1) Major American companies are extending their ‘work from home’ policy, such as Google, Uber and Airbnb, until the summer of next year. The companies Zillow, Twitter, Facebook and Square have announce that employees can work from home indefinitely. Some companies are also offering stipends to employees for home office equipment as well as a $500 quarterly credit to use specifically on Airbnbs. This at home work policy remains in effect even after offices start reopening. The work at home is even spreading across the international scene with electronic giant Hitachi having 70% of its employees work permanently from home. Nationwide Insurance plans to downsize from 20 physical offices to just four with the majority of its employees continuing to work permanently from home. It’s looking more and more like working at home is becoming the norm for the future in America.
2) In a bid to counter the competition of e-commerce, the traditional department store giant Macy’s has started opening new, smaller stores away from the malls, reflecting a growing trend in the retail industry. The retail giant will test small-format Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s stores outside of underperforming malls, joining a growing trend in retail. The test stores will begin operation the fourth quarter of 2021 in Dallas, Atlanta and Washington DC. Many other major retailers are turning away from the mall format of retailing, leaving many malls withering on the vine, with foot traffic on the decline even before the Convid-19 crisis. This is another indication of a shift in American culture and society.
3) Fashion retailer Old Navy has announced they will pay their employees to work at polling stations comes election day. Each employee will be paid a full days wages for their poll work. Furthermore, store employees will have up to three hours of paid time-off on election day to vote. Old Navy joins other retailers such as Patagonia, PayPal and Levi Strauss & Co. to help in the national elections.
4) Stock market closings for – 2 SEP 20:
Dow 29,100.50 up 454.84 Nasdaq 12,056.44 up 116.78 S&P 500 3,580.84 up 54.19
1) Another national retail outlet, Stein Mart, is going the way of the brick and mortar retail system announcing they are closing all their stores in bankruptcy amid Covid-19 pandemic. Based in Jacksonville, Florida the company operates 281 stores in 30 states with 9,000 employees. Stein Mart ‘going out of business’ sale is expected to begin in August 14 or 15 with complete liquidation of inventory, with the anticipation of all stores closed by the fourth quarter of 2020. The retailer joins a long list of businesses to file for bankruptcy protection amid the coronavirus crisis.
2) With all the money being pumped into the economy by the government, there were fears of fueling inflation. Those fears were increased with the July consumer price data showing that prices are indeed on the rise. But some are saying these price increases are a result of supply and demand dynamics from the pandemic, and will fall once the supply system becomes stable with production reaching equilibrium again. It’s just a matter of time.
3) Amid suspicion of a rigged election by authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko, Germany and Lithuania is calling for renewed sanctions on Belarus. Claiming a landslide victory in his presidential election, Lukashenko has cracked down on protesters and demonstrators. The EU (European Union) has call an extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the situation, considering the election was neither free nor fair, and efforts to suppress demonstrations as unacceptable. The EU is considering reinstating sanctions. The protest have been violent with about 1,000 people arrested to add to the 5,000 already being held, and injuries to both protesters and police.
4) Stock market closings for – 12 AUG 20:
Dow 27,976.84 up 289.93 Nasdaq 11,012.24 up 229.42 S&P 500 3,380.35 up 46.66
1) Another drop in applications for unemployment benefits is giving hope for the economy. For the week ending 1 August, there were 1.19 million jobless claims, down by 249,000 claims. Total unemployment is now at 16.1 million, the lowest since April. But even with continual drops, the claims are still five times the pre-crisis levels. More than decreasing claims is needed for the economy to improve, for much more hiring is required. There are fears of conditions improving so sluggishly, that the effects of the crisis become increasingly permanent. With the resurgence of the pandemic, there are signs of the economy stalling in what is already a fragile economy.
2) The Covid-19 crisis is fueling the need for high speed internet access, and rural America is responding with their electric and telephone co-ops using loans from the federal government. Subscribers are getting speeds up to 1 gigabit per second, with some planning for speeds up to 10 gigabits per second. Rural areas have the duel problem of low population densities and long distances, so its not economically feasible for private companies to install systems. The only alternative is satellite internet systems.
3) The Bank of England is warning of the potential risk of what’s called the ‘shadow banks’ in amplifying the volatility of unstable economies. Funds in investments like pension funds, investment funds like real estate investment trusts and money market funds are increasingly absorbing the cash once kept in banks, but are not as secure in times of crisis as traditional banks. This makes it harder for businesses to access their money when needed most. The non-banks impact in a financial turmoil is being assessed, lead by the Bank of England.
4) Stock market closings for – 6 AUG 20:
Dow 27,386.98 up 185.46 Nasdaq 11,108.07 up 109.67 S&P 500 3,349.16 up 21.39
1) The markets sank Monday, down by 762 points, when the news of the Feds bond-buying plan became known, reversing the selling to buying which raised the Dow up 150 points. The downward slide was from fears of a second round of the Convid-19 virus with the possibility of more economic damage. The plan is for the Federal Reserve to buy individual corporate bonds, on top of the exchange traded funds it is already buying. This is a move to ease credit conditions to further stimulate the economy. The program can buy up to $750 billion dollars worth of corporate credit, which the Feds can buy on the secondary market, individual bonds that have maturities of five or less years. Bonds is how corporations typically fund their operations and expansion using debt, and this program will ease debt for corporations allowing them to grow more and provide jobs.
2) The oil giant BP (British Petroleum) has signaled to investors that the economic shock of the pandemic will reverberate for years. This in turn means less gas and oil needed by the world in the future. The company is expected to write down $17.5 Billion dollars of its oil and gas holdings this next quarter, meaning they are worth less in the future than what they are worth today. The coronavirus pandemic has caused steep declines in demand for gas and oil worldwide, and this is expected to last for a number of years. This write down is in the approximate class of the Deepwater horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which was $32 billion dollars.
3) Britain’s Brexit, the planned exit of Britain from the European Union, has been overshadowed by the world wide pandemic, but nevertheless Brexit trade talks have continued. But the talks have reached an impasse. Britain left the union at the end of January, but had not reached agreements on traded with the other European countries. Although Britain left the union, the two economies have continued operating as before Brexit, so there has been little changed in trading. But this is only to the end of the year, and with Britain a major trader of goods with Europe, it’s important to reach agreements before that time comes. One major point of contention is how future disagreements will be adjudicated or arbitrated.
4) Stock market closings for – 15 JUN 20:
Dow 25,763.16 up 157.62 Nasdaq 9,726.02 up 137.21 S&P 500 3,066.59 up 25.28
1) The Independent Restaurant Coalition estimates that 85% of the independent restaurants may go bust by the end of 2020. The independent restaurants comprise 70% of all the restaurants in America. These restaurants rely more heavily on dine-in revenue, which the franchise chains don’t because of their drive up and take out business is well established, while also having a corporate safety net or support system to fall back on. It will be a long time before dine-in revenue returns to pre-pandemic levels because independents depend on densely packed dinning rooms to generate sufficient revenue to meet expenses, something that social distancing prevents. Most owners just don’t have the cash reserves to survive.
2) J.C. Penny stores will begin their ‘going out of business’ sales having just received bankruptcy court approval to begin liquidation sales at those stores closing permanently. There are 242 stores closing leaving about 600 stores to continue. Sales could start as early as this weekend. J.C. Penny is the largest company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy since the pandemic started. Penny faces a crucial deadline of 15 July for a business plan, which without one, the company is expected to pursue a sale instead, which could mean total liquidation.
3) Some are proposing negative interest rates for U.S. bonds as some European countries are doing. The rational for negative interest rates is they spur economic growth, which is controversial among economist with evidence that it really works being mixed. Lowering interest rates encourages businesses and individuals to invest and spend more, which helps the economy grow. The doubts about negative interest rates is companies and individuals would rather hold cash which cost nothing rather than pay to park their money in the bank. This encourages the money to be loan out rather than be parked, which often means riskier loans. While there are studies made of how effective negative interest rates are, so far the results are mixed.
4) Stock market closings for – 12 JUN 20:
Dow 25,605.54 up 477.37 Nasdaq 9,588.81 up 96.08 S&P 500 3,041.31 up 39.21
1) President Trump is slipping in the polls, and this may pose a risk to the markets. Even though the wild swings of the markets have subsided and then surged upwards, with the Democrat Joe Biden gaining in the polls, there is concerns that the markets will take a down turn as Biden becomes stronger. The President is facing criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the protest from the killing of George Floyd by the police. A victory by Joe Biden and a Democratic sweep are considered more ‘market unfriendly’ outcomes. Taxes are one major area of contrast between the candidates, with taxes a major concern for American businesses. These fears are fueled by the Dow sliding downwards for the first time this month as the rally pauses.
2) Borrowing by the British government to pay for the coronavirus shutdown is soaring to levels not seen since World War II. This is on top of the financial problems from Brexit with Britain’s debt jumping five-fold to a 300 billion pound deficit ($380 billion dollars) . This could leave Britain with a 2.2 trillion pound debt and the need to raise taxes with an impact on economic growth. Britain is funding this expenditure with sales of bonds, but have fears of a Greece style loss of confidence among investors. The government is hoping for a fast recovery after restrictions are lifted, allowing the debt to quickly be paid down.
3) There are fears that the U.S. dollar is entering a bear market so may no longer be the safe haven for investors. This bear market could go for five to ten years. This would occur if the global economy really is bottoming out and thereby rebound again, while U.S. interest rates are at zero, with potential growth lower than the merging markets. The U.S. dollar is depreciating against many international peer currencies these last few days.
4) Stock market closings for – 9 JUN 20:
Dow 27,272.30 down 300.14 Nasdaq 9,953.75 up 29.01 S&P 500 3,207.18 down 25.21
Major technology companies such as Spotify, Apple, BarStool Sports, and Amazon, are racking up their check books in investing in podcast shows and networks.
Amazon is utilizing Audible to attain podcast shows, while Apple is using its Apple TV shows and other Apple products for podcasting viability. BarStools Sports which began as a sporting blog, has utilized its strong sports platform in the podcasting space.
Over 100 million people in the United States listen to podcast shows, one way or another. The number seems to be increasing on rolling average basis according to analysts estimates. The way that traditional radio has been digressing, don’t be surprised as podcasting surpassing the new normal. -SB
_Listen to the #EFRPodcast & #TheCastPodcast shows on the cloud, soundcloud.com/Economic-FinanceReport