23 September 2020

1) After Amazon’s Prime Day was postponed by the virus in July, it was tentatively reset for the fourth quarter. Amazon didn’t want their Prime Day to overlap with Black Friday, which set an upper limit to the date, so now the company is planning for the 13th and 14th of October. Prime Day is a very big retail day for Amazon, with their 2019 Prime Day grossing about $6 billion dollars in sales.

2) Another round of stimulus still remains on the burner and with the fall elections now closing in, both sides are saying they want a new stimulus bill with a second direct payment to the people. But the bill remains in limbo with no agreement on the details of the bill. The question on everyone’s minds is the direct payment checks to the people and how much they will be. No settlement on that question, but the rumors are this one will be based on each person’s income instead of the single lump sum of last time, with an upper limit of $1,200 per individuals. Only time will tell how much, or even if there is a personal payment, because if not passed before the elections, the possibility of passing will rapidly decrease.

3) The coronavirus has been a big stimulus for e-commerce from the stay at home shopping it stimulated, but surprisingly the home shopping boom has also been a boom for the shipping industry. Those huge ocean going ships stacked high with intermodal containers, their transpacific sea freight shipping rates have been sent to the highest on record, helping the container shipping industry in Asia. Household appliances imports have jumped 51% in August from last year, climbing for a third consecutive month. Shipments of computers, notebooks and other associated electronic gadgets has soared 169%. This increase consumer demand has shipping rates almost triple from this year’s low in March, when the pandemic led to border closures and a near halt in economic activity. With much of the world’s people housebound, the demand for electronic goods and do-it-yourself items has skyrocketed. There is also the coming Christmas holidays and therefore the stocking up in anticipation of sales.

4) Stock market closings for – 22 SEP 20:

Dow 27,288.18 up 140.48
Nasdaq 10,963.64 up 184.84
S&P 500 3,315.57 up 34.51

10 Year Yield: down at 0.66%

Oil: down at $39.55

27 August 2020

1) Large hurricanes bring economic damage on a large scale when they make landfall. This season’s biggie is Hurricane Laura now expected to make landfall as a category 4 storm this Wednesday evening or early Thursday morning. The National Hurricane Center rates the storm as having an “un-survivable storm surge” with large and destructive waves causing catastrophic damage along the coast of eastern Texas to the eastern part of Louisiana. The surge could penetrate up to 30 miles inland from the coast. Add to this, the catastrophic wind damage, and Laura promises to carry a large price tag economically as the storm continues first up into Arkansas then across the United States for the Atlantic with rains and flooding. This year is forecast to be a very active hurricane season so more economic damage may be in the play book.

2) Walmart is suspending its InHome delivery service, which offered the convenience of having people’s groceries delivered and unpacked by the delivery person in the customer’s kitchens. But because of the Convid-19 crisis and the need for contactless service, Walmart is discontinuing the service in favor of its Doorstep Delivery service, where groceries are delivered to consumers but now is left on the door step. With its other two delivery service, Walmart is becoming a strong contender in the e-commerce business.

3) Two long established regional grocery chains have filed for bankruptcy, another sign of the shifting of retail business in America, as traditional retailers fail to adapt to the new economic world. Balducci’s and Kings Food Markets of the north eastern coast were having financial struggles before the pandemic set in, but even thought both had a boost in sales from the pandemic, it wasn’t enough to save them. All stores will remain open as their holding company seeks a buyer. The two grocery chains date back to the first half of the twentieth century and they prospered through the decades before e-commerce.

4) Stock market closings for – 26 AUG 20:

Dow 28,331.92 up 83.48
Nasdaq 11,665.06 up 198.59
S&P 500 3,478.73 up 35.11

10 Year Yield: unchanged at 0.69

Oil: unchanged at $43.43

25 August 2020

1) With the two storms in the Gulf of Mexico, off shore oil production rigs have been forced to suspend operations and evacuate their crews until the bad weather passes. This curtailment in oil production has caused oil futures to rise as much as 1.3%. The shutdown has closed 58% of crude oil output, or more than 1 million barrels a day. Additionally, oil refineries along the Gulf coast have shut down their operations until the oil returns. But still, the storms are anticipated to have little real damage to onshore and offshore oil production facilities, and so a quick recovery in the markets is anticipated.

2) About one third of companies are anticipating having half or more of their employees work remotely after the Convid-19 crisis ends. While previously, 1 in 30 companies had anticipated continuing work at home after the crisis passed, surveys now show it’s 1 in 3. The pandemic has forced companies across the world to rethink how they do business, with 72% saying they offer flexibility around hours and work scheduling. While 49% have implemented flexible policies on how work is done and what technology is used.

3) The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to e-commerce by five years. In many ways, the pandemic has reshaped our world, with our shopping habits being one of the prime ways. The fears of contracting the virus is forcing more people to shop online in the safety of their homes instead of going out into crowds of people to the traditional brick and mortar stores. This is causing the department stores to accelerate their decline. Sales of stores have declined by 25% in the first quarter of 2020, which grew to a 75% decline in the second quarter. Department stores are expected to decline by over 60% for the full year, while e-commerce is expected to grow by nearly 20%.

4) Stock market closings for – 24 AUG 20:

Dow 28,308.46 up 378.13
Nasdaq 11,379.72 up 67.92
S&P 500 3,431.28 up 34.12

10 Year Yield: up at 0.65%

Oil: down at$42.39

19 August 2020

1) Walmart retailer giant has had its second quarter e-commerce sales jump by 97% with customers having packages shipped to their homes and using curbside pick-up. This adds optimism to Walmart’s upcoming Walmart+ (pronounced Walmart plus) membership, a subscription based service to rival Amazon Prime designed to drive up sales and loyalty. Exceptions are for Walmart+ to continue pushing up e-commerce sales over and above the big jump for the second quarter, signaling again a major profound shift in American retail segment of the economy. The new service will deliver merchandise in one day, if not just a few hours.

2) FexEx is joining other package delivery services to add extra holiday fees for deliveries, from 2 November to 17 January. These surcharges on regular shipments to homes will be between $1 and $5. It’s been since 2016 when FedEx last applied surcharges during peak volume times, and follows UPS and the US postal service using surcharges for the peak package delivery times. With the massive increase in home delivery of merchandise, because of the pandemic, its expected that the holiday surge will set new records in package volume. This in turn will place a large strain on the company and therefore additional cost to overcome the strain. The amount of the fee will depend on the surge over normal volume. Both UPS and FedEx introduced surcharges earlier this summer, in part to make up for the extra cost to keep workers safe during the pandemic.

3) The USPS (United States Postal Service) chief Louis DeJoy announced he is suspending some changes in the post office until after the 2020 election. Dejoy is avoiding any appearance of any impacting on election mail. The suspension includes some longstanding operational initiatives that were in place before he took office. There are fears that cost cutting measures could impact the November election with widespread mail delays.

4) Stock market closings for – 18 AUG 20:

Dow 27,778.07 down 66.84
Nasdaq 11,210.84 up 81.12
S&P 500 3,389.78 up 7.79

10 Year Yield: down at 0.67%

Oil: down at $42.55

7 July 2020

1) Research by the Wall Street firm UBS, predicts that as many as 100,000 brick and mortar retail stores in the U.S. will close by 2025. Because of the pandemic, retailers are closing store locations permanently at an un-precedent rate. But this closure was going on before the coronavirus shutdown, with shoppers embracing other ways to buy such as e-commerce and picking up products at stores purchased online. This is in addition to large traditional retailers going into bankruptcy. This prediction is in keeping with the 9,800 stores already closed this year, with 25,000 stores predicted to close by the end of 2020. The retail sector has already lost 1.2 million jobs between March and June. This opens questions if the present hyper-consumerism economy can continue.

2) With the continued threat of the pandemic and a slowdown of reopening of economies in states, evictions are likely to skyrocket as jobs remain scarce. This is because a backlog of eviction cases is beginning to move through the court system. Millions of people had been counting on federal aid and eviction moratoriums to remain in their homes, but now fear of being thrown out is mounting. This situation is further aggravated as the enhanced unemployment benefits run out at the end of July. The enhanced unemployment and $1,200 stimulus payment had been supporting households this spring. There are 110 million people living in rental households with 20% at risk of eviction by the end of September.

3) The food delivery service Uber has acquired rival Postmates, despite Uber not having become a profitable enterprise yet. This should make Uber a stronger competitor to its main rival Doordash. The food delivery sector is undergoing a major consolidation this year, people jumping from service to service to find the best deal. With this acquisition, Uber gets a bigger share of the market with 31% of the business with DoorDash the largest at 44%.

4) Stock market closings for – 6 JUL 20:

Dow 26,287.03 up
Nasdaq 10,433.65 up
S&P 500 3,179.72 up

10 Year Yield: 0.68%

Oil: up at $40.59

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

20 April 2020

1) The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent ‘sheltering in place’ is changing the American supermarkets. Online shopping of groceries had been somewhat of an awkward luxury service, that was growing ever so slowly, despite efforts of retailers to promote the new service. But the lockdown, stay at home orders have catapulted the service forward by up to a fifty times (not percent) increase in usage. Stores have been left struggling to meet the demand with many unable to keep up with that demand. When the pandemic ends, it will have forever changed the supermarket for many Americans, for once customers have used and got use to the service, then they will most likely continue using online grocery shopping, at least in part. But online shopping eliminates one of the big mainstays of modern supermarkets, the psychology of shopping with the browsing and impulse buying. The counter to this is automation which reduces the staff and labor cost of traditional retail stores, just as Amazon has done with dry goods.

2) The Chinese maker of driverless cars, Pony.ai, has launched a delivery service in Irvine California using its robot cars to deliver to people stuck at home from the virus. Teaming up with the e-commerce site Yamibuy, orders from Yamibuy get delivered to the customers homes. Each car can deliver between 500 to 700 packages a day. A year ago the company launched a robo-taxi service in Irvine, but with the ‘shelter in place’ order, their taxis were repurposed for deliveries.

3) Everyone is baffled over how the stock market continues to hold, even climbing, with what is happening today. For example-
a) Unemployment is now at 22 million and still climbing
b) Threat of large numbers of businesses going bankrupt
c) Recession starting, which most expect will last at least 12 months
d) Automation expected to eliminate up to 50% of jobs in 15 to 25 years
e) Global coronavirus cases surpass 1.5 million and continue growing
At a time when the markets would normally be crashing down from all the uncertainty, what is holding them up? Experts think because of the quick reaction of the government in passing the $2.2 trillion dollar economic stimulus waylaid market fears by showing something is being done. Also, Warren Buffett’s axiom, “Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy only when others are fearful.” Finally, the ‘social distancing’ measures seems to be controlling the virus, thereby lessening its economic effects in the long run.

4) Stock market closings for – 17 APR 20:

Dow 24,242.49 up 704.81
Nasdaq 8,650.14 up 117.78
S&P 500 2,874.56 up 75.01

10 Year Yield: up at 0.65%

Oil: down at $18.12

17 February 2020

1) Surging demand for sugar is causing global supply shortages. With changing diets and lifestyles the demand for sugar has drastically increased in third world nations. For instance, Southeast Asia has had an eleven fold increase in demand. Global sugar prices have increased 12% this last year with the commodities trader ED&F Man Holdings Ltd. forecasting a world sugar deficit this year of about 10%.

2) Financial analyst forecast a number of traditional brick-and-mortar retailing chains will go bankrupt this year. Renowned names such as J.C. Penny, Pier 1 Imports, Rite Aid, Neiman Marcus, Stein Mart and the nutrition chain GNC are expected to continue their downward slide with many not surviving until the next Christmas. For the past several years or more, these name brand chains have be contracting with store closings and layoffs as they struggle to adapt to a new consumer environment.

3) While e-commerce is largely blamed for the demise of shopping malls and traditional brick-and-mortar stores, with online shopping growing tremendously over the last twenty years, expanding from $5 billion dollars per quarter to $155 billion dollars. Presently, e-commerce represents only 11% of the total retail sales. More than 70% of retail spending is in categories that has been slow or impossible for internet sales to captures such as automobiles, gasoline, home improvement and garden supplies. Inroads in drugs and pharmacy sales are being made, as well as food and drink from food delivery services.

4) Stock market closings for – 14 FEB 20:

Dow 29,398.08 down 25.23
Nasdaq 9,731.18 up 19.21
S&P 500 3,380.16 up 6.22

10 Year Yield: down at 1.59%

Oil: up at $52.25

5 February 2020

1) As the coronavirus continues the slowing of China’s economy, coupled with a general slow down in world economies, world oil prices are dropping. China is the world’s largest oil importer, with speculation that if oil continues to drop, America can expect a drop in gasoline prices, possibly going below $2 a gallon.

2) The credit card company Visa is planning major changes to the rates U.S. merchants pay to accept its cards. These changes are the biggest changes in a decade, with Visa hoping to encourage people to abandon checks and cash. Higher rates are coming for transactions on e-commerce sites, while certain retailers such as real estate and education will see lower rates. Retailers have long complained about the $100 billion plus dollars they spend each year to accept electronic payments.

3) Ford Motor Co. has posted a fourth quarter loss and provided weaker than expected 2020 forecast due to continued higher warranty cost, lower vehicle volumes, lower results from Ford Credit branch, and higher investment in future transportation. This is coming at a time when Ford and other automakers are making huge investments in producing a line of electric cars and trucks. For the fourth quarter, Ford is reporting a net loss of $1.7 billion dollars, or 42 cents a share. Revenue for the fourth quarter was down 5% to $39.7 billion dollars.

4) Stock market closings for – 4 FEB 20:

Dow                   28,807.63    up    407.82
Nasdaq                9,467.97    up    194.57
S&P 500               3,297.59    up      48.67

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.60%

Oil:    down   at    $49.45

13 November 2019

1) An FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) official states that Southwest Airlines should ground 49 of its airliners that had repairs failing to meet legal standards. The official claims there is a high likelihood of a violation of a regulation, order or standard, so the FAA must take immediate action to revoke the certification of the planes. Aircraft in questions is the Boeing 737 NG which were previously owned by foreign carriers, saying inspections should be speeded up, but fall short of grounding the aircraft.

2) Dean Foods, America’s largest milk producer, is filing for bankruptcy. The 94 year old company has struggled in recent years because Americans are drinking less cows milk. In 2019, sales are down 7%, while for the first half of the year, profits are down 14%, with Dean’s stock dropping 80% in a year. The company is straddled with debt and is unable to fully fund its pensions.

3) The retail giant Walmart is experiencing internal strife over its e-commerce operation with the corporate culture of traditional marketing. Apparently, Walmart’s management doesn’t have a real understanding of the complex technology of e-commerce. The impact of Walmart’s plunge into online retailing has reduced Walmart’s already thin profit margins, which are at historic lows. Some high profile acquisitions and other strategic moves have cratered and talented executives on both sides have departed.

4) Stock market closings for – 12 NOV 19:

Dow               27,691.49    unchanged    
Nasdaq            8,486.09      up    21.81
S&P 500           3,091.84      up      4.83

10 Year Yield:    down   at    1.91%

Oil:    up   at    $56.78