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

22 June 2020

1) Oil has passed$40 a barrel, continuing a slow but steady recovery. This could be signaling a reawakening of the U.S. shale oil production. This rally allows the oil industry some breathing room with its high debt burden as the shale oil industry seeks to rebuild after the worst price collapse in a generation. This is far different than earlier this year when oil producers were paying to have their oil taken away. OPEC+ continues efforts to re-balance the global oil market, now abundantly clear that everyone loses in a price war.

2) More encouraging economic news with Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler returning to pre-coronavirus pandemic production schedules in their American plants. Ford plans to fully return to production levels by July 6 while also ramping up their production facilities in Mexico. Although not given any firm dates, Fiat Chrysler is also returning to former production levels as rapidly as possible.

3) Experts are predicting the restaurant business, as we know it, is coming to an end because of the Convid-19 crisis. The industry generates $900 billion dollars a year, employs 15 million people, which is 15 times more than the airline business, which many are so concerned about now. Estimates vary widely of 20 to 80% of the privately own restaurants succumbing to the pandemic. The big franchise restaurant chains are expected to mostly survive and continue, but the independents are expected to fade out. One factor is change, which is coming too fast for small operations to adapt and keep pace with. The general consensus is that the business was in trouble long before the pandemic, struggling with poor working conditions, very thin profit margins, low wages and increasing competition. But it’s not just the restaurants themselves, for behind them is farming, distribution, suppliers and commercial real estate. It’s apparent that the demise of a significant number of independent restaurants will spell a significant change to the American business environment.

4) Stock market closings for – 19 JUN 20:

Dow 25,871.46 down 208.64
Nasdaq 9,946.12 up 3.07
S&P 500 3,097.74 down 17.60

10 Year Yield: unchanged 0.70%

Oil: up at $39.43

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

1 June 2020

1) For the last few years, a number of retailers have been downsizing by closing a number of their stores across the country, something that the coronavirus pandemic has greatly accelerated. But the restaurant chains have also been downsizing as well, closing branches all across the county. Such popular names as Jack in the Box, Luby’s, Pizza Hut, Ruby Tuesday, Steak’nShake , Subway, Burger King, TGI Fridays and Applebee’s just to name a few, who are closing restaurants across the country. Each have been struggling for the last several years. This is another sign that the American consumer market is in the process of fundamentally changing.

2) The U.S. consumer spending plunged in April by the most on record because of the nation wide lock down. Spending fell 13.6% from the prior month, making for the sharpest drop in six decades. A rise in income temporarily masks the fact that people are in a fragile economic position, because the rise was a result of the one time stimulus checks. The virus crisis halted all but the most essential purchases, with economists expecting it will take a year or more before spending recovers.

3) It’s anticipated that the national debt will increase to more than 100% of the national GDP (Gross Domestic Product) by the end of the year. This will exceed the record set after World War II. The $25 trillion dollar national debt equates to $76,665 dollars per citizen or $203,712 dollars per taxpayer. The federal deficit is over $1.9 trillion dollars through April, and is expected to rise to $3.7 trillion dollars by the end of September, which is the end of the fiscal year. Such debt could draw investors to demand higher interest rates, as the federal government’s position becomes increasingly precarious. This is like an individual piling on credit card debt without consideration for the short or long term consequences to their financial position. For America, those consequences could be deep depression coupled with inflation of the dollar leaving money far less valuable than today.

4) Stock market closings for – 29 MAY 20:

Dow 25,383.11 down 17.53
Nasdaq 9,489.87 up 120.88
S&P 500 3,044.31 up 14.58

10 Year Yield: down at 0.65%

Oil: up at $35.32

18 May 2020

1) The federal government has warned that the financial sector faces significant vulnerabilities because of the coronavirus pandemic. Both businesses and households are struggling with fragile finances and will be for the foreseeable future. So far, the banking system has withstood the initial downturn, but there are significant risk if the virus crisis proves to be lengthy and/or more sever than hoped for. The financial stress will continue to build if the crisis persists from households and businesses being deprived of wages and revenues. No sectors would be immune from the risk they face from default on debt, being forced to sell off assets, bankruptcy or having value of assets dwindled. Forceful early interventions have been effective in resolving liquidity stresses. There are fears that what might start out as a cash crunch could spiral into something worse, that few if any parts of the economy are safe.

2) The retail industry has been devastated by the coronavirus crisis with April sales diving down 16.4% (Manufacturing is also down by 13.7%) with major retailers such as J.C. Penny, J Crew and Neiman Marcus filing for bankruptcy recently. However, discount retail chains such as Dollar General and Aldi seem to be thriving as consumers cut back on discretionary spending while continuing to spend on food and household essentials. The Dollar style stores are gaining because of their low prices and close proximity to customers, with people buying things they have run out of between their larger routine shopping trips. In recent years, the Dollar style stores have significantly increased their number of stores thereby enabling them to capture more retail sales from the traditional retailers.

3) Some are predicting that the pandemic has permanently changed the auto industry, with some automakers made stronger while others are left too weak to survive. The pressure from the electric automobiles will become stronger with fewer conventional automakers able to make the transition. There are fears that people have discovered they need to travel much less, that they can get a surprisingly amount done from home. This translates into lower demand for automobiles. Demand for new cars was expected to be low before the pandemic, now things are expected to get very brutal for survival of some automakers.

4) Stock market closings for – 15 MAY 20:

Dow 23,685.42 up 60.08
Nasdaq 9,014.56 up 70.84
S&P 500 2,863.70 up 11.20

10 Year Yield: up at 0.64%

Oil: up at $29.78

14 May 2020

1) Jerome Powell, the Federal reserve Chairman, has warned of a possible prolonged recession caused by the economic damaged from the coronavirus crisis. Widespread bankruptcies among small businesses and extended unemployment for many people remain a serious problem for the economy. Furthermore, he considers the proposed $3 trillion dollar aid package to be worthwhile if it averts long term economic damage thereby giving a strong recovery. Almost $3 trillion dollars has already been spent on economic assistance, with the interest rate cut down to near zero. Cutting the interest rate has been the traditional tool used to counter recessions and economic slow downs, but with interest rates almost zero, the feds no longer have this tool. Nothing is being said about the massive increase to the already very large federal debt, nor the impact on the long term economy if it fails to return to healthy growth to pay off that debt. Otherwise, it could become a boat anchor around America’s neck making swimming in the ‘economic lake’ very difficult, or maybe impossible later on. The markets responded to Powell’s remarks with a down turn.

2) Unemployment continues to subside with initial reports of another 2.5 million lost jobs compared to 3.2 million for the previous week. This brings the total unemployed for the past eight weeks to a staggering 36 million people without work. Percent wise, the unemployed numbers are worst than the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Economist anticipate a further, although smaller increase in unemployed people for the next few weeks before the curve bottoms out and employment starts increasing as businesses opens up to resume operations.

3) Automakers are preparing to restart manufacturing with plants in Mexico, which are due to open as soon as Monday. U.S. assembly plants rely heavily on Mexican auto plants for parts and subassemblies used in building cars, and there were fears of U.S. manufacturing being hindered by part shortages. Approximately 39% of auto parts for car manufacturing comes from Mexico.

4) Stock market closings for – 13 MAY 20:

Dow 23,247.97 down 516.81
Nasdaq 8,863.17 down 139.38
S&P 500 2,820.00 down 50.12

10 Year Yield: down at 0.65%

Oil: up at $26.23

8 May 2020

1) The shutdown orders are being lifted in many states, which also includes the shopping malls, but those malls remain eerily quite, almost void of humans, where once mobs crowded and surged in the hallways. People are electing to do a minimum of shopping or to shop online instead. The change is in part from fears of the virus and in part because of the high unemployment and fears of the economy floundering. There are questions of how much the American shopping ethos will return, or if consumerism is experiencing a fundamental change. The big department stores and big box stores were already suffering from changes in shopping habits and the virus may have accelerated that trend, plus many malls across America had already closed up before the pandemic. With consumerism accounting for half the economy, the future of shopping is a serious question.

2) A second major retailer has filed for bankruptcy during the coronavirus crisis. The 113 year old chain Neiman Marcus Group, which has been struggling with a $5 billion dollar debt much of it from leveraged buyouts in 2005 and 2013. With having to close 43 of its stores and laying off most of its 14,000 worker, the pandemic forced reduction of revenues that made the debt unsustainable. And that’s what broke their financial back. More than 263,000 stores in America have had to closeup leaving them with little to no revenues while their monthly fix cost remained unchanged, so questions abound of how many others will follow in the next few months, particularly if jobs don’t quickly return. On the positive note, restaurants doing takeout service, like Papa John’s Pizza, have done quite well.

3) The number of jobless Americans reached 33 million with the addition of another 3.2 million filings for unemployment benefits. This is over a seven week period, while previously 200,000 a week had once been the norm. There just doesn’t seem to be any letup in unemployment in sight from the virus crisis, with deepening fears a recession could be a long affair. On a positive note, this is the fifth week where the jobless claims have fallen, but still there are worries that the total number may go over 40 million before returning back to normal.

4) Stock market closings for – 7 MAY 20:

Dow 23,875.89 up 211.25
Nasdaq 8,979.66 up 125.27
S&P 500 2,881.19 up 32.77

10 Year Yield: down at 0.63%

Oil: down at $23.81

5 May 2020

1) Apparel retailer J. Crew is filing for bankruptcy, with other struggling retailers expected to succumb this year too, big retailer names like Sears and J.C. Penny. J Crew is considered to be the first retail casualty of the pandemic with others expected to quickly follow. The pandemic has caused numerous stores to be closed, laying off hundreds of thousands of employees and losing most of their sales. The big retail stores were struggling before the virus hit, with people backing away from consumerism and now after the coronavirus shutdown, people are spending little other than for groceries and daily essentials. With further declining retail revenues, more stores will close with more layoffs. Furthermore, Americans’ appetite and ability to shop continues to decline, so it looks very dismal for a major segment of the American economy, which in turn will be a burden on other segments of the economy continually pulling the rest down.

2) The service sector of the economy is also experiencing troubles in what appears to be an emerging new economy for America. Gold’s Gym International is seeking bankruptcy protection as it struggles with debt after the prolong shutdown from the virus. With the shrinking of people’s disposable income, that is the money they have left after essential spending like food, housing and transportation, the non essential businesses of the service economy are finding it harder to survive.

3) General Electric is eliminating as many as 13,000 jobs in its jet engine business, another casualty of the coronavirus devastation to the aviation segment of the economy. With airline manufactures, such as Boeing building fewer airliners, there is less demand for new jet engines. This means a 25% reduction on GE’s aviation work force with little near future likelihood of those jobs returning, indeed if the recession deepens, more jobs may be lost. Like Boeing, GE aviation was having troubles before the virus hit.

4) Stock market closings for – 4 MAY 20:

Dow 23,749.76 up 26.07
Nasdaq 8,710.72 up 105.77
S&P 500 2,842.74 up 12.03

10 Year Yield: down at 0.64%

Oil: up at $21.33

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