17 April 2020

1) The troubles of the shale oil industry, and their decline, are well known, but another much less know part of these economic troubles is the multitude of suppliers who no longer have someone to sell to. Drilling and producing shale oil is an intensive industrial operation requiring a mired of mechanical and chemical supplies consumed in the operation, and there are a large number of suppliers for these items who depend on the oil industry for their business. With the low oil prices, shale oil companies have been forced to abandon drilling. Since the start of 2019, the oilfield service sector has lost almost 50,000 jobs, with the near future forecast to be even worst. As the oil companies file for bankruptcy, large oil service providers such as Schlumberger, Halliburton and Baker Hughes are left being owed millions of dollars with little hope of recovering those debts.

2) The method of calculating the percentage of unemployment rate may not be an accurate indicator of the present calamity which has struck the American job market because only those looking for work are counted in the calculation. Many of the recent 20 million unemployed are not looking for work, rather they are waiting for their former jobs to return, and so they are not being counted as unemployed in the often quoted percent unemployed number. A better indicator is the ‘employment to population’ ratio, which is the number of people working to the total population. This ratio had been at about 60% in January, but has dropped to 52% in April. But by any measure, the unemployment is a serious problem, that promises to get worst as the recession continues and automation makes inroads in replacing jobs with machines.

3) The large retailers, who were already in trouble before the coronavirus, are now being ravaged by the shutdown with many looking at bankruptcy. Big names such as J.C. Penny, Neiman Marcus and Macy’s have little to no revenues, yet still have their fix cost of operations such as loan debt, rents, utilities and taxes which still must be paid yet sales for department stores have dropped 24% with the sales for clothes down 51%. Their survival is dependent on how much cash reserve they have and when their largest loans mature and must be paid in full. This may herald a major change to the retailing business of America.

4) Stock market closings for – 16 APR 20:

Dow 23,537.68 up 33.33
Nasdaq 8,532.36 up 139.19
S&P 500 2,799.55 up 16.19

10 Year Yield: down at 0.61%

Oil: down at $19.75

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