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

12 November 2019

1) The KKR & Co. is offering a deal to take the drugstore giant Walgreens Boots Alliance private in what could be the biggest ever leveraged buyout. The New York private equity firm is proposing to buy out shareholders of Walgreens Boots, but there are no details on the proposed transaction. Walgreens Boots has a market value of $53 billion dollars and debt of $16.8 billion dollars. A buyout would give Walgreens Boots time to adapt to a fast changing retail landscape.

2) Some U.S. oil and natural gas production companies are planning to pump less petroleum thereby reducing production for this next year. Several producers, including EQT Corp and Chesapeake Energy Corp have announced their intention to alsoreduce production thereby reining in spending and forecasting slower growth, while other fracking companies like Diamondback Energy Inc., Cimarex Energy Co. and Callon Petroleum Co. plan to hold next year’s spending the same.

3) The Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has shattered their single day sales from last year. Alibaba had $33.9 billion dollars in sales, which eclipsed last year’s numbers of $30.8 billion dollars in sales for 24 hours. Alibaba’s annual shopping extravaganza is equivalent to Black Friday or Cyber Monday in the US. The eleventh of November was originally created as a student holiday in China to celebrate single people, but has been transformed into a massive day of sales on Alibaba.

4) Stock market closings for – 11 NOV 19:

Dow               27,691.49         up     10.25
Nasdaq            8,464.28    down    11.03
S&P 500           3,087.01    down       6.07

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.94%

Oil:    down   at    $56.63

1 October 2019

1) The crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has warned of astronomical oil prices if tensions escalate in the Persian Gulf. In a ‘60 Minute’ interview, the Prince called for strong and firm action to deter Iran and lessen the threat to world interests, so as to avoid disruptions of oil exports. The attacks on Saudi oil production facilities caused Brent crude to jump 19.5%, the biggest jump on record. The Middle East provides about 30% of the world’s energy supplies constituting about 4% of world GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

2) In order to avoid a quarterly decline in U.S. retail sales, automakers are offering big discounts to maintain sales growth. For the last three months, auto sales have flattened with average incentive spending rising 6% to more than $4,110 per vehicle, which is a third quarter record.

3) The fashion retailer Forever 21 Inc. has filed for bankruptcy protection and is the latest big fashion merchant who, like many other retailer chains, is unable to cope with high rents and heavy competition from e-commerce. The chain has 800 stores across the world, selling affordable but eye-catching designs, but has falling out of favor with the generation-Z consumers who turn to e-commerce. The bankruptcy will allow the company to reorganize and gain additional capital for operations.

4) Stock market closings for – 30 SEP 19:

Dow              26,916.83    up    96.58
Nasdaq           7,999.34    up    59.71
S&P 500          2,976.74    up    14.95

10 Year Yield:    unchanged   at    1.68%

Oil:    $54.29

9 August 2019

1) Mexico has become America’s largest trading partner as a result of the U.S. – China trade war. For the first half of 2019, trade between America and Mexico was $309 billion dollars worth of goods, just over 15% of all U.S. trade. In comparison, trade with Canada was $306 billion dollars and China at $271 billion dollars. Trade with Mexico has been steadily rising for several decades, while trade with Canada has historically been high it’s always been flat.

2) A battle may be developing between Amazon and FedEx over handling packages, because of surging e-commerce shipments. With their ground delivery deal ending, FedEx is deepening its pullback from Amazon. The ending of two delivery contracts with Amazon means FedEx will have to seek out new major customers for lost sales while Amazon will now depend more on the U.S. Postal Service and UPS. FedEx is seeking to serve major e-commerce companies such as WalMart as the one-day delivery service for e-commerce heats up.

3) Lift, the internet based ride sharing rival to Uber may become profitable sooner than anyone had predicted. It’s growth is accelerating faster than anticipated, which clears the path to profitability. Some are speculating that 2019 might be Lift’s ‘peak loss’ year with losses being less than 2018. Wall Street is acting positive over the news with Lift’s stock rising from an overnight boost of 4%.

4) Stock market closings for – 9 AUG 19:

Dow                26,378.19    up    371.12
Nasdaq              8,039.16    up    176.33
S&P 500             2,938.09    up      54.11

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.72%

Oil:    up   at    $52.81

1 July 2019

1) Consumer spending increased in May as well as prices creeping up too. Both point to a slowing economic growth and benign inflation pressures. These two facts gives the Federal Reserve more reason to cut interest rates next month. Inflation is under the 2% target for this year with a projected 1.5% verses 1.8% originally expected. Consumer spending is about two thirds the U.S. economy.

2) Consumerism is changing fast, with a push to ‘no cashier checkouts’. Amazon Go stores are pushing the technology where sales payment is made automatically just by picking out items and walking out the door. E-commerce and on-line shopping continue their assault on traditional brick and mortar stores. Another strategy is showrooms in place of stores that allow the customer to try out products prior to purchasing them. Finally, drone delivery allows getting your purchases at home in less time than it takes to drive to and from a store. All these new technologies are coming together with increased profits by reducing labor cost.

3) The weekly jobless claims has increased more than expected, although there is no sign of significant layoffs as the economy slows down. Unemployment claims were 227,000 up by 10,000. The economy is slowing with manufacturing sliding down and the trade deficient widening as consumer confidence ebbs.

4) Stock market closings for- 28 JUN 19: Results from bank stress test edged markets up. Best June performance since 1938.

Dow            26,599.96    up    73.38
Nasdaq         8,006.24    up    38.49
S&P 500        2,941.76    up    16.84

10 Year Yield:    down   at    2.00%

Oil:    down   at    $58.20

18 June 2019

1) Traditional retail stores, who have been suffering the ravages of e-commerce, are worried about another coming blow. The new tariffs on Chinese imports, which President Trump threatens to impost, could have a disastrous effect on retailers such as Walmart and Target. These next round of tariffs will be specific to consumer goods, which these retailers sell, and will start to force price increases and so most likely will result in decline of sales revenue.

2) While President Trump has been pressing for a cut in the interest rate, the U.S. Federal Reserve is expected to defer and leave the interest rates unchanged. However, the board may possibly lay the groundwork for a rate cut later this year. While the economic outlook has become less clear, there still isn’t sufficient indication of a slow down to warrant cutting interest rates yet.

3) The Pfizer pharmaceutical company is buying Array BioPharma for $10.6 billion dollars for a price 62% above the company’s closing price this last Friday. Pfizer will gain medical technology for new drugs to treat cancer that limit or suppress the effects of chemotherapy. The drugs target a mutation that’s found across many tumor types in those patients who carry the mutation. Two of Array BioPharma drugs have been FDA approved for use in advanced melanoma. There are other drugs which are in the development pipeline.

4) Stock market closings for- 17 JUN 19:

Dow               26,112.53    up    22.92
Nasdaq             7,845.02    up    48.37
S&P 500            2,889.67    up      2.69

10 Year Yield:    down   at    2.09%

Oil:    down   at    $51.90

14 June 2019

1) Two tankers have been attacked near the Iran coast, which has caused oil prices to surge with fears that Iran may try to close the Gulf of Oman, which transports oil out of the Middle East. The choke point of the Strait of Hormuz is only 21 miles wide and handles 80% of the oil destined for Asia. Last month four other tankers were attacked near Fujairah using sabotage, which further fueled fears that Iran may become very aggressive in the region and against exports of oil.

2) With voters no longer showing a strong concern for the federal debt, the political support for reining in Federal spending and controlling the growing national debt is melting away with Republicans willing to accept a large deficit in exchange for tax cuts and Democrats making big spending promises in the 2020 campaigns. Some experts, who had once augured against the government growing debt, now say it may not be as critical a problem as they once thought.

3) The mega-retailer Target is upping the ante for e-commerce by offering same-day delivery on thousands of items for just $9.99. Using the delivery startup Shipt, which Target purchased nearly two years ago, the retailer is positioning itself to compete against Walmart and Amazon in what is becoming a ‘delivery time’ war of the major maga-retailers. The one day service will cover 65,000 items from 1,500 stores out of 1,800 stores in 47 states.

4) Stock market closings for- 13 JUN 19:

Dow               26,106.77    up    101.94
Nasdaq            7,837.13    up      44.41
S&P 500           2,891.64    up      11.80

10 Year Yield:    down   at    2.09%

Oil:    down   at    $52.11