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

4 August 2020

1) Tailored Brands, who owns Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank, has filed for bankruptcy, becoming the latest retailer to succumb to the pandemic. The Covid-19 has wiped out demand for office attire forcing the layoffs of 20% of its workforce and closing up to 500 stores. Lord & Taylor, one of the oldest department stores in America has also filed for bankruptcy. It has started liquidating 19 of its 38 stores. In the first half of 2020, more than 3,600 companies have filed for bankruptcy, with experts predicting that things are only going to get worse. Retail names such as Justice, Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant, Luck Brand, J.C. Penny, Brooks Brothers, Sur La Table, Neiman Marcus, Tuesday Morning, Tailored Brands, GNC and J. Crew have gone into bankruptcy. Such a large number of retailers in trouble can only signal a fundamental change in the American economy.

2) The airline industry in America is facing a round of layoffs in the near future without additional federal aid to save jobs. The airlines received $32 billion dollars in federal payroll support from the CARES Act, with the condition of no layoffs until 30 September, and the anticipation of air traveling increasing by then. But this hasn’t occurred, so as the end of September approaches, layoffs loom. The airline unions have been pushing for an extension in payroll support to preserve the jobs sector of the airlines. American Airlines and United Airlines warn that more than 60,000 employees risk losing heir jobs when the aid terms expire. Other airlines like Alaska, Sprint and Frontier also warn of upcoming layoffs.

3) The owner of 7-Eleven is buying Marathon Petroleum’s Speedway gas stations for $21 billion dollars in cash. This will increase the present 9,800 convenience store chains by another 4,000. Investors were unnerved by the steep price for the deal, with shares falling nearly 9%. Like many other retailers, the chain has also been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with profits down significantly. Another acquisition that finalized is T-Mobile buying Sprint, with the Sprint brand name disappearing from the American business scene.

4) Stock market closings for – 3 AUG 20:

Dow 26,664.40 up 236.08
Nasdaq 10,902.80 up 157.52
S&P 500 3,294.61 up 23.49

10 Year Yield: up at 0.56%

Oil: down at $40.76

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 July 2020

1) The parent company of Ann Taylor and Lane Bryant clothing chains, the Ascena Retail Group Inc., will close more than half its stores, a total of more than 1,000 stores. The troubled retailer was struggling like many other retailers to remain afloat, but the Covid-19 crisis tipped the scales into bankruptcy. Ascena has about 40,000 employees and there’s the expectation of cutting its 2,800 stores down to just 1,200 with significant losses of jobs. The chapter 11 will erase about $1 billion dollars in debt from its $12.5 billion dollars of liabilities, which includes $1.6 billion dollars of funded debt. Retailers have been among the hardest hit by Covid-19 lockdowns coupled with online shopping, which drained revenues and pushed so many retailers into bankruptcy.

2) Almost 16,000 restaurants have closed permanently from the Covid-19 pandemic, an indication of just how deeply the virus has affected the food industry, especially the restaurants. So far, about 60% of the restaurant closures have been permanent, with the number increasing with time. Restaurants now surpass the retail industry in the highest total business closures since the start of the pandemic. Bars and the night life industry has met the same fate, with 5,454 total business closures of which 2,429 are considered permanent closures, or 44% lost.

3) There is mounting evidence that America’s fragile economic recovery is faltering even as the pandemic seems to be leveling out. Reservations for restaurants are waning, air traffic is leveling off and foot traffic at stores is dwindling again. With rising infections in California, Texas and Florida, there is a growing sense that the recovery is fading. Small businesses have suffered the worst, having limited cash reserves and ability to obtain loans, and therefore are failing at record numbers. To compound the problem, there is weaker spending by consumers. Hopes for a real recovery depend more and more on an effective vaccine being created and available. Until there is one, there appears little hope that the economic will make any real lasting progress towards recovery.

4) Stock market closings for – 23 JUL 20:

Dow 26,652.33 down 353.51
Nasdaq 10,461.42 down 244.71
S&P 500 3,235.66 down 40.36

10 Year Yield: down at 0.58%

Oil: down at $41.21

16 July 2020

1) Delta Airlines is expecting to spend up to $3.3 billion dollars on buyouts and early retirements in an effort to slash their labor cost. So far, 17,000 employees have signed up to leave the company because there is little in sight for the pandemic’s impact to end soon. The company is prohibited from laying off workers through 30 September under the terms of the $25 billion federal aid package met to support employee payroll. Delta has roughly 91,000 employees so this is a 19% reduction in their work force. The separation packages include cash severance, extended health care benefits and free flights. Other airlines are offering similar packages in an effort to reduce their work force.

2) Heritage Brands, an anchor of outlet malls across American, is closing all of its 162 stores starting next year. PVH Corp, which owns such brand names as Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, blames the closure on a combination of changing shopping habits of people and the Covid-19 pandemic. This will result in a 12% reduction in jobs or about 450 employees, saving the company $80 million dollars annually. The company had a 43% drop in revenue because of the impact of the coronavirus.

3) There are growing fears of an environmental disaster erupting in the Red Sea on the coast of Yeman. An abandoned oil tanker with 1.1 million barrels of crude oil, is beached on the coast of Yeman, with the potential to explode or rupture causing major environmental and humanitarian damage in the area. UN officials are trying to gain access to the ship to assess the tanker’s condition, conduct any possible urgent repairs and make recommendations for extraction of the oil, but the area is controlled by Houthi rebels. The danger is from sea water entering the ship’s interior causing rust and loss of structural integrity plus the inert gas that prevents the tanks from gathering inflammable gases has leaked out, so there is the threat of an explosion. To start with, an oil spill could result in 126,000 Yemeni fishermen losing their source of income.

4) Stock market closings for – 15 JUL 20:

Dow 26,870.10 up 227.51
Nasdaq 10,550.49 up 61.92
S&P 500 3,226.56 up 29.04

10 Year Yield: up at 0.63%

Oil: up at $41.04

3 July 2020

1) The aircraft manufacturer Boeing Aircraft is discontinuing production of it’s iconic 747 jumbo jet after a fifty year run. The last 747-8 will be completed in two years. This marks the end of an era of giant airliners with Airbus also discontinuing its A380 production. The number of routes in the world which requires a jumbo jet are few, with airline companies preferring the twin engine aircraft for long range flights. The 747 made its debut in 1970, and went on to rack up 1,571 orders over its production life, a record seconded only by the wide body 777. Boeing has lost 40$ million dollars for each 747 since 2016, with production down to just 6 units a year. The last 747 for passenger service was Air Force One. With air travel curtailed by the Covid-19 crisis, air carriers don’t expect air travel to recover fully until the mid decade, so airlines are culling out aging jetliners and four engine jumbos from their fleets to limit spending.

2) With interest rates near zero, the most used tool for the Feds to stimulate a sagging economy is becoming ineffective in reversing the pandemic induced recession. Therefore, the Feds are considering using quantitative easing or large scale assets purchases. This is where the U.S. central bank buys hundreds of billions of dollars in assets, most of which are U.S. Treasury and mortgage backed securities. By taking bonds (mostly 2 and 10 year Treasuries) off the market it replaces them with cash in the system, meaning there is now more cash available for lending to consumers, businesses and municipalities.

3) The Senate is considering a bill which would punish retailers for refusing cash payments. Retailers have been pushing for electronic payments to reduce the risk of virus contamination from contact of paying cash. The objective of the bill is to prevent disenfranchise of minorities who have limited to no banking access.

4) Stock market closings for – 2 JUL 20:

Dow 25,827.36 up 92.39
Nasdaq 10,207.63 up 53.00
S&P 500 3,130.01 up 14.15

10 Year Yield: down at 0.67%

Oil: up at $40.32

1 July 2020

1) The credit worthiness of automakers has been lowered by Moody’s Investors Service, downgrading about $130 billion dollars in global automakers’ debt. Nine out of 22 global car makers have had their ratings lowered. General Motors Co. has a Baa3 rating for unsecured notes, the lowest investment grade rating and has a negative outlook. Ford Motor Co.’s senior unsecured debt is rated at Ba2, which it two notches below investment grade and also has a negative outlook. Thirteen of the automakers were not downgraded because of their better operating profiles and liquidity, but 75% have a negative outlook. World automakers were having troubles before the pandemic, but now are facing more declining auto sales and low prospects for near term improvement.

2) China has adopted a national security law that allows Beijing to override Hong Kong’s judicial system. The intent of China is to strangle and suppress political opponents in Hong Kong and subjugate the freedom of its citizens. This is another example of the re-emergence of Red China as a totalitarian state, and therefore represents a threat to surrounding nations. It strips the territory of autonomy promised under the handover agreement with Britain, with possible retaliation from America. The move by China has resulted in visa restrictions on officials from both sides, and a threat of future retaliation measures coming.

3) Fears of another virus pandemic have surface with the discovery of a new swine flu virus in Chinese pigs. The new strain, called G4 H1N1 has many of the same characteristics of H1N1 that caused the 2009 global pandemic, and can bind to, infect and replicated in tissue cells located in human airways. While not an immediate threat, the virus bears watching, but on top of the Covid-19 pandemic, the problem of controlling either outbreaks would be multiplied, especially with the now overstretched health care and hospital systems.

4) Stock market closings for – 30 JUN 20:

Dow 25,812.88 up 217.08
Nasdaq 10,058.76 up 184.61
S&P 500 3,100.29 up 47.05

10 Year Yield: up at 0.65%

Oil: up at $39.86

19 June 2020

1) Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the U.S., has been surprised by a 92% gain in its e-commerce sales. The giant has lagged behind its competitors like Walmart, Amazon and Target with e-commerce, but the coronavirus has provided the motivation for people to use the service to stay at home and do their cooking during the pandemic. The grocer has been working hard to expand into the electronic marketing area, including working with a robotics company for automated ‘stores’ to fill orders for delivery. With the pandemic changing shopping habits of Americans, now is the time for Kroger to establish its position for the future. The question now is can Kroger maintain this increased sales of e-commerce as the virus crisis subsides. Kroger had $41.55 billion dollar revenues compared with $37 million a year ago.

2) Looking back at the 100 days of the Convid-19 crisis and shutdown, we find the American economy has endured an extraordinary upheaval. Americans have endured over 2.1 million people suffering with Covid-19 which resulted in 117,000 deaths. The closing of non essential businesses sent the economy crashing into a deep recession, with record numbers of layoffs and a skyrocketing unemployment rate. This in turn made for record drops in household spending and manufacturing. Businesses such as automobile manufacturing, the airlines and hotels came to a near complete standstill. Small businesses such as restaurants were stopped dead in their tracks with fears than a large portion would not survive. The feds cut the interest rates to near zero, while pumping in trillions of dollars to stabilize the economy and support businesses until recovery starts.

3) Unemployment claims for last week were 1.5 million more people, up from the expected 1.3 million. This is the thirteenth straight week that claims were above one million. The elevated claims continue even as the country starts to open up and resume business. The real question is how many of those jobs will return and how many will be replaced by technology. Times of economic stress is when automation makes significant inroads as companies look for ways to cut cost to survive.

4) Stock market closings for – 18 JUN 20:

Dow 26,080.10 down 39.51
Nasdaq 9,943.05 up 32.52
S&P 500 3,115.34 up 1.85

10 Year Yield: down at 0.69%

Oil: up at $38.84