Coronavirus – Recession: Jobs Lost to Machines!

A recession will bring another round of technology displacement with job loses for Millennials and Generation-Z.

James Lyman BSAE, BSEE, MSSM

It’s now a considered fact that the U.S. will experience a recession resulting from the coronavirus threat across the world. It stands to reason, as first whole cities in China, then areas and finally whole countries like Italy and Spain, are sheltering in place with nations shutting down and effectively exiting the world economy. Even if America wasn’t taking isolation steps, the rest of the slowing world economy would certainly drag America’s economy down. A recession always means the lost of jobs from layoffs as business strives to save money and stay in business.

But another overlooked aspect of employment in a recession is the ‘fertile fields’ created within an economy for new technologies to sprout and grow, and therefore propagate as labor saving devices. New technologies that businesses can use to save money, in particular to save money by reducing labor cost.

Machines to replace people.

Recessions spur technology displacement of people by eliminating their jobs . . . permanently! Once lost to machines, those jobs never come back. We saw many examples of that in the 2008 Great Recession where high price corporate executives were laid off. There were a number of news reports about those professionals, who previously could find a new job in just days to weeks, but after being laid off, had gone first months, then years with nothing. And they just couldn’t understand why suddenly . . . no one wanted them any more! Turns out the answer was simple. While times had been good, computer and telecommunications technologies had developed, but laid relatively dormant in the background. Then came the financial crisis and resulting downturn for business. Corporations needed to reduce cost to preserve themselves, and they found that by using those new technologies they could reorganize themselves and eliminated much of their high priced executive talent . . . you know . . . cost savings. As a few companies did this and reduced their operating cost, the strategy of using technology and reorganization quickly spread to other corporations, so suddenly, there was a massive surplus in this career field- with no jobs to be had.

Recessions replace people with machines.

And this holds true across the spectrum of American career fields. Today, in America, no one is immune from job displacement by technology. But this time, things will be much worst. Since the ‘08 recession, the technologies of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and artificial vision have made huge advancements. These technologies allows more to be done in designing machines to do the jobs which people are now doing. So, we can expect deep inroads to be made in automation and robotic systems, therefore a recession will purge the economy of people having limited abilities in a technologically advanced society.

As the shutdown continues, with people working at home, businesses will find ways to do the work with fewer people and they will mostly do this by using new technologies. They will reorganize, simplify and streamline their operations to save money. They will do their work with fewer people needing fewer skills and less education, and therefore with a lower labor cost.

In the ‘79 recession, which resulted from the second oil crisis, there were 11 million people who lost their jobs, but only about 7 million of those jobs ever came back. This happened just as microprocessor-computers were coming into their own. With the advancements made in microprocessors and computer technology since then, automation has become much easier to do and therefore has proliferated. The specter of unemployment is the alarming numbers of joblessness: but the real question is ‘How many of those jobs will ever come back?’ Judging from past recent recessions, we can expect that a significant number wont come back. The work force will again contract, able to do the same work and at a lower cost.

I remember a visit to my sister-in-law several years ago, and we were watching the evening news with an announcement that a large technology company was laying off 15,000 people. My sister-in-law, who was a technology challenged person, exclaimed: “Why do they do that? Who’s going to do the work? They will just have to hire them back because they can’t do the work without them!” I then explained to her that with new computers and telecommunication systems, not only will they be able to do the work without them, but most likely they would do it cheaper, faster and more accurate than when using humans. Those jobs were gone for good! And while the company, as so often the case, eliminated the jobs by retirements and natural attrition to minimize the impact on people, nevertheless those jobs were gone. For the young people coming up, those positions were now gone, leaving them with fewer opportunities.

This is a natural process that has been going on since the mid-twentieth century or earlier, both during boom times and bust. The thing is, a recession greatly accelerates the process of automation over a broader spectrum of career fields. It’s just this time it will be deeper and more pervasive, leaving many at the bottom of the heap . . . those living in tents we now see on so many American city streets.

The impact of the oil supplies will be the ‘joker in the deck’.

The New Electric Cars and Automotive Repairing by Future Auto Mechanics

Another opportunity to watch a career field being unintentionally reduced by a new technological advance.

James Lyman BSAE, BSEE, MSSM

When people speak of the technology displacement of jobs, they speak in terms of someone designing a machine from the onset, to replace workers. However, often as not, it’s technology developed for other purposes that inadvertently causes job displacement. That means there isn’t some individual or small group who are striving to replace workers with machines, rather it’s just an unforseen consequence. We’re seeing an example of that today . . . right before our eyes. If you haven’t noticed, all the major automobile manufactures are rushing to design and build electric cars for us, the consumer. General Motors, Ford, Toyota have ongoing programs to manufacture and market both electric cars and small trucks for our personal transportation needs.

However, the UAW (United Auto Workers) is concerned that EVs (Electric Vehicles) will hurt the union because they require less manpower to assemble. In other words, fewer jobs! EVs are simpler machines having fewer mechanical parts, that are also smaller, lighter, but more importantly, they don’t have reciprocating motion. Parts are not going back and forth, up and down at high speeds, the kind of motion that creates lots of wear and tear on machines. The petroleum fueled engines (internal combustion reciprocating engines) used in our modern cars, have a high failure rate compared to electric motors. Those engines also have a number of accessories attached, such as carburetors, fuel pump, oil pump, starter motor, water pump and distributor . . . all of which can fail and need replacing by an automotive mechanic. The engine itself can have hundreds of moving parts, each being worn down by the engine motion while running, each a possible source of failure. Same with the transmission that couples the engine’s power to the wheels thereby pushing the car forward.

A whole industry has been created to repair automobiles, from supplying repair parts to actually fixing a broken car. I dare say, there is virtually no car owner that hasn’t taken their car in for repairs. It’s just part of living in a high technology society, and no one thinks anything of it, they just accept it as a fact of life. The more complex a machine, the more often it fails and needs repairs. But if electric cars are simpler than gas powered cars, requiring fewer people to manufacture, it stands to reason EVs will break down less often, now doesn’t it? Of course! As EVs become more prevalent, with automakers like Ford and General Motors now intent on making them prevalent, then auto mechanics can expect less work and therefore less money.

Lets face it- an electric car is a big battery, four electric motors and some electronic box to control those motors. You can’t get much simpler than that! The conventional car engine/transmission/power train has a mirid of moving parts, all subject to wear and tear, and therefore breaking and failing. That’s why everyone, over their lifetime, will periodically take their cars in for repairs. It’s self evident that the more complex a machine, the more things that can go wrong (break), and conversely, the simpler the machine- the less repair required. True, one of those electric motors will fail, but since its motion isn’t reciprocating, they will last longer. Furthermore, the motor is a modular component that will be replaced . . . just pull the wheel off, change the motor out, put the wheel back on and you’re done. Indeed, it’s likely to be a job most home mechanics can and will do.

Bottom line- the electric cars will put a lot of automobile mechanics out of work simply because there won’t be the need for the number of mechanics America now has. And the thing is, no one intended to eliminate those mechanic jobs, it will just be the consequence of addressing the unrelated problems of energy and pollution. Jobs will also be lost in the supplying and selling of auto parts, all those auto parts stores you see along major streets.

The EV is a perfect example of how emergence of one technology, can inadvertently eliminate jobs in a related field, even though not intended to and often no one even thought of. There is no intent in eliminating auto mechanic jobs, no individual or small groups working to ‘deep six’ the auto mechanic. Very few people have even considered the impact on jobs that the EV will have. Even though the electric car won’t displace all mechanics, it will create a surplus of qualified people, and that will cause their pay to drop so those working will find it harder to make a living.
This indirect job displacement is a growing phenomena, which will increasingly threaten the livelihood of both millennials and generation-Z as time marches on. Even more important is where several unrelated technologies come together to eliminate a job. As technology continues to grow exponentially, this form of displacement is becoming increasingly common. So much of the displacement of people is in fact, unintentional. The thing to know and remember is:

Today, no one is immune from technology displacement.

The electric car isn’t the only technology that auto mechanics face. Since the nineties, cars have had integral computers designed into them, especially the engine and transmission. As those computers became more sophisticated and more involved in the operation of the car, they have been programmed to also diagnose automotive systems. Now when a customer comes into a repair shop, the mechanic plugs a small hand held computer into the car’s computer, which allows the car to TELL the mechanic what is wrong. This means the repairman spends less time troubleshooting what is wrong, and so he can do the correct repair job right off. But any time you reduce the skill/intellectual levels required to do a job, you reduce the cost of labor because now there are more people who can do the job.

That’s job displacement!

#THECAST Ep. 12 feat Jonathan Land LOL Edition:

The Cast Ep. #12 LOL feat Jonathan Land

#TheCastPodcast is back like never before, new episode as always. Sammy BE @ecofiretv, Luisa L. @luisamodels, and on the engineering consoles Jon “Da Don” Sterling @thedramablock.

The trio is back with another one as we enter the spring season 2020. You guys and gals know what it is, more heat rock content for your dome.

It was a pleasure to have as our guest a man who is creating noise and alarms in the comedy game, he has been a featured stand up comic on Late Night With Seth Myers, and also has been on the NYC comedy circuit, lacing the circuit with great comedy. He goes by the name of Jonathan Land.

Jon came on the #TheCast to discuss comedy, entertainment, his come up story and more. This is an episode you must tune in to #TheCast.

“WE ALL HAVE A VOICE & A OPINION. IT’S JUST HOW U USE YOURS”…..

As always, Be Bless, Stay Bless, God Bless

THE PLATFORMS BELOW:

1) www.instagram.com/EcoFireTV (Sammy BE)
www.twitter.com/EcoFireTV

2) www.instagram.com/LuisaModels (Luisa L.)
www.twitter.com/LuisaModels

3) www.EconomicandFinanceReport.com (Economic & Finance Blog)

4)@Economic-FinanceReport (Podcast/Online Show)

5)www.youtube.com/channel/UCWZo5bug…Nlb2VRfDCQ/videos (EFR.Tv Youtube)

6)www.SammyBuysHomes.com (Real Estate Investment)

7) www.TraderSoul.com (Financial Trading Website)

Where the Boys Are – or Were!

As the millennials and Geneation-Z are displaced by machines and technology, where do they go?

James Lyman BSAE, BSEE, MSSM

I don’t know why, but in reading and thinking about jobs being replaced by machines and automation, I think of the 1960 beach party movie ‘Where the Boys Are’ or rather the title alluding to where are the people who lose their jobs to technology. Where do they go? Today, jobs are lost before young people even start looking, leaving them with few options and lower pay. In the daily news, I see story after story of new emerging technologies which will further reduce the available jobs, leaving more of the millennials and generation-Z with a lesser future.

I made a brief list of emerging technologies, found now the news, which will displace people and their jobs, technologies designed explicitly to eliminate the cost of labor and therefore people’s jobs while others will inadvertently take jobs away. Already, there is a long list of jobs taken by machines and technologies such as machinist, factory workers, construction trades, secretaries and clerk typist. Here’s just a few-

Cashiers: For several years now the big box stores have worked on systems to total up the purchases of a customer, collect their monies and send them on their way without any human required. Every major brand name retailer now has a section of automated checkout lines where the customer scans each item, drops it in a bag and makes payment to a machine. To remain competitive, retailers are looking for anything that will reduce their labor cost, and the cost of human cashiers is significant. Automatic checkout is now to the point where a customer only has to walk out the door and he’s purchases are automatically made when passing through a portal.

Truck Drivers: No doubt, you have seen more than one news article about self-driving or robot automobiles which drive themselves through traffic while the driver just sits and enjoys the scenery. But the declared target market for this technology isn’t the individual car commuter, it’s the truck drivers, both delivery and long haul. That’s where the money is. And it’s not that far away, with UPS, the U.S. Postal Service, and some retail stores actively experimenting with robot trucks. Just recently, the postal service had a robot semi-truck make daily deliveries of mail from Arizona to Houston Texas via I-10, to evaluate their feasability. There’s lots of money to be saved by eliminating truck drivers, both from their pay and by reducing accidents since the vast majority of truck accidents are ‘driver error’.

School Teachers: The cost for school teachers, both in public and private schools, consumes tremendous amounts of dollars. With school boards continually strapped for monies and high taxes, and the quality of American education closer to third world nations instead of the west, there’s big incentives for school systems to seek cheaper improvements. The technology for ATS (Automated Teaching Systems) is already here, where pupils would have individual tutors geared towards their academic needs. When an education company adopts the marketing model of cable and satellite television to ATS, the technology will sweep through schools and eliminate teachers. When the company fills the classroom with it’s own custom built furniture and computer network, while the school doesn’t pay one red cent for any of it, when the cost of educating a student is two-thirds to one-half the cost of a conventional teacher, the technology will flood into the American schools and classrooms. An instant revolution in education!

Airline Pilots: Even very highly skill professionals such as the pilots who fly the airliners you travel in, are subject to displacement by machines. Boeing Aircraft has already announced they are working on pilotless airliner designs, but keep in mind that when automatic elevators where first introduced, many people refused to ride on any elevator without a human operator. However, as automatic elevators became more prevalent, more people rode machines controlled by machines. Like automatic elevators, pilotless airliners will come to be accepted, after all- more than 95% of airline crashes are from pilot error. Automatic landing systems were developed in the late 1960’s and have been used to land the Space Shuttle. Today, for most of the flying time, the airline pilots just sit in their seats as computers fly the airplane for them.

Retail Workers: This is a job field that has already seen massive displacement of workers over the decades. Nevertheless, companies are experimenting with robots to stock their shelves, clean the floors, check inventory and other tasks that are now being done by humans. The online retailers have gone even further using automated warehouse technologies to eliminate even more human workers, making their operations much cheaper than traditional brick-and-mortar stores with all their expensive retail workers.

Lawyers: I use attorneys as an example of how technology displacement occurs by freeing up qualified people to become lawyers. This has been going on for the last several decades to the point that now 20% to 50% of new graduate attorneys are unable to find jobs as lawyers. Their jobs have been eliminated via oversupply of lawyers. But it’s getting worst. IBM’s new artificial intelligence technology Watson, which went on the game show Jeopardy and beat the pants off of the two highest winning champions, is now commercially available. Watson’s declared target market is medicine and the law . . . automated lawyers.

Artist and Song Writers: Now there’s even computer programs available to create art pictures and write the tunes and jingles used in advertizing. These are career fields that just a few short years ago, most people would have emphatically said was impossible to replace people with machines. This shows the reality that no one is immune from technology displacement, for no matter what the job might be, no matter what the pay bracket is, you can be replaced.

Like the movie ‘Where the Boys Are’, we face the question, where are the boys . . . and girls of our society going to go to? The answer- look at the images of the homeless people camped out on the streets of Los Angalais and San Francisco . . . because that’s where they end up!

20 February 2020

1) The chip maker Intel announced a chip which makes quantum computers smaller and faster, thus bringing the promise of quantum computer to realization. Working with QuTech, Intel has developed a new chip called Horse Ridge that should make quantum computers smaller, faster and requires less deep cooling. The system on a chip uses Intel’s FinFET low power process, having four radio frequency channels that control a total of 128 qubits, which is more than double the 49 qubits from back in 2018. For a quantum computer to be viable it needs over 1 million qubits.

2) The technology innovation company Alphabet has ended its work on Makani, a design to generate power using wind turbines attached to kites. While demonstration flights were successful, the path to commercialization was considered to be longer and riskier than expected. Makani was a seven year project which developed a 20 kilowatt demonstrator kite into a utility scale model generating 600 kilowatts.

3) Boeing Aircraft’s 737 MAX has met with another problem- foreign-object debris in the fuel tanks of several aircraft. Boeing is conducting a voluntary inspection for debris in undelivered aircraft with further action based on its findings, but doesn’t anticipate this problem will delay re-certification of the aircraft and it resumption of deliveries. Furthermore, Boeing plans to inspect the fuel tanks on all undelivered 737 MAX planes.

4) Stock market closings for – 19 FEB 20:

Dow 29,348.03 up 115.84
Nasdaq 9,817.18 up 84.44
S&P 500 3,386.15 up 15.86

10 Year Yield: up at 1.57%

Oil: up at $53.56

18 February 2020

1) In order to help contain the Chinese coronavirus outbreak, China’s central bank has started deep cleaning and destroying potentially infected cash. The virus appears able to survive on surfaces for many hours which is why buildings in affected areas are regularly disinfecting elevator buttons, door handles and other commonly touched surfaces. Since cash money changes hands multiple times in a day, it too is a potential media to transmit the virus. The cash is disinfected with ultraviolet light and high temperatures, then stored for seven to fourteen days before returning to circulation.

2) The price of wine is expected to drop to its lowest levels in five years, in part because of a surplus of grapes in California. Additionally, there is a decreased demand for wine, with the lower prices lasting up to three years. Vineyards began planting thousands of acres of new vines in 2016, plus more efficient harvesting methods have combined to increase the supply of grapes.

3) GM (General Motors) has decided to pull out of Australia, New Zealand and Thailand as part of their strategy to exit markets that don’t produce adequate returns on investments. The car maker has 828 employees in Australia and New Zealand and another 1,500 in Thailand which will be eliminated.

4) Stock market closings for – 17 FEB 20:

Dow 29,398.08 down 25.23
Nasdaq 9,731.18 up 19.21
S&P 500 3,380.16 up 6.22

10 Year Yield: down at 1.59%

Oil: down at $51.92

Pick and Choosing Technologies

People would like to pick and chose technologies they consider good, while rejecting those they consider bad, but it’s not that easy!

James Lyman BSAE, BSEE, MSSM

From early in my youth, I’ve notice a strong tendency of people wanting to pick and choose technologies and dismiss all the rest. Here we’re particularly concerned about those technologies that take jobs. This is mostly true for those alienated in a technologically advance world, that is . . . those who haven’t advanced technologically and therefore feel they are an outsider to the world they are trying to live in. People think of technology as some set of blocks, individual blocks for individual parts of technology. Furthermore, many people feel they can pick and choose which blocks they want in their lives, and discard (ignore) the rest.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

The flaw in this thinking is that technology comes in discrete stand alone little blocks of technology unrelated to other blocks. That’s the ‘nothing could be further from the truth’ part of reality. While to the casual observer it may seem like a given technology stands alone, looking into its development and creation, we usually find a number of different technologies which come together to give the final technology. In other words, a given technology is really composed of many individual building blocks, some times hundreds if you go back far enough, that together makes the technology you see. For instances, oil . . . petroleum technology is a far reaching technology which is in 97% of everything we use in our daily lives. You wouldn’t expect oil to be in something like the nails used to build your house, but those nails were most likely ‘nailed in’ using a pneumatic nail gun, and those nails have a glue coating- and glue is made from oil.

That was the central theme of James Burke’s very popular PBS TV series ‘Connections’. In the last episode, Mr. Burke poses the question of trying to control and limit technology using different strategies. The conclusion- it’s not possible to pick and choose which technologies are good and which are bad, which will take jobs away and which will not, which are useful verses those considered bad, and then eliminating those considered bad. But these blocks of technology are not the neat orderly blocks like a child plays with. Instead, they are more like soft wax where the different colored waxes melt and flow into each other, where a filament of one color can migrate past several other blocks to fuse into a different color block.

The blocks become ill defined masses of different colors with strips of color intermingle, more a collages of colors without any readily apparent individual purposes. Blended and intertwined, it’s impossible to go in and remove a particular block, cutting out those filaments intertwined within other blocks. It only takes a few short filaments before it is impossible to separate them from the mass. For technologies, this intermixing, blending and intertwining of different technologies to give a new technology makes it even more difficult to separate and remove any technologies deemed bad, even for those well versed in science and technology. And this is for technologies already existing. Trying to determine which technology will go into a future technology that becomes a bad one is infinitely more difficult. A good example is the integrated circuit which made the digital world we now live in.

When this technology first came out, individual integrated circuits (often called chips) were unbelievable expensive. A simple four gate NAND chip that today cost just eleven cents, at first costed as much as a thousand dollars. Then America decided to go to the moon, and to go there . . . land, takeoff and rendezvous before returning to earth required a computer at a time when computers were the size of basketball courts! The only way to compress a computer down to the size and weight that could go inside a two man spaceship was by using integrated digital circuits. The result was the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) a 70-lb box that was 24″ x 12.5″ x 6″ that connected to the Display-Keyboard, a 17.5 lb box, 8″ x 8″ x 7″, which was used by the astronauts to operate the computer in space flight.

This miracle computer is what, more than anything else, allowed man to step onto the moon. But it had the added advantage of dropping the cost of those necessary integrated circuits (the AGC had over 4,000 of them) down first to costing dollars, then to pennies each. However, these very same chips also went into the guidance systems for an array of ICBMs so they more precisely deliver nuclear bombs onto targets. Some would therefore claim integrated circuit technology was a bad technology that should have been suppressed to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. But then look at all the technologies surrounding us that wouldn’t be possible without that technology. Smart phones, personal computers, CD and DVD players . . . an array of medical instruments. Without those digital circuits, we wouldn’t have the wonders of CAT scans which is so important in saving lives by detecting and imaging diseases for treatments. Yes, the proliferation of nuclear weapons was bad, but then there was a host of life saving technologies that came out of that one technology. Whose to say which was worst?

More importantly, just how would you ever backtrack and extract that technology from a mirid of other technologies in an attempt to ‘put the toothpaste back in the tube’?

Any and every technology you look at is the same way! Each and every technology is built up on a mirid of technologies blurring together to become indistinguishable. Like the above picture, by the time you scrape out the filaments from one block, the rest looks like swiss-cheese. You don’t have anything like what you started out with. Same way with your world! By the time you eliminate those ‘job taking’ technologies you don’t want, you no longer have the world you’re blissfully living in, because you also destroy those parts you wanted to keep.

It isn’t possible to pick and choose the technologies you want in your world!

7 February 2020

1) China has announced a 50% cut in its tariffs on $75 billion dollars worth of imports from America. This is in response to last months U.S. tariff cuts on $120 billion dollars on China imports to America. This is all part of the ‘phase one’ trade deal between China and the U.S. to normalize trade between the two nations.

2) The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have approved a regulatory exemption for Nuro’s next generation of self driving delivery vehicles they call R2. This exemption will allow testing on public roads for deliveries to customer’s homes. The R2 is a zero occupant vehicle. After public road testing, Nuro will begin the first driverless deliveries in Houston with partners Walmar and Domino’s.

3) The internet retail giant Amazon will hire 15,000 new employees in Seattle to work in a new 43 story tower now being planned, with construction expected to be completed by 2024. Amazon now has 789,000 workers in the world, a 23% increase from a year ago. Amazon has also expanded in New York City by leasing 335,000 square feet of office space, and in northen Virginia’s Crystal City they’re building a second headquarters.

4) Stock market closings for – 6 FEB 20: All three markets set record highs as fears of coronavirus fears subside.

Dow            29,379.77    up    88.92
Nasdaq        9,572.15    up    63.47
S&P 500       3,345.78    up    11.09

10 Year Yield:    unchanged   at    1.64%

Oil:    down   at    $51.09

6 February 2020

1) For the first time in six years, the U.S. trade deficit fell as the White House’s trade war with China curbed imports. The trade deficit dropped 1.7% to $616.8 billion dollars last year with steep decline in industrial materials and supplies, consumer goods and other goods. The trade deficit for goods with Mexico jumped to a record high of $101.8 billion dollars last year, with the European Union reaching an all time high of $177.9 billion dollars.

2) The Ford Motor Company is posting a$1.7 billion dollar loss and anticipates a weak forecast for 2020. General Motors is also reporting poor performance for 2019 and anticipates flat profits for 2020. Both Ford and GM’s troubles are in part from slaking sales in China, in particular with the economic slowdown in China from the coronavirus pandemic. The major competitor to the duet auto makers, Tesla, is suffering from the coronavirus closing of its Shanghai factory which builds its Model 3 sedans.

3) Macy’s, another major world renowned retailer, is experiencing the brick-and-mortar decline of other major traditional retailers. The chain is closing 125 of its stores, in addition to the 100 stores it has already closed, and cutting about 2,000 corporate jobs. Their strategy is to exit weaker shopping malls and focus towards opening smaller format stores in strip centers. But even with these changes, the future of Macy’s is abysmal. The company has lost market share in core categories such as apparel, as fewer shoppers take trips to malls, preferring on line shopping.

4) Stock market closings for – 5 FEB 20:

Dow                 29,290.85    up    483.22
Nasdaq             9,508.68    up      40.71
S&P 500            3,334.69    up      37.10

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.65%

Oil:    up   at    $51.17

5 February 2020

1) As the coronavirus continues the slowing of China’s economy, coupled with a general slow down in world economies, world oil prices are dropping. China is the world’s largest oil importer, with speculation that if oil continues to drop, America can expect a drop in gasoline prices, possibly going below $2 a gallon.

2) The credit card company Visa is planning major changes to the rates U.S. merchants pay to accept its cards. These changes are the biggest changes in a decade, with Visa hoping to encourage people to abandon checks and cash. Higher rates are coming for transactions on e-commerce sites, while certain retailers such as real estate and education will see lower rates. Retailers have long complained about the $100 billion plus dollars they spend each year to accept electronic payments.

3) Ford Motor Co. has posted a fourth quarter loss and provided weaker than expected 2020 forecast due to continued higher warranty cost, lower vehicle volumes, lower results from Ford Credit branch, and higher investment in future transportation. This is coming at a time when Ford and other automakers are making huge investments in producing a line of electric cars and trucks. For the fourth quarter, Ford is reporting a net loss of $1.7 billion dollars, or 42 cents a share. Revenue for the fourth quarter was down 5% to $39.7 billion dollars.

4) Stock market closings for – 4 FEB 20:

Dow                   28,807.63    up    407.82
Nasdaq                9,467.97    up    194.57
S&P 500               3,297.59    up      48.67

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.60%

Oil:    down   at    $49.45