24 August 2020

1) Despite being in a major recession with unemployment hovering around 22 million, the home sales market is on fire, last month setting a record 24.7% increase compared with June. While the housing market was all but frozen this spring, surprisingly it has rebound from the effects of the pandemic crisis. The previous record for sales was set in 1968 with a 20.7% rise. Furthermore, all regions of the country reported strong sales of homes. One factor is considered that all the work at home has homeowners looking for larger houses. The strong sales is driving prices upward, with the median price of homes up 8.5% from July, now at $304,100. This is the 101st straight month of increasing prices.

2) AI (Artificial Intelligence) has made significant inroads in competing with humans to do tasks better and faster. In a field most people would consider as strictly a human endeavor- Dog fighting, or aerial combat where fighter aircraft chase each other through the sky trying to shoot each other down, now has AI systems to replace people. An AI system developed by Heron Systems went against a human F-16 fighter pilot in simulated air combat and defeated him 5-0. The simulation was limited to the nose cannon only, no missiles allowed. A couple of years ago, Boeing Aircraft said they were developing robot airliners which flew by themselves- no pilots!

3) Researchers have created a minuscule robot beetle, weighing only 88 milligrams, that can operated for two hours without a battery. The machine runs on liquid methanol that powers its artificial muscles allowing it to carry 2.6 times its body weight. The artificial muscles are called ‘catalytic artificial micro-muscle’, that uses special metals that allows the use of methanol to generate power to a micro-machine. While the RoBeetle is just a demonstration of a technology, it shows that power can be derived without the use of conventional batteries, which limit the size and weight of micro-robots.

4) Stock market closings for – 21 AUG 20:

Dow 27,930.33 up 190.60
Nasdaq 11,311.80 up 46.85
S&P 500 3,397.16 up 11.65

10 Year Yield: down at 0.64%

Oil: down at $42.25

11 August 2020

1) Both Japan and China are building up their military forces for possible future contest over Pacific islands. This is another sign of China’s increasing contentious relations with neighbors, in particular Japan over disputes of several islands in the East China Sea. This is necessitating the buildup of military forces to approach, capture and defend islands. So this means a build up of Marine forces, which both countries are in the process of doing. This includes amphibious armored vehicles and self propelled artillery. U.S. intelligence consider the Chinese Marines to be fully amphibious and able to use combined arms tactics and multiple avenues of approach. This includes building a blue water navy with well over 300 vessels. In response, Japan is starting up its first Marine unit since World War II, modeled after the U.S. Marine Corps, to defend its southern islands. This buildup means massive expansions which neither country’s economies are able to tolerate with the worsening world economy.

2) Boeing aircraft manufacture’s troubles continue to get worst with the loss 737 MAX orders now over 400 and stymied shipments of its 787 Dreamliner because of the world pandemic. Last month, Boeing delivered just four jetliners while also booking zero new orders. Their total stockpile of orders was 4,496 aircraft at the end of July, which is down 1.2% from June. There is the risk that Boeing will have to halt 787 production to preserve cash. Most airline companies have grounded a significant portion of their fleets and are operating only a fraction of their pre-pandemic schedules.

3) Instacart, the young food delivery service, is partnering with Walmart, Amazon’s biggest competitor, to bring Walmart one day delivery service. This will make thousands of items, from groceries to home decor and improvement, personal care and electronics go from Walmart stores to customers’ doors as fast as an hour. This is another ratchetting up of the retail business, when many big name retailers are floundering and some going under. A fundamental change in the way Americans are buying things for their everyday lives is occurring.

4) Stock market closings for – 11 AUG 20:

Dow 27,686.91 down 104.53
Nasdaq 10,782.82 down 185.53
S&P 500 3,333.69 down 26.78

10 Year Yield: up at 0.66%

Oil: down at $41.66

5 August 2020

1) The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has issued a 36 page document detailing the fixes and training that Boeing needs to implement so the 737 MAX can return to commercial service. The document was in the works before the planes were grounded in the spring of 2019, a result of two air crashes. There were few requirements that Boeing management wasn’t already aware of, and it’s considered a milestone in the certification process. The document only applies to 737 MAX aircraft flying in the U.S., and it is expected the changes will be adopted by aviation regulators around the world. Once done, all 737 MAX jets will undergo an operational readiness flight prior to returning each airplane to service. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency is waiting on doing its flight test as the FAA moves ahead.

2) The oil company giant Exxon Mobil Corp., is seeking the dismissal of a climate change lawsuit brought on by the Massachusetts attorney general. The lawsuit alleges that Exxon defrauded consumers and investors by the company’s public position on climate change, that Exxon hid its early knowledge of climate change and misled investors about the projected financial impact of global warming on its business. Exxon claims the law suit amounts to improper retaliation against the company over its views on climate change. The bases for Exxon’s challenge is the state’s anti-Slapp law which prohibits the use of litigation to punish a defendant for statements on matters that are under consideration by a legislative or judicial body.

3) The Department of Labor has come down hard on social investing or EAG, proposing rules that strongly limit such activities for private pension plans covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). They consider that pension fund investing is not the place to solve the ills of the world, that it is unlawful for a fiduciary to sacrifice return or accept additional risk to promote a public policy, political or any other nonpecuniary goal.

4) Stock market closings for – 4 AUG 20:

Dow 26,828.47 up 164.07
Nasdaq 10,941.17 up 38.37
S&P 500 3,306.51 up 11.90

10 Year Yield: down at 0.52%

Oil: up at $41.53

27 July 2020

1) Another indication of the contraction of the oil business is the oil services company Schlumberger who cut 21,000 jobs or about one fifth of its 105,000 global employees. This is a direct result of an expected 25% drop in the number of oil wells drilled worldwide. Revenues fell 58% from last year for north American operations. The world wide cornavirus crisis caused a massive drop in oil demand, which collapsed the price of oil.

2) Boeing aircraft is facing another trouble, this time with their older Boeing 737 jets. The FAA was warned of corrosion which could cause dual-engine failure, and has ordered inspections. The corrosion problem is a result of hundreds of aircraft now in storage that have been idled because of the drop in air travel from the virus. The order requires aircraft that have not been operated for a week or more must be inspected which will impact about 2,000 aircraft. The corrosion is in engine valves, which has caused single-engine shutdowns which resulted from engine bleed air valves being stuck open.

3) Junk bonds are back again, but are packaged in a format met to appeal to investors, avoiding their seamy 1980s era reputation. Low interest rates driven by the Federal reserve is encouraging companies to borrow, which has lead to a record $51.5 billion dollars worth of junk bonds issued in June. Junk bonds are bonds with high yields (interest rates) but having a lot higher risk. The high risk comes from companies fiscal ability to pay out the bond on maturity or dividends. In a recessionary environment awash in cheap money, a troubled company can collapse under the weight of their debt. But extensive use of junk bonds pose the same dangers of the mortgage backed securities in 2008 with massive failing of businesses pulling the already fragile economy down.

4) Stock market closings for – 24 JUL 20:

Dow 26,469.89 down 182.44
Nasdaq 10,363.18 down 98.24
S&P 500 3,215.63 down 20.03

10 Year Yield: up at 0.59%

Oil: up at $41.34

20 July 2020

1) The international British Airways has announced they are retiring their entire fleet of Boeing 747 jets, a direct result of the Convid-19 crisis. Once one of the biggest airlines using the iconic jumbo jet, the contraction of the airline industry and the likelihood that air travel will not return to its previous size is forcing all airlines to abandon their jumbo jets early. They are going to the more modern fuel efficient Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 in their place. British Airways now has 31 Boeing 747s, about 10% of its total fleet, with an average age of 23 years.

2) What appears to be a massive attempt to embezzle monies from the general public has come to light with the social media Twitter confirming that 130 accounts were targeted in a hack. The accounts of a handful of prominent users were compromised that allowed criminals to gain access to prominent users such as Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Kanye West to post solicitations for money. The attackers were able to gain control of accounts then send Tweets from those accounts asking to send money via Bitcoin to commit cryptocurrency fraud. Wire fraud is a federal felony crime, so the FBI immediately began an investigation of who and how the fraud was perpetrated.

3) Delta Airlines is proposing a 15% cut to minimum pay for pilots to avoid furloughs for a year. This would have to come after the first of October when federal aid terms expire. This is in view that a quick recovery in air travel is becoming increasingly remote because of the rise in new coronavirus cases. More than 60,000 airline employees across several carriers have been warned that their jobs are at risk, including more than 2,500 of Delta’s 14,000 pilots. As financial losses pile up, employees are urge to take early retirements, buyouts and other forms of leave in a attempt to slash cost as financial losses pile up. So far, more than 1,700 pilots have signed up for early retirements. This is just another indicator how the air travel business is probably fundamentally changing.

4) Stock market closings for – 17 JUL 20:

Dow 26,671.95 down 62.76
Nasdaq 10,503.19 up 29.36
S&P 500 3,224.73 up 9.16

Year Yield: up at 0.63%

Oil: down at $40.57

9 July 2020

1) In a move that shows just how much troubled the airline industry is, United Airlines is sending out layoff warnings to half of its U.S. staff, or about 36,000 employees. The world’s airline industry has be devastated by the coronavirus crisis, with the prospects for recovery in air travel dimming in just the past two weeks because of a rise in infections. The ‘36,000 people’ is a worst case scenario, with United striving to minimize layoffs through things like early retirement packages. Air travel had plunged 95% from March to April, and has been making a slow recovery. Still air travel is down 70%.

2) After more than fifteen months since being grounded for safety, Boeing’s 737 MAX is finally getting close to winning approval to fly again. But it’s not expected the aircraft will actually start carrying passengers until late this year at the earliest. Now with a history of missed deadlines, neither Boeing or the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) will say when the airplane will be approved to fly passengers. But after the aircraft is certified, there will still be months of training before the 737 MAX can actually operate. The good news is the test flights signal the certification is nearing its end. Once the U.S. has granted approval, Boeing will start the process of certification in a number of other countries which the 737 will operate out of. Plus, the 400 aircraft built during the grounding will need to be modified and tested before they can be delivered. The biggest question is how much and how long the airline industry will need to recover from the pandemic.

3) President Trump is threatening to cut off funding for schools that do not reopen this fall. It’s unclear just how the federal government could exert significant financial pressure on states and local school systems. The President is also in disagreement with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for their reopening.

4) Stock market closings for – 8 JUL 20:

Dow 26,067.28 up 177.10
Nasdaq 10,492.50 up 148.61
S&P 500 3,169.94 up 24.62

Year Yield: up at 0.65%

Oil: up at $40.93

30 June 2020

1) The Boeing Aircraft Co. has started it re-certification process for the 737 MAX with the take off of a test aircraft for the first flight. An FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) pilot was on board as test flights begin, to determine if the aircraft is safe for flying with passengers. The first flight test is to fly maneuvers for about three hours, the test craft being fitted with a number of instruments and monitoring equipment to test and record how the aircraft performs. Test include the ‘wind-up turn’ which is a steep turn that essentially approaches a stall, with wings almost at 90 degrees of bank. This maneuver should trigger the Boeing software system that played a role in both crashes, which caused the aircraft design to be grounded. The software caused the aircraft’s nose to be repeatedly pointed downward at the ground until pilots lost control. These certification flights are expected to take approximately three days, and while they are an important milestone, there remains a number of key tasks to be completed.

2) According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 47.2% of American adults are now jobless, almost half the adult population. This is a direct result of losing 30 million jobs because of the coronavirus crisis. While there was an unexpected snap back in May, there are now signs of a slowdown in the labor market improvement because of fears of a Convid-19 resurgence increased these last few weeks. The massive loss of jobs is what is now dragging the economy down. Both Texas and Florida have paused plans for further reopening because of a record spike in coronavirus cases.

3) Lending institutions are pulling back sharply on their lending to U.S. consumers during the pandemic, because they can’t tell who is creditworthy anymore. There are millions of Americans out of work and behind on their debts, but many of these missed payments aren’t reflected in credit scores. This is a result of the government’s stimulus package which allows borrowers to defer their debt payments, but credit companies can’t report these late payments to credit reporting companies. For May, there were more than 100 million accounts with deferred debt payments. This is a sign of widespread financial distress.

4) Stock market closings for – 29 JUN 20:

Dow 25,595.80 up 580.25
Nasdaq 9,874.15 up 116.93
S&P 500 3,053.24 up 44.19

10 Year Yield: unchanged at 0.64%

Oil: up at $39.55

29 May 2020

1) Another 2.1 million Americans are unemployed as the economy begins its reopening with restriction on economic activity easing in some parts of the country. One bright spot is the number of continued claims (people remaining on unemployment) dropped slightly from people returning to work. While the number of new claims continues to drop each week, it still remains at a record high, with the drop in new claims remaining higher than anticipated. The continued elevated number of claims isn’t a good sign, showing that we are not through the business shutdowns and possible closures yet, with some furloughs shifting over to permanent layoffs. The unemployment in America is now at 40.7 million workers.

2) Boeing aircraft manufacturer may be starting its recovery announcing the resumption of limited production of its 737 MAX after a five month halt. The 737 MAX has been grounded since March of 2018 because of software problems resulting in two airliners crashing. While the FAA has not cleared the airplane for return to passenger service, Boeing expects the 737 MAX to fly again in mid 2020.

3) The millennials and generation-Z are worst off economically than any previous generation, they are experiencing slower economic growth since entering the workforce than any other generation in U.S. history. It’s not just that it’s a bad recession, or that it’s hitting young people more, but rather that it’s hitting people who have already been hit by the Great Recession. Millennials have experienced slower economic growth since entering the workforce than any other generation in U.S. history, and they will bear these economic scars throughout their lives, with lower earnings, lower wealth and delayed milestones, such as home ownership. The old adage of ‘just work harder, sink or swim by your own effort’ no longer applies, because many millennials are now having to swim upstream against a much stronger current . . . from the forces of automation and technology displacement.

4) Stock market closings for – 28 MAY 20:

Dow 25,400.64 down 147.63
Nasdaq 9,368.99 down 43.37
S&P 500 3,029.73 down 6.40

10 Year Yield: up at 0.70%

Oil: down at $33.68

28 May 2020

1) The aircraft manufacture Boeing is laying off almost 12,000 workers this week, a result of the coronavirus crisis impact on the aircraft company. Boeing, which is the largest exporter in the U.S., is trimming its workforce by about 10% which include international locations. It is anticipated the airline industry will take some years to recover with air travel dropping a whopping 95% because of the virus, and major airlines canceling the majority of their domestic flights while suspending nearly all international flights. The company suffered a major set back with its 737 MAX grounding that resulted in near record number of order cancellations for passenger jets with zero new orders in April. This has been Boeing’s worst year in decades.

2) The discount home goods retailer Tuesday Morning has filed for bankruptcy, a result of the prolong store closings from Covid-19. The lost revenues created an insurmountable financial hurdle in a company that was thriving before the pandemic. The chain is closing 230 of its nearly 700 US stores across America. The first phase of closures of 130 stores will begin this summer. This is in line with another home goods retailer, Pier 1, which filed for bankruptcy in February, another casualty of the virus.

3) More than one in every six young workers have stopped working because of the coronavirus pandemic world wide. There are fears that young workers (15 to 28 years old) could face the inability to get proper training or gain access to jobs long after the pandemic ends, maybe even deep into their careers. Of those still working, about 23% report reduction in the number of hours they work. For 178 million young workers around the world, more than 40% are in the food services and hospitality industries, which is the hardest hit sector from the virus. Three fourths of the young workers are in informal jobs or casual labor. In addition, many companies in the U.S. are cutting salaries of those who still have a job, trying to remain in business, which will reduce discretionary income that will further slow economic recovery.

4) Stock market closings for – 27 MAY 20:

Dow 25,548.27 up 553.16
Nasdaq 9,412.36 up 72.14
S&P 500 3,036.13 up 44.367

10 Year Yield: down at 0.68%

Oil: down at $32.22