1) The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an antitrust investigation into the practices of renowned credit card company Visa regarding debit-card transactions. The DOJ is looking into the rules for routing transactions, both in stores and online. In its suit against Visa last year, the Justice Department claimed Visa already possesses monopoly power in the market for online debit-card transactions, arguing that roughly 70% of such transactions in the U.S. are routed over the firm’s network. At the heart of the Justice Department’s issues with Visa is the 2010 law known as the Durbin Amendment, which requires banks to include two networks on their debit cards. Merchants are then supposed to be given the choice of routing over a major network versus a smaller alternative such as Pulse, Star or NYCE. Those alternative networks can be cheaper for merchants.
2) The Federal Reserve stated that while the U.S. economy has been steadily rebounding from the pandemic recession, the recovery is far from complete and needs continued support from the Fed. About half the 20 million jobs that were lost to the pandemic have been recovered, and the outlook is brightening as vaccinations are more widely administered. The central bank’s policymakers forecasts are sharply upgraded, with the economy expected to accelerate quickly this year. At the same time, their forecast showed that the benchmark rate remains near zero through 2023, despite concerns in financial markets about potentially higher inflation.
3) Flipping houses in America is an easy way to make a quick buck. With the real-estate market red hot, profits on flips are at a record high, averaging some $66,000 per home. There are more than 60 banks and other financing companies catering to flippers. Memories of the 2007 real-estate bust are fading, and with interest rates on most fixed income investments still so paltry, lenders are desperate for anything that provides higher returns. The 7.9% average annual rate on a fix-and-flip loan is more than twice the 3.09% rate that a bank can earn on a 30-year mortgage. But there aren’t that many houses to purchase, the inventory of existing homes for sale is at its lowest since 1999, so now more flippers are chasing fewer transactions. Almost 68% of all home flippings last year sold for $300,000 or less.
4) Stock market closings for – 19 MAR 21:
Dow 32,627.97 down by 234.33 Nasdaq 13,215.24 up by 99.07 S&P 500 3913.10 down by 2.36
1) One part of the U.S. infrastructure that America can invest in now is the recycling infrastructure. The recycling infrastructure and related new technologies hasn’t been updated for roughly 20 years, in particular the massive growing plastics waste problem. Several years ago, China’s National Sword policy ended its role as a recipient of western waste, leaving the west with a seriously growing waste problem. Some consider the up coming bill on infrastructure upgrade will present an opportunity to leap ahead of the plastic problem with money for developing new technologies.
2) As if the American economy hasn’t suffered enough with the pandemic and record snow storms across the land, one more massive snow and ice storm system is sweeping across the nation again. Not only is there heavy snow, torrential rain and severe weather, but also there were 14 reported tornadoes, and additionally, wind gusts reaching as high as 87 mph in the Texas Panhandle with the region experiencing baseball-sized hail. Over 6 inches of rain has been reported in southern Missouri and over 4 inches of rain reported in Kansas and Nebraska, with all three states seeing flooding due to the storm. Snowfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour in Colorado and Wyoming, with up to 4 inches per hour locally in the foothills and mountains, closing highways and freeways. Totals of 1 to 4 feet of snow is expected in parts of the Rockies from this storm with 6 to 12 inches from Denver to Rapid City.
3) The microchip shortage continues with GM forced to shut down its Chevy Camaro Production. The global microchip shortage will force some automakers to prioritize the production of only their most important models. For GM, this means that Chevrolet Camaro and Cadillac CT4 and CT5 production must be temporarily paused. Whatever microchips GM has access to, will be diverted to those factories remaining in production, leaving other lines to fight for what’s left. This problem comes just when automakers are trying to climb out of the financial disaster from the pandemic, when makers are needing to make every auto sale they can get, to bring in much needed revenues. Many automakers are now delaying or pausing their development programs, the debut and on-sale dates receding, thereby further aggravating long range revenues. The microchip shortage was caused by semiconductor production stoppages early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Automakers underestimated the rate at which sales would recover, and so, it left them behind all the other companies that rely on microchips. It’s unclear when the shortage will end. Many major automakers, from Honda to Mercedes-Benz have had to either pause or cut production over these shortages, so GM isn’t unique here.
4) Stock market closings for – 16 MAR 21:
Dow 32,825.95 down by 127.51 Nasdaq 13,471.57 up by 11.86 S&P 500 3,962.71 down by 6.23
1) President Biden is asking Congress for $1,400 stimulus checks, but economists advise caution before spending, because economists who have looked at what happens when people have time to mull over a financial windfall, found that they spend less of the money, rather they save more of it. With less spending, there is less stimulus to the economy, therefor the stimulus fails to do the intended purpose. For the first stimulus checks in April people generally spent between one-quarter and one-third of the check in the first 10 days. Bottom line, the longer payment delays make it more likely that households will save their stimulus checks, which undermines the goal of stimulating the economy by boosting consumption.
2) The Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen will be part of the Senate Finance Committee process of vetting President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion dollar Covid-19 relief plan. She will say that low borrowing costs means it’s time to act big. The new package includes a minimum-wage hike and substantial expansion in family and medical leave, social safety-network of programs that have already triggered Republican opposition. There are still almost 11 million unemployed Americans in an economy still being battered by the pandemic. Declines in both payrolls and retail sales in December left the nation’s economy limping into the new year. Additionally, more than 17 million people say they have little to no confidence in their ability to pay their rent next month. However, Yellen will also be asked what the safe debt limit is, since it is already on the verge of surpassing 100% of the GDP. There is also the question of the pros and cons of strengthening the dollar among fears that a stronger dollar will weaken the U.S. economy.
3) The U.S. government has approved routes for a system of pipelines that will move carbon dioxide across Wyoming for disposal. The greenhouse gas is captured from coal-fired power plants, to keep it out of the atmosphere where it causes global warming. The captured CO2 is then pumped underground to add pressure to and boost production of oil fields. The pipeline is about 1,100 miles of federal land through the Wyoming Pipeline Corridor Initiative. This project is a way to boost the state’s struggling coal mining industry.
4) Stock market closings for – 21 JAN 21:
Dow 31,176.01 down by 12.37 Nasdaq 13,530.92 up by 73.67 S&P 500 3,853.07 up by 1.22
1) The Boeing Aircraft Co. is selling new bonds to help repay its nearly $3 billion dollars of debt. Boeing announced the sale just minutes after a downgrade to the company’s credit rating. Fitch Ratings put out a report reducing Boeing’s credit rating down to BBB-, the lowest investment-grade rating, with a negative outlook. The company has burned through about $22 billion dollars of its free cash since March 2019, when the company’s best-selling jet, the 737 MAX, was grounded. It is anticipated that it will take two years until Boeing’s financial metrics return to that of a credit rating one level higher.
2) The Philippines has removed a major hurdle in advancing oil exploration with Beijing in the South China Sea, but the two nations will have to navigate their overlapping claims in the area to reach a deal. The island nation has lifted a six-year ban on oil exploration to stop activities that might annoy China. The Philippines has recently toughened its stance against China and is leaning back towards the U.S. It is estimated that 4 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves, that’s worth billions of dollars, could be found in South China Sea areas that is claimed by the Philippines and disputed by China. However an international arbitration court has ruled in favor of the Philippines in 2016. The two nations could set aside the ownership issue and proceed with joint development.
3) Exxon announces additional job cuts, that it intends to reduce its U.S. staff by around 1,900 employees. These reductions will be both voluntary and involuntary, a result of COVID-19 on the demand for oil aimed at improving efficiency and reducing costs. Amid declining oil prices, energy companies are taking drastic measures to improve their balance sheets, including reducing staff and in some cases suspending dividends, with the company’s fourth quarter dividend at 87 cents per share, although this is the first time since 1982 that it didn’t raise its dividend.
4) Stock market closings for – 29 OCT 20:
Dow 26,659.11 up 139.16 Nasdaq 11,185.59 up 180.73 S&P 500 3,310.11 up 39.08
1) More bad news for the airline business with another expected huge round of losses coming. The second quarter was the worst financial hit in the history of the airline business, and the third quarter won’t be much better. The airlines reported a second quarter combined losses of $12 billion dollars with revenues down 86% for the previous year. Analysts are forecasting a $10 billion dollar lost for the third quarter. The airlines did reduce cost by trimming expenditures, reducing labor as employees took buyouts and early retirement packages. Also, a modest pickup in travel during the summer has help with increased revenues, but forecast are for sales to be down 75% in the third quarter.
2) Oil prices fell the most in a week because the Gulf of Mexico production is set to resume and Libya is reopening its largest oil field. The hurricane had shut down about 92% of oil production in the Gulf, while at the same time Libya’s largest field will reach its daily capacity of almost 300,000 barrels in ten days. World demand for oil crude has dropped with refineries operating near minimum capacity.
3) The third major opioid makers Mallinckrodt Pic has become the third major manufacture of opioid to go bankrupt after being swamped by claims with respect to profiting from the U.S. opioid epidemic. The drug company filed for Chapter 11 after getting creditors and claimants to agree on a restructuring plan. This plan hands over ownership to bondholders, wipes out shareholders and sets aside $1.6 billion dollars to resolve all its opioid litigation. Current shareholders will most likely get nothing, with stock prices in the penny range for most of the year. The Chapter 11 filing estimates liabilities of $1 billion to $10 billion dollars and assets in the same range.
4) Stock market closings for – 12 OCT 20:
Dow 28,837.52 up 250.62 Nasdaq 11,876.26 up 296.32 S&P 500 3,534.22 up 57.09
1) Five American companies make up 24% of the S&P 500 Index, the big high tech companies Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Alphabet. These five companies made up 17% of the index at the start of the year. This makes a significant part of American net worth and security for retirement dependent on just a handful of stocks, which makes some financial advisers nervous having their eggs in too few baskets. One hiccup in the technology sector could mean major losses across the board.
2) Another shooting of a young black man Monday in South Los Angeles has sparked more protest that could lead to more city rioting. The man was stopped for violating vehicle codes, but then ran, with the police in hot pursuit. When police caught up with him, he punched one policeman in the face at which time a semiautomatic pistol dropped out causing both policemen to open fired. Since the victim didn’t have the weapon in hand, nor was it ever pointed at either police officers, so there are questions about the shooting. So far, protests have been peaceful.
3) The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the protest leaders and their funding in Portland and other cities for possible criminal activity. With riots and civil unrest now at a hundred days, and significant monetary loses have been occurred, questions are being raised about who is behind the well organized protesters seemingly intent on violent confrontation. Of especial interest is the loosely organized far left Antifa and the Black Lives Matter, and who is ultimately controlling their operations through funding and why.
4) Stock market closings for – 1 SEP 20:
Dow 28,645.66 up 215.61 Nasdaq 11,939.67 up 164.21 S&P 500 3,526.65 up 26.34
1) The business community of America is facing a national coin shortage, making it even more difficult for the retail sector to function. Across the country, restaurants, grocery stores, and retail outlets are posting signs near their cash registers and drive thru windows asking people to pay with credit cards or exact change. This shortage is a result of the spreading coronavirus closing businesses that crippled economic activity in the U.S., so the circulation of coins dropped off significantly. Furthermore, the U.S. Mint who manufactures the nation’s coinage supply, has decreased staffing because of the pandemic, thus reducing the availability of coins.
2) New research has directly connected the explosive growth of passive investing to deteriorating corporate performance over the long haul. Companies with higher passive ownership spent more on stock repurchases, but saw worse financial outcomes. Passive investment can allow opportunistic management behavior with negative effects of future company performance. Companies with high passive ownership are less monitored, therefore allowing management to act unhindered in their own best interest. Passive ownership is a result of investing by mutual and ETF funds who track indexes instead of actively manage counterparts.
3) The government has placed orders for up to 600 million doses of Covid vaccine to Pfizer and BioNTech. The U.S. health officials have agreed to pay $1.95 billion dollars for 100 million doses of a vaccine. Nations around the world have begun ordering vaccines that are still being tested in an effort to halt the spread of the virus. To date, the coronavirus has killed 600,000 people around the world. It is planned the vaccine will be free to U.S. citizens.
4) Stock market closings for – 22 JUL 20:
Dow 27,005.84 up 165.44 Nasdaq 10,706.13 up 25.76 S&P 500 3,276.02 up 18.72
1) This last April, the government offered $349 billion dollars to small businesses, in their stimulates package called the Paycheck Protection Program or PPP, as a way of limiting the economic damaged from the shutdown orders and pandemic. This money was gone in just 13 days, so Congress approved a second round of $310 billion dollars, but so far there is $130 billion dollars left with more monies being returned than borrowed. Thousands of companies sent loan money back because loan terms were too restrictive, or the criteria for loan forgiveness was too murky. There has been about $3 billion dollars in loans that have been canceled or returned. Congress has moved to loosen the program’s rules giving businesses more flexibility in spending their aid. Nevertheless, many small businesses are facing closure amid the uncertainty of the economy and what the future holds.
2) America is on track for another 2008 class financial crisis with threats of financial collapse. The 2008 crisis forced banks to rethink their risk taking, and new regulations were put through designed to limit the risk that banks take in making loans. Already facing a prolong recession, the balance sheets of big banks could precipitate a collapsed of the financial sector, as almost happened in 2008. The last crisis was caused by CDO (Collateralized Debt Obligations) where sub-prime home mortgages were packaged and given ratings of high quality mortgages. When these over-rated CDOs began to default, the banks were on the verge of collapse, but the feds stepped in and saved the day . . . just barely. The banks have fallen back into their old habits now by using CLO (Collateralized Loan Obligations) which are like CDOs, however they are for businesses instead of home mortgages, but still having the high risk. With the threat of many small businesses failing from the coronavirus crisis, these CLOs could default causing the big banks to collapse, bringing the American economy down.
3) A record number of retail stores are expected to permanently close this year as consumer demand for discretionary items stalls and people shift to online shopping. As many as 25,000 retail stores could fold up, with more than 4,000 having all ready given up the ghost. It is anticipated the closures will snowball from the recession, adding to the effects of unsustainable debt levels. The retailers were struggling to stay afloat before the pandemic struck.
4) Stock market closings for – 10 JUN 10:
Dow 26,989.99 down 282.31 Nasdaq 10,020.35 up 66.59 S&P 500 3,190.14 down 17.04
1) President Trump is slipping in the polls, and this may pose a risk to the markets. Even though the wild swings of the markets have subsided and then surged upwards, with the Democrat Joe Biden gaining in the polls, there is concerns that the markets will take a down turn as Biden becomes stronger. The President is facing criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the protest from the killing of George Floyd by the police. A victory by Joe Biden and a Democratic sweep are considered more ‘market unfriendly’ outcomes. Taxes are one major area of contrast between the candidates, with taxes a major concern for American businesses. These fears are fueled by the Dow sliding downwards for the first time this month as the rally pauses.
2) Borrowing by the British government to pay for the coronavirus shutdown is soaring to levels not seen since World War II. This is on top of the financial problems from Brexit with Britain’s debt jumping five-fold to a 300 billion pound deficit ($380 billion dollars) . This could leave Britain with a 2.2 trillion pound debt and the need to raise taxes with an impact on economic growth. Britain is funding this expenditure with sales of bonds, but have fears of a Greece style loss of confidence among investors. The government is hoping for a fast recovery after restrictions are lifted, allowing the debt to quickly be paid down.
3) There are fears that the U.S. dollar is entering a bear market so may no longer be the safe haven for investors. This bear market could go for five to ten years. This would occur if the global economy really is bottoming out and thereby rebound again, while U.S. interest rates are at zero, with potential growth lower than the merging markets. The U.S. dollar is depreciating against many international peer currencies these last few days.
4) Stock market closings for – 9 JUN 20:
Dow 27,272.30 down 300.14 Nasdaq 9,953.75 up 29.01 S&P 500 3,207.18 down 25.21
1) For the last few years, a number of retailers have been downsizing by closing a number of their stores across the country, something that the coronavirus pandemic has greatly accelerated. But the restaurant chains have also been downsizing as well, closing branches all across the county. Such popular names as Jack in the Box, Luby’s, Pizza Hut, Ruby Tuesday, Steak’nShake , Subway, Burger King, TGI Fridays and Applebee’s just to name a few, who are closing restaurants across the country. Each have been struggling for the last several years. This is another sign that the American consumer market is in the process of fundamentally changing.
2) The U.S. consumer spending plunged in April by the most on record because of the nation wide lock down. Spending fell 13.6% from the prior month, making for the sharpest drop in six decades. A rise in income temporarily masks the fact that people are in a fragile economic position, because the rise was a result of the one time stimulus checks. The virus crisis halted all but the most essential purchases, with economists expecting it will take a year or more before spending recovers.
3) It’s anticipated that the national debt will increase to more than 100% of the national GDP (Gross Domestic Product) by the end of the year. This will exceed the record set after World War II. The $25 trillion dollar national debt equates to $76,665 dollars per citizen or $203,712 dollars per taxpayer. The federal deficit is over $1.9 trillion dollars through April, and is expected to rise to $3.7 trillion dollars by the end of September, which is the end of the fiscal year. Such debt could draw investors to demand higher interest rates, as the federal government’s position becomes increasingly precarious. This is like an individual piling on credit card debt without consideration for the short or long term consequences to their financial position. For America, those consequences could be deep depression coupled with inflation of the dollar leaving money far less valuable than today.
4) Stock market closings for – 29 MAY 20:
Dow 25,383.11 down 17.53 Nasdaq 9,489.87 up 120.88 S&P 500 3,044.31 up 14.58