31 December 2020

1) President Donald Trump’s efforts for a $2,000 Covid-19 relief check for each American has run into a road block, which the Senate Republicans have made unsurmountable, even as pressure builds to approve the bigger checks. A growing number of Republicans oppose more spending, despite bucking Trump. The showdown over the $2,000 checks has thrown Congress into a chaotic year-end session which is preventing action on overturning Trump’s veto on a sweeping defense bill. McConnell is trying to provide an off ramp for GOP senators to avoid a tough vote. Republicans are split between those who align with Trump’s populist instincts and those who adhere to what had been more traditional conservative views against government spending. New legislation is proposing linking the president’s demand for bigger checks with repealing law suit protections for tech companies like Facebook or Twitter , as well as establishment of a bipartisan commission to review the 2020 presidential election for possible fraud.

2) There is another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic . . . the ringing in of the new year at Times Square in New York, which in the past draws millions of visitors to Midtown, but not this year. This year, the visitors are out, the traditional dropping of the crystal orb will be viewed only on television. There will still be the night performances, with disco diva Gloria Gaynor singing her “I Will Survive”, a rather appropriate anthem for 2020. Other cities across the globe are also curbing their traditional celebrations of the new year.

3) The new strain of Covid-19 virus has been discovered in Colorado and California which alarms scientists because it is a more contagious Covid-19 strain. It is expected that the new strain will quickly spread to other states. In San Diego County a 30-year-old man in the county, with no travel history, has tested positive for the new strain on Tuesday. Because there is no travel history, this is not an isolated case in San Diego County. Furthermore, on Tuesday, Southern California’s Intensive Care Unit availability is now at zero percent. Meanwhile, Colorado reported its first known case of the variant on Tuesday too, and was investigating a second possible case Wednesday. Both of the cases are National Guard soldiers who were deployed to support staffing at a nursing home in Simla, Colorado, outside Denver. While the new variant continues to spread fast in the UK, it is more contagious than previously identified strains but not more severe. The English virus spreads at a rate of 70% compared with other variants in the U.K.

4) Stock market closings for – 30 DEC 20:
Dow 30,409.56 up by 73.89
Nasdaq 12,870.00 up by 19.78
S&P 500 3,732.04 up by 5.00
10 Year Yield: down at 0.93%
Oil: up at $48.30

30 December 2020

1) With President Trump signing the COVID-19 relief bill into law, millions of Americans will again have pandemic-related benefits. The COVID-19 relief bill gives those who depend on unemployment benefits some amount of relief. In addition to enhancing unemployment benefits, there is also a $600 check for every adult making less than $75,000 a year.

2) To add to the economic woes of many Americans this year, for a second consecutive week, a massive winter storm is sweeping across the north and east. A new storm system brought heavy rain, gusty winds and thunderstorms to Southern California and will move across the country this week. The new storm system will move across the US during New Year’s Eve leaving heavy snow, winds, severe thunderstorms.

3) With President Trump’s veto of the annual military bill, the House voted to override President Trump’s veto, mustering bipartisan support to enact the legislation over the president’s objections and handing him a rare legislative rebuke in the final days of his presidency. The defense bill also takes steps to slow or block President Trump’s draw down of American troops from Afghanistan. The 322 to 87 vote is the first time a chamber of Congress has overridden one of Trump’s vetoes. The bill also authorizes a pay raise for the nation’s troops. However, the Senate, which must also get a two-thirds vote of its chamber to override vetoes, will take up the legislation later in the week. But the vote is complicated by another separate bill that would increase the size of individual stimulus checks to $2,000. For 60 years, lawmakers have used the annual military bill to bring home wins to their constituents. So far, the Congress has failed to over ride any of President Trump’s vetoes. But for the Senate to gain the two thirds vote to over ride, twelve Republicans must cross over. Other provisions of the bill are new benefits for tens of thousands of Vietnam-era veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange, a 3% increase in pay for service members and a boost in hazardous duty incentive pay. The bill also requires all federal officers enforcing crowd control at protests and demonstrations to identify themselves and their agencies, as well as directing the Pentagon to rename military bases which are named after Confederate leaders.

4) Stock market closings for – 29 DEC 20:

Dow 30,335.67 down by 68.30
Nasdaq 12,850.22 down by 49.20
S&P 500 3,727.04 down by 8.32

10 Year Yield: unchanged at 0.93%

Oil: up at $48.25

29 December 2020

1) President Trump has signed the coronavirus relief bill which includes the $600 stimulus checks. The stimulus is $900 billion dollar relief bill, which was delayed by Trump’s reluctance to sign the bill into law as the coronavirus pandemic continues to range while millions of people have lost their jobs. The stimulus legislation was flown down to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida where the President spent his Christmas holiday. But on Sunday, Trump sign the mammoth, 5,593-page product of months of congressional negotiations.

2) With President Trump public statement that he wanted $2,000 stimulus checks spurred the Republicans and Democrats to pursue a new offering with a special bill. Trump has repeatedly criticized the $900 billion bipartisan stimulus bill calling it a disgrace for only including a “measly $600” in direct payments. He tweeted Saturday “I simply want to give our great people $2000”. The president opposed the bills, but backed down on Sunday and signed it narrowly avoiding a government shutdown. However, the Republicans have agreed to a new vote on $2,000 stimulus checks with a new bill to increase payments to individuals from $600 to $2,000.

3) Star Trek’s Scotty, the chief engineer on the fictional U.S.S. Enterprise, has finally beamed up to the International Space Station. The ashes of James Doohan, the actor who portrayed the original Star Trek character Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, have been interred for a dozen years on the International Space Station (ISS). The actor died in July 2005 at age 85, and portions of the actor’s ashes had previously been officially launched into space a couple of other times. Citizen astronaut and entrepreneur Richard Garriott, who was one of the first private citizens to fly to space, smuggled Doohan’s ashes during a 12-day mission in 2008 and were left hidden on board the station. Doohan’s ashes have now traveled 1.7 billion miles in space, orbiting Earth more than 70,000 times.

4) Stock market closings for – 28 DEC 20:

Dow 30,403.97 up by 204.10
Nasdaq 12,899.42 up by 94.69
S&P 500 3,735.36 up by 32.30

10 Year Yield: down at 0.93%

Oil: down at $47.69

28 December 2020

1) Rich Americans are rushing to make large transactions before the end of the month and year, intending to get ahead of expected raising of taxes or closing of loopholes. The year-end frenzy come as a surprise to many advisers, because Republicans did better than many expected in congressional races. This suggests Biden may have a difficult time fulfilling campaign promises to raise trillions of dollars in new revenue from the wealthy. The new Biden administration could close the many loopholes that make the U.S. estate and gift tax easy to avoid.

2) The bill for the pandemic relief is 5,600 pages long containing more than one million words, which makes it slightly longer than “A Dance to the Music of Time”, Anthony Powell’s classic 12-volume work, which is considered the longest novel in the English language, taking more than 100 hours to read aloud. But while the bill doesn’t provide the relief of the first one, it will create two new Smithsonian museums and a Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in North Dakota. There is legislation for copyright holders to pursue increasingly frivolous claims against YouTube users. Economic sanctions and other penalties to any Chinese national who attempts to interfere in the process by which the 15th Dalai Lama is chosen. It will ban a now-defunct activist group from receiving federal funding. In short, much of the bill provides no help for Americans struggling to survive this economic calamity. Therefore, the stimulus bill is the worst of both worlds of Democrats and Republicans.

3) Communist China is adding to its military aggressiveness by developing amphibious assault ships to enhance its blue water navy and dominate the seas. The 40,000-ton assault warship is the key to Beijing’s ambition of dominating the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea, where frequent encounters with the United States Navy have occurred this year. A total of eight Type 075 amphibious assault ships have been ordered by the PLA, with the third one currently under construction and expected to be delivered in early 2021. The landing helicopter dock carries 30 attack helicopters and 900 troops. The assault ships gives China the ability to conduct vertical deployment in military operations on islands and reefs, the Chinese Communist citing self-governing Taiwan and the South China Sea as examples.

4) Stock market closings for – 24 DEC 20:

Dow 30,199.87 up by 70.04
Nasdaq 12,804.73 up by 33.62
S&P 500 3,703.06 up by 13.05

10 Year Yield: down at 0.93%

Oil: up at $48.23

24 December 2020

1) Just went everyone thought the second stimulus was a done deal, President Trump has made vague threats not to pass it. The President is asking Congress to amend the bill that has passed both chambers, with Trump decrying the bill’s $600 payments and its failure to properly support small businesses. He is now urging lawmakers to boost the $600 check to $2,000 for every American earning less than $75,000 per year. Furthermore, a veto would leave the threat of a government shutdown and expiring Covid-19 protections looming over the holiday season. The President said the bill contains too many provisions unrelated to the pandemic.

2) Threats of a second stimulus bill veto was reinforced with Trump’s veto of the defense bill, in part because of the requirement for renaming bases honoring Confederates and restrictions on the executive’s ability to bring troops home from overseas. Both the House and the Senate are already making plans for a post-Christmas session during which lawmakers plan to override the veto. Congress has until noon on January 3 to do so.

3) There are emerging new signs of economic distress. With the fate of a federal aid package suddenly thrown into doubt by President Trump, economic data on Wednesday shows why the help is so desperately needed. Personal income fell in November for the second straight month, and consumer spending declined for the first time since April, with a worsening pandemic continuing to take a toll on the U.S. economy. Applications for unemployment benefits remained high last week and have risen since early November. Experts know that things are going to get worse, the question is how much more worse. Many economists view direct payments to people as among the least effective measures, because much of the money goes to households that don’t need it. Spending on restaurants and hotels fell with transportation, clothing and gasoline also in declined. The decline in spending is spilling over into the labor market, with about 869,000 people filing new claims for state jobless benefits last week. The relief bill is smaller than many economists say is needed to carry the economy through the pandemic and ensure a robust recovery.

4) Stock market closings for – 23 DEC 20:

Dow 30,129.83 up by 114.32
Nasdaq 12,771.11 down by 36.80
S&P 500 3,690.01 up by 2.75

10 Year Yield: 0.96%

Oil: up at $48.06

23 December 2020

1) The sailing of a Chinese aircraft carrier group, led by the country’s newest carrier, through the sensitive Taiwan Strait, caused Taiwan’s navy and air force to deploy. While this isn’t the first time China’s carriers have passed close to Taiwan, it comes at a time of heightened tension between Taipei and Beijing, which claims the democratically-ruled island as its territory. China says such trips by carriers through the strait are routine, often on their way to exercises in the disputed South China Sea. Taiwan said it sent six warships and eight military aircraft to monitor the Chinese ships’ movements. China has little experience with naval air operations compared to the United States, which has operated integrated carrier battle groups with multiple vessels for decades.

2) Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, said that millions of Americans could begin seeing stimulus payments as soon as next week. The stimulus measure is combined with other bills into a giant piece of legislation to include money to fund the government through September 2021 as well as the extension of various tax cuts. The stimulus has $600 direct payments to people as part of the bill, plus $300 in weekly unemployment benefits for 11 weeks.

3) The Justice Department has filed suit against Walmart, alleging they unlawfully dispensed controlled substances through their pharmacies thereby fueling the nation’s opioid crisis. Claims are Walmart pressured its pharmacists to fill opioid prescriptions quickly, thus denying pharmacists the ability to refuse invalid prescriptions. Therefore those pharmacists were knowingly filled thousands of prescriptions that came from ‘pill mills’. The government charges Walmart with failing to detect and report suspicious prescriptions to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, as the law requires, so for years Walmart has reported virtually no suspicious orders at all. Walmart has more than 5,000 pharmacies around the country, but Walmart contends that bad doctors are to blame. Therefore, Walmart filed its own preemptive suit against the Justice Department, Attorney General William Barr and the Drug Enforcement Administration saying the Justice Department’s investigation has identified hundreds of doctors who wrote problematic prescriptions. The company is asking a federal judge to declare that the government has no basis to seek civil damages.

4) Stock market closings for – 22 DEC 20:

Dow 30,015.51 down by 200.94
Nasdaq 12,807.92 up by 65.40
S&P 500 3,687.26 down by 7.66

10 Year Yield: down at 0.92%

Oil: down at $46.80

22 December 2020

1) Taiwan is building a state-of-the-art fleet of submarines as a means to counter any potential Chinese plans to invade the island or conduct a naval blockade. Construction of the first of eight submarines began last month the first expected to begin sea trials in 2025. This is just another sign of nations in the pacific realm with growing fears of China’s power. China claims full sovereignty over Taiwan, despite the fact that the two countries have had separate governments for more than seven decades. For several months, China’s People’s Liberation Army has been increasing military pressure on the island, but any PLA invasion flotilla must cross the Taiwan Strait, the relatively narrow body of water separating Taiwan from the mainland. Taiwan’s new submarine fleet could make a big difference in repulsing such a move.

2) Congressional leaders are nearing completion of end-of-the-year stimulus package to provide another round of checks to middle-class Americans and extend unemployment. The $900 billion dollar deal now has provision for a $600 payment to individuals, with checks promised to be sent out within a week of the bill being signed. On top of that, states, schools and local governments are clamoring for a federal bailout, facing massive budget gaps in 2021, but reports are, there are no such provisions in the 5,500 page bill.

3) The company Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., which is China’s largest chipmaker, is included on a U.S. blacklist calculated to have a major adverse impact on the development of advanced technology. The research and development of 10-nanometer chips and more sophisticated technologies will be affected, however the blacklist isn’t expected to have significant impact on SMIC’s operations and finances in the short term. The blacklists has more than 60 Chinese firms, in addition to SMIC included, because of national security and human rights violations, while China threatens countermeasures against these U.S. sanctions. SMIC joins the likes of Huawei Technologies Co. where the list denies them access to U.S. technology from software to circuitry.

4) Stock market closings for – 21 DEC 20:

Dow 30,216.45 up by 37.40
Nasdaq 12,742.52 down by 13.12
S&P 500 3,694.92 down by 14.49

10 Year Yield: down at .94%

Oil: down at $47.86

CONGRESS FINALLY REACHES $900 BILLION STIMULUS DEAL BEFORE HOLIDAYS!!!!!!!!!!

By: Economic & Finance Report

Eureka!!!!!! Finally a resolution for the stimulus package to be garnered to the American people and American struggling small businesses; in the United States. The stimulus package reached by the Republican & Democrat Senate & House leadership; will have a full vote by the US Senate & House of Reps on Monday, December 21, 2020.

The $900 billion price tag leaves out state aid, that governors and mayors across party lines have indicated they desperately need, to revive their local economies. Local officials will have to figure out ways to attribute their fiscal budget without the aid support being provided by the federal government.

The stimulus deal was reached late Sunday night December 20, 2020 by both Republicans and Democrats. It had been in negotiations for months, as Democrats and Republicans had been jostling for superiority on what should be included for the second wave of stimulus checks to the American people and American small businesses. The package aid was desperately needed because of the collapse of the economy, caused by the coronavirus pandemic. -SB

Image Credit: Forbes.com

21 December 2020

1) There is a move in congress, lead by Rep. Ayanna Pressley, urging President-elect Joe Biden to cancel up to $50,000 per person in federal student debt. Supporters of the move consider the student debt crisis as a racial and economic justice issue encompasses the kind of bold, high-impact policy that the broad and diverse coalition, which elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are expecting them to deliver. The mounting student debt problem has 45 million Americans owing a total of about $1.6 trillion dollars in student loans, with one in 10 loans in delinquency or default. The typical monthly payment is between $200 and $299, with minorities experiencing the most difficulties with student debt.

2) A massive heavy snow storm continues to cross the Northeast as the season’s first major winter storm slowly moves off the East Coast, leaving as much as 4 feet of snow. There has been hundreds of vehicle crashes with some of them being deadly. The storm has left more than 50,000 customers without electricity mainly in Virginia and New York state. The interior of Pennsylvania and New York state took the brunt of the storm, the storm setting a new two-day snowfall record in Binghamton. The previous record was recorded March 2017 with 35.3 inches of snow. Airlines have canceled more than 600 flights because of the snow.

3) President Trump has issued an executive order prohibiting Americans from investing in companies tied to China’s military complex. U.S. investors are bared from buying into 35 Chinese companies the Pentagon has classified as aiding China’s defense, intelligence and security apparatus. The executive order has sparked sell offs of Chinese stocks and bonds, forced index firms to drop companies from marquee benchmarks, and pushed Wall Street to reassess risks from investing in China. There are questions at the state department whether the blacklist should include subsidiaries of the companies, or if affiliates should be included. Asset managers are now reaching out to the Biden transition team to glean how the new administration will interpret the executive order. Starting on January 11, U.S. investors are barred from the purchase or investment in stocks, with investors having until November 2021 to get rid of their Chinese securities.

4) Stock market closings for – 18 DEC 20:

Dow 30,179.05 down by 124.32
Nasdaq 12,755.64 down by 9.11
S&P 500 3,709.41 down by 13.07

10 Year Yield: up at 0.95%

Oil: up at $49.08

18 December 2020

1) American drivers are facing the highest gasoline prices in two months, a result of the rising cost of crude oil used to make the gas. Presently, retail gasoline prices average $2.19 a gallon, up about 5 cents so far this month. Benchmark futures in the U.S. are the most expensive in months, following a rally, fueled in part by optimism around the impending circulation of Covid-19 vaccines, with the price of oil possibly rising further, and so pushing up gas prices. The crude oil needed to produce gasoline is climbing because of availability of the vaccination and anticipation that distribution will be more widely available in 2021.

2) Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D. Mich.) has proposed that the U.S. funding for another round of $1,200 stimulus checks for Americans can be had by reversing President Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cuts passed in 2017. A point of contention in the negotiations has been another round of stimulus checks. The bipartisan $908 billion dollar proposal unveiled on Dec. 9 and then split into two parts, but did not include stimulus payments. Tlaib has criticized Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos and wants him and other billionaire CEOs to pay more in taxes by reversing Trump’s signature tax cuts. Amazon paid no U.S. federal income taxes in 2017 and 2018 despite incomes of $3.03 billion and $10.07 billion dollars.

3) The U.S. dollar fell sharply relative to other major currencies, spurred by the Federal Reserve’s reassurance that it won’t be reducing its bond purchases, which is a green light to sell American currency. The Fed has vowed not to change its policy even if the outlook for the U.S. economy brightens as is now expected. The dollar weakening also comes from rising expectations that Washington lawmakers will finally agree on an economic rescue package that’s seen as necessary to shore up a sagging recovery. A falling dollar is typically seen as positive for American and global equities as well as the world economy. Other central banks are also employing extraordinary measures aimed at supporting their economies. And while a weaker dollar is viewed generally as positive for the U.S. and the global economy, it’s been a source of consternation for some rivals, including the European Central Bank.

4) Stock market closings for – 17 DEC 20:
Dow 30,303.37 148.83 up by 0.49%
Nasdaq 12,764.74 106.56 up by 0.84%
S&P 500 3,722.48 21.31 up by 0.58%
10 Year Yield: up at 0.93%
Oil: up at $48.40