13 July 2020

1) Robert De Niro, the world famous actor, has had his personal finance’s badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic. He’s been forced to cut the credit limit of his ex-wife from $100,000 to $50,000 a month because of his cash flow problems. His restaurant and hotel chain, the Nobu and The Greenwich Hotel, have had huge losses over the past few months. Additionally, his earnings from the movie “The Irishman” have almost dried up. It’s reported that the actor will be lucky to make $7.5 million this year. Both the restaurant chain and hotel have been closed or partially closed for months with next to no income. The Nobu lost $3 million in April and $1.87 million in May, with De Niro forced to borrow money to pay investors $500,000 on a capital call.

2) The online retailer giant Amazon is requiring employees to remove the Tik Tok application from their phones if their device accesses Amazon email because of security concerns. Tik Tok is a video sharing app which has become the most popular social media apps in the world. But government officials and business leaders are becoming wary of the Chinese owned company. The U.S. military has already banned using Tik Tok because of threat of spying by the Chinese. A new privacy feature in iOS 14 revealed Tik Tok was accessing users’ clipboard content despite promises by the Chinese to discontinue the practice last year.

3) An underwater or upside-down mortgage occurs when the home value is lower than the mortgage. While not common, this occurs when home values decline leading to owing more than the current house value and therefore having negative equity. Factors which cause home values to rise and fall are interest rates, high rates of foreclosures and short sales in your area, and natural disasters. Underwater mortgages usually occur during an economic downturn where home values fall off. One way to become up-side down is when secondary financing (home equality loan) equals more than 100% of the home value.

4) Stock market closings for – 10 JUL 20:

Dow 26,075.30 up 369.21
Nasdaq 10,617.44 up 69.69
S&P 500 3,185.04 up 32.99

10 Year Yield: up at 0.63%

Oil: up at $40.62

8 July 2020

1) Online grocery shopping continues to reach higher numbers, as Americans show little inclination to return to the stores. Grocery sales hit a record $7.2 billion dollars in June, up 9% from May. There are now 45.6 million households using online grocery pickup and delivery services for a larger portion of their grocery needs. The coronavirus crisis has cause drastic increases in grocery shopping online. People are now using online for buying a few items instead of just for their major shopping trips.

2) Seattle has passed a payroll tax which targets large businesses, called the JumpStart Tax. This tax is a tiered system of taxation with the highest tax levels for companies with annual payroll expenses of more than $1 billion dollars. The tax also is grated for individual income levels starting at amounts over $150,000. The prime target for the tax is Amazon, who is expected to accelerate its move to secure office space outside of Seattle. Amazon has an expansive Seattle footprint, but in recent years has moved to establish a presence in areas outside of the city. There are fears that the tax will pin Seattle’s economic future on local businesses remaining strong.

3) New York City plans to invest $157 million dollars to expand high speed internet service to low income residents as part of its plan to offer universal broadband service to New Yorkers. To pay for the expansion, the internet service providers would be charged for using the city’s infrastructure. The financially strapped city would fund the expansion by diverting $87 million from the police budget, which is being cut. But for the long run, the city is seeking state legislation to require internet service companies to pay for the use of the infrastructure they used to do business.

4) Stock market closings for – 7 JUL 20:

Dow 25,890.18 down 396.85
Nasdaq 10,343.89 down 89.76
S&P 500 3,145.32 down 34.40

10 Year Yield: down at 0.65%

Oil: down at $40.49

4 June 2020

1) The stock market continues to climb, with some saying this signals the end of the recession. The S&P 500 has a return of 37.7% over the past 50 trading days, which is the largest 50 day rally in history. This rally is attributed to the quick response of the Federal Reserve, with a record $2 trillion dollar federal stimulus package. Another factor is the unlimited asset purchases by the Federal Reserve. While the shutdown depressed retail and airlines businesses, other parts of the economy saw a boost, such as Netflix, Amazon and Facebook. But there is still the record high of over 40 million workers idled by the pandemic, while the weakening in the Chinese’s economy coupled with the tensions between China and America could have a telling effect to the economic recovery.

2) There are fears of another round of layoffs in the later part of 2020, amid questions of where the economy will go in the next six to twelve months. Businesses are now reluctant to expand and hire new people, and may decide to contract thus being better able to weather economic hard times. There is also the unspoken problem of continued automation taking jobs as AI (Artificial Intelligence) and automation that experts predict will continual to sap jobs for the next decade. Automation gives companies an added advantage in surviving when the economy slows down, but a second wave of layoffs may trigger that slowdown.

3) The giant movie theater chain AMC has announced they doubt they can remain in business after the effects of the coronavirus shutdown. The company has problems with their liquidity, their ability to generate revenue and the timeline for reopening its theaters. The chain expects to lose $2.1 to $2.4 billion dollars for the first quarter, with the second quarter to be even worst. With all its theaters closed down, AMC is generating zero revenues. The major problem in reopening is having enough cash for operations until cash starts coming in again, and there is still questions of when theaters will be able to open again, especially if there are flare-ups of the virus.

4) Stock market closings for – 3 JUN 20:

Dow 26,269.89 up 527.24
Nasdaq 9,682.91 up 74.54
S&P 500 3,122.87 up 42.05

10 Year Yield: up at 0.76%

Oil: down at $36.75

20 May 2020

1) Just three months after filing for bankruptcy, the Pier 1 retail chain is closing down all its retail store outlets as soon as possible. This drastic action is blamed on store closure from the pandemic and failure to find a buyer. After modeling several options for remaining in business, they found liquidation was the best option to maximize Pier 1’s assets. Plans are to sell its remaining inventory, website and intellectual property. Once a large seller of home goods, the company has suffered severely from online retailers such as Amazon and Wayfair, while big box stores such as Target and Walmart have increased their marketing of home goods products. The fifty-eight year old retailer joins several other big name store chains now in bankruptcy, in what appears to be a fundamental change in consumerism.

2) The damage to employment continues to spread, starting with 1 million public sector workers possibly losing their jobs. All governments are seeing a drop in revenue from businesses being shut down because of the coronavirus. With limited money- cities, counties and states are facing layoffs of their workers until things improve. Restaurants have loss 417,000 jobs to closure. The low wage workers account for 86% of job losses, while over two hundred hospitals have laid off staff because of elective procedures being suspended to accommodate Covid-19 patients, because hospitals have experienced cash crunches.

3) The ride sharing service Uber has had steep revenue losses from the pandemic shutdown, and so announced another 3,000 layoffs to bring their total layoffs to 6,700 or 25% of its workforce. It’s anticipated this action will save the company more than $1 billion dollars annually. Additionally, the company is reorganizing into transportation (Uber Works) and food delivery (Uber Eats).

4) Stock market closings for – 19 MAY 20:

Dow 24,206.86 down 390.51
Nasdaq 9,185.10 down 49.72
S&P 500 2,922.94 down 30.97

10 Year Yield: down at 0.71%

Oil: down at $31.86

27 April 2020

1) People are tantalized by the incredibly low oil prices, thinking only of lower gas prices. But economically, there is much more to oil and its low price. First, there is the destruction of America’s shale oil (fracking) industry, which has made us independent of foreign oil. There are fears that if oil doesn’t pick up, then the world could see a major shift in global power. The economies of several nations are very dependent on oil sales, the revenue being the bulk of their GDP. For instance, Saudi Arabia’s oil revenues account for 60 percent of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product), two-thirds of its budget, and nearly three-quarters of its exports. For Russia, one-third of its GDP is petroleum, half its budget, and two-thirds of its exports. The turbulent Middle East has states with greater dependence on oil: including Iran, Iraq, Qatar, and Kuwait. For America, oil accounts for only 8% of our GDP. The coronavirus pandemic has drastically reduce oil consumption world wide, and if it’s slow in returning to pre-pandemic levels, some countries could find themselves in serious financial and geopolitical trouble, with their influence waning and other nations displacing them in the world pecking order. It’s anyone guess how things could settle out and in whose favor.

2) Amazon has been using data about independent sellers on its platform to develop competing products, which their stated policies forbid. Such practices would give the online retailer tremendous advantage in competing against similar products, but is using proprietary information. Information includes total sales, vendor cost for Amazon’s marketing and shipping, and how much Amazon made on each sale, and other non-public information.

3) President Trump stated he would veto an emergency loan for the U.S. Postal Service if the USPS didn’t immediately raise its prices for package delivery. The President considers package delivery prices need to be four times the present charges. He has been critical of the USPS for years, considering the postal service problems are a result of mismanagement.

4) Stock market closings for – 24 APR 20:

Dow 23,775.27 up 260.01
Nasdaq 8,634.52 up 139.77
S&P 500 2,836.74 up 38.94

10 Year Yield: down at 0.60%

Oil: up at $17.18

12 March 2020

1) The WHO (World Heath Organization) has declared the coronavirus to be a pandemic, which in turn has cause the markets to make another plunge after its apparent recovery on Tuesday. The number of coronavirus cases world wide is now in excess of 100,000 with more than 1,000 in the U.S. The central banks in other western nations are cutting their interest rates in an attempt to minimize the effects of the virus and avoid a world wide economic slowdown. At present, there doesn’t seem to be an end to the markets volatility.

2) The United Kingdom is levying an additional 2% tax on big high tech companies starting the first of April. Call the ‘digital services tax’, it will levy a tax on the revenues from search engines, social media services and online marketplaces used by British citizens, but it only applies to companies making more than $650 million dollars and derive more than $35 million dollars revenue from UK users. This will encompass companies like Amazon, Apple, facebook and Google. The EU (European Union) is considering a similar tax, but with a 3% rate.

3) Oil production in the U.S. is expected to drop as a result of the dramatic collapse in oil prices. This would be the first decline in output since 2016 as drillers are cutting back on capital spending. Oil prices are below $35 a barrel, well below the breakeven price for most American shale fields. Oil prices have been pushed down by the economic impact of the coronavirus plus Saudi Arabia and Russian failing to agree on limited oil production.

4) Stock market closings for – 11 MAR 20 Stocks down 20% from their high.

Dow 23,553.22 down 1464.94
Nasdaq 7,952.05 down 392.20
S&P 500 2,741.38 down 140.85

10 Year Yield: up at 0.82%

Oil: down at $33.12

10 March 2020

1) Monday markets opened in a steep downward spiral from sell offs, driven by the coronavirus fears, followed by the sharp drop in oil prices. The Dow dropped 2,000 points, with a massive sell off of both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq, which triggered a key market circuit breaker that halted trading for fifteen minutes. There are widespread fears over the economic impact of low oil prices, with some experts fearing oil prices down to $20 a barrel. Gold prices crossed the $1,700 dollar an ounce, hitting the highest since December 2012. The banks are hard pressed as the interest continues to sink, cutting into their margins.

2) Experts speculate that the Feds will cut the interest rate to zero in the next few months in an effort to forestall a downturn of the economy. The entire U.S. yield curve fell below 1% for the first time in history on expectations that the Federal Reserve will cut rates to zero in the next few months. Some speculate the Feds may adopt a negative rate just as some European countries have, such as Germany’s -1%.

3) While checkout-free with cashless supermarkets is now a novelty, Amazon expects this technology to spread to other retailers. Amazon has announced it plans to license its automated checkout technology to other retailers, telling of several other companies that have already signed up for the technology. The technology has been proven with cashless convenience stores across America and with Amazon’s new Go-supermarkets. The technology represents another significant step in retail automation.

4) Stock market closings for – 9 MAR 20: The stock market is like a rectal thermometer- it’s rude and crude, but surprisingly effective in showing a sick economy.

Dow 23,851.02 down 2013.76
Nasdaq 7,950.68 down 624.94
S&P 500 2,746.56 down 225.81

10 Year Yield: down at 0.50%

Oil: down at $30.24

27 February 2020

1) South Carolina has the lowest unemployment rate with 2.3% which ties with Utah and Vermont. But while there’s lots of jobs, they mostly pay low wages making it hard for people to make a living. The state is typical of states across the U.S., with job growth looking strong on the surface, but much of the work is meager wages and few benefits. As automation pushes more people down to the lower paying ranks, they find themselves struggling to acquire the basics of living, even with wages that are above the minimum wage.

2) With the government’s announcement that Americans should prepare for a Covid-19 (coronavirus) crisis, and the continual spread of the virus, prices of hygienic masks have surged upwards. Tracking the product on Amazon shows an immediate rise just twenty-four hours after the announcement. A pack of disposable masks which were $125 surged to $220 in just three days, showing the deep concerns people have to the coronavirus threat.

3) Micro units are small dwellings of about 350 square feet or less, which may be the answer to affordable housing. The micro unit comes complete with a kitchen, bathroom and living or sleeping space comparable to studio apartments in Paris, Tokyo or Rome. This gives everything needed for basic living, but little else. Micro units are approximately 20% to 30% cheaper than conventional sized units, and are most popular with young single working adults, age under 30, who are willing to compromise space for location, amenities and cost savings.

4) Stock market closings for – 26 FEB 20:

Dow 26,957.59 down 123.77
Nasdaq 8,980.78 up 15.16
S&P 500 3,116.39 down 11.82

10 Year Yield: down at 1.31%

Oil: down at $48.65

26 February 2020

1) Global trade experiences its first full-year drop since the financial crisis, with weaker world growth and a manufacturing recession taking their toll. The spread of the coronavirus, with its impact on businesses and households, is increasingly pulling world economics down. While the decline isn’t huge, it is the first since 2009 and follows growth of more than 3% in 2018. The virus has shut off huge areas of China causing the closing of factories and now is spreading internationally.

2) The markets continue to follow the Dow’s thousand point drop with more large loses. To add to the financial worries, bond yields are slipping down, raising concerns that the global economy is slowing significantly because of the spreading coronavirus. There is heavy buying of treasuries in order to shelter money, with the ten year Treasury yield traded at 1.32%, an all time low, with the thirty year bond yield also reaching a record low. Analysts are already cutting their earnings estimates for the first quarter, further dampening hopes for better near term growth.

3) Retail giant Amazon has opened its first Go Grocery store in Seattle. The automated store is cashierless where customers walk in, and get what they want, and on walking out, computer and sensors electronically charging their purchases. The store is over 10,000 square feet and has about 5,000 items including fresh produce, meats and alcohol. This is just another example of the grocery retailers efforts to automate their operations and reduce labor costs.

4) Stock market closings for – 25 FEB 20: Dow is down 1900 points in two days and some experts fear the markets are 500 points away from being a correction.

Dow 27,081.36 down 879.44
Nasdaq 8,965.61 down 255.67
S&P 500 3,128.21 down 97.68

10 Year Yield: down at 1.33%

Oil: down at $50.10

10 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