21 December 2020

1) There is a move in congress, lead by Rep. Ayanna Pressley, urging President-elect Joe Biden to cancel up to $50,000 per person in federal student debt. Supporters of the move consider the student debt crisis as a racial and economic justice issue encompasses the kind of bold, high-impact policy that the broad and diverse coalition, which elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are expecting them to deliver. The mounting student debt problem has 45 million Americans owing a total of about $1.6 trillion dollars in student loans, with one in 10 loans in delinquency or default. The typical monthly payment is between $200 and $299, with minorities experiencing the most difficulties with student debt.

2) A massive heavy snow storm continues to cross the Northeast as the season’s first major winter storm slowly moves off the East Coast, leaving as much as 4 feet of snow. There has been hundreds of vehicle crashes with some of them being deadly. The storm has left more than 50,000 customers without electricity mainly in Virginia and New York state. The interior of Pennsylvania and New York state took the brunt of the storm, the storm setting a new two-day snowfall record in Binghamton. The previous record was recorded March 2017 with 35.3 inches of snow. Airlines have canceled more than 600 flights because of the snow.

3) President Trump has issued an executive order prohibiting Americans from investing in companies tied to China’s military complex. U.S. investors are bared from buying into 35 Chinese companies the Pentagon has classified as aiding China’s defense, intelligence and security apparatus. The executive order has sparked sell offs of Chinese stocks and bonds, forced index firms to drop companies from marquee benchmarks, and pushed Wall Street to reassess risks from investing in China. There are questions at the state department whether the blacklist should include subsidiaries of the companies, or if affiliates should be included. Asset managers are now reaching out to the Biden transition team to glean how the new administration will interpret the executive order. Starting on January 11, U.S. investors are barred from the purchase or investment in stocks, with investors having until November 2021 to get rid of their Chinese securities.

4) Stock market closings for – 18 DEC 20:

Dow 30,179.05 down by 124.32
Nasdaq 12,755.64 down by 9.11
S&P 500 3,709.41 down by 13.07

10 Year Yield: up at 0.95%

Oil: up at $49.08

5 November 2020

1) Even with the election stagnated, waiting on the counting of votes to find the winner, the markets were already climbing despite the final results could be days away. The Dow Jones industrial average whipsawed overnight, despite the uncertainty which usually depresses the markets. Nevertheless, the Dow climbed to a peak of over 700 points, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 index and Nasdaq also surging upward. The state of the Senate is also in doubt with neither side having a solid majority, another source of uncertainty. Voter turnout is expected to be the highest in more than a century. Experts expect volatile markets for the coming days, and maybe weeks until the election results are finalized. While bonds have dropped in their yield as expected, oil continues to gain in price. Even the foreign markets are showing an upward trend.

2) China’s new therapy for Alzheimer’s begins a much-anticipated U.S. study, the latest effort in the multibillion-dollar search for an effective treatment for the incurable disease. The drug made by Shanghai Green Valley Pharmaceutical Co. plans a $600 million dollar global Phase III trial. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave its approval in April to study whether the drug can produce lasting cognitive improvement among patients in the mild and moderate stage of the debilitating neurodegenerative disorder. The trial will have 2,046 people across China, the U.S. and Europe, the first 600 expected to start in the next six months. The first patients will begin taking the drug in four weeks.

3) Nearly 140 million votes have been cast in the 2020 elections, the most ever in a US presidential election, exceeding 2016’s record of 137.1 million. About 100 million people have voted ahead of Election Day, or about 73.4% of the total votes cast nationwide in 2016. The increased number of early votes is a result of heightened public-health concerns of coronavirus pandemic with in-person voting on Election Day. Several states have taken measures to expand early voting and access to mail-in ballots.

4) Stock market closings for – 4 NOV 20:

Dow 27,847.66 up by 367.63
Nasdaq 11,590.78 up by 430.21
S&P 500 3,443.44 up by 74.28

10 Year Yield: down at 0.77%

Oil: up at $39.11

30 October 2020

1) The Boeing Aircraft Co. is selling new bonds to help repay its nearly $3 billion dollars of debt. Boeing announced the sale just minutes after a downgrade to the company’s credit rating. Fitch Ratings put out a report reducing Boeing’s credit rating down to BBB-, the lowest investment-grade rating, with a negative outlook. The company has burned through about $22 billion dollars of its free cash since March 2019, when the company’s best-selling jet, the 737 MAX, was grounded. It is anticipated that it will take two years until Boeing’s financial metrics return to that of a credit rating one level higher.

2) The Philippines has removed a major hurdle in advancing oil exploration with Beijing in the South China Sea, but the two nations will have to navigate their overlapping claims in the area to reach a deal. The island nation has lifted a six-year ban on oil exploration to stop activities that might annoy China. The Philippines has recently toughened its stance against China and is leaning back towards the U.S. It is estimated that 4 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves, that’s worth billions of dollars, could be found in South China Sea areas that is claimed by the Philippines and disputed by China. However an international arbitration court has ruled in favor of the Philippines in 2016. The two nations could set aside the ownership issue and proceed with joint development.

3) Exxon announces additional job cuts, that it intends to reduce its U.S. staff by around 1,900 employees. These reductions will be both voluntary and involuntary, a result of COVID-19 on the demand for oil aimed at improving efficiency and reducing costs. Amid declining oil prices, energy companies are taking drastic measures to improve their balance sheets, including reducing staff and in some cases suspending dividends, with the company’s fourth quarter dividend at 87 cents per share, although this is the first time since 1982 that it didn’t raise its dividend.

4) Stock market closings for – 29 OCT 20:

Dow 26,659.11 up 139.16
Nasdaq 11,185.59 up 180.73
S&P 500 3,310.11 up 39.08

10 Year Yield: up at 0.84%

Oil: down at $36.10

22 September 2020

1) Bad news from the conronavirus continuing to pile in with a just-released report that 60% of the small businesses that have closed because of the virus, and will never open again. Of nearly 163,700 businesses that have closed since March 1, about 98,000 say they’ve shut their doors for good. This is a 23% increase from July. About 32,100 of these businesses are restaurants, with close to 19,600, or about 61%, closing permanently. The National Restaurant Association says 100,000 restaurants have closed, either permanently or long-term, with a lose of $240 billion in sales this year. Restaurants operate on razor-thin margins even in the best of times, and so are less likely to make it through the disruption. Consumers are spending less on dining-out, while the disposable income for Americans is shrinking. Retail stores are also struggling with about 30,400 shopping and retail establishments closing since March 1, and of these 17,500, or 58% of them are permanent.

2) Many of the workers now working at home, are engaged in day trading to counter boredom for both entertainment and profits, but with growing fears that this trend could end badly. Most of these individual investors do not have the wealth, time or temperament to make money and sustain losses for any period of time. Major companies can have big rallies on the market, only to suddenly turn around with big losses. These casual investors are competing with large investors who have technology that allows them to trade on information before most people have time to read about it. In the long run, small investors, with about 30 stocks, have only a 40% chance of doing as well as the overall market.

3) The incredibly low interest rates have caused a rush of home sales in 2020 as people take advantage of the low interest rate, and in turn all these new mortgages have flooded the bond market as investors scoop them up. But it’s not just home sales, because 69% of the new mortgages are refinances of old mortgages. Many of these mortgages are then sold to government sponsored agencies such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae, who then repackage the loans into mortgage backed bonds or securities. These bonds often have higher returns than traditional Treasurys. Additionally, the bonds are often backed by government guarantees meaning there is little risk to the investors.

4) Stock market closings for – 21 SEP 20:
Dow 27,147.70 down 509.72
Nasdaq 10,778.80 down 14.48
S&P 500 3,281.06 down 38.41
10 Year Yield: down at 0.67%
Oil: down at $39.72

17 JUL 2020

1) Looming in the wings of the pandemic crisis is another major crisis . . . and epidemic of evictions. With the unemployment rate still more than 10% and eviction protections lapsing across America, housing experts expect millions of Americans to lose their homes in the coming months. For millions of Americans, the housing situation was already precarious before the pandemic. Many are paying large percentages of their monthly incomes toward rent, but don’t have enough to cover an unexpected expense of just a few hundred dollars. With insufficient money from unemployment, people are facing living on the streets during 100 degree plus temperatures, hurricane season and possibly freezing weather if the problem continues. This would also mean increased exposure to the Convid-19 virus.

2) A bright spot in the economy is that retail sales rose again for the second straight month as shoppers slowly trickle back into stores. But with conronavirus cases on the rise, this could be short lived. Sales increased 7.5% for June, from May, better than the 5% estimated by economists. Sales were driven by clothing, electronics and appliances as well as home furnishing. Still, foot traffic through stores is way down, people coming in with specific items to consider buying instead of just browsing. So far this year, 4,000 stores are closing permanently with as many as 25,000 expected by the end of the year. Last year, there were 9,302 store closing.

3) The traditional investing axiom of 60/40 portfolios is coming into question. This is the mix of 60% stocks and 40% bonds, which is generally considered the best risk minimizing strategy for individuals to use in building their fortune. But with Treasury yields now hovering around zero, and expected to stay there for years, those gains are in doubt. For decades, this strategy has given the best returns with the least risk in times of volatile markets. Consequently, investors are scrutinizing the strategy as maybe out of date in a changing economy.

4) Stock market closings for – 16 JUL 20:

Dow 26,734.71 down 135.39
Nasdaq 10,473.83 down 76.66
S&P 500 3,215.57 down 10.99

10 Year Yield: down at 0.61%

Oil: down at $40.80

10 June 2020

1) President Trump is slipping in the polls, and this may pose a risk to the markets. Even though the wild swings of the markets have subsided and then surged upwards, with the Democrat Joe Biden gaining in the polls, there is concerns that the markets will take a down turn as Biden becomes stronger. The President is facing criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the protest from the killing of George Floyd by the police. A victory by Joe Biden and a Democratic sweep are considered more ‘market unfriendly’ outcomes. Taxes are one major area of contrast between the candidates, with taxes a major concern for American businesses. These fears are fueled by the Dow sliding downwards for the first time this month as the rally pauses.

2) Borrowing by the British government to pay for the coronavirus shutdown is soaring to levels not seen since World War II. This is on top of the financial problems from Brexit with Britain’s debt jumping five-fold to a 300 billion pound deficit ($380 billion dollars) . This could leave Britain with a 2.2 trillion pound debt and the need to raise taxes with an impact on economic growth. Britain is funding this expenditure with sales of bonds, but have fears of a Greece style loss of confidence among investors. The government is hoping for a fast recovery after restrictions are lifted, allowing the debt to quickly be paid down.

3) There are fears that the U.S. dollar is entering a bear market so may no longer be the safe haven for investors. This bear market could go for five to ten years. This would occur if the global economy really is bottoming out and thereby rebound again, while U.S. interest rates are at zero, with potential growth lower than the merging markets. The U.S. dollar is depreciating against many international peer currencies these last few days.

4) Stock market closings for – 9 JUN 20:

Dow 27,272.30 down 300.14
Nasdaq 9,953.75 up 29.01
S&P 500 3,207.18 down 25.21

10 Year Yield: down at 0.83%

Oil: down at $38.39

5 June 2020

1) The bankers are suggesting to America’s debt laden companies- raise money now, because things could get a lot worse! Although there is plentiful optimism across the county for a quick economic recovery, there are some real concerns for the near and far future, such as a new wave of coronavirus in the fall, an extended period of double-digit unemployment, spike in defaults and a slower than expected economic recovery as business adapt to prolonged social distancing. These all translate into reduced revenues for many months or even years. This is particularly hard on companies carrying a heavy debt load. Hard times means companies need to have as much cash reserve as possible to weather any fiscal storm over the horizon. Even companies like Uber Technologies, Inc are selling bonds, in this case $1 billion dollars of bonds last month even with a first quarter giving $8 billion dollars of cash. The mantra for businesses this day and age is ‘Cash is survival’.

2) Airlines in America are adding summer flights as passengers slowly return to traveling. The air carrier American Airlines plans to fly 55% of its domestic schedule in July, up dramatically from just 20% in May. Slowly, the airline business is coming back to life as more flights are being added to schedules in anticipation of a recovery across the country. While increased passengers is encouraging, passenger levels in the U.S. remain extremely depressed from the pandemic. The question is, are air carriers getting ahead of themselves in bring back service too fast, because if service grows faster than the number of passengers, airline companies could lose money by flying airplanes with too few paying people.

3) The job loss from the coronavirus may not be over with yet. About 6 million white collar workers, higher paid workers, could lose their jobs as the pandemic’s fallout slams other sectors of the economy. These are people who are supervisors at restaurants and hotels, real-estate and finance services. A second wave of layoffs is coming despite states starting to reopen their economies, but this time it’s the well paid workers and not the low wage workers as before who are losing their jobs.

4) Stock market closings for – 4 JUN 20:

Dow 26,281.82 up 11.93
Nasdaq 9,615.81 down 67.10
S&P 500 3,112.35 down 10.52

10 Year Yield:up at 0.82%

Oil: up at $37.35

21 May 2020

1) The Federal government is moving to address the record deficits that America has amassed. One method is to stretch out the time over which the deficit is paid off. Part of that plan is the reinstating of the 20 year bond, which was last issued in 1986. The Feds will auction off $20 billion dollars worth of bonds Wednesday, with an expected return of 1.21% verses 0.70% for the 10 year bonds and 1.42% for the 30 year bonds. The government is also considering 50 and 100 year bonds, but there doesn’t seem to be any demand for such financial instruments. It’s expected that the deficit will be $3.4 trillion dollars for fiscal 2020 and $2 trillion dollars for 2021.

2) The CBO (Congressional Budget Office) estimates the nation’s unemployment rate will exceed 15% through September then remain above 11% for the rest of the year. For 2021, they estimate an average of 9.3%. For the second quarter of 2020, the labor market is projected to see the steepest declines since the 1930’s. These high unemployment rates are expected to persist despite lawmakers’ efforts to counter with injections of cash into the economy. Further layoffs are expected despite the $660 billion dollar Paycheck Protection Program, but a partial rebound is possible in the last three months of the year, with as much as 30% of laid off workers being rehired.

3) Housing sales are way down, the lack of inventory has propped up prices with bidding wars from the limited availability of properties. The health guidelines have made it more difficult to market homes, another fallout of the pandemic. Since the pandemic began, the demand has fallen off, with the number of sellers also contracting, therefore the limited availability of properties. Despite the economic uncertainty, the supply shortage prior to the Covid-19 crisis still remains. Nevertheless, the housing market has cooled, with sales of existing homes projected to fall 20% in April compared to March, which had a 8.5% drop. Construction of new houses is down as contractors wait out the virus. While loan interest rates are low, lending institutions have tightened up their loan standards.

4) Stock market closings for – 20 MAY 20:

Dow 24,575.90 up 369.04
Nasdaq 9,375.78 up 190.67
S&P 500 2,971.61 up 48.67

10 Year Yield: down at 0.68%

Oil: up at $33.52

29 April 2020

1) The ‘consumer confidence index’ dropped in April by the largest amount on record. The index dropped from 118.8 in March to 86.9, while the ‘present conditions index’ plunged from 166.7 to 76.4, its 90 point drop the largest on record. The ‘expectations index’, which is based on the future outlook, improved slightly from 86.8 to 93.8. The sharp drops are a result of the sudden massive unemployment from the shelter in place orders met to contain the coronavirus. But business is stirring with retailers starting to open up again. Simon Property Group, which is the largest mall owner in the U.S., is opening 49 of its malls and outlet centers in May across the country.

2) Another housing economic crisis could be building for the near future. The mortgage market has been disrupted with millions of borrowers having to postpone payments because of the pandemic and shelter in place, a result of massive layoffs. While some mortgage companies are allowing deferment of payments during the business shutdown, there’s the rising question of how to make up those payments after returning to work. Experts expect a repeat of the 2008 fiscal crisis with mortgages, because borrowers are already stretched thin financially, now having extra debt, but not the resources to service it. There could be another wave of foreclosures coming.

3) As nations scramble to get cash for economic stimulus efforts, they are selling off bonds at a frantic rate, much of it being bought by central banks. This is particularly true for the Asian bond market, with many experts saying this hasn’t come too soon, despite the long term risks. This frenzy in government selling bonds has cause a ‘whip-saw’ reaction in yield rates. Many central banks could be in big trouble if stimulus spending fails to avoid economic recovery, or worst yet an economic collapse.

4) Stock market closings for – 28 APR 20:

Dow 24,101.55 down 32.23
Nasdaq 8,607.73 down 122.43
S&P 500 2,863.39 down 15.09

10 Year Yield: down at 0.61%

Oil: up at $13.27

9 March 2020

1) The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) will vote later this month on rules requiring all providers of phone service to implement automatic call blocking. This automatic technology will block illegal robocalls, that is, the automatic calling of people with a prerecorded message or to connect the person to a salesman. This will give phone and cable companies until June 20, 2021 to implement. This blocking technology is called STIR/SHAKEN protocol that authenticates the origin of a call and can automatically block it if it’s from an illegal robocaller.

2) The U.S. credit markets of bonds are suffering their worst day in a decade as fears increase over the spreading coronavirus and it’s possible effects on corporate income as well as their ability to repay debt. Bonds of American Airlines Group Inc. dropped to near distressed levels as companies worldwide canceled business travel. Other travel related bonds, such as rental car and cruise line companies, as well as energy companies, their bonds and loans fell further towards distressed levels. The selling off of bonds triggered a surge in derivative indexes that investors use to hedge against losses. The week has seen the most cash in at least ten years being withdrawn from funds buying corporate bonds and loans.

3) There are fears that the unraveling of the Saudi-Russia alliance will cause the biggest plunge of oil prices since 2015. Talks between members of the OPEC+ collapsed in Vienna, with members free to pump oil without any restrictions starting next month. The collapses is a result of Russia’s refusal to accept Saudi Arabia’s proposal for output cuts aimed at offsetting the coronavirus crisis’s impact on demand. Oil futures have plunged about 9% in New York and London.

4) Stock market closings for – 6 MAR 20:

Dow 25,864.78 down 256.50
Nasdaq 8,575.62 down 162.98
S&P 500 2,972.37 down 51.57

10 Year Yield: down at 0.71%

Oil: down at $41.57