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

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

2 March 2020

1) The stock markets continue their downward crash over worries of the conronavirus impact on economies making the week the worst week since the financial crisis. Caterpillar, a bellwether stock for global growth, slide down 3%, the worst performer among Dow stocks. Apple dropped 2.9% while Chevron and Cisco Systems are down more than 2%. Investors are worried the downward slide may continue after the conronavirus subsides, especially if China doesn’t return to its previous position, so recovery could be a long haul.

2) The sale of smartphones is collapsing in China, which is the largest market in the world. The plunged in sales is directly due to the coronavirus outbreak. Chinese companies had skidded to a halt, with the accelerated outbreak last month a result of quarantine mandates, travel restrictions and factory shutdowns. Huawei, the Chinese tech company, is being hit hard because it is the top selling smartphone in China.

3) Gold prices have been acting strangely with the reversals in the markets because of coronavirus fears. Traditionally, gold has been a ‘panic investment’ that investors flee to when there’s economic uncertainty, but this time investors are selling gold to generate cash. They are fleeing anything priced via bidding, for safer assets such as treasury bonds, which in turn is driving down bond interest rates. This indicates how worried the professional investors are about the world economic system.

4) Stock market closings for – 28 FEB 20:

Dow 25,409.36 down 357.28
Nasdaq 8,567.37 up 0.89
S&P 500 2,954.22 down 24.54

10 Year Yield: down at 1.13%

Oil: down at $45.26

19 February 20

1) Negative yielding debt are bonds with an interest rate below 0%. Since the peaking of the U.S.- China trade dispute, a third of all investment grade bonds have rates below 0%, for a total of $17 trillion dollars. This forces portfolio managers into riskier assets to deliver returns. But because the global economy is not growing any more, the bonds may not be saleable.

2) The Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 in the face of 275 abuse lawsuits and another 1,400 potential cases to come. The organization has already paid out more than $150 million dollars in settlements and legal cost. Its strategy is to contain financial damage of abuse scandals and emerge as a more sustainable organization.

3) The luxury automaker JLR (Jaguar Land Rover) is facing halts in their UK production plants because of supply chain problems from the deadly coronavirus in China. The company is racing to prevent plant closures by the end of the month, going to such extreme measures as flying critical parts out of China in suitcases. Fiat Chrysler’s European plants are facing similar closures from parts shortages.

4) Stock market closings for – 18 FEB 20:

Dow 29,232.19 down 165.89
Nasdaq 9,732.74 up 1.57
S&P 500 3,370.29 down 9.87

10 Year Yield: down at 1.56%

Oil: up at $52.10

16 January 2020

1) Nigeria may become the superpower of Africa, repeating the economic miracle of China and India. While investors are not moving into Nigeria yet, they are watching. Like China and India, Nigeria was once a colony of the west, and like India, was a colony of the British, and just like India its language is English. Right now, Nigeria is economically where China was forty years ago, before Mao Zedong died and Deng Xiaoping deregulated the economy to unleash it. For many other reasons, Nigeria is set to repeat the economic miracle of China.

2) House mortgage applications has soared to its highest level in eleven years, for new homes and refinance. Applications are up 30.2% from last week, and are 109% higher than a year ago. The interest rates are under 4% , combining with a rosy economic outlook and high employment causing home buyers to rush into the market. This is causing a near record low supply of housing across America, pushing prices up.

3) Retailer giant Target didn’t have a strong holiday sales in their toy departments, less than what was expected. This is ringing alarm bells for the entire industry. While Target gained market share in toys, its toy sales were flat over the 2019 holidays compared to last year. Toy makers like Hasbro, Mattel and Spin Master are offering a smaller variety of toys and games, a result in part from the bankruptcy of Toys-R-Us. Increasingly, toy sales is going to online retailers such as Amazon.

4) Stock market closings for – 15 JAN 20:

Dow            29,030.22    up    90.55
Nasdaq         9,258.70    up      7.37
S&P 500        3,289.29    up      6.14

10 Year Yield:    down   at    1.79%

Oil:    down   at    $58.13

27 November 2019

1) Farmers are facing a potential $24.5 billion dollar market for pork in China within ten years if America can gain unrestricted trade access. The reason is that Asian hog herds have been devastated by the disease of African swine fever. The disease has driven up the price of pork, a major staple of the Chinese diet, by more than 69%. There is a 12% duty on frozen pork, which the Chinese added a 60% punitive tariff, with China imposing customs restrictions to non-frozen pork.

2) U. S. home prices increased modestly over the last year with a 2% annual gain. Housing prices have increased for the last seven years, making houses unaffordable for many. Prices have steadily outpaced wage growth for several years. The low interest rates have helped alleviate the problem.

3) The arts and crafts retailer chain A.C. Moore is closing all of its 145 stores, although up to 40 of these closing locations will become Michaels, another arts and craft retail chain. Retailers nation wide have succumb to the changing patterns of American consumerism, with nearly 9,100 store closures in 2019, including big name well known stores such as Payless ShoeSource, Dressbarn and Gymboree.

4) Stock market closings for – 26 NOV 19:

Dow                28,121.68    up   55.21
Nasdaq             8,647.93    up   15.44
S&P 500            3,140.52    up     6.88

10 Year Yield:   down  at   1.74%

Oil:    unchanged  at   $57.91

24 October 2019

1) Several high profile companies have missed their third quarter earnings, making analysts worry if a long feared earnings recession may be getting closer. Earnings missed from expectations are FedEx by 3%, McDonald’s 5%, Caterpillar 8% and Boeing 30%. Texas Instruments has given a very poor revenue guidance for the fourth quarter of 11% below consensus. This quarter, 83% of reporting companies have beaten expectations by 4.2% average, so earnings misses by large companies is fairly rare.

2) Walmart will start its holiday sales earlier this year, starting this Friday at midnight. This is about a week earlier than last year. Retailers are facing a short holiday shopping season this year, which is just 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is about a week shorter than the same period last year.

3) Car prices have been rapidly increasing, leaving consumers having a hard time affording new vehicles. This forces buyers to take out long term auto loans making a further burden on hard pressed consumers. The average new car purchase price in the U.S. is $36,718 with interest rates at about 6%, which is up 2% from 2017. A decade ago, the average price for a new car was $23,900, while average wages has remained static.

4) Stock market closings for – 23 OCT 19:

Dow         26,833.95    up    45.85
Nasdaq      8,119.79    up    15.50
S&P 500     3,004.52    up      8.53

10 Year Yield:    down   at    1.76%

Oil:    up   at    $55.88

7 October 2019

1) As part of its restructuring plan, HP announced they will cut about 7,000 to 9,000 jobs, resulting in an estimated savings of about $1 billion dollars. While HP expects to incur labor and non-labor cost of about $1 billion dollars, they expect to generate at lease $3 billion dollars of free cash flow. As of 31 October 2018, HP had world wide employment of about 55,000 workers.

2) Consumer spending has been the bright spot in an economy showing signs of weakening on multiple fronts, in particular manufacturing. Economists worry if consumer spending will continue to prop up the economy, saying that the up coming Christmas season will be a test. Issues such as trade, interest rates, global risk factors and political rhetoric are where confidence can be eroded by deterioration of these items.

3) The new Costco in Shanghai China reports membership of more than 200,000 as compared to an American average of 68,000 per store. Costco will open a second Shanghai location in early 2021. The first day opening, the store was so swamped with customers, that the doors had to be closed for four hours to limit the number of people inside to safe limits.

4) Stock market closings for – 4 OCT 19:

Dow                  26,573.72    up    372.68
Nasdaq               7,982.47    up    110.21
S&P 500              2,952.01    up      41.38

10 Year Yield:    down   at    1.52%

Oil:    up   at    $53.01

26 September 2019

1) Devin Wenig, the president and CEO for eBay is stepping down as the company moves forward with potential sale of assets. EBay’s board of directors considers that a new CEO is best for the company at this time. Scott Schenkel, eBay’s senior vice president and chief financial officer has been appointed as interim CEO.

2) Inspired Brands, a restaurant chain holding company, announced it is adding Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches to its portfolio. Other restaurant chains owned by Inspired Brands is Arby’s, Sonic, Buffalo Wild Wings and Rusty Taco. This acquisition will make Inspired Brands the fourth largest restaurant company in the U.S., with over $14 billion dollars in annual sales from 11,200 restaurants in 16 countries.

3) The number of mortgage applications has fallen 10.1% this last week, as interest rates rise. However, the volume is still 46% higher than a year ago when interest rates were higher. Applications for refinancing home loans, which are very sensitive to interest rates, fell 15%, but again is still 104% higher than a year ago.

4) Stock market closings for – 25 SEP 19:

Dow                26,970.71    up    162.94
Nasdaq             8,077.38    up      83.76
S&P 500            2,984.87    up      18.27

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.73%

Oil:    $56.66

25 September 2019

1) There are fears that the repo (repurchase agreements) market or short term funding, where banks lend to each other, is looking like it did on the 2007 market crash. The Federal Reserve Bank injected hundreds of billions of dollars into the repo system after it seized up last week when the interest rates quadruple. This has been coming about for the last several years after the Fed ended the policy of quantitative easing (QE) in order to increase liquidity to encourage banks to lend more. The squeeze like last week’s indicates there isn’t enough reserves in the financial system for the repo markets to operate. This means the government is having to buy back treasury securities.

2) Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has propose a tax that would cut billionaires’s net worth in half. This wealth tax takes Elizabeth Warren’s idea and pushes it even further, with Sanders goal to cut American billionaires’ fortunes in half over 15 years. This wealth tax would raise an estimated $4.35 trillion dollars over the next decade by targeting 0.1% of U.S. households.

3) The consumer confidence index has declined by the most in nine months. Americans’ expectations for the economy and the job market deteriorated posing a risk to the household spending that is key to growth. The index dropped from 134.2 to 125.1, the lowest level since January. The overall measure remains elevated suggesting consumers will continue to support the record long U.S. expansion via spending.

4) Stock market closings for – 24 SEP 19:

Dow               26,807.77    down    142.22
Nasdaq            7,993.63    down    118.84
S&P 500         2,966.60    down       25.18

10 Year Yield:    down   at    1.64%

Oil:    $56.80