24 June 2020

1) Economists are concerned about four major factors bearing down on a recovery of the economy. These are 1) the household fiscal cliff, 2) a great business die-off, 3) state and local budget shortfalls, and 4) the lingering health crisis. The pandemic shutdown cost the jobs of 40 million Americans, 40% of them low wage workers. This has left many households short of money, having little to no savings to meet their fiscal obligations such as rent and utilities. Add to this, there has been a steep decline in consumer spending leaving large numbers of businesses to face bankruptcy, thereby making a contraction of the economy. But businesses are not the only one facing revenue shortfalls, for governments are also facing shortages of money needed for their operations and paying employees, as in more layoffs. Finally, the cost of controlling the Convid-19 virus, especially if a major second wave does emerge, for both preventive treatment and caring for the sick. All four of these factors may very well be pushing America’s economy towards another Great Recession, which could last for many years.

2) The New York eviction moratorium ended this weekend, raising fears that tens of thousands of residents will soon face evictions which will flood the courts. This problem is a reflection of a problem across all of America as those 40 million laid-off workers have been unable to pay rent or mortgage payments and now face losing their residence. But it isn’t one sided, for landlords and lenders are also facing money shortages to meet their obligations too, which can lead to their fiscal demise. Most of the tenants and home owners have limited monies beyond their income, so paying back rent and mortgage is going to be near impossible.

3) China is warning of the risk of a naval incident with the US. Claiming that the U.S. military is deploying in unprecedented numbers to the Asia-Pacific region, which makes for a rising risk of an incident with China’s navy. The United States freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea has angered the Chinese, who is trying to establish dominance in the area and hence control of the territory. The Chinese claim that 60% of America’s warships and 375,000 soldiers are deployed in the Indo-Pacific region, including three aircraft carriers. So far, the U.S. Navy has conducted 28 freedom of navigation operations by sailing through the area where China has built islands, and therefore claiming the area as theirs.

4) Stock market closings for – 23 JUN 20:

Dow 26,156.10 up 131.14
Nasdaq 10,131.37 up 74.89
S&P 500 3,131.29 up 13.43

10 Year Yield: unchanged at 0.71%

Oil: up at $40.02

23 June 2020

1) Speculation abounds over what the next stimulus package will have, such as extended income support for the unemployed and underemployed. New temporary subsidies for low wage workers. Cheap loans for small and medium size businesses with additional support for state and local governments. Cost estimates for a second stimulus program range from one to two trillion dollars. But like the first stimulus package, no one is offering ideas how this money will be paid off, especially if economic expansion doesn’t materialize.

2) The worlds fastest super computer is now Japan’s Fugaku supercomputer developed by Riken and Fujitsu with backing from the Japanese government. It has a speed of roughly 415.53 petaflops, which is 2.8 times faster than the US Summit supercomputers at 148.6 petaflops. The Fugaku was under development for six years and will start full time operation by April 2021, although it has been pressed into service in the coronavirus crisis, running simulations on how droplets would spread in office spaces with partitions. Previously, the fastest supercomputers have belong to America and China.

3) The sales of existing homes has dropped in May, a result of the coronavirus impact on the economy. The sales of existing homes in May fell 9.7% compared with April, which makes for an annual decline of 26.6%. This is the largest decline since 1982 when interest rates were 18%. There remains a shortage of housing which is helping to uplift the market, and therefore the economy as soon as the crisis has subsided.

4) Stock market closings for – 22 JUN 20:

Dow 26,024.96 up 153.50
Nasdaq 10,056.48 up 110.35
S&P 500 3,117.86 up 20.12

10 Year Yield: up at 0.70%

Oil: up at $41.13

22 June 2020

1) Oil has passed$40 a barrel, continuing a slow but steady recovery. This could be signaling a reawakening of the U.S. shale oil production. This rally allows the oil industry some breathing room with its high debt burden as the shale oil industry seeks to rebuild after the worst price collapse in a generation. This is far different than earlier this year when oil producers were paying to have their oil taken away. OPEC+ continues efforts to re-balance the global oil market, now abundantly clear that everyone loses in a price war.

2) More encouraging economic news with Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler returning to pre-coronavirus pandemic production schedules in their American plants. Ford plans to fully return to production levels by July 6 while also ramping up their production facilities in Mexico. Although not given any firm dates, Fiat Chrysler is also returning to former production levels as rapidly as possible.

3) Experts are predicting the restaurant business, as we know it, is coming to an end because of the Convid-19 crisis. The industry generates $900 billion dollars a year, employs 15 million people, which is 15 times more than the airline business, which many are so concerned about now. Estimates vary widely of 20 to 80% of the privately own restaurants succumbing to the pandemic. The big franchise restaurant chains are expected to mostly survive and continue, but the independents are expected to fade out. One factor is change, which is coming too fast for small operations to adapt and keep pace with. The general consensus is that the business was in trouble long before the pandemic, struggling with poor working conditions, very thin profit margins, low wages and increasing competition. But it’s not just the restaurants themselves, for behind them is farming, distribution, suppliers and commercial real estate. It’s apparent that the demise of a significant number of independent restaurants will spell a significant change to the American business environment.

4) Stock market closings for – 19 JUN 20:

Dow 25,871.46 down 208.64
Nasdaq 9,946.12 up 3.07
S&P 500 3,097.74 down 17.60

10 Year Yield: unchanged 0.70%

Oil: up at $39.43

The Major Factor in Black Lives Matter!

As so often the case with social problems, the obsolescence of people is ignored which makes finding any real solutions impossible.

James Lyman BSAE, BSEE, MSSM

The problems for American Blacks, as well as many other minorities, is boiled down to one simple all encompassing word that ignores some very powerful forces at work in society today. That word is ‘Racism’. It’s the systemic centuries old racism, particularly by the privileged white people, which is the curse of Black people that keeps holding them back in society. Lets explore that for a minute, but first a little background so you can understand what I’m saying.

We hear repeatedly that the American Civil War freed the slaves! But in actuality it didn’t. The winning of the war did end titled slavery, where people actually owned other people as property. After the war, the plantations still needed cheap labor to produce tobacco and cotton, so this titled slavery was replaced by a serfdom system of share croppers. These were farm labors, mostly Black, who worked small plots of land for a portion of the crops raised. Forty acres and a mule, the share cropper and his family worked long hard hours to raise the labor intensive crops of cotton and tobacco to earn just enough to subside on. For the year, he lived off credit from the local store, paying it back after harvest, with very little to nothing left. Being left in debt, he couldn’t leave for any better opportunities, facing a systematic program of terrorism designed to keep him on the land working.

But then came World War II, and the massive expansion of American industry and its ability to design and manufacture sophisticated machines. Before the war, there had been much interest in automation for agriculture including cotton and tobacco, and after the war ended, new machines to automate their cultivation were introduced, just as had been done with wheat and corn crops. Suddenly, farmers no longer wanted all those little 40 acre plots, they wanted fields that went for a mile or more, and were half as wide. They didn’t want any obstructions on the land, they wanted smooth continuous fields where a combine could be driven with a minimum of turning.

They no longer wanted those share croppers with their small shacks and out buildings. They no longer had any use for their serfdom slaves, therefore they wanted all the share croppers off the land, but in the process finally set the Blacks free. In turn, this allowed real progress to be made with civil rights, because the monied powerful no longer cared about retaining the serfdom system of sharecroppers. The way was open, so starting in the fifties, civil rights began to make real progress.
The thing that truly freed the slaves wasn’t the Civil War, it was technology that made them obsolete as cheap human labor. The Black people were displaced by machines! They were now free to go out and make their way in the American economic system, to have their part of the American dream.

Trouble was, just as technology made them obsolete and free, technology was also beginning to take away jobs in industry . . . you know, those factory jobs where previous Americans had started their climb up the economic ladder. They were walking right into another round of even bigger displacement by technology. So it was like they were climbing a huge hill trying to reach the top and be with those ‘privileged whites’, except that hill was made up of gravel (our picture upper right). Every time they took a step, they slide backwards some amount. And the gravel they struggled against was technology which was taking away jobs.

No one realized that at the same time, many of those ‘privileged whites’ were starting to slip off the hill, sliding down, scrambling to regain what they had lost, but also taking one step forward and sliding two back as technology forced them down and out. The newly freed Blacks didn’t realize they were NOT in competition with the white people for a place in the economic sun, they were in competition against the machines. This continues today, but at a faster pace. And the machines don’t know or care anything about race, color or creed! It’s evident by the gravel hill analogy just how important technology displacement is to the advancement of Blacks or any other people. If technology is continually eroding away the steps to advancement, by doing away with jobs, then you must consider it if you’re going to make any real progress, yet every political activist working to advance the Blacks ignores this very important, indeed essential fact of life.

That’s why all of them have basically failed to make any progress.

We now have another political movement spawned to try again and lift up the Blacks, and again they are depending solely on political activism to achieve their goals instead of working the problem by analysis, research and understanding what is driving the situation. The same methodology that’s been used since the 1960’s and therefore most certainly will have the same results. The leaders of this political activism, in their drive for equality, don’t realize that Blacks are just as equal to the other Americans . . . because they are just as equally obsolete before they ever get started. And that’s the crux of the problem.

This applies to other minorities besides Black people. The exact same thing happened with the liberation of women. What actually liberated women was technology . . . technology made women obsolete as women, freeing them to go out into the work force and make their way, but they quickly found the way blocked. Like the Blacks, they came out into the workforce just when automation was beginning to make inroads in eliminating jobs, taking away jobs leaving women to also climb the crumbling hill of gravel. You can read another article I wrote titled, “The Fallacy of Women’s Liberation” on my website www.peopleobsolete.com, scrolling down to article number 32 and clicking on the title or the ‘PDF Download’ to read. It will give you a better understanding of the complexity of the problem.

Problems don’t get solved by pretending, they get solved by working them, by using real problem solving skills of understanding that only comes from research, analysis, modeling and intellect instead of by emotion. By THINKING! As long as we depend on political activism to solve our problems no one will ever have any real viable solutions.

We will always have those problems plaguing us.

19 June 2020

1) Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the U.S., has been surprised by a 92% gain in its e-commerce sales. The giant has lagged behind its competitors like Walmart, Amazon and Target with e-commerce, but the coronavirus has provided the motivation for people to use the service to stay at home and do their cooking during the pandemic. The grocer has been working hard to expand into the electronic marketing area, including working with a robotics company for automated ‘stores’ to fill orders for delivery. With the pandemic changing shopping habits of Americans, now is the time for Kroger to establish its position for the future. The question now is can Kroger maintain this increased sales of e-commerce as the virus crisis subsides. Kroger had $41.55 billion dollar revenues compared with $37 million a year ago.

2) Looking back at the 100 days of the Convid-19 crisis and shutdown, we find the American economy has endured an extraordinary upheaval. Americans have endured over 2.1 million people suffering with Covid-19 which resulted in 117,000 deaths. The closing of non essential businesses sent the economy crashing into a deep recession, with record numbers of layoffs and a skyrocketing unemployment rate. This in turn made for record drops in household spending and manufacturing. Businesses such as automobile manufacturing, the airlines and hotels came to a near complete standstill. Small businesses such as restaurants were stopped dead in their tracks with fears than a large portion would not survive. The feds cut the interest rates to near zero, while pumping in trillions of dollars to stabilize the economy and support businesses until recovery starts.

3) Unemployment claims for last week were 1.5 million more people, up from the expected 1.3 million. This is the thirteenth straight week that claims were above one million. The elevated claims continue even as the country starts to open up and resume business. The real question is how many of those jobs will return and how many will be replaced by technology. Times of economic stress is when automation makes significant inroads as companies look for ways to cut cost to survive.

4) Stock market closings for – 18 JUN 20:

Dow 26,080.10 down 39.51
Nasdaq 9,943.05 up 32.52
S&P 500 3,115.34 up 1.85

10 Year Yield: down at 0.69%

Oil: up at $38.84

18 June 2020

1) Retail giant Target has announced it is raising the minimum wage they pay to store and warehouse workers to $15 an hour, a $2 increase. Target had 350,000 workers employed in 1,900 stores across America. The company is also extending the benefits it started offering during the pandemic, including a new one of free visits to a virtual doctor. All this increases Target’s operating cost by more than $1 billion dollars a year. The company’s margins have been under pressure from pandemic related expenses, in addition to selling fewer high margin items such as apparel and accessories, as well as customers shifting to online shopping. Rival Walmart has announced they are testing a totally cashierless store as a way of limiting human contact because of the Convid-19 threat, but a cashierless store also means reduce labor cost, a goal long sought after by retailers.

2) There is a spike in mortgage demand driven by the record low interest rates. There is a 21% increase in mortgage applications from this time last year. The easing of the pandemic is releasing the pent up demand caused by the shutdown. A 30 year mortgage with 20% down fixed rate has an interest rate now of 3.3%. Refinancing continues to play a significant part in the home mortgage market.

3) Hilton Hotels is laying off 22% of its corporate workforce of 2,100 employees as a result of the coronavirus, while also extending furloughs for many of its corporate staff for an additional 90 days. The virus crisis has brought the hotel business to a near complete halt. The industry has lost about 7.7 million jobs, although occupancy has started to increase, signaling the worst may be coming to an end.

4) Stock market closings for – 17 JUN 20:

Dow 26,119.61 down 170.37
Nasdaq 9,910.53 up 14.66
S&P 500 3,113.49 down 11.25

10 Year Yield: down at 0.73%

Oil: down at $37.65

17 June 2020

1) As restaurants start to reopen, they are finding a serious problem- it takes cash to reopen again, cash that many don’t have in the bank. The cost of food, staff, cleaning and training for new sanitary protocols is proving daunting, with one independent owner calculating he needs $80,000 cash to reopen. The suppliers are facing a similar problem since many of their restaurant customers still own them money, but need supplies on credit to reopen, so many suppliers are threatened with bankruptcy too. And if that’s not enough, restaurants that had opened in some major cities are threatened with another shutdown as the virus pandemic re-emerges again, and so not only face another loss of sales revenue, just when they need the money the most, but also have additional cash outlays for reopening. The closing of restaurants has shed more than 8 million jobs.

2) In a month filled with economic bad news, retail sales have posted their largest monthly jump upwards ever. With the cornonavirus lockdown coming to an end, consumers are out shopping again making a 17.7% headline gain including food sales, which beat the previous record of October 2001. Clothing and accessories were the biggest gains of 188%. This gain reverses the 16.4% plunged from a month ago. While very encouraging, the economy still has a lot to regain.

3) There is a faster than expected turnaround in home buyer demand, after a sharp drop-off at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index jumped 21 points in June to 58, where above 50 indicates a positive market. In April, the index dropped a record 42 points to 30. Builders report increase demand for families seeking single family homes in inner and outer suburbs featuring lower density neighborhoods.

4) Stock market closings for – 16 JUN 20:

Dow 26,289.98 up 526.82
Nasdaq 9,895.87 up 169.84
S&P 500 3,124.74 up 58.15

10 Year Yield: up at 0.76%

Oil: up at $37.76

16 June 2020

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

10 Year Yield: unchanged at 0.70%

Oil: up at $37.07

15 June 2020

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

10 Year Yield: up at 0.70%

Oil: up at $36.56

12 June 2020

1) The markets took a sharp drop over fears of another shutdown as the number of Convid-19 cases began rising from states starting to opening up for business. The Dow Jones dropped over 1,800 points, closing on the worst day sell-off since March. It appears that this pandemic is going to linger longer than was anticipated. Texas has reported three consecutive days of record breaking Covid-19 hospitalizations. Nine counties in California are reporting spikes in hospital admissions from the virus. The U.S. now has topped 2 million cases in this pandemic. Also, oil prices have taken a sharp downward slide.

2) Inventories of unsold diamonds are increasing, with the five largest diamond producers having stockpiled excess inventories of about $3.5 billion dollars and could go as high as $4.5 billion dollars. World wide demand for diamonds has plummeted, with the renowned diamond supplier De Beers reporting diamond sales in May of about $35 million dollars, compared to last year’s $400 million dollars. The world wide lock down has closed jewelry stores across the world thereby reducing sales to a small fraction of normal. The diamond market resembles the diamond slump of the 2008 financial crisis.

3) More than 1.5 million Americans filed new jobless claims for the first week of June, again decreasing from the previous week of 1.9 million. This is in contrast to the 6.9 million claims in April, with a stead decline each week since then. There was 2.5 million jobs added to the American economy, largely due to 2.7 million workers returning from furloughs. Still, more than 40 million Americans have lost their jobs because of the pandemic forcing shutdowns of so many businesses across America. But the gradual improvement of employment is boosting hopes for a quick economic recovery, however, there remains the problem of technology displacement of jobs. In times of economic stress, businesses are seeking ways and means to cut operating cost, and that gives a niche for entry of new technologies that eliminate the human. Experts in Artificial Intelligence estimate that as much as 50% of the jobs will disappear in 15 to 25 years.

4) Stock market closings for – 11 JUN 20: The stock market is like a rectal thermometer- it’s rude and crude but surprisingly effective at showing sickness.

Dow 25,128.17 down 1861.82
Nasdaq 9,492.73 down 527.62
S&P 500 3,002.10 down 188.04

10 Year Yield: down at 0.65%

Oil: down at $36.17