16 March 2020

1) Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft is stepping down from the company’s board of directors, which makes it the biggest boardroom departure in the tech industry, since the death of Apple’s Steve Jobs. Additionally, Mr. Gates is vacating his board seat at Berkshire Hathaway Inc., intending to devote his time to his philanthropic efforts. He will continue serving as a technical advisor to Microsoft.

2) Oil prices climbed up 5% on the announcement by President Trump that the Department of Energy would purchase crude for the nations’ strategic petroleum reserve. The objective is to boost oil prices to keep shale producers in business, because oil needs to be $40 or more a barrel to break even, depending on the particulars of an oil field. The shale oil companies are further in trouble because they are carrying a high debt level. Shale oil production is very capital intensive and therefore very sensitive to oil prices if companies aren’t to go bankrupt. Some suggest that the Russians engineered the rupture of the Saudi Arabia – Russian agreement to limit production levels as a means to cripple the U.S. shale oil production and thereby make America dependent on foreign oil again.

3) President Trump and the Congress have agreed on several provisions of a package, but have been far apart on others. Their discussions center on ways to minimize the economic impact of the coronavirus fears. One point is to ensure that every American can receive a virus test without consideration of money.

4) Stock market closings for – 13 MAR 20:

Dow 23,185.62 up 1985.00
Nasdaq 7,874.88 up 673.07
S&P 500 2,711.02 up 230.38
10 Year Yield: up at 0.95%
Oil: up at $32.93

11 March 2020

1) Fully 70% of the American economy is consumer spending. Even through wages and incomes have been stagnant for many households, the consumer has continued to spend. It is not new investment by corporations, tax cuts or big new federal spending programs that stimulate the economy, but rather it’s consumer spending. However, fears of the coronavirus is dampening that spending by curtailing business trips, personal travel, sports and other outings. With the interest rate near zero, the major tool used to combat a recession is now impotent.

2) The collapse of the long standing deal between Saudi Arabia and Russia, to limit oil production, fell through this weekend sending oil prices crashing from oil supplies surplus. The coronavirus has caused China to limit economic activity and therefore reduced China’s oil consumption leading to further oil surpluses. China’s purchase of oil is down 20%. The low oil prices has made the world economy very unstable and therefore volatile. For America, independent oil companies have gone deeply into debt to pay for the shale oil extraction process, who are now threaten by low oil prices making it impossible to pay that debt. Failure of these oil companies could ripple through the American economy to pull other segments down.

3) Airlines across the world continue to sink deeper into crisis from the worsening coronavirus epidemic reducing the number of passengers, who are foregoing travel fearing the virus. The situation is made worst by not being able to predict how long the crisis will likely last and therefore unable to make accommodating plans. The lockdown of Italy has further aggravated world air travel, especially with the interruption of tourism just as the tourist season would be ramping up.

4) Stock market closings for – 10 MAR 20

Dow 25,018.16 up 1,167.14
Nasdaq 8,344.25 up 393.577

S&P 500 2,882.23 up 135.67

10 Year Yield: up at 0.748%

Oil: up at $34.62

9 March 2020

1) The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) will vote later this month on rules requiring all providers of phone service to implement automatic call blocking. This automatic technology will block illegal robocalls, that is, the automatic calling of people with a prerecorded message or to connect the person to a salesman. This will give phone and cable companies until June 20, 2021 to implement. This blocking technology is called STIR/SHAKEN protocol that authenticates the origin of a call and can automatically block it if it’s from an illegal robocaller.

2) The U.S. credit markets of bonds are suffering their worst day in a decade as fears increase over the spreading coronavirus and it’s possible effects on corporate income as well as their ability to repay debt. Bonds of American Airlines Group Inc. dropped to near distressed levels as companies worldwide canceled business travel. Other travel related bonds, such as rental car and cruise line companies, as well as energy companies, their bonds and loans fell further towards distressed levels. The selling off of bonds triggered a surge in derivative indexes that investors use to hedge against losses. The week has seen the most cash in at least ten years being withdrawn from funds buying corporate bonds and loans.

3) There are fears that the unraveling of the Saudi-Russia alliance will cause the biggest plunge of oil prices since 2015. Talks between members of the OPEC+ collapsed in Vienna, with members free to pump oil without any restrictions starting next month. The collapses is a result of Russia’s refusal to accept Saudi Arabia’s proposal for output cuts aimed at offsetting the coronavirus crisis’s impact on demand. Oil futures have plunged about 9% in New York and London.

4) Stock market closings for – 6 MAR 20:

Dow 25,864.78 down 256.50
Nasdaq 8,575.62 down 162.98
S&P 500 2,972.37 down 51.57

10 Year Yield: down at 0.71%

Oil: down at $41.57

27 January 2020

1) Bayer AG is facing a fourth jury trial over its Roundup weed killer causing cancer. Plaintiff’s claim glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is a carcinogen. In the three previous trials, Bayer was found liable for causing cancer resulting in damages of tens of millions of dollars, which are being appealed. The number of claimants are more than 75,000 although so far less than 50,000 claims have been formally filed.

2) Banks are raising the limit on people’s credit cards, even when they don’t ask for the raise. This is at a time when Americans are drowning in debt, in a effort to further boost their profits. For years Capital One financial Corp. resisted increasing limits of customers who looked vulnerable to getting over their heads in debt, but now have reversed their policy actively seeking more debt from customers.

3) A second coronavirus case has been confirmed in the U.S., a Chicago resident who had traveled to Wuhan in December. Wuhan is the center of virus outbreak in China, having already killed a couple of dozen or more people. China is now shutting down several very large cities in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease. Fears over the economic damage to the American economy has cause a sharp drop in the U.S. markets from news of a second coronavirus case. Presently, the U.S. government is monitoring passengers flying in from China for early signs of the illness hoping to quarantine the sick and prevent spreading of the virus.

4) Stock market closings for – 24 JAN 20:

Dow               28,989.73    down    170.36
Nasdaq            9,314.91    down      87.57
S&P 500           3,295.47    down       30.07

10 Year Yield:    down   at    1.68%

Oil:    down   at    $54.20

22 November 2019

1) After HP rejected Xerox’s offer of $22 per share, Xerox is now threatening to go hostile with its $33.5 billion dollar buyout if HP does not agree to a friendly discussion before November the 25 th. Goldman Sachs & Co. set a $14 target price , the median price target on HP stock by 15 analysts is $20. HP had rejected Xerox first offer considering the combined companies would be saddled with outsized debt, and therefore not in the best interest of the shareholders.

2) The world economy is predicted to expand just 2.9% next year. The global economy is stuck in a rut which it wont exit unless governments revolutionize policies and how they invest, rather than just hope for a cyclical upswing. The biggest concern is that the deterioration of the outlook continues unabated, reflecting unaddressed structural changes. The risk of further escalation of world tensions is a serious concern.

3) General Motors and Fiat Chrysler are embroiled in a law suit with GM alleging that fiat Chrysler got an unfair business advantage by bribing officials of the United Auto Workers union. The suit alleges racketeering by paying millions in bribes to get concessions and gain advantages in three labor agreements with the UAW union. Details of the racketeering have been exposed in a federal probe of corruption in the union which resulted in multiple arrests starting in 2017.

4) Stock market closings for – 21 NOV 19:

Dow             27,766.29    down    54.80
Nasdaq          8,506.21    down    20.52
S&P 500         3,103.54    down      4.92

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.77%

Oil:    unchanged   at    $57.09

19 November 2019

1) The bond trading has gone from zero to $88 billion dollars in two years because of technology enabled portfolio trading that brings the same speed to the bond market as for stock traders. Bond trading used to take hours of pen and paper work, but now the same thing only requires seconds to do electronically. Most trades are between $100 million and $200 million dollars. The rate of change in the bond market these last few years has been stunning.

2) The struggling company WeWorks announced it plans to lay off at least 4,000 people, roughly one third of its 12,500 work force, a part of its five year plan for recovery from near bankruptcy. But some analyst WeWorks financial troubles come form its failed IPO (Initial Public Offering) in September which left the company with massive losses of $1.25 billion dollars.

3) The board of directors for HP has unanimously rejected the take over bid from Xerox, which they considers significantly undervalues HP and therefore isn’t in the best interest of its shareholders. The board also had concerns about the impact of outsize debt which could devalue the merged company. News has sent stocks for both companies down. HP does recognize the potential benefits of consolidation and therefore remains open to exploring future mergers. Both companies are in the process of cost cutting programs with HP laying off up to 9,000 workers.

4) Stock market closings for – 18 NOV 19:

Dow                 28,036.22    up    31.33 
Nasdaq              8,549.94    up       9.11
S&P 500             3,122.03    up       1.57

10 Year Yield:    down   at    1.81%

Oil:    down   at    $56.94

7 November 2019

1) The Oklahoma energy company Chesapeake Energy, who helped pioneer America’s shale natural gas revolution, is now warning that it may not survive the era of cheap gas it helped usher in. In a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company stated that if depressed prices persist, there is substantial doubt if it can survive. Fracking made it a natural gas powerhouse, at one time the number two natural gas producer, but now it is drowning in $10 billion dollar debt.

2) The U.S. productive has fallen for the first time since 2015. American productivity fell 0.3% in the third quarter, after two quarters of healthy gains, while productivity had increased 1.4% in the past year, about two-thirds of its long run average. Additionally, the low unemployment rate is driving up labor costs by forcing companies to pay more for workers, a trend that could eventually raise inflation. Labor cost rose at 3.6% in the third quarter, up 3.1% for the past year.

3) SoftBank Group Corp. reported an enormous loss from investments in the two money losing startups WeWork and Uber Technologies Inc. SoftBank reported a loss of $6.5 billion dollars after writedowns in WeWork and other investments, the first such loss in 14 years. The massive losses were incurred when WeWork’s IPO failed leaving the startup company cash starved so SoftBank had to extend a $9.5 billion dollar rescue package and take an 80% stake in the company.

4) Stock market closings for – 6 NOV 19:

Dow           27,492.56         up       0.07
Nasdaq        8,410.63    down    24.05
S&P 500       3,076.78          up      2.16

10 Year Yield:    down   at    1.81%

Oil:    down   at    $56.39

8 October 2019

1) GE (General Electric) announced they will freeze pensions for about 20,000 salaried U.S. employees in order to help the ailing conglomerate cut debt and reduce its retirement fund by $8 billion dollars. Presently, the company has $105.8 billion dollar debt. Their pension plans are among it biggest liabilities and is underfunded by about $27 billion dollars. This move will not effect present retirees who are collecting their pensions.

2) Twenty-one days into the strike, the UAW (United Auto Workers) and GM (General Motors) contract talks have taken a turn for the worse. The snag is product commitments for U.S. factories for new vehicles, engines, transmissions and other items represented by the union. GM is losing $80 million dollars a day, while striking workers are earning about one fifth their regular pay as $260 a month strike benefits.

3) The U.S. railroads slump is getting worse from the slowdown as manufacturing threatens U.S. economy. Trucking is also feeling a slowdown with less than truckload cargos decreasing, although long haul trucking seems to be holding up. Truck rates have dropped, which is pulling some freight business away from trains.

4) Stock market closings for – 7 OCT 19:

Dow                26,478.02    down    95.70
Nasdaq             7,956.29    down    26.18
S&P 500            2,938.79    down     13.22

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.55%

Oil:    down   at    $52.80

24 September 2019

1) Saudi Arabia has restored 75% of its crude oil output and will have restored full production by next week. The September 14 attacks had reduced crude production to half, but promises that production will be fully restored by the end of September. The Saudis have managed to avoid a world wide oil crisis by drawing upon their stockpiles to continue supplying their customers at near pre-attack levels of crude.

2) The retailer giant Amazon plans to purchase 100,000 electric delivery vans from the company Rivian as part of its carbon neutral plan. Furthermore, Amazon announced plans to up its present 40% renewable energy to 100% by 2030. Rivian will design a custom electric delivery van for Amazon to be delivered between 2021 and 2024, who also has an agreement with Ford to develop an electric F-150 pickup truck. Amazon is also working to halt its support of the fossil fuel industry, stopping donations to climate denying politicians and think tanks, and stopping the oppression of climate refugees.

3) The British travel firm Thomas Cook has collapsed with bankruptcy, leaving about 600,000 customers stranded. The 178 year old group, which is debt plagued and struggling against fierce online competition for some time, is blaming Brexit uncertainty for the recent drop in bookings, and thus its inability to secure $250 million dollar loan to prevent collapse. This also leaves 22,000 staff members unemployed, with the British government chartering airlines to fly stranded passengers home.

4) Stock market closings for – 23 SEP 19:

Dow             26,949.99         up   14.92
Nasdaq          8,112.46    down     5.21
S&P 500         2,991.78    down     0.29

10 Year Yield:    down   at    1.71%

Oil:    $58.49

22 July 2019

1) The woes of traditional American big box retailers continues with J.C. Penney seeking strategies to keep their money losing company afloat. The company is in talks with specialist on reorganizing their trouble companies debt. Dressbarn, another retailer has announced the closing of all its retail stores starting this August with the closing of 53 stores.

2) The American retiree population is running out of money too soon. Three fifths of retirees do not have any traditional pension plan. The much vaunted 401K plan for replacing retirement plans, which became popular in the last quarter of the twentieth century, is failing to provide the needed retirement income despite the soaring stock market of the last ten years. This will leave America’s young people with a massive burden who themselves are facing financial challenges with shrinking job markets and displacement by technology.

3) The renowned airline manufacture Boeing announced they are taking a $4.9 billion dollar charge in the second quarter which will wipe out all of it’s profits for that quarter. This charge is compensation to airline companies for having their aircraft grounded, resulting in loss of business and revenues. Furthermore, Boeing has cut production of their best selling product as deliveries are backed up pending acceptance of their software fix by the government.

4) Stock market closings for – 19 JUL 19:

Dow                 27,154.20    down    68.77
Nasdaq             8,146.49    down    60.75
S&P 500            2,976.61    down    18.50

10 Year Yield:    up   at    2.05%

Oil:    up   at    $55.74