutions are pulling back sharply on their lending to U.S. consumers during the pandemic, because they can’t tell who is creditworthy anymore. There are millions of Americans out of work and behind on their debts, but many of these missed payments aren’t reflected in credit scores. This is a result of the government’s stimulus package which allows borrowers to defer their debt payments, but credit companies can’t report these late payments to credit reporting companies. For May, there were more than 100 million accounts with deferred debt payments. This is a sign of widespread financial distress.

4) Stock market closings for – 29 JUN 20:

Dow 25,595.80 up 580.25
Nasdaq 9,874.15 up 116.93
S&P 500 3,053.24 up 44.19

10 Year Yield: unchanged at 0.64%

Oil: up at $39.55

29 June 2020

1) Microsoft is permanently closing almost all of its stores across the nation and world. Just like other retail outlets, Microsoft had to shutter all its stores due to the coronavirus pandemic. There are 83 stores worldwide of which 72 are in the U.S., however only four will remain open in the world. The stores allowed people to try out software and hardware offered by Microsoft including laptop computers. No news if there will be any layoffs or how many, the stores are moving to the digital realm, which will absorb many of the store employees. The physical stores generated negligible retail revenue for Microsoft.

2) As oil prices reach the magic $40 a barrel, shale fracking is starting to reawaken to pump oil. The number of fracking crews had bottomed out at 45 last month, but is now back up to 78 this last week. There had been roughly 400 fracking crews before the decline in oil prices started. The drilling of new oil wells remains on hold with a 70% slump, making for the lowest number of active drilling rigs since 2011.

3) Nike is warning its employees of coming layoffs, but these layoffs will not effect store employees. The layoffs are expected to come in two waves, the first this July followed in the fall with a the second wave. These layoffs come amid reports of poor earnings, with sales down 38% giving a net loss of $790 million dollars when the Convid-19 virus forced closing of most of its stores. This compares with nearly a billion dollars in earnings for the same time last year. Nike has 76,700 employees, but it’s not know yet how many will lose their jobs. All wasn’t bad for Nike, with their online sales skyrocketing 75%, with e-sales accounting for 30% of Nike’s total business.

4) Stock market closings for – 26 JUN 20:

Dow 25,015.55 down 730.05
Nasdaq 9,757.22 down 259.78
S&P 500 3,009.05 down 74.71

10 Year Yield: down at 0.64%

Oil: down at $38.16

The Curse of the Krel is Among Us

The ever popular and growing social media, that seems just a harmless recreation, has a growing dark side to it reminiscent of science fiction.

James Lyman BSAE, BSEE, MSSM

The 1956 science fiction movie, ‘Forbidden Planet’ is a classic film of space travel and science fiction, indeed some claim it was the first real space science fiction movie, which pioneered excellent special effects combined with great cinema graphics and story line. Earth men travel to the distant planet Altair-4 finding Dr. Morbius and his daughter, living in a world once inhabited by a very advance people with a technology far beyond the earthlings. These people, the Krel, had gone extinct thousands of years ago, but their advance technology continued to sustain itself on its own. The Krel had developed an advance technology that let any and all of its people create anything they desired just by thinking of it. But the Krel hadn’t considered the secret dark side of an individual’s mind, which went on to create monsters that attacked and killed others. The Krel, with their new technology, unleashed the destruction of their people and civilization. Unable to control the hidden emotions of petty jealousy, envy, resentments and insecurities buried deep within us, those emotions manifest themselves into hunter-killers which attacked the other Krels until none were left.

We too have developed a technology which can do the same thing to us as with the Krel . . . well almost. It’s our social media! This relatively new technology also allows our deep hidden dark side to emerge into the open of the internet. To also attack, hurt, humiliate, degrade, vilify and destroy others, both friend and foe. Not having to face others, we feel free, with no restraints, to say whatever is on our mind without any consideration. When new to the social media such as Tweeter or Facebook, we are cautious and reflective of what we say, but as time goes on, we become relaxed and slowly lower our guard. We become impulsive, beginning to say (write) what is really on our minds without consideration of the consequences on our relationships with others. While we are careful not to say how we really feel when face to face with others, with social media we just ‘let it all hang out’. No forethought or consideration of how our writings will be received by others. We lose all our in-habitations, and so . . .

The Krel are among us . . . and they are US!

My neighbor related a recent experience with social media that inspired this article, a comment on a cousin’s page which caused a pointless dustup of emotions, which fortunately the two were able to back away from and stop damage to their relationship . . . this time. But how about the next time? Now in the habit of no ‘inhibitions’, of impulsive thoughts unleashed without any time taken for reflection, without the facial expressions and body language feedback to warn and guide our thought process as we speak, what can happen? And that’s when we hurt or insult others. That’s the Krel among us, the social media which easily brings our darker side out without us really realizing it, until its too late. The Krel’s ‘monsters of the id’ set loose to began the process of eating away and destroying our interpersonal relationships.

Social Mitosis

Social mitosis is the process of a people, a uniform social group, slowly pulling against each other trying to go in different directions, much as two cats leashed together inevitably pulling in opposite directions. External forces start to polarize the people, often causing subgroups to form, wanting to go in different directions. This tends to be a slow drifting apart process, which is often imperceptible to the people while it is happening, but they are still one people acting largely as one. There is still a high degree of identification and empathy between individuals. But as the people are pulling apart, they become more identifiable as subgroups. More and more, the subgroups pull in different directions, with more strain building between the subgroups, so incidents of friction between the two subgroups become more frequent, but at first isn’t usually severe. However, the friction incidents serve to continue dividing the people until the subgroups become very distinct, each with their own culture. Two new cultures and peoples develop, becoming more distinct and separate, identifying less with each other.

Left unattended, the two people continue to pull apart, continue to become more distinct and different. At some time, there is a rupture and those people become two separate and distinct cultures and societies, and that rupture is usually of a violent nature. ‘Revolution’. ‘Insurrection’. People fighting to be free and out from under the other, to do and think whatever they wish. Very romantic sounding, but the reality is usually very different and far from romantic. The social mitosis of America started when I was a boy in the sixties with the emergence of the counter culture (the hippies), and has continued ever since. While the split has wax and waned over the years, the problem of obsolete people in the last few decades and their displacement from the social-economic system has caused significant strain between people, the rife between them growing deeper as they evolve into separate societies. We see this growing riff every night watching the national news and the political infighting in Washington.

The Krel of our social media is now deepening the split in social mitosis, causing further strain and conflict and at an accelerated rate. Like the Krel in the movie, we are unleashing our inner darker side onto others, to attack and eat away at our relationships, unaware what is happening. The Krel social media is a hidden evil that we have no real control over. We can only rely on the self control of individuals . . . millions of individuals acting independently. The vast majority completely unaware of the Krel syndrom of social media, what they are unconsciously doing as they tap out another posting. The destructive power they hold literally in their hands . . . the power to drive people apart with unforseen consequences. To attack. All without any thinking. So we would do well to consider . . .

A Corollary of War:
Never attack without having a specific objective-
Never attack without a reasonable expectation of achieving that objective.

To ask the questions about a posting- Why are you attacking? What do you expect to gain for the cost of attacking? (cost-benefit) What exactly do you expect to achieve from you’re attack? And most important, do you really think you can gain what you’re expecting to get?

But then, if you don’t realize you’re attacking, it’s rather hard to ask and answer these questions, isn’t it!

26 June 2020

1) General Motors is eliminating 700 factory jobs in Tennessee as a result of low sales, which they are blaming on the Convid-19 crisis. This is the third shift at their Spring Hill assembly plant, leaving 3,000 workers still employed. This plant makes Cadillac XT5 and XT6 SUVs plus the GMC Acadia. This is another sign of the weakness in auto demand, a result of record job loss coupled with people working at home and therefore putting less wear on their old cars. The GM plant for building truck engines remains unchanged, since they were working just two shifts to start with.

2) The nation wide retailer Macy’s is cutting nearly 4,000 corporate jobs, about 3% of its overall workforce. The pandemic has taken a toll on the department store chain, just like so many other traditional chain retailers. This move will save the company about $630 million dollars per year, amid a quarterly net loss of $652 million dollars. Macy’s was struggling long before the pandemic because of competition from lower priced retailers such as Walmart, T.J. Maxx and Target.

3) The U.S. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) shrank by 5% for the first quarter, compared to an increase in the previous quarter of 2.1%, prior to the coronavirus pandemic onset. This drop is attributed to a decrease in personal consumption expenditures (PCE) because people are spending less. The real gross domestic income decreased 4.4% as compared to a 3.1% increase in the fourth quarter of last year.

4) Stock market closings for – 25 JUN 20:

Dow 25,745.60 up 299.66
Nasdaq 10,017.00 up 107.84
S&P 500 3,083.76 up 33.43

10 Year Yield: down at 0.67%

Oil: up at $39.18

25 June 2020

1) There are ten companies that may not make it through the summer. These are high brand names of Hertz, J.C. Penney, Pier 1 Imports, Tuesday Morning, J. Crew, Neiman Marcus, Gold’s Gym, Tailored Brands (Men’s Warehouse and Jos. A. Banks) and Diamond Offshore Drilling, which are all in bankruptcy now. The high number of retailers shows the ongoing retail apocalypse with the retail sector, which had already hit before the pandemic by falling sales, lower costumer traffic and too many stores. Retail was near the edge of collapsed with last years Christmas holiday shopping doing little to boost business, especially those located in malls. Last year, 9,500 retail stores closed, with estimates of 15,000 stores closing for good in 2020. This may indicated a fundamental shift in America’s economy, a shift away from hyper-consumerism to something else besides a service based economy. Shopper visits to stores are about half of last year’s numbers, and that’s with businesses reopening after more than two months on lockdown.

2) Fears continue to grow that we are not finished with the Convid-19 crisis yet, as the number of new cases continues to increase. This is happening with states and cities easing their shutdown measures to reopen the economy to start a recovery. The seven day average of new virus cases has swung up 30% from a week ago. It was hoped the warm weather would suppress the virus spread as it does with the flu, but if the virus is resurrecting, then the shutdown may need to returned with the resulting economic impact.

3) The Ford Motor Co., who is in the process of its global restructuring plan and paying off debt related to the coronavirus pandemic, is betting its future on its new line of pickups. Ford is offering its popular F-150 model in traditional internal combustion engines, new hybrids and all electric versions. The Ford F-150 has been the country’s top selling truck for more than 40 years, the best selling for the last consecutive 38 years. Their F-150 is a key part in Ford’s plans to profitably grow their business, to help in the $11 billion restructuring cost and pay off the $20 billion dollars in new debt.

4) Stock market closings for – 24 JUN 20:

Dow 25,445.94 down 710.16
Nasdaq 9,909.17 down 222.20
S&P 500 3,050.33 down 0.96

10 Year Yield: down at 0.68%

Oil: down at $38.07