18 March 2021

1) Griddy Energy, the Texas power retailer, filed for bankruptcy, becoming the latest casualty of the cold weather blast and sweeping blackouts that pushed electricity prices to historic highs. The company, after its customers received exorbitant power bills, blamed its downfall on Texas’s grid operator Ercot who is blamed for destroying Griddy’s business. Griddy is at least the third to file for bankruptcy. Ercot owes more than $29 million dollars, making the grid operator Texas’ largest unsecured creditor. Texas is unusual in the U.S. in that homeowners and businesses can choose from a number of power providers. Griddy charges wholesale prices instead of fixed ones, and knowing that rate structure would mean massive bills for its customers as power prices climbed, the company made the unusual move of pleading with customers to switch to another provider in mid-February, but some customers who didn’t switch in time were stuck with bills for thousands of dollars.

2) The world’s three biggest consumers of coal, the most dirty of the fossil fuels, are getting ready to boost usage so much that it’ll almost be as if the pandemic-induced drop in emissions never happened. The U.S. power plants will consume 16% more coal this year, and then an additional 3% in 2022. China and India, which together account for almost two-thirds of coal demand, have no plans to cut back in the near term. This means higher emissions, and in the U.S., the gains may undermine President Biden’s push to reestablish America as an environmental leader and raise pressure for him to quickly implement his climate agenda. Coal consumption at U.S. power plants is almost returning to 2019 levels. While in recent years, China has reduced the share of coal in their energy mix, total power consumption has risen, so its usage has also climbed. China has the world’s largest number of coal-fired power plants, so it’ll be tough to shift to alternatives. India is also a very long way from a clean grid, with coal continuing to account for around 70% of its electrical generation. Consumption at their power plants will rise 10% this year, and is set to increase every year through at least 2027.

3) Although little known to most people, sand is another natural resource becoming scarce. So China has launched a crackdown on illegal sand mining operations on the Yangtze river, which have made large parts of central China more vulnerable to drought. Sand mining in the river and its connecting lakes and tributaries has also affected shipping routes and made it harder for authorities to control summer floods.

4) Stock market closings for – 17 MAR 21:

Dow 33,015.37 up by 189.42
Nasdaq 13,525.20 up by 53.64
S&P 500 3,974.12 up by 11.41

10 Year Yield: up at 1.64%

Oil: down at $64.63

26 February 2021

1) The pandemic has been especially hard on small business, who don’t have the cash reserves of large corporations. They face a number of challenges they need to meet in order to survive. Here is a brief list of challenges they face- 1) The Ability to Transition to a Digital First World 2) Lack of In-Person Networking Events 3) Forward Planning is Difficult 4) Leaving Brick and Mortar Stores. 5) Lacking Work Life Balance 6) Increased Shipping Costs 7) Lacking Creativity 8) Blips in Production 9) Pressure to Perform 10) Long Term vs. Short Term Content

2) More than 4 million barrels of daily oil output, which is almost 40% of the nation’s crude production, is now offline because of the deep freeze weather. One of the world’s biggest oil refining centers has seen its output drastically cut back. Experts say the market is underestimating the amount of oil production lost in Texas due to the bad weather. Crude oil briefly surged above $65 a barrel, a level not seen since last January. Supply tightness has also soared, where just ten months ago, the price slumped below $16 because of a demand shock caused by Covid-19. Estimates for how long the outages may last have gotten progressively longer as analysts try to figure out the time span involved in thawing out infrastructure, especially in those areas where freezing weather isn’t the norm. That means ever more barrels are being removed from the global market, resulting in a surge in price of crude in other parts of the world.

3) Another long time retailer chain has filed for bankruptcy, as the Covid-19 pandemic makes the retail industry the site of regular closures and financial woes. Now, regional department store Belk, the nation’s largest privately owned department store, can be added to the ‘dead’ list, with the closing of all its stores. The bankruptcy filing for the 133 year old retailer comes about half a decade after the founding Belk family sold the company to its current owners for $3 billion dollars. The pandemic directly resulted in the drastic declines in the retailer’s sales, revenue, and liquidity. Unfortunately, Belk is far from the only shopping mainstay to struggle under the pressures of the pandemic. The company’s bankruptcy plan was filed in a Houston courtroom on Feb. 23, which relieves Belk of $450 million worth of debt and create an infusion of capital for the business.

4) Stock market closings for – 25 FEB 21:

Dow 31,402.01 down by 559.85
Nasdaq 13,119.43 down by 478.53
S&P 500 3,829.34 down by 96.09

10 Year Yield: up at 1.52%

Oil: down at $63.31

1 February 2021

1) While on the campaign trail, the new President Biden didn’t say much about space technology or projects. The space agency funding makes up just 0.4% of the national budget compared to 4% back in the mid-1960s. The Congress has not provided the funds for a earth to moon vehicle yet, so this raises the question of just how much will the new President support the space program. With Biden’s focus on the planet and global warming, concerns about worlds beyond earth appear to be diminishing. NASA already supports the earth sciences with its satellites and aircraft, and with the massive federal spending this last year, the Congress and maybe the President will seek to reduce spending so NASA may face cuts these next few years.

2) The automaker Dodge is warning that regulations are killing the V8 engine. They say the days of an iron block supercharged 6.2 liter V8 are numbered because of all the compliance costs. The Biden administration is widely expected to announce stricter emissions regulations in the near future. But electrification can help ensure muscle car enthusiasts don’t suddenly loose their passion, that we’ll start seeing battery-powered drive trains with massive horsepower for cars . . . electric muscle cars.

3) It is expected that 10,000 stores will close by the end of 2021 due to COVID-19. Consumers are increasingly favoring the convenience and safety of shopping online during the pandemic. This is a 14% jump in the retail industry closures from last year, when a record number of major vendors closing more than 8,700 stores. Businesses that sell apparel accounted for the most store closures in 2020. More than 3,000 clothing, footwear and accessories stores were shuttered last year, with Ascena Retail Group (brands Ann Taylor and Lane Bryant), closing more than 1,100 of its store locations. However, virtually no category of retail business was spared, with discount home and office retailer Pier 1 Imports filing for bankruptcy and closed all 936 of its stores. As of January 22, nearly 1,700 retailers have already closed. Other retailers are closing with 7-Eleven closing 300 stores, Family Video is closing its remaining 250 locations, ending its 42-year-old run. Ascena Retail Group will also close 195 brick-and-mortar stores in 2021.

4) Stock market closings for – 29 JAN 21:

Dow 29,982.62 down by 620.74
Nasdaq 13,070.70 down by 266.46
S&P 500 3,714.24 down by 73.14

10 Year Yield: up at 1.09%

Oil: down at $52.15

27 October 2020

1) Oil and gas companies are bringing record level of debt to bankruptcy court, making this year the worst oil bust in decades. Companies have brought $89 billion dollars of debt to bankruptcy court this year, compared to $70 billion during the last oil bust in 2014-16. While fewer companies have gone bankrupt this year, 84 compared with the historical high of 142 in 2016, each bankruptcy filing this year reported significantly higher debt. The average bankruptcy debt per company this year is $1.05 billion dollars so far, almost twice as much as the 2017 level of $576 million. But the worst isn’t over yet, it is expected that another 15 to 21 exploration and production companies will file for bankruptcy by the end of the year, pushing the related debt to more than $100 billion. Although crude prices have climbed back to around $40 a barrel, recovery remains tenuous, since energy bankruptcies was rising before the coronavirus pandemic wiped out global demand for crude and petroleum products such as gasoline and jet fuel.

2) Another tropical storm threatens the Gulf Coast again, as 2020 ties record for most named storms. Tropical Storm Zeta has formed in the western Caribbean and is drifting north promising to unleash wind, heavy rainfall and possible ocean surge as it approaches the U.S. Gulf Coast Tuesday night and Wednesday. The storm is most likely to come ashore on Wednesday at tropical-storm level or possibly as a hurricane. The landfall zone includes areas in Louisiana where hurricanes Delta and Laura hit as well as parts of Alabama hit by Sally. The hurricane season still has five weeks left, so the record for most named storms could fall. There are some indications that Zeta could sneak in some last-minute intensification before landfall, possibly becoming a Category 2 hurricane. Zeta’s eventual merger with a frontal system could bring a swath of three to four inches of rain or more into parts of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic late in the week.

3) Walmart is suing the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration as a pre-emptive strike, anticipating a legal battle over the retailer’s responsibility in the opioid abuse crisis. Operating more than 5,000 pharmacies in its stores, Walmart says it is seeking a declaration from a federal judge that the government has no lawful basis for seeking civil damages from the company. The government blames Walmart for continuing to fill purportedly bad prescriptions written by doctors that the DEA and state regulators had enabled to write those prescriptions in the first place and continue to stand by today. In 2018, 46,802 people died from an opioid overdose, and health care providers across the country wrote prescriptions for opioid pain medication at a rate of 51.4 prescriptions dispensed per 100 people.

4) Stock market closings for – 26 OCT 20:
Dow 27,685.38 down 650.19
Nasdaq 11,358.94 down 189.34
S&P 500 3,400.97 down 64.42
10 Year Yield: down at 0.80%
Oil: down at $38.64

22 October 2020

1) Many consider the next economic crisis to be the growing profusion of empty retail space, as tenants stop paying rent and reduce their offices, leaving commercial real estate in a pinch. Commercial real estate is in trouble, the $15 trillion dollar market is threatened with decline, and the longer the pandemic persists the more ill effects on hotels, retailers and office buildings, therefore the more difficult it is for property owners to meet their mortgage payments. The widespread downgrades, defaults and eventual foreclosures, coming from companies like J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus and Pier 1 filing for bankruptcy, has retail properties losing major tenants with nothing to replace them. Motels and hotels are running below 50 percent occupancy, with the stimulus bill having no provisions to prop them up, the government hoping the commercial mortgages will just heal by themself.

2) The Justice Department is accusing the internet giant Google of illegally protecting its monopoly over search and advertising. The company is accused of building an illegal monopoly over parts of the internet. The Justice Department accused Google of building a monopoly over central parts of the internet. The main concern is Google working with other major internet companies to channel the internet to Google’s search engine, as the default search engine, by Google providing the engine to include in other company’s products through exclusive business contracts and agreements. The government contends that Google has used anti-competitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising and general search text advertising which is the cornerstones of its empire. It is considered this will be a major test of the antitrust law. A victory for the government could remake one of America’s most recognizable companies and the internet economy.

3) NASA OSIRIS-REx spacecraft mission has successfully touched down on the asteroid Bennu to bring a rock-soil sample back to earth for analysis. The van-size spacecraft briefly touched down on a landing site the width of a few parking spaces. It collected a sample between 2 ounces and 2 kilograms, then the spacecraft backed away to safety. Bennu is a boulder-studded “rubble pile” asteroid shaped like a spinning top and is as tall as the Empire State Building. If everything runs smoothly, the spacecraft and its prized sample will begin the long journey back to Earth next year and land the sample on Earth in 2023.

4) Stock market closings for – 21 OCT 20:

Dow 28,210.82 down 97.97
Nasdaq 11,484.69 down 31.80
S&P 500 3,435.56 down 7.56

10 Year Yield: up at 0.82%

Oil: down at $40.00

12 October 2020

1) With the recession from the Covid-19 came predictions of waves of bankruptcy filings as businesses, large and small, failed. But that wave of bankruptcy has not materialized, and so far, there’s no sign that it will, indeed bankruptcies are down a little from last year. This is a good sign that companies and households are not as stressed as many economist feared. However, bankruptcy filings aren’t a perfect measure of hardship, with many companies barely hanging on, so bankruptcies may still be coming. Many small businesses and households go bust without ever formally filing for bankruptcy.

2) The four massive high tech companies, Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook are under investigation at Federal and State levels for antitrust. These investigations are spurred by concerns that competition is being stifled by the domination of these companies, but there are concerns that the big tech is trying to also stifle conservative voices. Google is facing a relatively narrow complaint from the Justice Department that it seeks to disadvantage rivals in search and advertising. The focus on Apple is their apps store with accusations that Apple introduces new products and then put out apps that compete with them. Facebook has raised concerns over how they treat some of their app developers on its platform and therefore engaged in unlawful monopolistic practices. Amazon is suspected of conflict of interest in competition with small sellers on its marketplace platform.

3) Silicon Valley companies are thinking about the future of work taking actions from pay cuts to permanent work-from-home as they strive to cope with the coronavirus crisis. The big tech companies have formed various plans for the future of work. Some companies, (Twitter and Slack), said their employees never need to return to the office, while others, such as Microsoft, are adopting a hybrid model where employees report to the office only a few days a week. Amazon and Salesforce are adopting new benefits to help out working parents, such as subsidized back-up childcare and extended paid leave, while Facebook, employees may work from home permanently. However, if they leave the Bay Area for a less expensive city, they’ll may face a pay cut. Silicon Valley may bear little resemblance to the thriving hub before the pandemic. Tech companies have largely shut down their sprawling campuses and asked employees to work from home — in some cases, forever. When those offices reopen office life is unlikely to resemble the past. Companies may change their real estate plans, opting instead for a new type of office, or none at all.

4) Stock market closings for – 9 OCT 20:

Dow 28,586.90 up 61.39
Nasdaq 11,579.94 up 158.96
S&P 500 3,477.13 up 30.30

10 Year Yield: up at 0.78%

Oil: down at $40.52

8 October 2020

1) Despite the economic failure of the first supersonic airliner, the French-British Concorde, there are now attempts to revitalize the supersonic airline service. Boom Supersonic has unveiled its first demonstrator aircraft called the X-B1, which is scheduled to start flight testing next year. The demonstrator is planned as a commercial stepping stone to an actual commercial supersonic airliner to transverse the Atlantic ocean in about three and a half hours- about half the present flight time. Plans called for supersonic jets that are quieter and more fuel efficient than the Concorde. Some might consider a supersonic airliner to be an optimistic endeavor considering the concerns over the airline’s industry future over the next several years.

2) Like other restaurant chains in decline, Ruby Tuesday’s decline was several years in the making, accelerated by the pandemic. Amidst speculation by industry insiders, the renowned Ruby Tuesday has filed for bankruptcy. By April, Ruby Tuesday had closed about 30% of its 470 restaurants, and with the virus crisis, restaurants continued closing. It has closed 300 restaurants in the last three years, 186 this year alone, while amassing a $43 million dollar debt plus $19 million dollars owed to landlords and vendors. The company is filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy and will continue operating about 230 restaurants in its bid to survive. Ruby Tuesday’s decline in sales was due to a major shift in consumer attention from casual dine-in to fast food and fast casual options.

3) The troubled aircraft manufacture Boeing Aircraft cuts their forecast for airplane demand due to the pandemic. Over the next decade, Boeing now expects deliveries of 18,350 commercial aircraft, which is down from its previous forecast by 10.7%. The coronavirus crisis is expected to create minimal demand for new jets during the next few years. Boeing still expects to deliver 43,110 commercial aircraft over the next 20 years, a forecast down only slightly from its previous forecast of 44,040 and so will be able to make up for lost sales in the years after the next decade.

4) Stock market closings for – 7 OCT 20:

Dow 28,303.46 up 530.70
Nasdaq 11,364.60 up +210.00
S&P 500 3,419.45 up 58.50

10 Year Yield: up at 0.78%

Oil: up at $40.06

27 August 2020

1) Large hurricanes bring economic damage on a large scale when they make landfall. This season’s biggie is Hurricane Laura now expected to make landfall as a category 4 storm this Wednesday evening or early Thursday morning. The National Hurricane Center rates the storm as having an “un-survivable storm surge” with large and destructive waves causing catastrophic damage along the coast of eastern Texas to the eastern part of Louisiana. The surge could penetrate up to 30 miles inland from the coast. Add to this, the catastrophic wind damage, and Laura promises to carry a large price tag economically as the storm continues first up into Arkansas then across the United States for the Atlantic with rains and flooding. This year is forecast to be a very active hurricane season so more economic damage may be in the play book.

2) Walmart is suspending its InHome delivery service, which offered the convenience of having people’s groceries delivered and unpacked by the delivery person in the customer’s kitchens. But because of the Convid-19 crisis and the need for contactless service, Walmart is discontinuing the service in favor of its Doorstep Delivery service, where groceries are delivered to consumers but now is left on the door step. With its other two delivery service, Walmart is becoming a strong contender in the e-commerce business.

3) Two long established regional grocery chains have filed for bankruptcy, another sign of the shifting of retail business in America, as traditional retailers fail to adapt to the new economic world. Balducci’s and Kings Food Markets of the north eastern coast were having financial struggles before the pandemic set in, but even thought both had a boost in sales from the pandemic, it wasn’t enough to save them. All stores will remain open as their holding company seeks a buyer. The two grocery chains date back to the first half of the twentieth century and they prospered through the decades before e-commerce.

4) Stock market closings for – 26 AUG 20:

Dow 28,331.92 up 83.48
Nasdaq 11,665.06 up 198.59
S&P 500 3,478.73 up 35.11

10 Year Yield: unchanged at 0.69

Oil: unchanged at $43.43

18 August 2020

1) A good sign for the U.S. economy, the American shale oil companies plan to restore nearly all oil production by the end of the third quarter. This will return production to nearly what it was when the shut down came resulting in the oil crash. As oil prices raised to $30 to $40 per barrel range, oil production started to rise. By September, nearly all of the production is expected to be restored. There were fears that shutting down shale oil wells prematurely could hamper future production, but nearly all of the restarted wells are producing normally because of a buildup of pressure. Most companies report a smooth return of operations.

2) Pizza Hut is closing up to 300 locations as part of a deal between the pizza chain and its largest franchisee, NPC International, who is filing for bankruptcy. These will be under performing restaurants, mostly with dine in facilities. The franchisee will put its remaining 927 Pizza Hut locations up for sale. NPC also operates nearly 400 Wendy’s restaurants, but has had to file for chapter 11 protection because of its $1 billion dollar debt. In recent years, Pizza Hut has drawn away from the dine-in business and concentrated more on delivery and takeout. Final determinations has not been made as to which locations will close or when.

3) In an indication of just how quickly the virus can pop up, the Oklahoma State sorority Pi Beta Phi has had 23 members test positive for the coronavirus, resulting in the entire sorority being put in quarantine. So far, none of the girls have been hospitalized and any who are ill are experiencing minor effects from the virus. The sorority members moved into the sorority house (off campus) between August 2 and 6, with all testing negative for the Covid-19. Then on 11 August, a small group of members who reside outside the house joined the chapter for a short informal gathering at the house. Within just a few days, the members in the sorority house tested positive. There has been a major spike in the pandemic, with the number of cases surpassing the previous peak levels on 31 of May, with 78% of new cases in the Sun Belt states.

4) Stock market closings for – 17 AUG 20:

Dow 27,844.91 down 86.11
Nasdaq 11,129.72 up 110.42
S&P 500 3,381.99 up 9.14

10 Year Yield: down at 0.68%

Oil: up at $42.77

13 August 2020

1) Another national retail outlet, Stein Mart, is going the way of the brick and mortar retail system announcing they are closing all their stores in bankruptcy amid Covid-19 pandemic. Based in Jacksonville, Florida the company operates 281 stores in 30 states with 9,000 employees. Stein Mart ‘going out of business’ sale is expected to begin in August 14 or 15 with complete liquidation of inventory, with the anticipation of all stores closed by the fourth quarter of 2020. The retailer joins a long list of businesses to file for bankruptcy protection amid the coronavirus crisis.

2) With all the money being pumped into the economy by the government, there were fears of fueling inflation. Those fears were increased with the July consumer price data showing that prices are indeed on the rise. But some are saying these price increases are a result of supply and demand dynamics from the pandemic, and will fall once the supply system becomes stable with production reaching equilibrium again. It’s just a matter of time.

3) Amid suspicion of a rigged election by authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko, Germany and Lithuania is calling for renewed sanctions on Belarus. Claiming a landslide victory in his presidential election, Lukashenko has cracked down on protesters and demonstrators. The EU (European Union) has call an extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the situation, considering the election was neither free nor fair, and efforts to suppress demonstrations as unacceptable. The EU is considering reinstating sanctions. The protest have been violent with about 1,000 people arrested to add to the 5,000 already being held, and injuries to both protesters and police.

4) Stock market closings for – 12 AUG 20:

Dow 27,976.84 up 289.93
Nasdaq 11,012.24 up 229.42
S&P 500 3,380.35 up 46.66

10 Year Yield: up at 0.67%

Oil: up at $42.56 +0.01