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

2 March 2021

1) The electronics giant Best Buy, has laid off 5,000 full time staff in a move the electronic retailer says was caused by changing consumer patterns because of the coronavirus, and the result of online sales growth in the Amazon race. Driven by the pandemic, their online sales has grown by almost 90 percent in the fourth quarter compared with the previous year. With many Americans stuck at home, there has been a surge in demand for items ranging from computers, gaming consoles to kitchen appliances. But the retailer said that owing to a spike in online sales, which have more than doubled so far in 2021 compared with the same time last year, the retailer needs fewer full-time staff and so plans to add 2,000 part-time workers to their staff.

2) Newport News Shipbuilding, the largest industrial employer in Virginia, has announced the layoffs for 314 employees. In addition, they are moving about 120 managers to lower-level positions. These changes are necessary cost controls to help ensure the shipyard’s future and the afford ability of the ships it builds, while also reducing the number of management layers. The Newport News Shipbuilding company designs, builds and refuels nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and designs and builds nuclear-powered submarines, while employing roughly 26,000 workers.

3) The badly mauled U.S. shale industry is finding a resurgence in one of the most unlikely places . . . private operators that most investors have never heard of. For instance, the case of little known and closely held DoublePoint Energy. It is now running more rigs in the Permian Basin than the giant Chevron Corp. The family owned Mewbourne Oil Co. has about the same number of rigs as Exxon Mobil Corp does. Once minor players, private drillers hold half the horizontal rig count as of December. It’s the first time in the modern shale era that they have risen to the level of the supermajors. This is the result from the big guys starting to show restraint. They’ve dialed back drilling after the pandemic sent oil prices into collapse. Now that the market is on the rise again, the majors and publicly-traded counterparts are mostly sticking to the mantra of discipline, all but ending shale’s decade-long assault on OPEC for market share. But if private drillers keep expanding at their current pace, it could eventually mean that U.S. production ends up on the higher end of analyst forecasts. And that, of course, could weigh on prices. Oil’s dizzying collapse last year is still fresh in the minds of many, and shareholders are quick to punish the producers they think are getting too aggressive.

4) Stock market closings for – 1 MAR 21:

Dow 31,535.51 up by 603.14
Nasdaq 13,588.83 up by 396.48
S&P 500 3,901.82 up by 90.67

10 Year Yield: down at 1.45%

Oil: down at $60.34

1 March 2021

1) The superstore Fry’s Electronics suddenly closed all of its stores overnight, ending a nearly four-decade run in business. Fry, which had 31 stores across nine states, said that it made the difficult decision to shut down its operations and close its business permanently because of changing consumer shopping habits and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The Silicon Valley retail electronics store provided a ‘one stop shopping’ environment for the hi-tech professional market. The retailer didn’t implement and expand its online operations as rapidly as larger rivals. Best Buy, for example, recently reported its best quarter in 25 years as home bound customers snapped up laptops, home theater systems and kitchen appliances. The electronic retailer had been in business for 36 years.

2) Communications giant AT&T is spinning off its DirecTV into a new company for a fraction of the $48.5 billion dollars it paid for the satellite TV service in 2015. DirecTV has lost millions of customers. The value in the deal is just $16.25 billion, including its debt. The private equity firm TPG will own 30% of the business, while AT&T holds the rest. The telecom company will receive $7.8 billion in cash, including $1.8 billion from TPG and and $5.8 billion from the new DirecTV firm, which is borrowing that sum. The new DirecTV will also take on $200 million in debt from AT&T. AT&T launched its streaming service HBO Max last year and is focused on building that business. It also owns TV networks like CNN and TBS along with the Warner Bros. movie studio in addition to its huge wireless and internet business. The new DirecTV company will include AT&T TV, a streaming version of cable TV, and U-verse, AT&T’s older cable service. AT&T will retain its Latin America DirecTV business. AT&T said it expects few to no changes for subscribers.

3) Lockheed Martin is preparing to close its Middle River facility, in Maryland, which supports small combatants and ship systems programs, including the MK 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS), next generation launching systems, ship controls and automation and Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) engineering and sustainment. The company will reportedly relocate the business that is located in Middle River, Maryland to other Rotary and Mission Systems facilities. In an ongoing effort to drive down costs for customers and increase efficiency and value, Lockheed Martin consolidating some operations in their Rotary and Mission Systems business to better align employees, technology and facilities to meet customer needs. The majority of employees will be offered the opportunity to relocate or, if possible, telework. Lockheed Martin currently employs more than 3,150 people in Maryland, with 32 facilities and 569 suppliers, supporting nearly 100 small businesses across the state.

4) Stock market closings for – 26 FEB 21:

Dow 30,932.37 down by 469.64
Nasdaq 13,192.34 up by 72.91
S&P 500 3,811.15 down by 18.19

10 Year Yield: down at 1.46%

Oil: down at $61.66

25 February 2021

1) Nikola Corp. announced that its long-range fuel-cell semi truck gets as much as 900 miles on a tank of hydrogen gas, and is due to come out in 2024. The Nikola Two fuel-cell vehicle would go at least 750 miles on a tank of hydrogen, while its Tre shorter-range fuel-cell truck, can run 500 miles, and remains on schedule to start production in the second half of 2023. Nikola said that their first Tre FCEV prototypes are scheduled to begin assembly in Arizona and Ulm, Germany, in the second quarter of this year and that testing and validation would continue into 2022. The Nikola 900-mile truck will have a sleeping cabin for drivers and a new chassis designed for North American highways.

2) From California to Indiana, aerospace to appliance manufacturers, American factories are struggling to procure cold-rolled steel. Manufactures are getting hit by a fresh round of disruption in the U.S. steel industry. Steel is in short supply and prices are surging. Unfilled orders for steel in the last quarter were at the highest level in five years, while inventories were near a 3-1/2-year low. The benchmark price for hot-rolled steel hit $1,176 per ton this month, its highest level in at least 13 years. Domestic steel prices have risen more than 160% since last August, leaving steel consumers in a quandary whether to absorb or pass along the increased cost. U.S. steel prices are 68% higher than the global market price and almost double China’s, even with prices in both China and Europe up over 80% from their pandemic-induced lows. But the price gap is so wide that even with a 25% tariff, it would be cheaper to import than buy from domestic mills. The United States imported 18% of its steel needs last year.

3) The global semiconductor shortage will slash earnings of General Motors and Ford Motor Co. by about one-third this year, as supply constraints hamper production and profits. The chip shortage will materially erode margins and could lower expected earnings before interest and taxes by as much as $2 billion for GM and $2.5 billion for Ford. GM’s EBITA margin could fall to 3.4%, while Ford’s could dip as low as 1.8%. Rising demand for the chips needed to build technologically advanced and connected vehicles has introduced a new set of challenges for the North American auto industry, with shortages triggering production cuts and temporary plant closures. Demand from consumer-electronic companies exacerbated the supply shortages amid the coronavirus pandemic.

4) Stock market closings for – 24 FEB 21:

Dow 31,961.86 up by 424.51
Nasdaq 13,597.97 up by 132.77
S&P 500 3,925.43 up by 44.06

10 Year Yield: up at 1.39%

Oil: up at $63.36

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

14 September 2020

1) With 13 million Americans unemployed and their unemployment benefits running out, many will have only seasonal jobs to turn to. But with such wide spread unemployment, getting hired for seasonal work wont be easy. With the coming holidays, seasonal jobs traditionally mushroom with major companies already hosting hiring events to fulfill their temporary ranks. Companies like Michael’s will hire over 16,000 temporary people, with UPS expecting to hire over 100,000 for holiday package delivery. Retailers doing e-commerce, such as Amazon or Walmart are expected to need many seasonal workers and therefore are good places for job seekers to apply.

2) Fears are growing that the coronavirus crisis could cause a double dip recession, that the recession could end up looking like a roller coaster of ups and downs. The upsurge in virus cases is eroding consumer confidence and leading to renewed limits on certain businesses. Economic recovery can bloom then fade away only to repeat again. Some economic factors point to a recovery, yet others point downwards, with the picture further complicated by the ‘what ifs’ of the coronavirus and just how it will play out, where a second wave of the virus could be just as economically disruptive as the first one, maybe even more so. Additionally, a significant portion of the economy has been destroyed. Half the businesses in America are small businesses and at the start of the crisis, about half of those had cash reserves of just fifteen days or less . . . meaning by now they have gone bust! No one knows what the repercussion from such massive losses of business will ultimately have on the economy in general.

3) Mechanical breakdown insurance, which isn’t an extended warranty, but rather is insurance that pays for mechanical auto repairs of a car’s power train, much as accident insurance pays for the repair of body damage. It will have some amount for a deductible, then pays the remainder of a mechanic’s bill for repair, both labor and parts. Usually, any mechanic can be used. Most major insurance companies who offer auto insurance will also offer breakdown insurance too. Prices range from $20 to $100 a year.

4) Stock market closings for – 11 SEP 20:

Dow 27,665.64 up 131.06
Nasdaq 10,853.54 down 66.05
S&P 500 3,340.97 up 1.78

10 Year Yield: down at 0.67%

Oil: up at $37.39

31 July 2020

1) The American economy last quarter is the worst on record, with a 32.9% annual rate contraction (April – June). American business ground to a halt from the pandemic lockdown this spring, leaving the country in its first recession in eleven years. This wipes out five years of economic gains in just months. From January to March, the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) declined by an annualized rate of 5%. While the unemployment is declining as states open up from the shutdown, there are still about 15 million unemployed workers. Americans are spending less money during th lockdown, partly because of lost of jobs. Consumer spending is the biggest driver of the economy, and it declined at an annual rate of 34.6% for the second quarter.

2) While Walmart has posted surging sales for each month, it is still taking cost savings measures. The retailer has laid off hundreds of workers including store planning, logistics, merchandising and real estate. Also, Walmart is reorganizing its 4,750 stores by consolidation of divisions and eliminating some regional manager roles. Walmart is performing well because of high demand and low prices during the pandemic. The company isn’t opening as many new stores in the U.S. anymore, so Walmart doesn’t need as many people to find new locations and so design them.

3) Job postings in technology are 36% down from 2019 levels. This is attributed to increased competition, low priority in hiring and uncertainty over the pandemic. Therefore, the tech industry is also feeling the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Sending a very significant portion of its workers remote to work at home, there were predictions tech jobs would lead the recovery with increase job numbers. The ‘work at home’ was thought to show tech jobs might be available outside the traditional hubs. Neither has proved to be true. In short, the tech jobs are faring worst than the overall economy.

4) Stock market closings for – 30 JUL 20:

Dow 26,313.65 down 225.92
Nasdaq 10,587.81 up 44.87
S&P 500 3,246.22 down 12.22

10 Year Yield: down at 0.54%

Oil: down at $40.45

30 July 2020

1) First Walmart then Target and Dick’s Sporting Goods and now Best Buy have announced they will be closed on Thanksgiving, with more retailers expected to follow suit. The decision is in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Traditionally, Thanksgiving Day is the kick off of Black Friday sales, where retailers offer their lowest sales prices as the kickoff of the Christmas shopping season. But this also draws large crowds, something that goes against public health guidelines for social distancing. Instead, retailers will be offering their big sales online.

2) The spending habits of millennials had been credited with the decline of traditional consumer products, but now seem to be reversing for comebacks. Things like golf, starter homes and canned tuna are now on the rise, in part because of the covid-19 crisis. Some other products now on the rise is beer, mayo and cereal to name a few. More indications of how economic times in America are ever changing and becoming more unpredictable.

3) The pandemic crisis has sent the U.S. Postal Service into a fiscal tailspin, with President Trump saying he would not support a financial bailout until the Postoffice reformed its pricing of package deliveries for large on-line retailers like Amazon. But the federal government is preparing a $10 billion dollar loan to the Postoffice to continue services. This loan is part of the proposed $2 trillion dollar pandemic relief package passed in March, but the President said he wont spend the money until the USPS agrees to raise its prices. Much of the online retail business is dependent on the USPS to deliver their goods via mail delivery.

4) Stock market closings for – 29 JUL20:

Dow 26,539.57 up 160.29
Nasdaq 10,542.94 up 140.85
S&P 500 3,258.44 up 40.00

10 Year Yield: down at 0.58%

Oil: up at $41.32

24 June 2020

1) Economists are concerned about four major factors bearing down on a recovery of the economy. These are 1) the household fiscal cliff, 2) a great business die-off, 3) state and local budget shortfalls, and 4) the lingering health crisis. The pandemic shutdown cost the jobs of 40 million Americans, 40% of them low wage workers. This has left many households short of money, having little to no savings to meet their fiscal obligations such as rent and utilities. Add to this, there has been a steep decline in consumer spending leaving large numbers of businesses to face bankruptcy, thereby making a contraction of the economy. But businesses are not the only one facing revenue shortfalls, for governments are also facing shortages of money needed for their operations and paying employees, as in more layoffs. Finally, the cost of controlling the Convid-19 virus, especially if a major second wave does emerge, for both preventive treatment and caring for the sick. All four of these factors may very well be pushing America’s economy towards another Great Recession, which could last for many years.

2) The New York eviction moratorium ended this weekend, raising fears that tens of thousands of residents will soon face evictions which will flood the courts. This problem is a reflection of a problem across all of America as those 40 million laid-off workers have been unable to pay rent or mortgage payments and now face losing their residence. But it isn’t one sided, for landlords and lenders are also facing money shortages to meet their obligations too, which can lead to their fiscal demise. Most of the tenants and home owners have limited monies beyond their income, so paying back rent and mortgage is going to be near impossible.

3) China is warning of the risk of a naval incident with the US. Claiming that the U.S. military is deploying in unprecedented numbers to the Asia-Pacific region, which makes for a rising risk of an incident with China’s navy. The United States freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea has angered the Chinese, who is trying to establish dominance in the area and hence control of the territory. The Chinese claim that 60% of America’s warships and 375,000 soldiers are deployed in the Indo-Pacific region, including three aircraft carriers. So far, the U.S. Navy has conducted 28 freedom of navigation operations by sailing through the area where China has built islands, and therefore claiming the area as theirs.

4) Stock market closings for – 23 JUN 20:

Dow 26,156.10 up 131.14
Nasdaq 10,131.37 up 74.89
S&P 500 3,131.29 up 13.43

10 Year Yield: unchanged at 0.71%

Oil: up at $40.02

11 June 2020

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

10 Year Yield: down at 0.75%

Oil: up at $38.78