3 September 2020

1) Major American companies are extending their ‘work from home’ policy, such as Google, Uber and Airbnb, until the summer of next year. The companies Zillow, Twitter, Facebook and Square have announce that employees can work from home indefinitely. Some companies are also offering stipends to employees for home office equipment as well as a $500 quarterly credit to use specifically on Airbnbs. This at home work policy remains in effect even after offices start reopening. The work at home is even spreading across the international scene with electronic giant Hitachi having 70% of its employees work permanently from home. Nationwide Insurance plans to downsize from 20 physical offices to just four with the majority of its employees continuing to work permanently from home. It’s looking more and more like working at home is becoming the norm for the future in America.

2) In a bid to counter the competition of e-commerce, the traditional department store giant Macy’s has started opening new, smaller stores away from the malls, reflecting a growing trend in the retail industry. The retail giant will test small-format Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s stores outside of underperforming malls, joining a growing trend in retail. The test stores will begin operation the fourth quarter of 2021 in Dallas, Atlanta and Washington DC. Many other major retailers are turning away from the mall format of retailing, leaving many malls withering on the vine, with foot traffic on the decline even before the Convid-19 crisis. This is another indication of a shift in American culture and society.

3) Fashion retailer Old Navy has announced they will pay their employees to work at polling stations comes election day. Each employee will be paid a full days wages for their poll work. Furthermore, store employees will have up to three hours of paid time-off on election day to vote. Old Navy joins other retailers such as Patagonia, PayPal and Levi Strauss & Co. to help in the national elections.

4) Stock market closings for – 2 SEP 20:

Dow 29,100.50 up 454.84
Nasdaq 12,056.44 up 116.78
S&P 500 3,580.84 up 54.19

10 Year Yield: down at 0.65%

Oil: down at $41.78

26 June 2020

1) General Motors is eliminating 700 factory jobs in Tennessee as a result of low sales, which they are blaming on the Convid-19 crisis. This is the third shift at their Spring Hill assembly plant, leaving 3,000 workers still employed. This plant makes Cadillac XT5 and XT6 SUVs plus the GMC Acadia. This is another sign of the weakness in auto demand, a result of record job loss coupled with people working at home and therefore putting less wear on their old cars. The GM plant for building truck engines remains unchanged, since they were working just two shifts to start with.

2) The nation wide retailer Macy’s is cutting nearly 4,000 corporate jobs, about 3% of its overall workforce. The pandemic has taken a toll on the department store chain, just like so many other traditional chain retailers. This move will save the company about $630 million dollars per year, amid a quarterly net loss of $652 million dollars. Macy’s was struggling long before the pandemic because of competition from lower priced retailers such as Walmart, T.J. Maxx and Target.

3) The U.S. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) shrank by 5% for the first quarter, compared to an increase in the previous quarter of 2.1%, prior to the coronavirus pandemic onset. This drop is attributed to a decrease in personal consumption expenditures (PCE) because people are spending less. The real gross domestic income decreased 4.4% as compared to a 3.1% increase in the fourth quarter of last year.

4) Stock market closings for – 25 JUN 20:

Dow 25,745.60 up 299.66
Nasdaq 10,017.00 up 107.84
S&P 500 3,083.76 up 33.43

10 Year Yield: down at 0.67%

Oil: up at $39.18

17 April 2020

1) The troubles of the shale oil industry, and their decline, are well known, but another much less know part of these economic troubles is the multitude of suppliers who no longer have someone to sell to. Drilling and producing shale oil is an intensive industrial operation requiring a mired of mechanical and chemical supplies consumed in the operation, and there are a large number of suppliers for these items who depend on the oil industry for their business. With the low oil prices, shale oil companies have been forced to abandon drilling. Since the start of 2019, the oilfield service sector has lost almost 50,000 jobs, with the near future forecast to be even worst. As the oil companies file for bankruptcy, large oil service providers such as Schlumberger, Halliburton and Baker Hughes are left being owed millions of dollars with little hope of recovering those debts.

2) The method of calculating the percentage of unemployment rate may not be an accurate indicator of the present calamity which has struck the American job market because only those looking for work are counted in the calculation. Many of the recent 20 million unemployed are not looking for work, rather they are waiting for their former jobs to return, and so they are not being counted as unemployed in the often quoted percent unemployed number. A better indicator is the ‘employment to population’ ratio, which is the number of people working to the total population. This ratio had been at about 60% in January, but has dropped to 52% in April. But by any measure, the unemployment is a serious problem, that promises to get worst as the recession continues and automation makes inroads in replacing jobs with machines.

3) The large retailers, who were already in trouble before the coronavirus, are now being ravaged by the shutdown with many looking at bankruptcy. Big names such as J.C. Penny, Neiman Marcus and Macy’s have little to no revenues, yet still have their fix cost of operations such as loan debt, rents, utilities and taxes which still must be paid yet sales for department stores have dropped 24% with the sales for clothes down 51%. Their survival is dependent on how much cash reserve they have and when their largest loans mature and must be paid in full. This may herald a major change to the retailing business of America.

4) Stock market closings for – 16 APR 20:

Dow 23,537.68 up 33.33
Nasdaq 8,532.36 up 139.19
S&P 500 2,799.55 up 16.19

10 Year Yield: down at 0.61%

Oil: down at $19.75

6 February 2020

1) For the first time in six years, the U.S. trade deficit fell as the White House’s trade war with China curbed imports. The trade deficit dropped 1.7% to $616.8 billion dollars last year with steep decline in industrial materials and supplies, consumer goods and other goods. The trade deficit for goods with Mexico jumped to a record high of $101.8 billion dollars last year, with the European Union reaching an all time high of $177.9 billion dollars.

2) The Ford Motor Company is posting a$1.7 billion dollar loss and anticipates a weak forecast for 2020. General Motors is also reporting poor performance for 2019 and anticipates flat profits for 2020. Both Ford and GM’s troubles are in part from slaking sales in China, in particular with the economic slowdown in China from the coronavirus pandemic. The major competitor to the duet auto makers, Tesla, is suffering from the coronavirus closing of its Shanghai factory which builds its Model 3 sedans.

3) Macy’s, another major world renowned retailer, is experiencing the brick-and-mortar decline of other major traditional retailers. The chain is closing 125 of its stores, in addition to the 100 stores it has already closed, and cutting about 2,000 corporate jobs. Their strategy is to exit weaker shopping malls and focus towards opening smaller format stores in strip centers. But even with these changes, the future of Macy’s is abysmal. The company has lost market share in core categories such as apparel, as fewer shoppers take trips to malls, preferring on line shopping.

4) Stock market closings for – 5 FEB 20:

Dow                 29,290.85    up    483.22
Nasdaq             9,508.68    up      40.71
S&P 500            3,334.69    up      37.10

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.65%

Oil:    up   at    $51.17

FUTURE of HYPER CONSUMERISM!!!!!!!!!!!

The Real Value to Society for the Youth of America is as Consumers, But What Becomes of Them if Hyper-Consumerism Declines.

By: James Lyman BSAE, BSEE, MSSM

Economic & Finance Report

I’m old enough to remember the first oil crisis of 1973, when the Arab nations tried to punish America for her support of Israel in the Seventy-Two war by cutting off oil shipments. American manufacturing was already in decline when the economic shock of oil shortages ripped through society. Suddenly, American manufacturing started crumbling away as factory after factory closed with American business losing all interest in making their money by manufacturing. The Rust Belt was born. Confronted with a growing problem of spreading unemployment and diminishing opportunity for people, the government had to come up with a new way of doing things, a new kind of economy.

The solution was deemed to be the service economy, the hyper-consumerism where people’s value in the economy and to society was as consumers working to support other consumers, who in turn worked to support more consumers. Instead of producing real material wealth as was formally done with a manufacturing based economy, America would depend almost exclusively on the multiplying effect of money being exchanged from one person to another, a basic principle taught in any introduction course of economics.

Not long ago I wrote another article titled, “Tiny House – Tiny Future” about how the millenniums were turning away from the traditional living in large houses and instead going to homes that are one tenth the traditional size, and consequently foregoing the purchasing common to the hyper-consumerism society simply because they no longer have the room to keep stuff. This I proposed was maybe a sign that hyper-consumerism was coming to an end, that it was not sustainable. With diminishing opportunities for the young, they don’t have the monies to participate in hyper-consumerism the buying of things just to be buying and having things.

Then while checking my email, I glimpsed a banner for a news story about how some of the top ten retailers where closing stores, which instantly caught my attention. Could this be another sign that hyper-consumerism was on the decline, that the much vaunted service economy we depend on is now crumbing just as manufacturing with the rust belt did? Will the millenniums and Z Generation be less able to make substantive contributions to society? I decided to check into this and here’s a parcel list of those retailers who are contracting by closing stores:

Sears & Kmart: 43 additional stores

J.C. Penney: 138 stores

Macy’s: 68 stores

Payless ShoeSource:  512 stores and counting

Radio Shack:  1,000 stores with only 70 remaining

Staples:  70 stores

CVS: 70 stores

Neiman Marcus: number not stated

Furthermore, some of the top American retailers may be declaring bankruptcy this year. No doubt, you’ve heard the recent story of how Alfred Angelo Bridal, the national bridal gown retailer, suddenly closed their doors in bankruptcy leaving hundreds of soon to be brides with nothing to wear to their nuptials but what was already in their closets. Not only that, but they would get just a fraction of their money back  and then months or years from now at that!

So what if this is portents of things to come? So what if the youth of America doesn’t have the hyper-consumerism based economy of their parents and grandparents? Well the real question is, what do they have instead? What is in line to replace it? The answer is nothing! No one in the government is working on some alternative, just like 1973 when American manufacturing was fading. It wasn’t until the shock of the oil crisis that our government gave the situation any consideration, and then it was a quicky decision with little to no real consideration (in other words talking points), and certainly no modeling of the consequences from that decision. That time, they sort of lucked out and it’s worked for several decades, but can they luck out again?

And how do I know that no consideration is being given to a possible demise of hyper-consumerism? Because you hear virtually nothing about the obsolete people problem with the displacement of workers by technology. This is a very integral part of today’s economic problems for the millenniums, in that anytime you can reduce the intellectual-skill levels required for a job, you reduce your labor cost. Displacement by technology means that millenniums are less able to make money because machines are doing the better paying work. Without money, their value as consumers diminishes so they are less able to support a hyper-consumerism based economy. Like the washing away of sand under the foundation of a house, there just comes a time when the house can no longer stand.

Without hyper-consumerism  what will become of so many of America’s youth.