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

22 April 2020

1) Many retailers have closed their stores because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Analysts think that over the coming years, many of these stores will remain closed for good. Analysts forecast that 100,000 stores will close by fiscal 2025, the hardest hit will be the apparel retailers accounting for 24,000 closures. Most retail categories will be impacted, with consumer electronics to see about 12,000 closures, while home furnishings and grocery retailers will each have about 11,000 closures. The most insulated retailers are those that have fared best during the pandemic, including Walmart, Target and Costco Wholesale. Home Depot and Lowe’s, plus dollar stores such as Dollar General and off-price retailers like Ross Stores and TJ Maxx are also well-positioned to survive. The once powerful department stores, which were the shopping meccas that anchored malls and main streets, are now considered in their death throes with very few expected to survive.

2) As oil futures continue to slide down, the extra oil is being stored in giant ocean supertankers as oil traders scramble to find places to keep their product. There is now 160 million barrels of oil which is being stored on tankers, a record amount. The previous record was 100 million barrels during the 2009 financial crisis. A large portion of this oil is stored in about 60 super tankers called very large crude carriers (VLCC) which can hold up to 2 million barrels each. Every conceivable place to store oil is being explored, while also the U.S. government is replenishing its strategic reserves stored in old underground oil fields.

3) The Bank of America is expecting gold prices to rise to $3,000 an ounce amid the deepening world economy, which is more than 50% above the existing price record. Much of this is driven by fears that the Federal government is just printing money for the trillions of dollars being spent to counter the stopped economy because of the coronavirus. The feeling being that the ‘feds can’t print gold’ and so it will hold its value. Historically, gold has been a ‘panic investment’, a safe heaven for hard economic times, a hedge against money dropping in value.

4) Stock market closings for – 21 APR 20:

Dow 23,018.88 down 631.56
Nasdaq 8,263.23 down 297.50
S&P 500 2,736.56 down 86.60

10 Year Yield: down at 0.57%

Oil: up at $13.12

27 December 2019

1) The Permian Basin continues to experience difficulties producing oil, becoming increasingly gassy as drilling slows down. This undercuts profits for producers at a time when investors are demanding better returns. The region has long been plagued with a massive glut of gas which crude producers must sometimes pay to have hauled away or burn in the open air. This problem is intensifying as wells age and fewer new wells are drilled.

2) Oil prices rise to a three month high because of optimism on supply. The stage is set for the biggest monthly gain in almost a year on speculation that supplies are shrinking. Prices are up almost 12% for this month and are now higher since the mid-September high. The U.S. stockpiles have dropped 7.9 million barrels this last week, while Russia cut their crude output with a reduction of 240,000 barrels a day for December. Oil has surged about 36% for this year.

3) American retailers continue to struggle while some are actually thriving. The once giant Sears has fallen into bankruptcy having closed over 3,000 stores. Other major retailers in decline are Blockbuster Video, Radioshack, Victoria’s Secret, the Gap, JCPenny, Toys R Us and Borders Books. Retailers such as TJ Maxx, Amazon, Walmart, Target, Dollar General, Costco and Ross have flourished in the peril waters of American consumerism.

4) Stock market closings for – 26 DEC 19:

Dow                28,621.39    up    105.94
Nasdaq             9,022.39    up      69.51
S&P 500            3,239.91    up      16.53

10 Year Yield:    down   at    1.90%

Oil:    up   at     $61.68

6 December 2019

1) Boeing says significant additional regulatory requirements may cause additional delays in returning Boeing’s 737 MAX to commercial service and in turn may cause the company to cut or even halt production. Boeing does not expect 737 MAX order cancellations to have an impact on revenues or earnings citing the size of 737 backorder.

2) Saudi Arabia has just completed the biggest initial public offering in history, which raised $25.6 billion dollars from sales of shares in its giant state owned oil monopoly. Three billion shares were sold at $8.53 a share. Aramco is valued at roughly $1.7 trillion dollars, making it the most valuable publicly traded company in the world. Saudi Arabia plans to wean their economy off an oil only base.

3) The Dollar General retailer chain is opening almost twenty stores a week, while thousands of other retail stores are expected to close this next year. So far, the retailer has opened 925 stores this year, with 1,000 opened by the end of 2020. Presently, they have 16,000 retail outlets, and estimate that three quarters of the U.S. residents live within five miles of a Dollar General store. Revenues continue to increase with sales rising 8.9% to nearly $7 billion dollars over the last three months compared to the same period last year.

4) Stock market closings for – 5 DEC 19:

Dow           27,677.79    up    28.01
Nasdaq        8,570.70    up      4.03
S&P 500       3,117.43    up      4.67

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.80%

Oil:    up   at    $58.33

1 November 2019

1) The international auto makers Fiat-Chrysler and Peugeot, which is owned by PSA group of France, have agreed to merge. This deal will create one of the world’s largest auto makers by volume, having a market value of $48.4 billion dollars. The focus on the Jeep sport-utility vehicles and RAM trucks account for the majority of Fiat-Chrysler’s profit, helping to offset the Fiat brand.

2) New data shows that low income people are more likely to shop at Family Dollar and Dollar General than at Walmart, the traditional retailer for the poor. Low income is considered those with household incomes below $50 thousand dollars. The data was obtained by measuring location data from 50 million mobile devices. The Dollar General chain has 16,000 stores in 44 states and the Dollar Tree has 15,115 stores in the U.S. and Canada, while Walmart has 4,700 stores.

3) Five months of protests has brought Hong Kong’s economy into a recession with a sharp contraction in the third quarter. The economy is being driven completely by social events, so traditional economic measures to reverse a recession, such as cutting interest rates, should have little effect. So far, the city hasn’t seen significant capital outflow from the unrest, something many feared when protest demonstrations started. One major factor in determining if Hong Kong will recover is how soon mainland Chinese tourist will return. There is no signs of the protest coming to an end.

4) Stock market closings for – 31 OCT 19:

Dow            27,046.23    down    140.46 
Nasdaq         8,292.36    down      11.61
S&P 500        3,037.56    down        9.21

10 Year Yield:    down   at    1.69%

Oil:    down   at    $54.16

12 July 2019

1) The production of the Volkswagen Beetle, probably the most recognized automobile in the world, is coming to an end at their Puebla, Mexico plant on Wednesday. The demand for the iconic automobile has been squashed by years of low gasoline prices and the market shift to SUVs and pickups. In its place, VW is manufacturing a version of the Chinese SUV, the Tharu, but will be a beefed up version to be called the Tarek.

2) The Consumer Price Index edged upwards while the inflation rate remains steady. The index rose 0.1% in June with low gas prices being offset by higher rents and auto cost. However, core inflation rose 0.3%, which is the largest increase in eighteen months. This persistently low inflation is justification for lowering the short term interest rates. Usually, a low jobless rate forces employers to increase pay to get workers, and in turn they must raise their prices to pay the extra labor cost.

3) Dollar General is changing its marketing strategy to attract wealthier customers by expanding into home furnishings, kitchenware and party supplies. Their strategy, which built the highly successful retailer, had been to focus on selling cheap consumables such as food, cleaning and household supplies and personal care products, which have a low margin. Dollar General will now carry products with higher margin such a pillows, candles, home decorations, gift bags and wrapping paper.

4) Stock market closings for – 11 JUL 19: Oil prices jump as approaching a storm shuts down energy operations in the Gulf. The Dow broke the 27,000 mark for the first time.

Dow            27,088.08         up   227.88
Nasdaq         8,196.04    down       6.49
S&P 500        2,999.91         up        6.84

Year Yield:    up   at    2.12%

Oil:    up   at    $60.43

23 May 2019

1) British Steel, Britain’s second biggest steel maker, collapsed on Wednesday. This leaves 5,000 jobs directly at risk, while also threatening another 20,000 at suppliers. The company had been seeking a $95 million dollar loan to cover losses suffered because of European orders lost from the uncertainty of Brexit. European steel manufactures have been under pressure from Chinese steel manufactures, with Europe taking antidumping measures against China.

2) The collapse of airline Wow Air is having a detrimental effect on Iceland’s economy. The airline had turn tourism into Iceland’s major economic boom which pulled Iceland out of its financial collapse over a decade ago. In addition, Iceland has suffered a disastrous fishing season. With Wow Air out of business, tourism is expected to drop dramatically.

3) The Dollar General store chain is making its millions of profit via catering to those in the lower economic strata. About 57% of Dollar General’s customers come from households of less than $49,000 yearly income, with 30% less than $25,000. The company has been able to sidestep the recent meltdown of retailing that has ravaged other big retailers, despite having a minimum of e-commerce.

4) 22 MAY 19 Stock market closings:

Dow             25,776.61    down    100.72
Nasdaq         7,750.84     down      34.88
S&P 500        2,856.27     down        8.09

10 Year Yield:    down   at    2.39%

Oil:     down   at    $61.32