1) The price of oil advanced as shrinking U.S. crude inventories added to expectations of a tighter global supply outlook after Saudi Arabia surprised the markets by pledging to reduce production for the next two months. Gasoline demand is falling to its lowest level since late May, spelling trouble for refining margins as a tighter global crude balance and straggling demand crimp profits for processing a barrel of oil. Saudi Arabia has decided to reduce crude output in February and March as part of an OPEC+ supply agreement. With the outlook for crude oil supply suddenly looking tighter, the oil options markets have grown less bearish.
2) A top scientist explains why a more infectious coronavirus variant is a bigger problem than a deadlier strain, with the deadly coronavirus having now mutated. One variant, called B.1.1.7, is more infectious, and has forced the UK into national lock down, with the variant having also been discovered in several US states, as well as other countries around the world. However, the new variant does not appear to be more deadly, so existing vaccines should also work against it. A really severe disease that one person gets won’t necessarily have as much impact as a lesser disease which a huge number of people get. While not any more deadly the new mutant B.1.1.7 is much more infectious, and is to blame for the surging numbers of people infected, filling up UK hospitals that forced the national lock down. It is estimated to have a 71% higher growth rate than other variants.
3) North Korea’s supreme ruler Kim Jong Un has announced a military expansion, but it is unclear if Pyongyang plans to ramp up its nuclear program too. This could put pressure on the incoming Joe Biden administration just when it is most vulnerable. North Korea plans to boost its military capacities in defiance of international sanctions, as well as a new five-year economic plan, admitting the previous program has failed. It’s unclear just what the military expansion will involve.
4) Stock market closings for – 7 JAN 21:
Dow 31,041.13 up by 211.73 Nasdaq 13,067.48 up by 326.69 S&P 500 3,803.79 up by 55.65
1) Just went everyone thought the second stimulus was a done deal, President Trump has made vague threats not to pass it. The President is asking Congress to amend the bill that has passed both chambers, with Trump decrying the bill’s $600 payments and its failure to properly support small businesses. He is now urging lawmakers to boost the $600 check to $2,000 for every American earning less than $75,000 per year. Furthermore, a veto would leave the threat of a government shutdown and expiring Covid-19 protections looming over the holiday season. The President said the bill contains too many provisions unrelated to the pandemic.
2) Threats of a second stimulus bill veto was reinforced with Trump’s veto of the defense bill, in part because of the requirement for renaming bases honoring Confederates and restrictions on the executive’s ability to bring troops home from overseas. Both the House and the Senate are already making plans for a post-Christmas session during which lawmakers plan to override the veto. Congress has until noon on January 3 to do so.
3) There are emerging new signs of economic distress. With the fate of a federal aid package suddenly thrown into doubt by President Trump, economic data on Wednesday shows why the help is so desperately needed. Personal income fell in November for the second straight month, and consumer spending declined for the first time since April, with a worsening pandemic continuing to take a toll on the U.S. economy. Applications for unemployment benefits remained high last week and have risen since early November. Experts know that things are going to get worse, the question is how much more worse. Many economists view direct payments to people as among the least effective measures, because much of the money goes to households that don’t need it. Spending on restaurants and hotels fell with transportation, clothing and gasoline also in declined. The decline in spending is spilling over into the labor market, with about 869,000 people filing new claims for state jobless benefits last week. The relief bill is smaller than many economists say is needed to carry the economy through the pandemic and ensure a robust recovery.
4) Stock market closings for – 23 DEC 20:
Dow 30,129.83 up by 114.32 Nasdaq 12,771.11 down by 36.80 S&P 500 3,690.01 up by 2.75
1) Apple Inc is trying to limit the impact of a bill aimed at fighting child labor in China, having had meetings with government representatives in an attempt to water down the bill. Under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, U.S. companies are required to ensure that their products are not made by forced labor in the region of Xinjiang. Many American companies, including Apple, have manufacturing sites that would be effected by this legislation, which would obligate public companies to report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and could lead to prosecutions over violations. A report by an Australian government body published in March claims that around 1,000-2,000 workers from the Chinese region were involved in Apple’s camera production.
2) Royal Dutch Shell has closed its Convent refinery in Louisiana. Convent is far from obsolete, indeed it is fairly big by U.S. standards and sophisticated. While Convent’s 700 workers are out of a job, the Convent replacement complex in northeast China is starting up. China has at least four projects underway in the country, totaling 1.2 million barrels a day of crude-processing capacity. This is just one example of a seismic shift in the global refining industry as demand for plastics and fuels grows in China and the rest of Asia. America has been the top refiner since the start of the oil age in the mid-nineteenth century, but China will dethrone the U.S. as early as next year. Oil exporters are selling more crude to Asia and less to long-standing customers in North America and Europe. China’s refiners are becoming a growing force in international markets for gasoline, diesel and other fuels.
3) The United States has officially exited the Open Skies Treaty on Sunday, six months after the Trump administration signaled it would. The reason is repeated Russian Federation violations of the treaty designed to allow unarmed aerial surveillance flights by the treaty participants in Europe, Russia, and the U.S. The treaty was negotiated in 1992 and entered into in 2002, and now has 34 participant states after the U.S. exit. Russia has consistently acted as if free to turn its obligations on and off at will by unlawfully denying or restricting Open Skies observation flights whenever it desires. For more than 20 years, Open Skies has been one of the most wide-ranging international arms control efforts to promote openness and transparency in military forces and activities. But Russia has denied flights within 6.2 miles of the Georgia-Russia border, and denying a previously approved flight over a major Russian military exercise. America’s European allies, however, value the treaty as it gives them the ability to collect aerial reconnaissance information, when lacking sophisticated satellite capabilities, that they would not have access to outside of the treaty.
4) Stock market closings for – 24 NOV 20:
Dow 30,046.24 up by 454.97 Nasdaq 12,036.78 up by 156.15 S&P 500 3,635.41 up by 57.82
1) Again, there is additional unemployment this week with 2.4 million people filing for unemployment benefits this last week. This brings the total U.S. unemployment during the pandemic up to 38 million, with continuing claims at 25.07 million, the highest level on record. The good news is the filings continue to decline from previous weeks. So far, there’s no indications that the easing of the lockdowns is having any effect on the unemployment dilemma.
2) The apparel retailer chain ‘The Gap’ is accelerating its implementation of robots in warehouses to assemble online orders, thus avoiding the use of human contact during the pandemic. The Gap is tripling the number of item picking robots in use to 106 by the fall. With the pandemic forcing the closure of its stores nationwide, their online sales shot up just when social distancing rules reduced their staff. Each robot does the work of four humans in a warehoused that was already highly automated. This is an example of increased automation occurring during times of economic shock, leaving fewer jobs for when the economy improves. These are times when employers shed less skilled workers by replacing them with technology and higher skilled workers thereby reducing their labor cost.
3) The second crisis for the American economy is arriving. The pandemic is having sever consequence for state and local governments with lockdowns eviscerating their finances. Monies needed to pay for public services and infrastructure have withered leaving governments to do triage of the services they provide. Basic services such as police, fire fighting, health, trash and water/sewer services are threatened with curtailment for lack of monies to pay salaries and supplies such as gasoline. Such actions is politically dangerous which can fuel political extremism that threatens democracy. Losses of state and local revenues are estimated to be 15 to 45 percent, or an overall loss of $1.75 trillion dollars a year. With growing doubts of re-employment after the crisis passes, this economic crisis is long term.
4) Stock market closings for – 21 MAY 20:
Dow 24,474.12 down 101.78 Nasdaq 9,284.88 down 90.90 S&P 500 2,948.51 down 23.10
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
1) As the administration considers efforts to restart the economy, economist are considering what a recovery will look like. Although there are widely differing opinions, most consider it will be a long slow process. While it was a great shock with the sudden stopping of businesses followed by the sudden massive unemployment, few consider that there will be a quick ‘snap back’ like with a light switch being snapped back on. The shutdown is causing fundamental shifts in the social-economic system. People’s shopping and ‘going-out’ habits such as restaurants, movies and sporting events is changing, which is also a change in spending habits. People are more reluctant to travel in high density such as airliners or cruise ships. Many small businesses will not survive this recession, and with half the businesses in America classed as small, there will be a significant change in the business environment, plus it will be a long time to reabsorb the massive unemployed, since automation will move in to fill the void. Finally, America’s economy is subject to being pulled down by the world economies, which few are expecting a strong comeback from, since so many were already weak before the coronavirus.
2) Consumer prices fell 0.4% in March, the largest monthly decline in five years. This is from the cost of things like traveling, gasoline, airfares and hotel rooms plunging. Energy cost is down 5.8% with gasoline prices down 10.5%. Food prices did continue rising. There are fears that the GDP will drop 30% or more adding to the economic bad news.
3) The wild gyrations of the stock market is leaving investors confused over what is happening. Stocks are going up when the future is filled with doubts and uncertainty, not a time when investors buy equities. The unemployment is quickly approaching, and may surpass 15% amidst fears of a huge economic contraction with a long term recession- a time when normally only fools would buy into the markets.
1) The dizzying swings in the stock market has made a mockery of efforts to forecast the market. This phenomena graphically reveals the high degree of uncertainty prevalent in the world today. One day, markets are up by one or two thousand points, next day down by the same amount as people are unable to decide if the economy will grow or contract. Market experts are unable to decide if the economic downturn is a short impulse from the coronavirus, or a long term event covering months or even years. One major component in seeing the economic future is the question of how many small businesses will fail during the shutdown, most from lack of cash. A high number of failures could drag the rest of businesses down.
2) American colleges and universities are also suffering financial problems from the coronavirus shutdown. Institutions are scrambling to close deep budget holes from loss of tuition and fees, refunds for student housing, dining and parking from students forced to leave school. Some have had a huge share of their reserves wiped out with some schools are facing financial collapse. Some face a double loss with their reserves in the stock market. To add to college’s worry, is the question of how many students will return this fall if the shut down is over. Furthermore, surveys show significant number of highschool seniors planning to take a year off before continuing their education, another loss of revenues for colleges.
3) Because of the virus shut down, demand for gasoline in America has collapsed. Sales are down 46.5% from last year. The same sharp decline in gasoline sales has been seen in Europe with demand for gasoline down as much as 85%. With big box retailers slowing and automakers shutting down, a slowdown is expected in the next few weeks.
4) Stock market closings for – 7 APR 20:
Dow 22,653.86 down 26.13 Nasdaq 7,887.26 down 25.98 S&P 500 2,659.41 down 4.27