21 September 2020

1) Michael Farr of CNBC claims the problem with the U.S. economy is there are too many poor people, that the poor and middle class don’t have enough money. His contention is that until employment and wages increase, the U.S. economy will remain bogged down or worst . . . digging a deeper hole. The American economy is the world’s largest with nearly 70% driven by consumer spending. With the vast majority of consumers in the lower middle class and poor, it stands to reason that with more money in their hands, it would make for a more viable economy. He contends that until their lot is improved by having more money, the economy will remain sluggish. But as is often the case, he ignores the ‘obsolete people’ problem of machines with technology displacing those workers. The pay of people reflects the value of people to society, and as technology continues to lower their real value it makes it hard to increase their wages.

2) Wayfair, the giant on-line home furnishings retailer, has announced they are launching two new credit cards while retiring their Comenity Bank card. There will now be the Wayfair Mastercard and the new Wayfair Credit Card. These cards will have no annual fee and offer the choice of earning rewards on spending or receiving no-interest financing for up to 24 months. Wayfair is partnering with Citi Retail Services for the two credit cards.

3) Facebook, the social media giant, is searching for a director of remote work as part of its plan for a more permanent shift of working from home. The company has been making a major shift towards permanent remote work and now needs management dedicated to permanently establishing this method of work in the corporate structure. Facebook is expecting as much as half of its 48,000 workforce to be working at home in the next ten years. Several other large companies are exploring the work-at-home strategy as a way of reducing cost of labor as well as allowing a larger pool of workers to draw upon, since home workers can be thousands of miles away from the home office. There are many consequences to the economy from a large work force working at home, the first is reducing spending on automobiles and service, plus sales of clothing.

4) Stock market closings for – 18 SEP 20:

Dow 27,657.42 down 244.56
Nasdaq 10,793.28 down 117.00
S&P 500 3,319.47 down 37.54

10 Year Yield: up at 0.69%

Oil: up at $40.98

11 September 2020

1) The new jobless numbers indicate the U.S. job losses persist with claims higher than was forecasts. Jobless claims were unchanged at 884,000 for last week, with the total number of people on unemployment rising by 93,000 to a total of 13.4 million people. Prior to the pandemic, new claims were about 212,000 a week with 1.7 million people on unemployment. What is concerning is the pace of layoffs has not slowed with the economy opening up, adding to fears of a second round of Convid-19 outbreaks. It appears that millions of Americans are heading for long term unemployment with most running out of unemployment benefits after 26 weeks.

2) Quantafuel AS, a Norwegian company established in 2014, who makes diesel fuel from plastic waste, is a success having tripled its value, which is now at $1 billion dollars. This is a time when the world is struggling over what to do with the monumental qualitites of plastic waste that continues to grow at an alarming rate. Even more welcomed is Quantafuel addressing the demand for fuel oils. Their process is more environmentally friendly than incineration of plastic. The company is increasing the production of its present plant and has plans to build additional plants with the goal of boosting production 100 fold in the next decade. No doubt, the Chinese will be showing great interest in this process because of their very limited oil resources.

3) One side effect of the coronavirus pandemic is limiting efforts to root out slavery across the world, because companies and investors are unable to visit factory floors in many countries. Even before the pandemic started, there was an estimated 40 million people working in slave like conditions, with the economic shock of the virus making people more vulnerable to exploitation. Companies are facing increasing legal obligations to ensure their supply chain doesn’t include slave labor.

4) Stock market closings for – 10 SEP 20:

Dow 27,534.58 down 405.89
Nasdaq 10,919.59 down 221.97
S&P 500 3,339.19 down 59.77

10 Year Yield: down at 0.68%

Oil: down at $37.00

10 September 2020

1) The renowned Mall of America announced plans to lay off and furlough hundreds of employees. Located in Bloomington, Minn. the shopping center will permanently lay off 211 workers across various departments at the end of the month with an additional 178 workers to remain on furlough beyond the end of September. The Mall employs about 1,000 workers. Like most other malls in America, the Mall of America has suffered severely from the pandemic and need for social distancing. The malls across America have suffered a decline in recent years as people’s shopping habits and revenues decline. The Mall of America has been delinquent on its $1.4 billion dollar mortgage for May, June and July, and in turn some of its 500 retail tenants are unable to pay rent or having skip out on lease obligations.

2) Federal report warns of the threat from climate change to the economy. The report considers there are consequences that can create chaos in the financial system and disrupt the American economy. It’s considered that climate change poses a major risk to the stability of the U.S. financial system to sustain the American economy, that jobs, income and opportunity are at stake. This is just another indication of the increasing difficulty and expense of keeping individuals in a high technology society. The report makes 53 recommendations for dealing with the climate risks.

3) With the start up of college and return to campus life, there has been a sharp increase in coronavirus cases stemming from universities. For instance, the University of Tennessee has more than 2,100 students and staff members quarantined for Covid-19. As of Monday the university has 600 active cases of Covid-19. Of the 2,100 quarantined cases, about half are on-campus students and the other half off-campus. The surge is blamed on reckless behavior by a small portion of the students, especially traditional college parties with close personal contact. Many other American universities are having similar experience such as the University of Notre Dame, and North Carolina State. Some universities have implemented curfews, restrictions on visitors and even lockdowns of fraternities and sororities.

4) Stock market closings for – 9 SEP 20:

Dow 27,940.47 up 439.58
Nasdaq 11,141.56 up 293.87
S&P 500 3,398.96 up 67.12

10 Year Yield: up at 0.70%

Oil: up at $37.78

8 September 2020

1) About two-thirds of the restaurants in New York are expected to permanently close by the end of this year. Restaurants in New York State are not allowed to do indoor dining, only takeout and outdoor dining is permitted. Therefore, a major portion of New York restaurants are unable to meet their revenue requirements without the indoor dinning. Surveys indicated that 64% of restaurant owners are likely to close by the end of this year, and about 55% to shut down before November, which amounts to a collapse of the restaurant industry in New York State. A group of 100 restaurant owners are banning together to launch a class action lawsuit to open up indoor dining.

2) In August, the American economy added 1.37 million jobs, which was above the 1.32 million forecasted by economist. The big winners were the Government and Retail trade, with the 2020 censes accounting for much of the government’s increase in jobs, but like the censes itself, those jobs will be temporary. The job increase in retail is a result of retail stores opening back up, and so those jobs should remain, baring losses from stores closing from failure. With the growing signs that the U.S. economy is improving and jobs are coming back, there is less pressure on Congress to pass a new fiscal stimulus package. The unemployment rate has fallen below 10% to 8.4%, but is still a long way from the 3.5% before the pandemic.

3) The hopes of a comfortable retirement are continually dimming for the youth of America because of a number of reasons. The increase life span after retirement means more money is needed to cover retirement. Retired people are still subject to economic downfalls such as the Great Recession of 08 that robbed workers of earning power. The age of private pensions is gone, with workers now expected to provide all their own retirement out of their own pockets. This goes hand and hand with Social Security’s money reserves dropping as more retirees take their pension. Interest rates are low, making saving for retirement unproductive while the stock market is risky, plus people are reaching retirement with more debt and therefore requiring more money to sustain themselves. The average American needs to have three quarters of a million dollars to retire and be able to maintain their standard of living.

4) Stock market closings for – 4 SEP 20:

Dow 28,133.31 down 159.42
Nasdaq 11,313.13 down 144.97
S&P 500 3,426.96 down 28.10

10 Year Yield: up at 0.72%

Oil: down at $39.51

For- 7 SEP 20:

Dow 28,133.31 down 159.42
Nasdaq 11,313.13 down 144.97
S&P 500 3,426.96 down 28.10

10 Year Yield: up at 0.72%

Oil: down at $39.15

4 September 2020

1) For first time since World War II the U.S. government’s debt will nearly equal the size of the entire American economy. By the end of 2020, the amount of debt owed by the United States will be about 98% of the nation’s gross domestic product with a debt that is about three times the 2019 level. The huge surge in debt is a result of the Congress spending an additional $3 trillion dollars in emergency funding since March, a result of the economic downturn from the coronavirus crisis. This is why some members of Congress and the White House have balked at approving an additional $2 trillion dollars in spending in view of the weak economy coupled with having little promise of improving soon. Few experts believe the Congress is likely to do something to reduce the deficit in the short term, all the while unemployment remains near 10 percent. Interest rates are low, which makes it less costly for the federal government to borrow. In addition to increase emergency spending, tax revenues fell as business slowed and many people lost their jobs.

2) After a steady increase in the markets, setting new records for highs, the stock markets took a sudden nose dive. This was caused by a massive and sudden sell off of the technology sector. The tech stocks had been on a ten day winning streak then a sudden overnight change which caught everyone by surprise. The Nasdaq dropped almost 600 points while the Dow was down 800 points. Market experts are left wondering what will come next, especially with the next jobs report for August coming out.

3) The pace of rehiring is expected to slow in August, so the economy will likely add fewer jobs than in July, while workers continue to be laid off. Because of the pandemic, America lost about 22 million jobs in March and April. In May through July, about 9.3 million jobs came back, so we are still short about 12 to 13 million jobs. Part of this is a result of so many small businesses having gone bust, so it will take a long time to replace those businesses and therefore replace the jobs they had. Economic turmoil is when technology displacement is prevalent as business seek the means to survive by reducing labor cost (eliminating jobs).

4) Stock market closings for – 3 SEP 20:

Dow 28,292.73 down 807.77
Nasdaq 11,458.10 down 598.34
S&P 500 3,455.06 down 125.78

10 Year Yield: down at 0.62%

Oil: down at $41.03

18 August 2020

1) A good sign for the U.S. economy, the American shale oil companies plan to restore nearly all oil production by the end of the third quarter. This will return production to nearly what it was when the shut down came resulting in the oil crash. As oil prices raised to $30 to $40 per barrel range, oil production started to rise. By September, nearly all of the production is expected to be restored. There were fears that shutting down shale oil wells prematurely could hamper future production, but nearly all of the restarted wells are producing normally because of a buildup of pressure. Most companies report a smooth return of operations.

2) Pizza Hut is closing up to 300 locations as part of a deal between the pizza chain and its largest franchisee, NPC International, who is filing for bankruptcy. These will be under performing restaurants, mostly with dine in facilities. The franchisee will put its remaining 927 Pizza Hut locations up for sale. NPC also operates nearly 400 Wendy’s restaurants, but has had to file for chapter 11 protection because of its $1 billion dollar debt. In recent years, Pizza Hut has drawn away from the dine-in business and concentrated more on delivery and takeout. Final determinations has not been made as to which locations will close or when.

3) In an indication of just how quickly the virus can pop up, the Oklahoma State sorority Pi Beta Phi has had 23 members test positive for the coronavirus, resulting in the entire sorority being put in quarantine. So far, none of the girls have been hospitalized and any who are ill are experiencing minor effects from the virus. The sorority members moved into the sorority house (off campus) between August 2 and 6, with all testing negative for the Covid-19. Then on 11 August, a small group of members who reside outside the house joined the chapter for a short informal gathering at the house. Within just a few days, the members in the sorority house tested positive. There has been a major spike in the pandemic, with the number of cases surpassing the previous peak levels on 31 of May, with 78% of new cases in the Sun Belt states.

4) Stock market closings for – 17 AUG 20:

Dow 27,844.91 down 86.11
Nasdaq 11,129.72 up 110.42
S&P 500 3,381.99 up 9.14

10 Year Yield: down at 0.68%

Oil: up at $42.77

13 August 2020

1) Another national retail outlet, Stein Mart, is going the way of the brick and mortar retail system announcing they are closing all their stores in bankruptcy amid Covid-19 pandemic. Based in Jacksonville, Florida the company operates 281 stores in 30 states with 9,000 employees. Stein Mart ‘going out of business’ sale is expected to begin in August 14 or 15 with complete liquidation of inventory, with the anticipation of all stores closed by the fourth quarter of 2020. The retailer joins a long list of businesses to file for bankruptcy protection amid the coronavirus crisis.

2) With all the money being pumped into the economy by the government, there were fears of fueling inflation. Those fears were increased with the July consumer price data showing that prices are indeed on the rise. But some are saying these price increases are a result of supply and demand dynamics from the pandemic, and will fall once the supply system becomes stable with production reaching equilibrium again. It’s just a matter of time.

3) Amid suspicion of a rigged election by authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko, Germany and Lithuania is calling for renewed sanctions on Belarus. Claiming a landslide victory in his presidential election, Lukashenko has cracked down on protesters and demonstrators. The EU (European Union) has call an extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the situation, considering the election was neither free nor fair, and efforts to suppress demonstrations as unacceptable. The EU is considering reinstating sanctions. The protest have been violent with about 1,000 people arrested to add to the 5,000 already being held, and injuries to both protesters and police.

4) Stock market closings for – 12 AUG 20:

Dow 27,976.84 up 289.93
Nasdaq 11,012.24 up 229.42
S&P 500 3,380.35 up 46.66

10 Year Yield: up at 0.67%

Oil: up at $42.56 +0.01

11 August 2020

1) Both Japan and China are building up their military forces for possible future contest over Pacific islands. This is another sign of China’s increasing contentious relations with neighbors, in particular Japan over disputes of several islands in the East China Sea. This is necessitating the buildup of military forces to approach, capture and defend islands. So this means a build up of Marine forces, which both countries are in the process of doing. This includes amphibious armored vehicles and self propelled artillery. U.S. intelligence consider the Chinese Marines to be fully amphibious and able to use combined arms tactics and multiple avenues of approach. This includes building a blue water navy with well over 300 vessels. In response, Japan is starting up its first Marine unit since World War II, modeled after the U.S. Marine Corps, to defend its southern islands. This buildup means massive expansions which neither country’s economies are able to tolerate with the worsening world economy.

2) Boeing aircraft manufacture’s troubles continue to get worst with the loss 737 MAX orders now over 400 and stymied shipments of its 787 Dreamliner because of the world pandemic. Last month, Boeing delivered just four jetliners while also booking zero new orders. Their total stockpile of orders was 4,496 aircraft at the end of July, which is down 1.2% from June. There is the risk that Boeing will have to halt 787 production to preserve cash. Most airline companies have grounded a significant portion of their fleets and are operating only a fraction of their pre-pandemic schedules.

3) Instacart, the young food delivery service, is partnering with Walmart, Amazon’s biggest competitor, to bring Walmart one day delivery service. This will make thousands of items, from groceries to home decor and improvement, personal care and electronics go from Walmart stores to customers’ doors as fast as an hour. This is another ratchetting up of the retail business, when many big name retailers are floundering and some going under. A fundamental change in the way Americans are buying things for their everyday lives is occurring.

4) Stock market closings for – 11 AUG 20:

Dow 27,686.91 down 104.53
Nasdaq 10,782.82 down 185.53
S&P 500 3,333.69 down 26.78

10 Year Yield: up at 0.66%

Oil: down at $41.66

11 August 2020

1) Online retailer giant Amazon is considering taking over closed department stores in some malls to use as warehouses in their distribution system. Amazon is in talks with Simon Property Group, America’s largest mall owner, to convert J.C. Penny and Sears stores into distribution hubs for package delivery. Simon malls have 63 J.C. Penny and 11 Sears stores available. With many traditional brick-and-mortar stores in collapse, such a deal would make sense for both Amazon and Simon. Amazon is looking for more space closer to where customers live to help with its one day delivery strategy, while Simon needs cash rich tenants to bolster their business.

2) A report that outlines the three potential future movies in the Star Trek franchise has been released. The movies for Star Trek follow-on’s have been in limbo since the 2016’s Star Trek Beyond. There are three potential projects being considered for possible production, including a Tarantino’s Star Trek movie. The first movie by Noah Hawley (Fargo and Legion creator) is centered on a pandemic story line using a brand new cast, but is now on pause. The second is a movie by Tarantino, of Pulp Fiction fame, as writer, but not necessary directing it. Something of a take on of a prior Star Trek episode, it would be largely an earthbound 1930’s gangster setting. The third is a far more traditional Star Trek with the recent stars Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. The next few weeks is expected to yield the fate of the Star Trek franchise.

3) Latest job numbers show 1.8 million new jobs created last month to give a 10.2% unemployment rate. This is another coming down of the rate, a good sign for the economy. This leaves 43% unemployed of the 22 million people who lost their jobs from the pandemic, so the economy is still a long way from a full recovery. Fears are that it will be a long time before full recovery, what with the large number of small businesses that have succumb to the Covid-19 crisis with subsequent loss of jobs. The continual struggling price of oil indicates a still weak international economy.

4) Stock market closings for – 10 AUG 20:

Dow 27,791.44 up 357.96
Nasdaq 10,968.36 down 42.63
S&P 500 3,360.47 up 9.19

10 Year Yield: up at 0.57%

Oil: up at $41.99

7 August 2020

1) Another drop in applications for unemployment benefits is giving hope for the economy. For the week ending 1 August, there were 1.19 million jobless claims, down by 249,000 claims. Total unemployment is now at 16.1 million, the lowest since April. But even with continual drops, the claims are still five times the pre-crisis levels. More than decreasing claims is needed for the economy to improve, for much more hiring is required. There are fears of conditions improving so sluggishly, that the effects of the crisis become increasingly permanent. With the resurgence of the pandemic, there are signs of the economy stalling in what is already a fragile economy.

2) The Covid-19 crisis is fueling the need for high speed internet access, and rural America is responding with their electric and telephone co-ops using loans from the federal government. Subscribers are getting speeds up to 1 gigabit per second, with some planning for speeds up to 10 gigabits per second. Rural areas have the duel problem of low population densities and long distances, so its not economically feasible for private companies to install systems. The only alternative is satellite internet systems.

3) The Bank of England is warning of the potential risk of what’s called the ‘shadow banks’ in amplifying the volatility of unstable economies. Funds in investments like pension funds, investment funds like real estate investment trusts and money market funds are increasingly absorbing the cash once kept in banks, but are not as secure in times of crisis as traditional banks. This makes it harder for businesses to access their money when needed most. The non-banks impact in a financial turmoil is being assessed, lead by the Bank of England.

4) Stock market closings for – 6 AUG 20:

Dow 27,386.98 up 185.46
Nasdaq 11,108.07 up 109.67
S&P 500 3,349.16 up 21.39

10 Year Yield: down at 0.54%

Oil: down at $41.97