1) The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an antitrust investigation into the practices of renowned credit card company Visa regarding debit-card transactions. The DOJ is looking into the rules for routing transactions, both in stores and online. In its suit against Visa last year, the Justice Department claimed Visa already possesses monopoly power in the market for online debit-card transactions, arguing that roughly 70% of such transactions in the U.S. are routed over the firm’s network. At the heart of the Justice Department’s issues with Visa is the 2010 law known as the Durbin Amendment, which requires banks to include two networks on their debit cards. Merchants are then supposed to be given the choice of routing over a major network versus a smaller alternative such as Pulse, Star or NYCE. Those alternative networks can be cheaper for merchants.
2) The Federal Reserve stated that while the U.S. economy has been steadily rebounding from the pandemic recession, the recovery is far from complete and needs continued support from the Fed. About half the 20 million jobs that were lost to the pandemic have been recovered, and the outlook is brightening as vaccinations are more widely administered. The central bank’s policymakers forecasts are sharply upgraded, with the economy expected to accelerate quickly this year. At the same time, their forecast showed that the benchmark rate remains near zero through 2023, despite concerns in financial markets about potentially higher inflation.
3) Flipping houses in America is an easy way to make a quick buck. With the real-estate market red hot, profits on flips are at a record high, averaging some $66,000 per home. There are more than 60 banks and other financing companies catering to flippers. Memories of the 2007 real-estate bust are fading, and with interest rates on most fixed income investments still so paltry, lenders are desperate for anything that provides higher returns. The 7.9% average annual rate on a fix-and-flip loan is more than twice the 3.09% rate that a bank can earn on a 30-year mortgage. But there aren’t that many houses to purchase, the inventory of existing homes for sale is at its lowest since 1999, so now more flippers are chasing fewer transactions. Almost 68% of all home flippings last year sold for $300,000 or less.
4) Stock market closings for – 19 MAR 21:
Dow 32,627.97 down by 234.33 Nasdaq 13,215.24 up by 99.07 S&P 500 3913.10 down by 2.36
1) Another drop in applications for unemployment benefits is giving hope for the economy. For the week ending 1 August, there were 1.19 million jobless claims, down by 249,000 claims. Total unemployment is now at 16.1 million, the lowest since April. But even with continual drops, the claims are still five times the pre-crisis levels. More than decreasing claims is needed for the economy to improve, for much more hiring is required. There are fears of conditions improving so sluggishly, that the effects of the crisis become increasingly permanent. With the resurgence of the pandemic, there are signs of the economy stalling in what is already a fragile economy.
2) The Covid-19 crisis is fueling the need for high speed internet access, and rural America is responding with their electric and telephone co-ops using loans from the federal government. Subscribers are getting speeds up to 1 gigabit per second, with some planning for speeds up to 10 gigabits per second. Rural areas have the duel problem of low population densities and long distances, so its not economically feasible for private companies to install systems. The only alternative is satellite internet systems.
3) The Bank of England is warning of the potential risk of what’s called the ‘shadow banks’ in amplifying the volatility of unstable economies. Funds in investments like pension funds, investment funds like real estate investment trusts and money market funds are increasingly absorbing the cash once kept in banks, but are not as secure in times of crisis as traditional banks. This makes it harder for businesses to access their money when needed most. The non-banks impact in a financial turmoil is being assessed, lead by the Bank of England.
4) Stock market closings for – 6 AUG 20:
Dow 27,386.98 up 185.46 Nasdaq 11,108.07 up 109.67 S&P 500 3,349.16 up 21.39
1) This last April, the government offered $349 billion dollars to small businesses, in their stimulates package called the Paycheck Protection Program or PPP, as a way of limiting the economic damaged from the shutdown orders and pandemic. This money was gone in just 13 days, so Congress approved a second round of $310 billion dollars, but so far there is $130 billion dollars left with more monies being returned than borrowed. Thousands of companies sent loan money back because loan terms were too restrictive, or the criteria for loan forgiveness was too murky. There has been about $3 billion dollars in loans that have been canceled or returned. Congress has moved to loosen the program’s rules giving businesses more flexibility in spending their aid. Nevertheless, many small businesses are facing closure amid the uncertainty of the economy and what the future holds.
2) America is on track for another 2008 class financial crisis with threats of financial collapse. The 2008 crisis forced banks to rethink their risk taking, and new regulations were put through designed to limit the risk that banks take in making loans. Already facing a prolong recession, the balance sheets of big banks could precipitate a collapsed of the financial sector, as almost happened in 2008. The last crisis was caused by CDO (Collateralized Debt Obligations) where sub-prime home mortgages were packaged and given ratings of high quality mortgages. When these over-rated CDOs began to default, the banks were on the verge of collapse, but the feds stepped in and saved the day . . . just barely. The banks have fallen back into their old habits now by using CLO (Collateralized Loan Obligations) which are like CDOs, however they are for businesses instead of home mortgages, but still having the high risk. With the threat of many small businesses failing from the coronavirus crisis, these CLOs could default causing the big banks to collapse, bringing the American economy down.
3) A record number of retail stores are expected to permanently close this year as consumer demand for discretionary items stalls and people shift to online shopping. As many as 25,000 retail stores could fold up, with more than 4,000 having all ready given up the ghost. It is anticipated the closures will snowball from the recession, adding to the effects of unsustainable debt levels. The retailers were struggling to stay afloat before the pandemic struck.
4) Stock market closings for – 10 JUN 10:
Dow 26,989.99 down 282.31 Nasdaq 10,020.35 up 66.59 S&P 500 3,190.14 down 17.04
1) The bust in the Texas oil fields is the worst in memory, says the billionaire Russell Gordy. The coronavirus pandemic has triggered an unbelievable collapse in crude oil prices that is sinking fortunes across Texas, with no clear way out visible in the near future. Texas accounts for 9% of the nations GDP (Gross Domestic Product), so as oil pulls Texas’ economy down, it will undoubtably pull the nations down too. In the past, declining energy prices have helped the U.S. economy, but this time its likely to cut into investment and employment. Texas may lose 1.3 million jobs by June, as the virus puts an end to the U.S. shale oil revolution, which may spill into a broader downturn for Texas, that will also drag the rest of the country down too. Furthermore, Americans are driving and flying much less, which has reduced the demand for oil, bringing on a crisis in storage for the oil surplus. There are expectations that home prices will decline during the remainder of this year and into the next. This in turn will impact the construction industry.
2) As a result of the pandemic, the mortgage industry is implementing reforms that will be long lasting in terms of how lenders operate and how consumers obtain financing. It’s anticipated that digital mortgage processing will become more prevalent as people seek to minimize contact with others. Relators are seeing as much as a 500% increase in home video tours. Reports are that many people are seeing involuntary credit reductions and even terminations of their credit cards as banks seek to reduce their exposure to risk in a troubled economy where jobs are at risk of elimination. This means a further reduction on consumer spending.
3) Disney has seen a 91% plunged of it profits last quarter, a direct result of the coronavirus crisis. The operating profits in Disney’s parks lost about $1 billion dollars to add to a total loss of $1.4 billion dollars in total operating income. Disney has had to close its Walt Disney World and Disneyland theme parks, plus its Disney Stores and the suspension of its cruises and disruptions of its supply chain . However, its new video streaming service Disney Plus grew 26% to 33.5 million subscribers last quarter with revenues up 260%
4) Stock market closings for – 6 MAY 20:
Dow 23,664.64 down 218.45 Nasdaq 8,854.39 up 45.27 S&P 500 2,848.42 down 20.02
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
1) Bayer AG is facing a fourth jury trial over its Roundup weed killer causing cancer. Plaintiff’s claim glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is a carcinogen. In the three previous trials, Bayer was found liable for causing cancer resulting in damages of tens of millions of dollars, which are being appealed. The number of claimants are more than 75,000 although so far less than 50,000 claims have been formally filed.
2) Banks are raising the limit on people’s credit cards, even when they don’t ask for the raise. This is at a time when Americans are drowning in debt, in a effort to further boost their profits. For years Capital One financial Corp. resisted increasing limits of customers who looked vulnerable to getting over their heads in debt, but now have reversed their policy actively seeking more debt from customers.
3) A second coronavirus case has been confirmed in the U.S., a Chicago resident who had traveled to Wuhan in December. Wuhan is the center of virus outbreak in China, having already killed a couple of dozen or more people. China is now shutting down several very large cities in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease. Fears over the economic damage to the American economy has cause a sharp drop in the U.S. markets from news of a second coronavirus case. Presently, the U.S. government is monitoring passengers flying in from China for early signs of the illness hoping to quarantine the sick and prevent spreading of the virus.
4) Stock market closings for – 24 JAN 20:
Dow 28,989.73 down 170.36 Nasdaq 9,314.91 down 87.57 S&P 500 3,295.47 down 30.07
1) As Boeing’s 737 MAX crisis continues, Boeing is talking with banks to borrow $10 billion dollars or more to finance the rising cost from its 737 MAX woes. So far, the company has borrowed $6 billion dollars to cover its cash-sapped operations after having suspended production of the planes this month. The crisis which grounded the 737 MAX is now entering its eleventh month.
2) The global auto industry continues its downward slide into deeper recession with sales down 4%. Automakers are struggling to find buyers in China and India, with the downward trend expected to continue this year. The number of vehicles sold dropped from 94.4 million down to 90.3 million last year, with the record high in 2017 of 95.2 million. The IMF says new autos account for 5.7% of economic output and 8% of the goods exported. Autos are the second largest consumer of steel and aluminum.
3) Because of unrest in Iraq and Libya, oil rose to its highest in more than a week. Oil prices have always been heavily influenced by geopolitical instability, especially those countries heavily involved with oil exports. Lybia has Africa’s largest oil reserves, with their Sharara oil field being Lybia’s largest by pumping 300,000 barrels a day.
4) Stock market closings for – 20 JAN 20:
Dow 29,348.10 up 50.46 Nasdaq 9,388.94 up 31.81 S&P 500 3,329.62 up 12.81
On January 15, 2020 (Wednesday), the USA and China signed the first phase of the US-China Trade Agreement. The first phase of the agreement, has China purchasing 200 billion dollars worth of goods and services, within the next 2 years from the United States .
The United States will then reduce the tariffs of $120 billion dollars worth of Chinese products, which is currently at 15% to be reduced to 7.5%. Chinese exports will then achieve over $260 billion dollars in the 2020 fiscal year.
The agreement provides more and better protection for American companies. American companies have discontent in China stealing intellectual property and trade stipulations. Phase 1, allows US banks to operate in China, while also enabling penalties for bad business and financial practices; instituted by US banks while operating in China.
So far the Phase 1 deal; seems to be a success as global markets have reacted positively to the signing of the USA-China Phase 1 Agreement. -SB