21 October 2020

1) The drought in the western U.S. is the biggest in years and is predicted to worsen during the coming winter months. The drought is a major reason for the record wildfires in California and Colorado. Further damage can come from depleted rivers, the stifling of crops and diminished water supplies. Elevated temperatures have dried out the soil, exacerbating the drought and making fire weather conditions sever. New Mexico is also in extreme drought conditions with rivers running dramatically low, which feed the aquifers, and neighboring Arizona is also in a deep drought. The drought is extending into Wyoming, Idaho and Montana with little relief in sight for most. Human caused climate change is increasing the likelihood of precipitation extremes on both ends of the scale, including droughts as well as heavy rainfall events and resulting floods. A study in the journal ‘Science’ found that the Southwest may already be in the midst of the first human-caused megadrought in at least 1,200 years, which began in the year 2000.

2) The Federal government has indicted six Russian military officers for massive worldwide cyber attacks. The six Russian military intelligence officers have been involved in high-profile cyberattacks on the electric power grid in Ukraine, the 2017 French elections and the 2018 Pyeong Chang Winter Olympics. The 50-page indictment details the computer intrusions and malware attacks mounted over the past five years by Unit 74455 of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency. No other country has weaponized cyber capabilities as maliciously or irresponsibly as Russia, deploying destructive malware from November 2015 through October 2019 in efforts to undermine or retaliate against foreign nations and organizations around the world.

3) American workers are being laid off a second time as the Covid-19 again ripples through the economy. As the second wave engulfs the economy, eight months after the first hit to the economy, Americans are still being laid off en masse by companies like Disney, the U.S. airlines, retailers and MGM Resorts. Even companies such as Allstate insurance is laying off people, 4,000 getting their pink slips. But for some workers, a second layoff so soon leaves them with no benefits, while the Paycheck Protection Program has run out. The hospitality and food-service jobs were unstable before the pandemic, but with many of those jobs now gone, many face a bleak future.

4) Stock market closings for – 20 OCT 20:

Dow 28,308.79 up 113.37
Nasdaq 1,516.49 up 37.61
S&P 500 3,443.12 up 16.20

10 Year Yield: 0.80%

Oil: up at $41.31

19 October 2020

1) Another consequence of the pandemic is an estimated 8 million people have been forced into poverty. The federal Cares Act gave Americans a $1,200 stimulus check per person, plus an extra $600 in unemployment per week, which kept many people above the poverty level. But with the expiration of the act, people quickly went below that income level for poverty. The Cares Act kept an estimated 18 million people out of poverty. The poverty income level is considered a family of four earning $26,200 a year, with the total number of people in poverty are 55 million.
2) There are indications that the U.S. Convid-19 is on the increase again making for a third peak. The number of cases are climbing throughout the Midwest, Mountain West, Northeast, South and West. The first peak was on the 10th of April, the second on 19 July and now a third peak is on the increase as winter approaches, the traditional season for the flu. Increases are also evident in Europe and Britain. Presently, 38 states are experiencing increases in the number of cases with hospitalizations trending upward in 39 states, and 13 states increasing in the number of Covid-19 deaths.
3) The U.S. deficit has soared to $3.1 trillion dollars for the 2020 fiscal year, a direct result of the spending to counter the effects of the coronavirus crisis. This is the largest annual deficit in U.S. history, measured as a share of the deficit-to-GDP, with a ratio of 16%, the highest level since the last year of World War II (1945). Huge increases in federal spending coupled with decreased revenues for the last six months have resulted in the unprecedented deficits. The Federal government spent $6.5 trillion dollars in 2020 (fiscal year) compared to $4.5 trillion in 2019. Revenues for 2020 was about $3.4 trillion, which was modestly lower than 2019. The economy is already in difficulty, as winter approaches, with much of the recovery now behind us, the growth is leveling off, and hence the recovery is also leveling off.
4) Stock market closings for – 16 OCT 20:
Dow 28,606.31 up 112.11
Nasdaq 11,671.56 down 42.32
S&P 500 3,483.81 up 0.47
10 Year Yield: up at 0.74%
Oil: down at $40.78

12 October 2020

1) With the recession from the Covid-19 came predictions of waves of bankruptcy filings as businesses, large and small, failed. But that wave of bankruptcy has not materialized, and so far, there’s no sign that it will, indeed bankruptcies are down a little from last year. This is a good sign that companies and households are not as stressed as many economist feared. However, bankruptcy filings aren’t a perfect measure of hardship, with many companies barely hanging on, so bankruptcies may still be coming. Many small businesses and households go bust without ever formally filing for bankruptcy.

2) The four massive high tech companies, Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook are under investigation at Federal and State levels for antitrust. These investigations are spurred by concerns that competition is being stifled by the domination of these companies, but there are concerns that the big tech is trying to also stifle conservative voices. Google is facing a relatively narrow complaint from the Justice Department that it seeks to disadvantage rivals in search and advertising. The focus on Apple is their apps store with accusations that Apple introduces new products and then put out apps that compete with them. Facebook has raised concerns over how they treat some of their app developers on its platform and therefore engaged in unlawful monopolistic practices. Amazon is suspected of conflict of interest in competition with small sellers on its marketplace platform.

3) Silicon Valley companies are thinking about the future of work taking actions from pay cuts to permanent work-from-home as they strive to cope with the coronavirus crisis. The big tech companies have formed various plans for the future of work. Some companies, (Twitter and Slack), said their employees never need to return to the office, while others, such as Microsoft, are adopting a hybrid model where employees report to the office only a few days a week. Amazon and Salesforce are adopting new benefits to help out working parents, such as subsidized back-up childcare and extended paid leave, while Facebook, employees may work from home permanently. However, if they leave the Bay Area for a less expensive city, they’ll may face a pay cut. Silicon Valley may bear little resemblance to the thriving hub before the pandemic. Tech companies have largely shut down their sprawling campuses and asked employees to work from home — in some cases, forever. When those offices reopen office life is unlikely to resemble the past. Companies may change their real estate plans, opting instead for a new type of office, or none at all.

4) Stock market closings for – 9 OCT 20:

Dow 28,586.90 up 61.39
Nasdaq 11,579.94 up 158.96
S&P 500 3,477.13 up 30.30

10 Year Yield: up at 0.78%

Oil: down at $40.52

16 October 2020

1) There are mounting fears that a surge in Covid-19 this fall and winter could kill 2,900 people a day in America. This is reminiscent of the World War I Spanish Flu pandemic in the fall of 1918 which killed 195,000 Americans in just the month of October. With colder weather, more people gather indoors increasing the risk of coronavirus spread. There are also the risk of catching the flu and Covid-19 at the same time, with makes a person more vulnerable by overwhelming the immune system. Risk of infection spreading has increased with the opening of schools. The increase risk isn’t in just America, with infections spikes in Europe. Paris is closing its bars again trying to arrest the increasing spread of the virus. The city is also banning student parties and putting limitations on outdoor gatherings.

2) The huge movie theater chain Regal Cinemas has announced it is closing all of its locations in the U.S. and U.K. There are 536 stateside Regal Cinemas and 127 Regal and Picturehouse Cinemas in the U.K., all to close down. This is a result of two factors, the first is limited seating and hence reduced revenues in theaters. A further consequence of the pandemic is the limited cinematic offerings for customers because of film release delays. The theater chain will reopen when movie studios resume regular production. The majority of its 45,000 employees will either be furloughed or forced to take unpaid leave until then. AMC, the world’s largest movie theater chain has announced that it is generating almost no revenue and has lost as much as $2.4 billion dollars in the first quarter of 2020 alone.

3) Another result of the coronavirus is the shape increase in drug costs such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine, which are up 20 to 50% of pre-virus prices. This is largely because of restriction on the U.S. – Mexico boarder, which now restricts non-essential travel across the boarder, where most of the illicit drugs is entering the country. The virus is effecting the drug prices by also interfering with the cultivation of coca and poppies in foreign lands.

4) Stock market closings for – 5 OCT 20:

Dow 28,148.64 up 465.83
Nasdaq 11,332.48 up 257.47
S&P 500 3,408.63 up 60.19

10 Year Yield: up at 0.76%

Oil: up at $39.43

10 September 2020

1) The renowned Mall of America announced plans to lay off and furlough hundreds of employees. Located in Bloomington, Minn. the shopping center will permanently lay off 211 workers across various departments at the end of the month with an additional 178 workers to remain on furlough beyond the end of September. The Mall employs about 1,000 workers. Like most other malls in America, the Mall of America has suffered severely from the pandemic and need for social distancing. The malls across America have suffered a decline in recent years as people’s shopping habits and revenues decline. The Mall of America has been delinquent on its $1.4 billion dollar mortgage for May, June and July, and in turn some of its 500 retail tenants are unable to pay rent or having skip out on lease obligations.

2) Federal report warns of the threat from climate change to the economy. The report considers there are consequences that can create chaos in the financial system and disrupt the American economy. It’s considered that climate change poses a major risk to the stability of the U.S. financial system to sustain the American economy, that jobs, income and opportunity are at stake. This is just another indication of the increasing difficulty and expense of keeping individuals in a high technology society. The report makes 53 recommendations for dealing with the climate risks.

3) With the start up of college and return to campus life, there has been a sharp increase in coronavirus cases stemming from universities. For instance, the University of Tennessee has more than 2,100 students and staff members quarantined for Covid-19. As of Monday the university has 600 active cases of Covid-19. Of the 2,100 quarantined cases, about half are on-campus students and the other half off-campus. The surge is blamed on reckless behavior by a small portion of the students, especially traditional college parties with close personal contact. Many other American universities are having similar experience such as the University of Notre Dame, and North Carolina State. Some universities have implemented curfews, restrictions on visitors and even lockdowns of fraternities and sororities.

4) Stock market closings for – 9 SEP 20:

Dow 27,940.47 up 439.58
Nasdaq 11,141.56 up 293.87
S&P 500 3,398.96 up 67.12

10 Year Yield: up at 0.70%

Oil: up at $37.78

18 August 2020

1) A good sign for the U.S. economy, the American shale oil companies plan to restore nearly all oil production by the end of the third quarter. This will return production to nearly what it was when the shut down came resulting in the oil crash. As oil prices raised to $30 to $40 per barrel range, oil production started to rise. By September, nearly all of the production is expected to be restored. There were fears that shutting down shale oil wells prematurely could hamper future production, but nearly all of the restarted wells are producing normally because of a buildup of pressure. Most companies report a smooth return of operations.

2) Pizza Hut is closing up to 300 locations as part of a deal between the pizza chain and its largest franchisee, NPC International, who is filing for bankruptcy. These will be under performing restaurants, mostly with dine in facilities. The franchisee will put its remaining 927 Pizza Hut locations up for sale. NPC also operates nearly 400 Wendy’s restaurants, but has had to file for chapter 11 protection because of its $1 billion dollar debt. In recent years, Pizza Hut has drawn away from the dine-in business and concentrated more on delivery and takeout. Final determinations has not been made as to which locations will close or when.

3) In an indication of just how quickly the virus can pop up, the Oklahoma State sorority Pi Beta Phi has had 23 members test positive for the coronavirus, resulting in the entire sorority being put in quarantine. So far, none of the girls have been hospitalized and any who are ill are experiencing minor effects from the virus. The sorority members moved into the sorority house (off campus) between August 2 and 6, with all testing negative for the Covid-19. Then on 11 August, a small group of members who reside outside the house joined the chapter for a short informal gathering at the house. Within just a few days, the members in the sorority house tested positive. There has been a major spike in the pandemic, with the number of cases surpassing the previous peak levels on 31 of May, with 78% of new cases in the Sun Belt states.

4) Stock market closings for – 17 AUG 20:

Dow 27,844.91 down 86.11
Nasdaq 11,129.72 up 110.42
S&P 500 3,381.99 up 9.14

10 Year Yield: down at 0.68%

Oil: up at $42.77

13 August 2020

1) Another national retail outlet, Stein Mart, is going the way of the brick and mortar retail system announcing they are closing all their stores in bankruptcy amid Covid-19 pandemic. Based in Jacksonville, Florida the company operates 281 stores in 30 states with 9,000 employees. Stein Mart ‘going out of business’ sale is expected to begin in August 14 or 15 with complete liquidation of inventory, with the anticipation of all stores closed by the fourth quarter of 2020. The retailer joins a long list of businesses to file for bankruptcy protection amid the coronavirus crisis.

2) With all the money being pumped into the economy by the government, there were fears of fueling inflation. Those fears were increased with the July consumer price data showing that prices are indeed on the rise. But some are saying these price increases are a result of supply and demand dynamics from the pandemic, and will fall once the supply system becomes stable with production reaching equilibrium again. It’s just a matter of time.

3) Amid suspicion of a rigged election by authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko, Germany and Lithuania is calling for renewed sanctions on Belarus. Claiming a landslide victory in his presidential election, Lukashenko has cracked down on protesters and demonstrators. The EU (European Union) has call an extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the situation, considering the election was neither free nor fair, and efforts to suppress demonstrations as unacceptable. The EU is considering reinstating sanctions. The protest have been violent with about 1,000 people arrested to add to the 5,000 already being held, and injuries to both protesters and police.

4) Stock market closings for – 12 AUG 20:

Dow 27,976.84 up 289.93
Nasdaq 11,012.24 up 229.42
S&P 500 3,380.35 up 46.66

10 Year Yield: up at 0.67%

Oil: up at $42.56 +0.01

11 August 2020

1) Online retailer giant Amazon is considering taking over closed department stores in some malls to use as warehouses in their distribution system. Amazon is in talks with Simon Property Group, America’s largest mall owner, to convert J.C. Penny and Sears stores into distribution hubs for package delivery. Simon malls have 63 J.C. Penny and 11 Sears stores available. With many traditional brick-and-mortar stores in collapse, such a deal would make sense for both Amazon and Simon. Amazon is looking for more space closer to where customers live to help with its one day delivery strategy, while Simon needs cash rich tenants to bolster their business.

2) A report that outlines the three potential future movies in the Star Trek franchise has been released. The movies for Star Trek follow-on’s have been in limbo since the 2016’s Star Trek Beyond. There are three potential projects being considered for possible production, including a Tarantino’s Star Trek movie. The first movie by Noah Hawley (Fargo and Legion creator) is centered on a pandemic story line using a brand new cast, but is now on pause. The second is a movie by Tarantino, of Pulp Fiction fame, as writer, but not necessary directing it. Something of a take on of a prior Star Trek episode, it would be largely an earthbound 1930’s gangster setting. The third is a far more traditional Star Trek with the recent stars Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. The next few weeks is expected to yield the fate of the Star Trek franchise.

3) Latest job numbers show 1.8 million new jobs created last month to give a 10.2% unemployment rate. This is another coming down of the rate, a good sign for the economy. This leaves 43% unemployed of the 22 million people who lost their jobs from the pandemic, so the economy is still a long way from a full recovery. Fears are that it will be a long time before full recovery, what with the large number of small businesses that have succumb to the Covid-19 crisis with subsequent loss of jobs. The continual struggling price of oil indicates a still weak international economy.

4) Stock market closings for – 10 AUG 20:

Dow 27,791.44 up 357.96
Nasdaq 10,968.36 down 42.63
S&P 500 3,360.47 up 9.19

10 Year Yield: up at 0.57%

Oil: up at $41.99

7 August 2020

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

10 Year Yield: down at 0.54%

Oil: down at $41.97

6 August 2020

1) Rocket Companies Inc., the parent company of Rocket Mortgage and Quicken Loans, is trying to raise $2 billion dollars with an IPO (Initial Public Offering) after an initial capital target of $3.3 billion dollars. The reduction in the number of shares offered is believed to be because of push back from investors, who considered the valuation of the company as to high. This is based on the company being more of a consumer based company rather than a technology based company. The downsizing may signal that the IPO market’s rebound is straining as the coronavirus pandemic deepens in America.

2) Entertainment giant Disney has announced that its streaming service Disney+ (pronounced Disney plus) has surpassed 60 million subscribers, which is well ahead of Disney’s target. Disney forecasted having 60 to 90 million subscribers by 2024, fueling speculation that Disney+ has won the first stage of the streaming wars. Netflix presently has 193 million paying subscribers, but with Disney+, which was just launched last November less than a year ago, it’s clear that Disney is very rapidly gaining on Netflix, and liable to be passed by Disney in the near future. More importantly, Disney should reach profitability very soon too, something hard for new streaming services to do.

3) The ‘Services PMI’ index from the Institute for Supply Management, posted its second monthly gain in July. This indicated that despite the rising number of Covid-19 cases, the services economy keeps recovering. There is a continued weakness in the international component of services with worries of how the international economy will eventually effect America’s recovery. Investors remain focused on earnings and hopes of a vaccine to push the economy upwards more. There is still the looming question of how many of the small businesses will survive the pandemic, and therefore how much of the economy will be changed by their demise.

4) Stock market closings for – 5 AUG 20:

Dow 27,201.52 up 373.05
Nasdaq 10,998.40 up 57.23
S&P 500 3,327.77 up 21.26

10 Year Yield: up at 0.54%

Oil: up at $42.20