11 June 2020

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

10 Year Yield: down at 0.75%

Oil: up at $38.78

10 June 2020

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

10 Year Yield: down at 0.83%

Oil: down at $38.39

21 May 2020

1) The Federal government is moving to address the record deficits that America has amassed. One method is to stretch out the time over which the deficit is paid off. Part of that plan is the reinstating of the 20 year bond, which was last issued in 1986. The Feds will auction off $20 billion dollars worth of bonds Wednesday, with an expected return of 1.21% verses 0.70% for the 10 year bonds and 1.42% for the 30 year bonds. The government is also considering 50 and 100 year bonds, but there doesn’t seem to be any demand for such financial instruments. It’s expected that the deficit will be $3.4 trillion dollars for fiscal 2020 and $2 trillion dollars for 2021.

2) The CBO (Congressional Budget Office) estimates the nation’s unemployment rate will exceed 15% through September then remain above 11% for the rest of the year. For 2021, they estimate an average of 9.3%. For the second quarter of 2020, the labor market is projected to see the steepest declines since the 1930’s. These high unemployment rates are expected to persist despite lawmakers’ efforts to counter with injections of cash into the economy. Further layoffs are expected despite the $660 billion dollar Paycheck Protection Program, but a partial rebound is possible in the last three months of the year, with as much as 30% of laid off workers being rehired.

3) Housing sales are way down, the lack of inventory has propped up prices with bidding wars from the limited availability of properties. The health guidelines have made it more difficult to market homes, another fallout of the pandemic. Since the pandemic began, the demand has fallen off, with the number of sellers also contracting, therefore the limited availability of properties. Despite the economic uncertainty, the supply shortage prior to the Covid-19 crisis still remains. Nevertheless, the housing market has cooled, with sales of existing homes projected to fall 20% in April compared to March, which had a 8.5% drop. Construction of new houses is down as contractors wait out the virus. While loan interest rates are low, lending institutions have tightened up their loan standards.

4) Stock market closings for – 20 MAY 20:

Dow 24,575.90 up 369.04
Nasdaq 9,375.78 up 190.67
S&P 500 2,971.61 up 48.67

10 Year Yield: down at 0.68%

Oil: up at $33.52

11 May 2020

1) The Money market mutual funds have traditionally been the ultimate haven for investors wanting to preserve capital, but this is increasingly difficult in a zero interest rate environment. The problem centers on having twice as much cash as typical. The money market funds have soared with assets at a record high of $4.77 trillion dollars because of the flight to safety this year by investors. Of that, about 75% of those assets are in Treasury and other government funds perceived as the lest risky and therefor least likely to actually lose value. The U.S. Treasury has issued in excess of $1.5 trillion dollars to fund the stimulus program and the loss of tax revenues. With interest rates near zero, some fund companies are waving management fees in order to preserve returns for clients, otherwise their clients would actually be losing money.

2) The rural department chain store Stage Stores, who predominantly caters to the rural areas and small to mid-size markets, is also experiencing the crunch on retailing. The company’s owners are preparing for bankruptcy , another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic. The chain has about 700 department stores in small towns and rural communities with about 13,600 full and part time employees. The classic retailer JC Penny is reportedly preparing to also file for bankruptcy including plans to permanently close a quarter of its 850 stores. The company missed a $17 million dollar debt payment and is going into default. The cruise ship line Norwegian Cruise Line in Miami has warned the company could go out of business because of the pandemic. The company has $6 billion dollars in long term debt, plus it’s faced with a huge number of clients demanding their money back for cruises already booked.

3) The U.S. Postal Service is reporting a huge loss, a direct result of the coronavirus crisis. The government owned corporation reported a $4.5 billion dollar loss for the first quarter. The USPS anticipates losses for the next 18 months amid steep declines in revenues. They have warned congress that government assistance is required if they are to continue delivering the mail. The congress has authorized the Treasury Department to lend the USPS up to $10 billion dollars as part of the $2.3 trillion dollar stimulus package, but President Trump has threaten to block that aid.

4) Stock market closings for – 8 MAY 20:

Dow 24,331.32 up 455.43
Nasdaq 9,121.32 up 141.66
S&P 500 2,929.80 up 48.61

10 Year Yield: up 0.68%

Oil: up at $26.04

4 May 2020

1) The coronavirus economic troubles has reached out to touch social security. The social security is financed by the payroll tax, those social security deductions on worker’s paycheck and the SSI employers pay for each worker. With a little over 30 million people now unemployed, one out of every six American workers, the monies needed by the government to send out social security checks has been drastically reduced. But the government’s obligation has not been cut, they are sending out the same amount each month, so the government must spend monies they get from other sources. The social security program is the largest single source of federal spending, which is now even more shakier than before.

2) More states are beginning the process of relaxing restrictions on businesses and shut down orders. About half of the states are retracting closing orders for businesses deemed nonessential allowing them to open for business again. The states are using a patchwork of strategies to reopen, based on the type of business and how their operations expose the public to infection of the virus. Two states with large populations, Texas and Ohio, have joined in the reopening process. States are feeling enormous pressure to restart businesses and restore social life, mostly in the South, Midwest and mountain West leading the way. There are big questions if the reopening is too early, that the waning virus infection might suddenly erupt in force.

3) American colleges and universities are also facing crippling financial difficulties from the coronavirus impact, with some small colleges already closing. They are having to bear the cost of having to suddenly shift to online classes, giving partial reimbursements of room and board, plus deferring summer secession without a change in their fixed cost of operations. Many experts considering the college education system is being forever changed in America.

4) Stock market closings for – 1 MAY 20:

Dow 23,723.69 down 622.03
Nasdaq 8,604.95 down 284.60
S&P 500 2,830.71 down 81.72

10 Year Yield: up at 0.64%

Oil: down at $19.69

29 April 2020

1) The ‘consumer confidence index’ dropped in April by the largest amount on record. The index dropped from 118.8 in March to 86.9, while the ‘present conditions index’ plunged from 166.7 to 76.4, its 90 point drop the largest on record. The ‘expectations index’, which is based on the future outlook, improved slightly from 86.8 to 93.8. The sharp drops are a result of the sudden massive unemployment from the shelter in place orders met to contain the coronavirus. But business is stirring with retailers starting to open up again. Simon Property Group, which is the largest mall owner in the U.S., is opening 49 of its malls and outlet centers in May across the country.

2) Another housing economic crisis could be building for the near future. The mortgage market has been disrupted with millions of borrowers having to postpone payments because of the pandemic and shelter in place, a result of massive layoffs. While some mortgage companies are allowing deferment of payments during the business shutdown, there’s the rising question of how to make up those payments after returning to work. Experts expect a repeat of the 2008 fiscal crisis with mortgages, because borrowers are already stretched thin financially, now having extra debt, but not the resources to service it. There could be another wave of foreclosures coming.

3) As nations scramble to get cash for economic stimulus efforts, they are selling off bonds at a frantic rate, much of it being bought by central banks. This is particularly true for the Asian bond market, with many experts saying this hasn’t come too soon, despite the long term risks. This frenzy in government selling bonds has cause a ‘whip-saw’ reaction in yield rates. Many central banks could be in big trouble if stimulus spending fails to avoid economic recovery, or worst yet an economic collapse.

4) Stock market closings for – 28 APR 20:

Dow 24,101.55 down 32.23
Nasdaq 8,607.73 down 122.43
S&P 500 2,863.39 down 15.09

10 Year Yield: down at 0.61%

Oil: up at $13.27

23 April 2020

1) The present unemployment rate is thought to be higher than anytime during the Great Depression, raising the question if the present day recession will last as long as the Depression, which was almost ten years. While some sever recessions have been short lived, usually they are long affairs. Lowering the interest rates is a traditional tool used by the government to counter a recession and stimulate the economy, but interest rates are already near zero when the coronavirus hit, so the government didn’t have its primary tool. Many economist are considering the strategy ‘America is back open for business’ as unlikely to create a huge surge in growth. There are three other major factors to consider- 1) the other world economies are continually pulling America’s down 2) the big mess that oil is in and 3) predictions from several different experts that in the next 15 to 25 years as much as 50% of the jobs will disappear to technology. It will be difficult for employment to return to pre-coronavirus levels if jobs are continually disappearing faster than people are being rehired. One interesting point, a financial analyst is predicting that Disney World, Disneyland and their overseas parks will not be able to reopen until January 2021, and if such a cash rich company is having so much difficulty reopening, how about the multitude of smaller companies with much more limited resources?

2) U.S. automakers are taking the first steps to bring workers back and start manufacturing operations again, but are finding it easier said than done. There are negotiations with the United Auto Workers union, for the manufactures to provide protective gear, frequently sanitize equipment and take worker temperatures to prevent infection of the virus to the union members. As much as workers want to return to a paycheck, there are real fears of catching the virus. Fiat Chrysler has announced May 4 as the gradual restart date, with General Motors and Ford expected to quickly follow.

3) Reports are building that the coronavirus may cause lasting damage to some organs such as the kidneys. There are fears from reports that the virus may cause damage to the heart, lungs and possibly the liver. Furthermore, the blood from Covid-19 patients is having unprecedented blood clotting, evident by blood clots forming while trying to insert IVs or taking blood samples. Internal blood clots can be life threatening, and autopsies are finding such internal blood clots.

4) Stock market closings for – 22 APR 20:

Dow 23,475.82 up 456.94
Nasdaq 8,495.38 up 232.15
S&P 500 2,799.31 up 62.75

10 Year Yield: up at 0.62%

Oil: up at $14.23

22 April 2020

1) Many retailers have closed their stores because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Analysts think that over the coming years, many of these stores will remain closed for good. Analysts forecast that 100,000 stores will close by fiscal 2025, the hardest hit will be the apparel retailers accounting for 24,000 closures. Most retail categories will be impacted, with consumer electronics to see about 12,000 closures, while home furnishings and grocery retailers will each have about 11,000 closures. The most insulated retailers are those that have fared best during the pandemic, including Walmart, Target and Costco Wholesale. Home Depot and Lowe’s, plus dollar stores such as Dollar General and off-price retailers like Ross Stores and TJ Maxx are also well-positioned to survive. The once powerful department stores, which were the shopping meccas that anchored malls and main streets, are now considered in their death throes with very few expected to survive.

2) As oil futures continue to slide down, the extra oil is being stored in giant ocean supertankers as oil traders scramble to find places to keep their product. There is now 160 million barrels of oil which is being stored on tankers, a record amount. The previous record was 100 million barrels during the 2009 financial crisis. A large portion of this oil is stored in about 60 super tankers called very large crude carriers (VLCC) which can hold up to 2 million barrels each. Every conceivable place to store oil is being explored, while also the U.S. government is replenishing its strategic reserves stored in old underground oil fields.

3) The Bank of America is expecting gold prices to rise to $3,000 an ounce amid the deepening world economy, which is more than 50% above the existing price record. Much of this is driven by fears that the Federal government is just printing money for the trillions of dollars being spent to counter the stopped economy because of the coronavirus. The feeling being that the ‘feds can’t print gold’ and so it will hold its value. Historically, gold has been a ‘panic investment’, a safe heaven for hard economic times, a hedge against money dropping in value.

4) Stock market closings for – 21 APR 20:

Dow 23,018.88 down 631.56
Nasdaq 8,263.23 down 297.50
S&P 500 2,736.56 down 86.60

10 Year Yield: down at 0.57%

Oil: up at $13.12

21 April 2020

1) The second wave of unemployment is coming after an unprecedented spike in layoffs from the cornonavirus ‘stay at home’ orders. But while businesses will soon start rehiring workers, many will take the opportunity to replace their workers with cheaper and more contingent labor. The crisis will accelerate trends towards industry consolidation that reduces potential employers, automation, which replaces human labor, and worker precarity when convenience of employers and customers entirely overrides the well being of workers. Further aggravating employment will be the large number of small businesses expected to succumb to the recession leaving fewer employment opportunities. Also, the force isolation is changing people’s buying habits with more online shopping, delivery services and self service kiosks. These methods of automation also represent cost cutting methods, which companies will cultivate to make more wide spread. All this promises to make the second round even harsher.

2) Oil prices continue their downward spiral, with futures at record lows as investors worry about lack of storage and the world economy. German and Japanese data indicates a bleak global economy, which will in turn pull America’s down. Despite measures being taken to reduce the supply, the glut will continue for the foreseeable future. Numerous statistics and prices point to a continual crisis for the world and American economies.

3) Restaurants are particularly hard hit by the coronavirus economy, with more than 8 million workers having lost their jobs, about two-thirds of the restaurant labor force. About four in ten restaurants have closed, while many others struggle to stay afloat by providing curbside service. The National Restaurant Association is asking for more monies to support survival of restaurants during this period of government enforced business closure. Like so many other small businesses, the future for many restaurants is looking very doubtful.

4) Stock market closings for – 20 APR 20: Oil drops from $18.12 for Friday to -$16.10, almost a complete inversion in price.

Dow 23,650.44 down 592.05
Nasdaq 8,560.73 down 89.41
S&P 500 2,823.16 down 51.40

10 Year Yield: down at 0.63%

Oil: down at -$16.10

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