2 January 2020

1) The ride sharing business Uber has filed a lawsuit against California, in response to a landmark gig worker law as being unconstitutional. The new law is designed to upend gig economy companies such as Uber and Lyft. Uber claims the new law unfairly targets workers and companies in the on-demand economy, treating them differently than traditional companies. The law forces on-demand companies to reclassify their independent contractors as employees, which would break up their businesses. With Uber actively researching auto-driving cars, this point may soon become mute.

2) In the wake of continual losses despite rising postal rates, America’s postal system, as a public government run entity, may be coming to a end as early as this year. New leadership is being brought into the USPS tasked with creating a package of large structural changes intent on privatizing and selling pieces of the public service off. One proposal is that the postal service stops delivering packages, since there are already several successful businesses who are already doing that.

3) Department stores and apparel retailers continue to shrink as customers continue their migration to Amazon. For the last several years, retailers such as Sears, Macy’s and the Gap have struggled to survive and prosper by closing their retail outlets with even more closures are forecast for this next year. One additional loss of retail revenues is the lost of store credit cards.

4) Stock market closings for – 31 DEC 19:

Dow                28,538.44    up    76.30
Nasdaq            8,972.60    up     26.61
S&P 500           3,230.78    up        9.49

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.92%

Oil:    down   at     $61.21

31 December 2019

1) The automaker of electric cars Tesla has made its first deliveries of their Model 3 that were manufactured in China. The gigafactory in Shanghai is Tesla’s first outside the U.S., which is expected to significantly boost Tesla sales in China, which Tesla considers will become its largest market for the Model 3. Production will soon be 1,000 cars a week, eventually reaching an annual production of 150,000 a year.

2) The national average price for gasoline increased by 1.6 cents to $2.57 a gallon. Gas prices had been dropping for seven consecutive weeks prior to the upswing. The price increase is a result of the drop in oil inventories while oil prices are above $61 a barrel. Gas prices are above $3 a gallon in Hawaii, California, Nevada, Alaska and Washington, while Missouri, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana are the five states with the lowest priced gas states.

3) Vietnam is switching from producing and selling raw robusta beans on the commodity markets, to producing instant coffee for the burgeoning Asian market. Instant coffee brings more profit with less risk while also bringing protection from large swings in international commodity prices. Vietnam aims to overtake Nestle as Vietnam’s biggest pure instant coffee supplier in the next five years, and doubling its coffee exports to $6 billion dollars a year.

4) Stock market closings for – 30 DEC 19:

Dow              28,462.14    down   183.12
Nasdaq           8,945.99    down     60.62
S&P 500          3,221.29    down     18.73

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.90%

Oil:    down   at    $61.68

4 December 2019

1) Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal raised it’s ugly head again with the German public prosecutors raiding VW Wolfsburg headquarters looking for documents. The scandal broke in 2015, but there are still questions about newer engines which succeeded the diesel engines with fraudulent testing for emissions. So far, Volkswagen’s cheating test has cost the company about $33 billion dollars in fines, vehicle refits and legal costs.

2) Richmond California is moving to ban the export of coal through their port facilities citing coal dust pollution in parts of the town. Coming from western states such as Wyoming, the coal is shipped to China, India and other far east countries still making heavy use of coal fired electric generation plants. However, the city may be facing legal challenges against the city ban. Richmond, Stockton, Los Angeles and Long Beach are now the only major west coast ports that handle coal.

3) President Trump has suggested that the trade war with China could drag on for some time, that it might be better to wait until after the 2020 election to sign a trade agreement. The next deadline is 15 December when 15% levies on an additional $160 billion dollars in Chinese goods. The news cause another drop in the stock markets, in addition to the drop from news about metal tariffs on Brazil and Argentina.

4) Stock market closings for – 3 DEC 19:

Dow              27,502.81    down    280.23
Nasdaq           8,520.64    down      47.34
S&P 500          3,093.20    down      20.67

10 Year Yield:    down   at    1.71%

Oil:    up   at    $55.99

25 October 2019

1) Another wave of technology displacement is sweeping across America, with 32 stores getting rid of their cashiers and checkout lanes. For the last decade or so, there has been an increasing incident of self checkout facilities appearing in stores. Driven by Amazon’s marketing model, retailers are experimenting with ways and methods to dispense with the labor cost from check out clerks. The ‘one of a kind’ Sam’s Club Now is really an incubator to develop the technologies for automated check out systems in stores. Walmart has its Scan & Go app, Kroger its Scan Bag & Go service and fast food chains such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and burger King have kiosk systems for ordering.

2) California is not seeing the expected revenues for legalization of cannabis for personal use. After three years of legalization, the anticipated windfalls have failed to materialize a result of regulations and a robust black market cutting into legal sales. The legal market has produced just a fraction of what the state had anticipated, while legal growers who invested millions to cultivate the product are not seeing any profits. Growers must pay a number of fees to the government annually, which cut heavily into their profits.

3) If China signs a partial trade deal with the U.S., it will buy at least $20 billion dollars of agricultural products in a year. This would take China’s farm goods imports back to the levels of 2017, before U.S. imposed tariffs, which once removed might actually push imports up to as much as $40-$50 billion dollars a year. China has already issued waivers for 10 million tons of soybean purchases this week, and is considering an additional 4-5 million tons of grains.

4) Stock market closings for – 24 OCT 19:

Dow           26,805.53    down    28.42
Nasdaq        8,185.80          up    66.00
S&P 500       3,010.29          up      5.77

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.77%

Oil:    up   at    $56.15

10 October 2019

1) PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric), the massive power supplier of California, has announced they are planning power outages for Northen and Central California which will effect an expected 800,000 customers in 31 counties to reduce the risk of wildfires in windy conditions. The Paradise fire and the 2017 Wind Country fires were ignited when wind blown power lines sparked. It is unknown what the economic impact will be from such a massive loss of electrical power that may last for days on end.

2) The prices for many popular drugs is rising far faster than inflation, more than twice the medical consumer price index since 2017. Prices may not be justified by clinical improvements to the drugs themselves. This is especially important for people with limited income, in particularly the elderly on fixed incomes who are the major consumer of drugs in America. This is at a time when President Trump is vowing to attack high drug prices in America.

3) American Airlines announced extensions of 737 MAX cancellations of flights through January 15, despite Boeing’s promises that the grounded jets would be flying again before year’s end. American said full year profit would be reduced by about $400 million dollars if the jet remained grounded through the second of November, and is likely to spill over into 2020.

4) Stock market closings for – 9 OCT 19:

Dow               26,346.01    up    181.97
Nasdaq            7,903.74    up      79.96
S&P 500           2,919.40    up      26.34

10 Year Yield:    up    1.59%

Oil:    down    $52.65

24 July 2019

1) Technology displacement is graphically illustrated by the print news media with over 2,000 newspapers having closed in the last fifteen years. Once among the largest employers in America, new technologies have continually reduced the work force of newspapers, especially after World War II with the rapid expansion of the electronic news media. Almost all the newspapers in America have financial troubles leaving their future in doubt. The electronic news media has also suffered massive loss of jobs over the decades as new technologies allow operations with fewer people.

2) Over production of eggs has created an oversupply of the food stuff, forcing prices down until producers are losing money. Exports have been down 12% further aggravating the oversupply situation, with the average cost for a dozen eggs now $1.20, which is 26% lower than a year ago. But experts consider the price has reached its low and will soon start creeping up.

3) California’s wine industry is suffering from the trade war with China imposing a 93% tariff on American wine products. This tariff has pushed the price of wine out of reach for most of China’s population, thus drastically reducing exports. This has dropped U.S. wine exports to China by 25% in 2018 with California accounting for more than 90% of America’s wine sales overseas. China is America’s fifth largest market.

4) Stock market closings for – 23 JUL 19:

Dow              27,349.19    up    177.29
Nasdaq           8,251.40    up      47.27
S&P 500          3,005.47    up      20.44

10 Year Yield:    up   at    2.07%

Oil:    up   at    $57.17

30 May 2019

1) Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is pushing for measures to give workers a greater ownership in companies, thus transferring power and influence. This would be accomplished by requiring companies to periodically transfer stocks to a fund controlled by employees, giving workers a vote in managing the company while also receiving dividends. Nothing has been said on how to prevent companies from simply moving off shore, as has happened in the past.

2) Tesla, the manufacturer of electric automobiles, is gearing up for production of the Model Y, a crossover SUV with a simpler interior and longer range batteries with a reported 400 mile range. Tesla stock fell more than 10% last week over concerns of demand, profitability and the China-U.S. trade war.

3) Reportedly, China will use rare earths to retaliate against the U.S. in the trade war. This is a group of 17 chemical elements used in a wide range of products, from consumer electronics to military equipment. Chinese newspapers are filled with rhetoric asserting that the U.S. will have no option but to acquiescent to China’s economic policies. Eighty percent of U.S. rare earth imports come from China. However, this strategy by China may accelerate mining of rare earths in California and Australia.

4) 29 MAY 19 Stock market closings: Markets down over concerns of slowing economic growth.

Dow              25,126.41    down    221.36
Nasdaq           7,547.31    down      60.04
S&P 500          2,783.02    down      19.37

10 Year Yield:     down   at    2.24%

Oil:     up   at    $59.21

17 April 2019

1) The Russian company Rusal plans to build an up-to-date $200 million dollar aluminum rolling mill in Kentucky, which they intend to start construction of after sanctions have been lifted. The mill will provide about 1,500 jobs and is expected to open in 2021.

2) Gasoline prices are quickly rising to the three dollar a gallon mark, even four dollars for parts of California. This rise in price is attributed to several different factors, such as problems with loss of refinery capacity, reduced production from OPEC, higher domestic consumption, flooding reducing grain production for ethanol and sanctions on oil exporting countries.

3) Donations are already coming in to restore Notre Dame less than twenty-four hours after the fire. So far, several billionaires have contributed $700 million dollars to restore the 850 year old church. No doubt, the restoration will require substantially more money and will probably take decades to accomplish.

4) 16 APR 19 Stock market closings:

Dow            26,452.66    up    67.89
Nasdaq         8,000.22    up    24.21
S&P 500        2,907.06    up      1.48

10 Year Yield:    up   at    2.59%

Oil:    up   at    $64.29

14 February 2019

1) Criticism continues to mount against the proposed ‘New Green Deal’, in particular the soaring cost it would entail. Although the plan has not been fleshed out enough to do accurate cost analysis, some objectives would need huge expenditures, just when the national debt has topped $22 trillion dollars, making the plan’s future doubtful. The recent massive failure of California’s high speed train and it’s cancellation is another stumbling block to the New Green Deal because it proposes a system of similar high speed trains to replace airliners.

2) The Ford Motor Company announced the recall of 1.5 million of their F150 pickups, which were manufactured from 2011 to 2013. Their six speed transmission has a software problem where it can suddenly down shift to first gear. This could cause loss of control and therefore crashes.

3) Fears are mounting over the $22 trillion dollar American public debt, which is mounting faster than the economy is growing, making it unsustainable. In addition to excess spending by the government, the growing numbers of ‘baby boomers’ retiring leaves not only increased spending obligations for the government, but less revenues coming in, while the younger people are making less monies and therefore paying in less thereby lowering revenues further.

4) 13 FEB 19 Stock market closings:

Dow            25,543.27   up   117.51
Nasdaq         7,420.38   up       5.76
S&P 500        2,753.03   up       8.30

10 Year Yield:    up   at    2.71%

Oil:    up   at    $53.95

30 January 2019

1) California produce prices are going up because of labor shortages and increasing cost for labor. Agriculture workers are now under California’s minimum wage and overtime laws, plus mandated medical care. In response, farmers are turning more to automation to reduce labor cost and requirements. In the mean time, farm production is down which can further drive prices of produce up nation wide. Also, farming is moving off shore.

2) Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) filed for bankruptcy, which puts pending lawsuits on hold and will consolidate them in bankruptcy court.

3) Insurance losses for California wildfires top $11.4 billion dollars, from 46,000 insurance claims. The fires destroyed 13,000 houses and businesses and left 89 dead.

4) 29 JAN 19    Stock market closings:

Dow              24,579.96          up       51.74
Nasdaq           7,028.29     down       57.40
S&P 500          2,640.00     down          3.85

10 Year Yield:    down   at    2.71%

Oil:    up   at    $53.37