21 October 2020

1) The drought in the western U.S. is the biggest in years and is predicted to worsen during the coming winter months. The drought is a major reason for the record wildfires in California and Colorado. Further damage can come from depleted rivers, the stifling of crops and diminished water supplies. Elevated temperatures have dried out the soil, exacerbating the drought and making fire weather conditions sever. New Mexico is also in extreme drought conditions with rivers running dramatically low, which feed the aquifers, and neighboring Arizona is also in a deep drought. The drought is extending into Wyoming, Idaho and Montana with little relief in sight for most. Human caused climate change is increasing the likelihood of precipitation extremes on both ends of the scale, including droughts as well as heavy rainfall events and resulting floods. A study in the journal ‘Science’ found that the Southwest may already be in the midst of the first human-caused megadrought in at least 1,200 years, which began in the year 2000.

2) The Federal government has indicted six Russian military officers for massive worldwide cyber attacks. The six Russian military intelligence officers have been involved in high-profile cyberattacks on the electric power grid in Ukraine, the 2017 French elections and the 2018 Pyeong Chang Winter Olympics. The 50-page indictment details the computer intrusions and malware attacks mounted over the past five years by Unit 74455 of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency. No other country has weaponized cyber capabilities as maliciously or irresponsibly as Russia, deploying destructive malware from November 2015 through October 2019 in efforts to undermine or retaliate against foreign nations and organizations around the world.

3) American workers are being laid off a second time as the Covid-19 again ripples through the economy. As the second wave engulfs the economy, eight months after the first hit to the economy, Americans are still being laid off en masse by companies like Disney, the U.S. airlines, retailers and MGM Resorts. Even companies such as Allstate insurance is laying off people, 4,000 getting their pink slips. But for some workers, a second layoff so soon leaves them with no benefits, while the Paycheck Protection Program has run out. The hospitality and food-service jobs were unstable before the pandemic, but with many of those jobs now gone, many face a bleak future.

4) Stock market closings for – 20 OCT 20:

Dow 28,308.79 up 113.37
Nasdaq 1,516.49 up 37.61
S&P 500 3,443.12 up 16.20

10 Year Yield: 0.80%

Oil: up at $41.31

7 October 2020

1) Ikea, the big Swedish world wide modular furniture manufacture, has experienced a surge in sales from the pandemic as people turned homes into offices and schools. Their online sales are up 45% over the last 12 months to August, with 4 billion visits to their website. Outdoor furniture is the fastest growing category, followed by office furniture. While many of their stores were forced to close from the virus, their online sales remain high even as stores reopen. The furniture retailer has added 6,000 new employees world wide to make a total work force of 217,000. Online sales account for about one fifth of total sales.

2) Job openings in America fell in August for the first time in four months, indicating a moderation in hiring as the crisis continues. Available positions slipped down to 6.49 million from July’s 6.7 million. These numbers do not include recalls from layoffs or positions that are offered only internally. However, layoffs and discharges are at a low for August, although there are still 13.6 million Americans unemployed, which means there are about 2 unemployed competing for each job opening. There are fewer vacancies in construction, retail and health care industries, while vacancies increased for manufacturing, food service and government.

3) Federal reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says America is on the long road to economic recovery from the pandemic induced recession, but still there are other problems on the horizon. There are fears of the economy shifting into reverse once again, especially if a resurgence of the virus comes with cold weather . . . the flue season. Such a resurgence could significantly limit economic activity leaving many unemployed stranded with no jobs for many more months. Powell is calling for the passing of the second stimulus bill presently being debated in the Congress. He considers the risk of pouring too much money into the economy far lower than the risk of not spending enough, despite the already sky high federal budget. While he considers the debt is on an unsustainable path, and has been for some time, but this is not the time to address it.

4) Stock market closings for – 6 OCT 20:

Dow 27,772.76 down 375.88
Nasdaq 11,154.60 down 177.88
S&P 500 3,360.95 down 47.68

10 Year Yield: down at 0.74%

Oil: up at $39.83

13 May 2020

1) The U.S. consumer prices has declined for the second straight month as the shutdown continues with people spending less. Prices have fallen 0.8% on a seasonally adjusted basis in April, which makes it the largest drop since December 2008. The prices are being forced down by the falling cost of gasoline and energy prices. While falling prices might at first seem like a good thing, economist say that deflation, the opposite of inflation, would be very bad news. This starts a chain reaction spurred by people not buying things, which means manufactures and producers often can’t charge enough to make the product they are trying to sell, so then they stop making products and layoff people. But food prices are climbing, with the biggest increase since February 1976 by 2.6%. The Federal Reserve tries to keep inflation at around 2%, which is considered ideal, but core inflation is likely to be below 1% for the coming year. Normally, it’s expected that a large release of money into the economy, such as the recent stimulus program, would cause inflation to increase.

2) Tim Hortons of Restaurant Brands International, says the food service industry needs to change for the near future, and possibly forever. The company is increasing its digital ordering capabilities by adding to restaurants smartphone apps with enhancements to its drive-thrus and curb service. Restaurant brands using delivery services such as pizza have seen an increase in revenues during the shutdown. The delivery service industries such as GrubHub were growing before the virus crisis, but have been given a real boost which will most likely be sustained when restrictions are lifted. Some restaurant chains are even experimenting with ‘kitchen only’ restaurants with multiple brands under the same roof providing delivery only. This could be an answer to the ‘living wage’ problem with restaurant systems using less labor thereby making a greater surplus of labor which keeps wages low.

3) The economic damage to the economy may not be over with yet, indeed there are fears that the economic crisis could still get worst. The provisions from Congress has done a fair job of sheltering the most vulnerable citizens, whose provisions will run out at the end of July. It’s unlikely that the labor market will be restored by July, so if the Congress doesn’t act, the economy could slide downward even more.

4) Stock market closings for – 12 MAY 20:

Dow 23,764.78 down 457.21
Nasdaq 9,002.55 down 189.79
S&P 500 2,870.12 down 60.20

10 Year Yield: down at 0.68%

Oil: up at $25.83

3 April 2020

1) Unemployment claims have jumped twice the previous week’s numbers, with 6.6 million Americans filing for benefits. This brings the last two weeks total of new unemployed to 10 million. The speed and scale of job losses are unprecedented. The record for loses in a month had been 695,000 in 1982. The coronavirus has wiped out more jobs in two weeks than were lost in the worst months of the last recession. Companies based on white-collar workers, have been able to keep their people working with work at home, but as revenues dry up, it’s questionable how long before they too will be forced to start layoffs. The growing number of laid off workers unable to pay their bills could well lead to a cascade of further layoffs and business failures.

2) While the price of oil has always had an effect on the equities, the recent plunged has had a more profound effect and therefore causing the roller-coaster volatility of the markets. This dramatized how very central oil is to the entire modern world. Stabilizing the oil prices would greatly help stabilizing the markets, and therefore the whole world economic system. Central to this is for Russia and Saudi Arabia to end their price war and resume limiting production. But central to this is Russia’s desire to damage American domestic oil production by destroying the shale oil companies, which would reduced American’s influence in the world especially in the middle east where Russia is very active.

3) Already wracked by fiscal problems from decline of the milk product markets, dairymen now suffer a further decrease in their market as a result of the coronavirus crisis. This is a result of restaurants, schools and other food service outlets reduced to stopping operations and therefore not needing milk products. The dairy industry is still producing, but doesn’t have anyplace to sell their milk, so the industry is asking the government to increase its purchases of dry milk, butter and cheese.

4) Stock market closings for – 2 APR 20:

Dow 21,413.44 up 469.93
Nasdaq 7,487.31 up 126.73
S&P 500 2,526.90 up 56.40

10 Year Yield: down at 0.63%

Oil: up at $24.90