22 September 2020

1) Bad news from the conronavirus continuing to pile in with a just-released report that 60% of the small businesses that have closed because of the virus, and will never open again. Of nearly 163,700 businesses that have closed since March 1, about 98,000 say they’ve shut their doors for good. This is a 23% increase from July. About 32,100 of these businesses are restaurants, with close to 19,600, or about 61%, closing permanently. The National Restaurant Association says 100,000 restaurants have closed, either permanently or long-term, with a lose of $240 billion in sales this year. Restaurants operate on razor-thin margins even in the best of times, and so are less likely to make it through the disruption. Consumers are spending less on dining-out, while the disposable income for Americans is shrinking. Retail stores are also struggling with about 30,400 shopping and retail establishments closing since March 1, and of these 17,500, or 58% of them are permanent.

2) Many of the workers now working at home, are engaged in day trading to counter boredom for both entertainment and profits, but with growing fears that this trend could end badly. Most of these individual investors do not have the wealth, time or temperament to make money and sustain losses for any period of time. Major companies can have big rallies on the market, only to suddenly turn around with big losses. These casual investors are competing with large investors who have technology that allows them to trade on information before most people have time to read about it. In the long run, small investors, with about 30 stocks, have only a 40% chance of doing as well as the overall market.

3) The incredibly low interest rates have caused a rush of home sales in 2020 as people take advantage of the low interest rate, and in turn all these new mortgages have flooded the bond market as investors scoop them up. But it’s not just home sales, because 69% of the new mortgages are refinances of old mortgages. Many of these mortgages are then sold to government sponsored agencies such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae, who then repackage the loans into mortgage backed bonds or securities. These bonds often have higher returns than traditional Treasurys. Additionally, the bonds are often backed by government guarantees meaning there is little risk to the investors.

4) Stock market closings for – 21 SEP 20:
Dow 27,147.70 down 509.72
Nasdaq 10,778.80 down 14.48
S&P 500 3,281.06 down 38.41
10 Year Yield: down at 0.67%
Oil: down at $39.72

24 August 2020

1) Despite being in a major recession with unemployment hovering around 22 million, the home sales market is on fire, last month setting a record 24.7% increase compared with June. While the housing market was all but frozen this spring, surprisingly it has rebound from the effects of the pandemic crisis. The previous record for sales was set in 1968 with a 20.7% rise. Furthermore, all regions of the country reported strong sales of homes. One factor is considered that all the work at home has homeowners looking for larger houses. The strong sales is driving prices upward, with the median price of homes up 8.5% from July, now at $304,100. This is the 101st straight month of increasing prices.

2) AI (Artificial Intelligence) has made significant inroads in competing with humans to do tasks better and faster. In a field most people would consider as strictly a human endeavor- Dog fighting, or aerial combat where fighter aircraft chase each other through the sky trying to shoot each other down, now has AI systems to replace people. An AI system developed by Heron Systems went against a human F-16 fighter pilot in simulated air combat and defeated him 5-0. The simulation was limited to the nose cannon only, no missiles allowed. A couple of years ago, Boeing Aircraft said they were developing robot airliners which flew by themselves- no pilots!

3) Researchers have created a minuscule robot beetle, weighing only 88 milligrams, that can operated for two hours without a battery. The machine runs on liquid methanol that powers its artificial muscles allowing it to carry 2.6 times its body weight. The artificial muscles are called ‘catalytic artificial micro-muscle’, that uses special metals that allows the use of methanol to generate power to a micro-machine. While the RoBeetle is just a demonstration of a technology, it shows that power can be derived without the use of conventional batteries, which limit the size and weight of micro-robots.

4) Stock market closings for – 21 AUG 20:

Dow 27,930.33 up 190.60
Nasdaq 11,311.80 up 46.85
S&P 500 3,397.16 up 11.65

10 Year Yield: down at 0.64%

Oil: down at $42.25

23 June 2020

1) Speculation abounds over what the next stimulus package will have, such as extended income support for the unemployed and underemployed. New temporary subsidies for low wage workers. Cheap loans for small and medium size businesses with additional support for state and local governments. Cost estimates for a second stimulus program range from one to two trillion dollars. But like the first stimulus package, no one is offering ideas how this money will be paid off, especially if economic expansion doesn’t materialize.

2) The worlds fastest super computer is now Japan’s Fugaku supercomputer developed by Riken and Fujitsu with backing from the Japanese government. It has a speed of roughly 415.53 petaflops, which is 2.8 times faster than the US Summit supercomputers at 148.6 petaflops. The Fugaku was under development for six years and will start full time operation by April 2021, although it has been pressed into service in the coronavirus crisis, running simulations on how droplets would spread in office spaces with partitions. Previously, the fastest supercomputers have belong to America and China.

3) The sales of existing homes has dropped in May, a result of the coronavirus impact on the economy. The sales of existing homes in May fell 9.7% compared with April, which makes for an annual decline of 26.6%. This is the largest decline since 1982 when interest rates were 18%. There remains a shortage of housing which is helping to uplift the market, and therefore the economy as soon as the crisis has subsided.

4) Stock market closings for – 22 JUN 20:

Dow 26,024.96 up 153.50
Nasdaq 10,056.48 up 110.35
S&P 500 3,117.86 up 20.12

10 Year Yield: up at 0.70%

Oil: up at $41.13

26 May 2020

1) Sales of homes in the U.S. have dropped their biggest drop in nearly 10 years, because of the coronavirus crisis in April. The upending of the labor market and the broader economy has undercut demand for housing. Sales of existing homes have plunged 17.8% with existing home sales making up about 90% of U.S. home sales. In addition, April showed a record collapse in homebuilding and permits. With unemployment up past 38 million people and still climbing, it’s expected the home sale market will remain depressed for long after the pandemic crisis is over. The problem is further exasperated by a four month inventory of homes where a six to seven month supply is considered a healthy balance between supply and demand.

2) More contraction of consumerism with more retailers announcing closing of stores. The retailers Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works will be permanently closing about 300 stores in America and Canada. With the young people of America having fewer good job opportunities and less disposable income, the hyper-consumerism economy born in the seventies is finding it harder to sustain itself, raising questions of what economic model might replace the present one . . . and what the job future would be for the young.

3) Companies have been borrowing at a rampant pace to shore up their liquidity during the pandemic. The wireless carrier AT&T is joining in with a new bond sale of $12.5 billion dollars of unsecured bonds in five parts. The intent is to take advantage of a global rally in credit to refinance their outstanding debt. Their 40 year security has a yield 250 basic points over the Treasuries. In the last few years, AT&T has been reducing its debt of nearly $200 billion dollars now down to $164 billion dollars, most of the debt coming from its acquisitions of Time Warner Inc and DirectTV.

4) Stock market closings for – 22 MAY 20:

Dow 24,465.16 down 8.96
Nasdaq 9,324.59 up 39.71
S&P 500 2,955.45 up 6.94

10 Year Yield: down at 0.66%

Oil: down at $33.56

21 May 2019

1 ) Ford Motor Company announces a 10% reduction in its work force by eliminating 7,000 jobs world wide. These jobs are salaried white-collar jobs, which are part of a major restructuring to eliminate bureaucracy and increase the number of workers reporting to each manager. Technologies allow large corporations to streamline their management staff and thereby reduce their staff.

2) The U.S. home sales fell unexpectedly in April with persistent weakness in lower-priced housing market. This market segment had been experiencing an acute shortage of properties. Economist had been forecasting a 2.7% rise in home sales, but the existing home sales dropped 4.4% from last year, making this the 14th straight year-on-year decrease in home sales. Existing home sales make up about 90% of U.S. home sales.

3) The United States Postal Service has started a two week test of commercialized autonomous vehicle technology to carry the mail cross country via robot driven semi-trucks. The test run is between Phoenix and Dallas with five round trips, each 2,100 long. Each test truck will have a safety driver on guard and an engineer. The test vehicles will travel the interstates through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. To drive the same route would require multiple human truck drivers.

4) 21 MAY 19 Stock market closings:

Dow              25,877.33    up    197.43
Nasdaq          7,785.72    up       83.35
S&P 500         2,864.36    up       24.13

10 Year Yield:     up   at    2.43%

Oil:    down   at    $62.97