12 March 2021

1) There are some estimated 3.2 million abandoned oil and gas well sites. To plug a well cost as much as $150,000 each. Estimates are that abandoned oil and gas wells cover more than 2 million acres in the U.S., and if that land is restored, it could deliver billions of dollars in benefit for a fraction of the cost of restoration. Cleaning up these wells and restoring the land around them would safeguard against the harmful impacts of abandoned oil and gas infrastructure such as methane leaks and groundwater contamination. Two specific ecosystem benefits are agricultural products, like food from farms, and carbon sequestration.

2) With the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, companies abruptly shuttered their offices and instructed employees to work from home indefinitely. Companies at first thought the shutdowns would last a couple months, but one year later, millions of workers are still working remotely. This has amounted to a ‘remote work experiment’ on a scale never seen before, and here’s a little of what’s been learned. Employers have become more nimble, loosening restrictions on where employees can work, and equipping them with the tools to do so. Meetings aren’t always necessary, working a standard eight-hour shift may not be the best schedule for everyone, sitting at a desk doesn’t always mean you’re being productive and perhaps you miss your coworkers more than you thought you would. Some companies plan to remain 100% remote post-pandemic, while others, including companies like Reddit and Microsoft, will take a hybrid approach, giving workers more flexibility about where they work. But companies have also found cost savings, by reducing the office space needed, which is a major cost factor for businesses.

3) Chinese imports of Iranian crude oil will hit 856,000 barrels a day in March, the most in almost two years and up 129% from last month. Crude shipments from Iran to the province of Shandong, home to a quarter of China’s refining capacity, have surged so much they’re causing congestion at ports and filling up storage tanks, according to traders and analysts. The waiting time for tankers looking to offload in Shandong is estimated to be 12 days. Most refiners and traders are reluctant to purchase Iranian crude for fear of repercussions that can include being cut off from the American banking system and having cargoes seized by the U.S. Navy. Iranian cargoes are heavily discounted due to the sanctions.

4) Stock market closings for – 11 MAR 21:

Dow 32,485.59 up by 188.57
Nasdaq 13,398.67 up by 329.84
S&P 500 3,939.34 up by 40.53

10 Year Yield: up at 1.53%

Oil: up at $65.91

11 March 2021

1) The Interior Department moved one step closer to allowing the construction of the country’s first commercial scale offshore wind project with the release of a Final Environmental Impact Statement. This is the last step before issuing a decision on whether it will approve or deny the request to build the 800-megawatt project, the amount of energy used by more than 400,000 homes, and is 12 miles from Martha’s Vineyard. But the environmental assessment notes the project is expected to negatively impact commercial fishing, a $630 million industry in Massachusetts. If approved the Vineyard Wind 1 project is expected to be completed in 2023.

2) Japan’s new supercomputer Fugaku is the fastest supercomputer in the world and now is finally in fully operational status. Now, after undergoing nearly a year of testing on projects aimed at combating the COVID-19 pandemic by using analytics, modeling and policy making to prevent similar disasters, the computer is operational. Fugaku has been at the top of the list of fastest supercomputers since mid-2020, and it continues to hold that spot in the most recent Top 500 list. With three times the computing power of the runner-up IBM Summit, Fugaku is likely to remain the supercomputer to beat until Finland’s LUMI is completed. Fugaku is powered by ARM A64FX chips, of which it has 7,630,848 cores. When tested against the HPL supercomputing benchmark, it set a world record of 442 petaflops. And against the ‘high-performance computing artificial intelligence’ workload (HPC-AI) benchmark it maxed out at 2.0 exaflops, beating the previous record (also held by Fugaku) of 1.4 exaflops set in June 2020. According to Top 500, Fugaku’s HPC-AI benchmark was the first benchmark measurements above one exaflop for any precision on any type of hardware. In terms of the type of research Fugaku will be working on, some projects have already returned results such as simulating tsunami waves to forecast flooding in Japan. Seventy-four additional projects have been selected for implementation starting in April 2021.

3) Worries continue to grow that interest rates and inflation will rise as a result of greater government borrowing- a.k.a. the just passed $1.9 trillion stimulus package. Washington doesn’t want to talk about how to pay for it, and now they’re wanting to do an infrastructure bill. The negative effects on the economy will include higher mortgage rates and car payments. There are growing fears that coming next is a massive tax increase.

4) Stock market closings for – 10 MAR 21:

Dow 32,297.02 up by 464.28
Nasdaq 13,068.83 down by 4.99
S&P 500 3,898.81 up by 23.37

10 Year Yield: down at 1.52%

Oil: up at $64.69

10 March 2021

1) There is an insatiable global appetite for sand, one of the world’s most important but least appreciated commodities. The problem, however, is this resource is slipping away. It is the world’s most consumed raw material after water and an essential ingredient to our everyday lives. Sand is the primary substance used in construction when using concrete. Sand, is used to make the glass found in every window, computer screen and smart phone. Even the production of silicon chips uses sand. The world consumes roughly 40 to 50 billion tons of sand on an annual basis, which has tripled over the last two decades, far exceeding the natural rate at which sand is being replenished. Desert sand grains are too smooth and rounded to bind together for construction purposes, instead sand from rivers and ocean shores is needed.

2) The oil giant Exxon is looking to enter the carbon-capture technology business, and Exxon says it’s ready to go all-in. This is a business of capturing carbon dioxide and storing it underground, which is far easier for a company like Exxon than building out renewable energy capabilities, as its European competitors are doing. The main use of captured CO2 is to extract more oil out of the ground, anyway. Exxon’s strategy is to cut emissions but pared back capital spending and a low breakeven price for oil. Experts have raised questions about the economics of carbon capture technology. Exxon has had to slash its operations budget last year to stay afloat, which resulted in job cuts that several employees described as haphazard. Morale inside the company has suffered as a result.

3) Fears are growing that the national average cost of gasoline could hit $3 a gallon by Memorial Day. With OPEC’s decision not to meaningfully boost oil production despite rising demand, the price at the pumps will soon breach $3 a gallon. Early in the coronavirus pandemic, OPEC slashed its oil production as demand for gasoline fell sharply. Presently, the national average price of gasoline is $2.76, up 30 cents from $2.46 a month ago. Last week gasoline demand reached the highest level in nearly a year, rising 15% from the prior week and now close to pre-pandemic demand. President Biden’s recent decisions to cancel the Keystone XL oil pipeline while also halting new drilling on federal land are playing no role in rising gas prices. There is no shortage of pipeline capacity and U.S. producers have little incentive to install new rigs on federal land since some existing wells remain shut down. With the economy improving, demand for gasoline has been rising, so with oil production not increasing, gasoline prices must rise.

4) Stock market closings for – 9 MAR 21:

Dow 31,832.74 up by 30.30
Nasdaq 13,073.82 up by 464.66
S&P 500 3,875.44 up by 54.09

10 Year Yield: down at 1.55%

Oil: down at $63.97

9 March 21

1) With the worldwide push for green energy surging, the lithium-ion battery market is projected to hit $1 trillion dollars globally by just 2026. Lithium-ion batteries have been powering smaller devices for years such as smartphones and power tools, but have become paramount in every major electric vehicle, as well as many medical devices. But at this point, about 80% of all lithium-ion cell production is coming out of China. That’s why the EU is pouring in stimulus money for businesses trying to attain energy independence in the lithium powered age of technology. Producing lithium-ion batteries is needed to store renewable energy and power EVs. The rush is on to find new sources to mine high grade lithium as battery prices are climbing.

2) U.S. Steel Corp. has purchased the flat-rolled sheet patents and trademarks for advanced, high-strength steel made by The NanoSteel Co. Inc. of Providence, R.I. These patented proprietary alloys have a nanoscale microstructure, which creates a unique combination of extreme strength and the enhanced formability normally only found in low-strength mild steels. This means the NanoSteel grades can be rolled thinner than other high-strength grades and are designed for automotive and heavy industrial applications where higher strength-to-weight ratios are needed. U.S. Steel reported a loss of $1.2 billion in 2020 but predicted better things for 2021. Earlier this year, the company purchase of an ultramodern mini-mill in Arkansas.

3) The South Dakota Farmers Union is asking their lawmakers to stop the merging of the Department of Agriculture with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The South Dakota governor passed an executive order last year merging the two departments to streamline state government. The farmers content the state’s agriculture industry depends upon the Department of Agriculture remaining a stand-alone agency to best serve the many South Dakota family farmers and ranchers. They consider that invariably there will be conflicts on land use, water issues, or air quality that will involve modern agriculture. There are fears that without a check and balance, technical issues in the agriculture industry will not be fairly resolved, but rather by political influence.

4) Stock market closings for – 8 MAR 21:

Dow 31,802.44 up by 306.14
Nasdaq 12,609.16 down by 310.99
S&P 500 3,821.35 down by 20.59

10 Year Yield: up at 1.60%

Oil: down at $64.93

8 March 2021

1) Walt Disney Co. will close at least 60 Disney stores in North America this year, which amounts to about one-third of their stores. Like so many other retailers, Disney has found that shopping has changed because of the coronavirus pandemic- and so has Disney’s entire business with its theme parks closed to some extent. But Disney+ streaming service has blossomed to 94.9 million subscribers. Disney’s revenue in the October to December quarter fell 22% to $16.25 billion from $20.88 billion in the previous year but still beat Wall Street expectations.

2) General Motors said it’s exploring the possibility of a second battery production site in the country, the first is its facility in Lordstown, Ohio, a site it will operate with partner LG Chem. Reports are that GM is interested in a second site in Tennessee, as a venture with Korea’s LG. The Ohio operation is set to open next year with enough capacity to build hundreds of thousands of batteries per year. The automaker is keen to quickly capitalize on a shift to electric vehicles and said it aspires to only sell zero-emissions, light-duty vehicles by 2035, including light-duty pickup trucks. The Ohio plant may be a down payment on this EV future, in which the automaker has invested $2.3 billion.

3) Lumber prices have skyrocketed 140% over the last year, although the economy might not be able to handle further increases in 2021, nevertheless lumber is the best performing commodity. Analyst predict lumber prices could gain another 35% in the next year. Rising lumber prices are from the pandemic induced housing boom, fueled by record low mortgage rates and a mass exodus to the suburbs. It’s a sign that the economy is recovering, but if prices of lumber and other commodities continue to rise quickly, the economy might falter, as prices move higher driven by demand, while supply will continue to shrink. Worker wage increases haven’t been keeping pace with the dramatic spike in all the commodities at this point in time. With interest rates going up and all these inflationary commodities advancing in price, there are growing fears of people being self-sustaining when wages remain static.

4) Stock market closings for – 5 MAR 21:

Dow 31,496.30 up by 572.16
Nasdaq 2,920.15 up by 196.68
S&P 500 3,841.94 up by 73.47

10 Year Yield: unchanged at 1.55%

Oil: up at $66.28

5 March 2021

1) For many years, there has been one report after another about the critical need to repair, replace and expand our infrastructure of roads, waterways, air travel systems, highways, dams, bridges, electric power and many other necessary parts of a modern society. The U.S. is facing a $2.59 trillion dollar shortfall in meeting its infrastructure needs. The American Society of Civil Engineers released its latest report card on U.S. infrastructure giving an overall grade of C-. That’s an upgrade from the D+ of the last report from four years ago, but leaves lots of room for improvement. America is spending about half what our infrastructure bill is, the total investment gap has gone from $2.1 trillion to nearly $2.59 trillion in over 10 years.

2) The General Motors auto company is extending its production cuts amidst the chip crisis shortage at three North American plants and added a fourth to the list of factories hit by the global semiconductor chip crisis. However, the cut did not change GM’s February forecast of a $2 billion loss in 2021. The automaker expects chip supplies to normalize by the second half of the year with no incremental losses. GM did not disclose the impact on volumes or parts affected by the chip shortage but said it intends to recover much of the lost output. Power outage in Texas further hit chip production. President Joe Biden has also pushed for $37 billion in Congressional funding to tackle the chip crisis.

3) Banning natural gas would cut carbon emissions. Cities across the country are pushing for electric only buildings, some by banning natural gas, as part of an ongoing effort to curb emissions and stall climate change. But another national push is underway in state legislatures to prevent this banning from happening elsewhere. HB 1191 is written in a way that says cities can’t put in place policies or requirements that would prioritize one fuel over another for heat and appliances in buildings. The bill is effectively a ban on banning natural gas. Advocates say it’s a necessary effort to protect consumer choice and keep energy costs low, but others are saying the gas industry is trying to protect itself by taking away local control and stifling cities’ sustainability goals. Critics question whether protecting consumers is the true aim.

4) Stock market closings for – 4 MAR 21:

Dow 30,924.14 down by 345.95
Nasdaq 12,723.47 down by 274.28
S&P 500 3,768.47 down by 51.25

10 Year Yield: up at 1.55%

Oil: up at $64.31

4 March 2021

1) Kelley Aerospace has officially launched the world’s first supersonic unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), called the ‘Arrow’. The drone is designed with a single shell of lightweight carbon fiber that allows it to reach speeds up to Mach 2.1. The UCAV has reduced radar cross-section and infra-red signatures, and is designed for multiple combat or reconnaissance roles. Kelley has 100 pre-orders for the war machine, which costs between $9 to $16 million dollars each. It’s designed to complement manned aircraft making it a force multiplier in the aerial battlefield. A manned combat aircraft would control multiple Arrow UAVs, tasking each with a different missions.

2) There are about a thousand restaurant closures a month in Texas, a result of the coronavirus pandemic. About 11,000 restaurants have closed in Texas since the start of the pandemic. This is about a fifth of all Texas restaurants with about 150,000 Texans who have lost their jobs. Nine out of 10 of these restaurants are small businesses employing less than 50 people. Restaurants in downtown city centers have been hit particularly hard because business lunches and conventions were suspended almost immediately. Surprisingly, the more expensive restaurants have not fared as well as family dining locations.

3) The American Petroleum Institute is considering throwing its weight behind a government imposed price on carbon dioxide emissions as a way to slow global warming, making for a major policy shift by the oil industry’s top trade group. Supporters of a tax argue that a carbon tax increases the cost of energy derived from oil, natural gas and coal so it would be more effective than regulations at paring U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips, BP and Royal Dutch Shell already support a carbon tax-and-rebate plan. The tax has gained momentum as international energy companies make investment decisions based on the assumption that emission limits will be imposed by regulation, tax or other mechanisms. The companies are seeking regulatory certainty on the issue, instead of environmental policies that whipsaw with every presidential election. A carbon tax could benefit producers of natural gas over coal and spur investment in renewables and nuclear power. Some environmentalists who oppose fossil-fuel development criticized the possible move, calling it little more than a public relations ploy by letting producers buy their way out of climate accountability. Several utilities have lobbied Biden administration officials to support a nationwide carbon price.

4) Stock market closings for – 3 MAR 21:

Dow 31,270.09 down by 121.43
Nasdaq 12,997.75 down by 361.03
S&P 500 3,819.72 down by 50.57

10 Year Yield: up at 1.47%

Oil: up at $61.06

3 March 2021

1) In Petaluma, California the local city council unanimously voted to ban new gas stations, building on a two-year moratorium passed in early 2019. Petaluma is just 15 square miles in size, with a population of 61,000 and has 16 gas stations with another one recently approved. City officials consider that’s more than enough for all current and future residents. This decision is part of the city’s climate plan to get to zero emissions by 2030. There are multiple gas stations located within a five minute drive of every existing residence. The legislation also streamlines the process for stations to add electric vehicle chargers and potential hydrogen fuel cell stations in the future.

2) Millions of families in Texas were struggling in freezing temperatures without heat or running water. Losing these essential services can be life threatening, however that situation is all too familiar to millions of low income families across the nation, who are struggling to pay their utility bills. By the end of December, low income families owe more than $27 billion dollars for their gas and electric utilities, and with the combined rent and utilities their debt exceeds $70 billion. By the end of March, when the winter heating season is over, the numbers will be even higher.

3) Brazos Electric Power Cooperative Inc. is based in Waco, and provides power to many communities near Fort Worth. The electric cooperative with 1.5 million customers has filed for bankruptcy protection, saying it wants to protect customers from huge energy bills sent by ERCOT after last month’s historical winter storm. The CO-OP was a financially robust, stable company with perpetually strong credit ratings until the February 13-19 cold snap that essentially shut down Texas and caused widespread power outages. As a result of the catastrophic failures due to the storm, Brazos Electric received excessively high invoices by ERCOT for collateral and for purported cost of electric service, payment of which was required within days. The cooperative costs are passed through to its members, but Brazos Electric determined that it cannot and will not foist this catastrophic financial event on its members and those consumers. Brazos Electric supplies wholesale power to 16 member owner distribution cooperatives in 68 Texas counties.

4) Stock market closings for – 2 MAR 21:

Dow 1,391.52 down by 143.99
Nasdaq 13,358.79 down by 230.04
S&P 500 3,870.29 down by 31.53

10 Year Yield: down at 1.42%

Oil: down at $59.56

2 March 2021

1) The electronics giant Best Buy, has laid off 5,000 full time staff in a move the electronic retailer says was caused by changing consumer patterns because of the coronavirus, and the result of online sales growth in the Amazon race. Driven by the pandemic, their online sales has grown by almost 90 percent in the fourth quarter compared with the previous year. With many Americans stuck at home, there has been a surge in demand for items ranging from computers, gaming consoles to kitchen appliances. But the retailer said that owing to a spike in online sales, which have more than doubled so far in 2021 compared with the same time last year, the retailer needs fewer full-time staff and so plans to add 2,000 part-time workers to their staff.

2) Newport News Shipbuilding, the largest industrial employer in Virginia, has announced the layoffs for 314 employees. In addition, they are moving about 120 managers to lower-level positions. These changes are necessary cost controls to help ensure the shipyard’s future and the afford ability of the ships it builds, while also reducing the number of management layers. The Newport News Shipbuilding company designs, builds and refuels nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and designs and builds nuclear-powered submarines, while employing roughly 26,000 workers.

3) The badly mauled U.S. shale industry is finding a resurgence in one of the most unlikely places . . . private operators that most investors have never heard of. For instance, the case of little known and closely held DoublePoint Energy. It is now running more rigs in the Permian Basin than the giant Chevron Corp. The family owned Mewbourne Oil Co. has about the same number of rigs as Exxon Mobil Corp does. Once minor players, private drillers hold half the horizontal rig count as of December. It’s the first time in the modern shale era that they have risen to the level of the supermajors. This is the result from the big guys starting to show restraint. They’ve dialed back drilling after the pandemic sent oil prices into collapse. Now that the market is on the rise again, the majors and publicly-traded counterparts are mostly sticking to the mantra of discipline, all but ending shale’s decade-long assault on OPEC for market share. But if private drillers keep expanding at their current pace, it could eventually mean that U.S. production ends up on the higher end of analyst forecasts. And that, of course, could weigh on prices. Oil’s dizzying collapse last year is still fresh in the minds of many, and shareholders are quick to punish the producers they think are getting too aggressive.

4) Stock market closings for – 1 MAR 21:

Dow 31,535.51 up by 603.14
Nasdaq 13,588.83 up by 396.48
S&P 500 3,901.82 up by 90.67

10 Year Yield: down at 1.45%

Oil: down at $60.34

1 March 2021

1) The superstore Fry’s Electronics suddenly closed all of its stores overnight, ending a nearly four-decade run in business. Fry, which had 31 stores across nine states, said that it made the difficult decision to shut down its operations and close its business permanently because of changing consumer shopping habits and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The Silicon Valley retail electronics store provided a ‘one stop shopping’ environment for the hi-tech professional market. The retailer didn’t implement and expand its online operations as rapidly as larger rivals. Best Buy, for example, recently reported its best quarter in 25 years as home bound customers snapped up laptops, home theater systems and kitchen appliances. The electronic retailer had been in business for 36 years.

2) Communications giant AT&T is spinning off its DirecTV into a new company for a fraction of the $48.5 billion dollars it paid for the satellite TV service in 2015. DirecTV has lost millions of customers. The value in the deal is just $16.25 billion, including its debt. The private equity firm TPG will own 30% of the business, while AT&T holds the rest. The telecom company will receive $7.8 billion in cash, including $1.8 billion from TPG and and $5.8 billion from the new DirecTV firm, which is borrowing that sum. The new DirecTV will also take on $200 million in debt from AT&T. AT&T launched its streaming service HBO Max last year and is focused on building that business. It also owns TV networks like CNN and TBS along with the Warner Bros. movie studio in addition to its huge wireless and internet business. The new DirecTV company will include AT&T TV, a streaming version of cable TV, and U-verse, AT&T’s older cable service. AT&T will retain its Latin America DirecTV business. AT&T said it expects few to no changes for subscribers.

3) Lockheed Martin is preparing to close its Middle River facility, in Maryland, which supports small combatants and ship systems programs, including the MK 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS), next generation launching systems, ship controls and automation and Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) engineering and sustainment. The company will reportedly relocate the business that is located in Middle River, Maryland to other Rotary and Mission Systems facilities. In an ongoing effort to drive down costs for customers and increase efficiency and value, Lockheed Martin consolidating some operations in their Rotary and Mission Systems business to better align employees, technology and facilities to meet customer needs. The majority of employees will be offered the opportunity to relocate or, if possible, telework. Lockheed Martin currently employs more than 3,150 people in Maryland, with 32 facilities and 569 suppliers, supporting nearly 100 small businesses across the state.

4) Stock market closings for – 26 FEB 21:

Dow 30,932.37 down by 469.64
Nasdaq 13,192.34 up by 72.91
S&P 500 3,811.15 down by 18.19

10 Year Yield: down at 1.46%

Oil: down at $61.66