1) The dreaded coronavirus seems to be on the rise again in Europe, with some European countries experiencing an increase of new cases, but this time with fewer deaths. This resurgence of recent weeks, has not forced as many people into medical wards as last spring. However, the increase of Convid-19 is widespread, unsettling people who hoped the worst was behind them. So far, the rise in cases is in France, Germany and Spain, with Spain hit particularly hard. Europe had just started their schools for the new academic year.
2) The E-commerce giant Amazon has just opened its first ‘shop-in-person’ grocery store under its own name. The new store in the Los Angeles suburb of Woodland Hills, is a traditional physical store open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. PST. But the store has lots of high-tech touches such as a new feature called Dash Cart which allows you to use Alexa. This allows the customer to create a shopping list in advance then be guided around the store to those items on the list. The store uses cashierless checkout, so there isn’t any line to wait in. The customer has the option of using their Amazon account and Prime membership to order and get free delivery. Amazon is soon opening additional stores in other cities.
3) One of the most powerful storms to ever hit the US Gulf Coast, Hurricane Laura has left the usual damage and destruction, but having missed the Houston and New Orleans areas, caused far less damage than it could have. The death toll was six people and monetary damages are estimated to be between $8 billion and $12 billion dollars, most of the loss in Louisiana with only about $500 million dollars in Texas. The total economic cost from damaged structures and closed businesses is estimated to be about $20 billion dollars.
4) Stock market closings for – 28 AUG 20:
Dow 28,653.87 up 161.60 Nasdaq 11,695.63 up 70.30 S&P 500 3,508.01 up 23.46
1) The decay of the worlds airline industry is reaching out past the airline companies themselves, with jet engine maker Rolls-Royce announcing a $7 billion dollar lost for the first half of 2020. Rolls-Royce gets paid by the hours their engines are flown on airliners, and with the massive drop in air travel from the pandemic, the company’s revenues have drastically dropped leaving its survival in doubt. The company is being forced to sell assets to meet its cash needs, so they are reducing eleven of their locations to just 6, with the loss of 9,000 jobs. Stock dropped 9% on the news of reorganization which was already down 66% since the start of the virus crisis.
2) Not all of the retail industry is bleak news, with Abercombie & Fitch outperforming expectations in the second quarter. While the apparel company did lose ground in the last quarter, it performed better than analyst expected, with sales down by 17%, nevertheless their earnings per share made remarkable gains over last year. This is a result of aggressive costs reductions earlier in the quarter when the company slashed expenses by $200 million dollars by reducing salary expenditures and skipping dividends. Success in their e-commerce operations has also pushed up the revenues and promises to add more as people go to online for more of their shopping.
3) Another small indication that manufacturing is returning to America is Roche Holding AG plans to move its glucose testing strips manufacturing plant from Pueto Rico, where it has operated for about 40 years. The company is streamlining its operations by combining the plant with its other existing facilities. The move will cost 200 jobs in Peuto Rico, which has a number of other drug and medical device manufacturing plants.
4) Stock market closings for – 27 AUG 20:
Dow 8,492.27 up 160.35 Nasdaq 11,625.34 down 39.72 S&P 500 3,484.55 up 5.82
1) Large hurricanes bring economic damage on a large scale when they make landfall. This season’s biggie is Hurricane Laura now expected to make landfall as a category 4 storm this Wednesday evening or early Thursday morning. The National Hurricane Center rates the storm as having an “un-survivable storm surge” with large and destructive waves causing catastrophic damage along the coast of eastern Texas to the eastern part of Louisiana. The surge could penetrate up to 30 miles inland from the coast. Add to this, the catastrophic wind damage, and Laura promises to carry a large price tag economically as the storm continues first up into Arkansas then across the United States for the Atlantic with rains and flooding. This year is forecast to be a very active hurricane season so more economic damage may be in the play book.
2) Walmart is suspending its InHome delivery service, which offered the convenience of having people’s groceries delivered and unpacked by the delivery person in the customer’s kitchens. But because of the Convid-19 crisis and the need for contactless service, Walmart is discontinuing the service in favor of its Doorstep Delivery service, where groceries are delivered to consumers but now is left on the door step. With its other two delivery service, Walmart is becoming a strong contender in the e-commerce business.
3) Two long established regional grocery chains have filed for bankruptcy, another sign of the shifting of retail business in America, as traditional retailers fail to adapt to the new economic world. Balducci’s and Kings Food Markets of the north eastern coast were having financial struggles before the pandemic set in, but even thought both had a boost in sales from the pandemic, it wasn’t enough to save them. All stores will remain open as their holding company seeks a buyer. The two grocery chains date back to the first half of the twentieth century and they prospered through the decades before e-commerce.
4) Stock market closings for – 26 AUG 20:
Dow 28,331.92 up 83.48 Nasdaq 11,665.06 up 198.59 S&P 500 3,478.73 up 35.11
1) The American Airlines Group Inc. will layoff 19,000 workers once the federal payroll act expires on the first of October, making for a 30% reduction in its workforce since the Convid-19 crisis. This will result in 17,500 workers furloughed and about 1,500 cuts to management staff. These cuts are forced by a 70% drop in passenger numbers. This will bring the airlines pandemic cuts to 40,000 positions since the coronavirus outbreak. Presently, American plans to fly less than 50% of its normal schedule in the fourth quarter, while their long haul international flights will be just 25% of 2019. The airlines will have 100,000 employees compared with 140,000 in March of this year.
2) Real estate investors, including some of the largest investment groups, are skipping loan payments while raising billions of dollars for new investments. While the pandemic has devalued some real estate, it has also created new targets for investors loaded with cash. It’s the age-old strategy of abandoning ‘loser investments’ to buy winners, the losers being commercial properties with businesses that don’t need as much space as before the pandemic. Property owners are more likely to walkaway when their equity has been wiped out by lower values. Restaurants and hotels properties are especially vulnerable.
3) Reverse mortgages have new appeal for older Americans because of the super low interest rates, which means more of the equity is available to the home owners since less is going towards the interest. Essentially, a reverse mortgage is like a loan, where the owner sells his property for cash, but continues living in it. This makes retirement more comfortable or even possible with the homeowner having access to his house equity without having to actually sell his home.
4) Stock market closings for – 25 AUG 20:
Dow 28,248.44 down 60.02 Nasdaq 11,466.47 up 86.75 S&P 500 3,443.62 up 12.34
1) With the two storms in the Gulf of Mexico, off shore oil production rigs have been forced to suspend operations and evacuate their crews until the bad weather passes. This curtailment in oil production has caused oil futures to rise as much as 1.3%. The shutdown has closed 58% of crude oil output, or more than 1 million barrels a day. Additionally, oil refineries along the Gulf coast have shut down their operations until the oil returns. But still, the storms are anticipated to have little real damage to onshore and offshore oil production facilities, and so a quick recovery in the markets is anticipated.
2) About one third of companies are anticipating having half or more of their employees work remotely after the Convid-19 crisis ends. While previously, 1 in 30 companies had anticipated continuing work at home after the crisis passed, surveys now show it’s 1 in 3. The pandemic has forced companies across the world to rethink how they do business, with 72% saying they offer flexibility around hours and work scheduling. While 49% have implemented flexible policies on how work is done and what technology is used.
3) The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to e-commerce by five years. In many ways, the pandemic has reshaped our world, with our shopping habits being one of the prime ways. The fears of contracting the virus is forcing more people to shop online in the safety of their homes instead of going out into crowds of people to the traditional brick and mortar stores. This is causing the department stores to accelerate their decline. Sales of stores have declined by 25% in the first quarter of 2020, which grew to a 75% decline in the second quarter. Department stores are expected to decline by over 60% for the full year, while e-commerce is expected to grow by nearly 20%.
4) Stock market closings for – 24 AUG 20:
Dow 28,308.46 up 378.13 Nasdaq 11,379.72 up 67.92 S&P 500 3,431.28 up 34.12
1) Despite being in a major recession with unemployment hovering around 22 million, the home sales market is on fire, last month setting a record 24.7% increase compared with June. While the housing market was all but frozen this spring, surprisingly it has rebound from the effects of the pandemic crisis. The previous record for sales was set in 1968 with a 20.7% rise. Furthermore, all regions of the country reported strong sales of homes. One factor is considered that all the work at home has homeowners looking for larger houses. The strong sales is driving prices upward, with the median price of homes up 8.5% from July, now at $304,100. This is the 101st straight month of increasing prices.
2) AI (Artificial Intelligence) has made significant inroads in competing with humans to do tasks better and faster. In a field most people would consider as strictly a human endeavor- Dog fighting, or aerial combat where fighter aircraft chase each other through the sky trying to shoot each other down, now has AI systems to replace people. An AI system developed by Heron Systems went against a human F-16 fighter pilot in simulated air combat and defeated him 5-0. The simulation was limited to the nose cannon only, no missiles allowed. A couple of years ago, Boeing Aircraft said they were developing robot airliners which flew by themselves- no pilots!
3) Researchers have created a minuscule robot beetle, weighing only 88 milligrams, that can operated for two hours without a battery. The machine runs on liquid methanol that powers its artificial muscles allowing it to carry 2.6 times its body weight. The artificial muscles are called ‘catalytic artificial micro-muscle’, that uses special metals that allows the use of methanol to generate power to a micro-machine. While the RoBeetle is just a demonstration of a technology, it shows that power can be derived without the use of conventional batteries, which limit the size and weight of micro-robots.
4) Stock market closings for – 21 AUG 20:
Dow 27,930.33 up 190.60 Nasdaq 11,311.80 up 46.85 S&P 500 3,397.16 up 11.65
1) A controversy has arisen on the national political scene about removal of mail sorting machines in the USPS (United States Postal Service), some charging this is an attempt to interfere in the up coming national elections. Having already removed hundreds of machines, the USPS is poised to decommission 671 of the massive sorting machines, which is roughly 10% of its inventory. This represents the sorting ability of 21.4 million pieces of paper mail per hour. Presently, the USPS processes up to 500 million items each day. The removal is part of a long range plan, in response to American’s diminishing use of traditional letters.
2) The ride sharing services Uber and Lyft are preparing to shut down in California because of a new law that reclassifies their drivers from contract workers to employees. Under an order issued ten days ago for their drivers to be employees with state mandated pay, benefits and taxes, the two service providers have threaten to suspend services if the order is not resended until an up coming referendum in November to exempt them is held. This is a major case for the growing on-demand economy and what its future in America’s economy will be. Being forced to use employee drives would fundamentally change their business, making them far less competitive with traditional taxi services.
3) The woes of America’s airline industry continues with the announcement that American Airlines is suspending service to 15 U.S. cities this fall. The move comes in response to declining demand and as a federal requirement to service those locations comes to an end. This is the latest step taken by American Airlines to cut costs amid airlines racking up billions in losses during the pandemic. The company will slash 30% of its management and administrative jobs with about 25,000 of their workers furloughed by October. They have reached a deal with their pilots union to offer more leaves and early-retirement packages. Estimates are that domestic airlines will lose more than $20 billion dollars in revenue this year, while globally the industry could lose up to $84 billion dollars this year.
4) Stock market closings for – 20 AUG 20:
Dow 27,739.73 up 46.85 Nasdaq 11,264.95 up +118.49 S&P 500 3,385.51 up +10.66
1) Boeing Aircraft has received its first 737 MAX orders since 2019, from Enter Air, a Polish charter airline that exclusively uses only Boeing airplanes. They have ordered two 737 MAX with an option to order two more. With the option, this would bring its MAX fleet to ten aircraft. Frzegorz Polaniecki, the general director and board member of Enter Air, said he’s convinced the 737 MAX will be the best aircraft in the world for many years to come. This order for two aircraft pales in comparison to Boeing’s July net negative order of 836 aircraft, but it’s a start in the right direction. Cancellation of Boeing aircraft sales have far outpaced new orders this year because of the pandemic. The last six months, Boeing has faced a combination of problems specific to Boeing and the pandemic.
2) The Federal Reserve is lowering their estimate for economic growth over the second half of the year. The Reserve presents its forecast at the central bank’s eight interest rate committee meetings in a year. The reduced forecast is because they expect the rate of recovery in the Gross Domestic Product and the rate for reducing unemployment to be slower than previously expected. Reduction of the unemployment depends on the reopening of businesses, which in turn is depended on the pandemic.
3) According to Bank of America, moving manufacturing out of China could cost U.S. and European companies $1 trillion dollars over five years. Companies in over 80% of global sectors have experienced supply chain disruptions during the pandemic, so many are widening the scope of their reshoring plans. The shift to return manufacturing back to home countries has been spurred on by the Convid-19 crisis. Supporting companies will also benefit with the increase of economic activity by having manufacturing return.
4) Stock market closings for – 19 AUG 20:
Dow 27,692.88 down 85.19 Nasdaq 11,146.46 down 64.38 S&P 500 3,374.85 down 14.93
1) Walmart retailer giant has had its second quarter e-commerce sales jump by 97% with customers having packages shipped to their homes and using curbside pick-up. This adds optimism to Walmart’s upcoming Walmart+ (pronounced Walmart plus) membership, a subscription based service to rival Amazon Prime designed to drive up sales and loyalty. Exceptions are for Walmart+ to continue pushing up e-commerce sales over and above the big jump for the second quarter, signaling again a major profound shift in American retail segment of the economy. The new service will deliver merchandise in one day, if not just a few hours.
2) FexEx is joining other package delivery services to add extra holiday fees for deliveries, from 2 November to 17 January. These surcharges on regular shipments to homes will be between $1 and $5. It’s been since 2016 when FedEx last applied surcharges during peak volume times, and follows UPS and the US postal service using surcharges for the peak package delivery times. With the massive increase in home delivery of merchandise, because of the pandemic, its expected that the holiday surge will set new records in package volume. This in turn will place a large strain on the company and therefore additional cost to overcome the strain. The amount of the fee will depend on the surge over normal volume. Both UPS and FedEx introduced surcharges earlier this summer, in part to make up for the extra cost to keep workers safe during the pandemic.
3) The USPS (United States Postal Service) chief Louis DeJoy announced he is suspending some changes in the post office until after the 2020 election. Dejoy is avoiding any appearance of any impacting on election mail. The suspension includes some longstanding operational initiatives that were in place before he took office. There are fears that cost cutting measures could impact the November election with widespread mail delays.
4) Stock market closings for – 18 AUG 20:
Dow 27,778.07 down 66.84 Nasdaq 11,210.84 up 81.12 S&P 500 3,389.78 up 7.79