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

11 August 2020

1) Online retailer giant Amazon is considering taking over closed department stores in some malls to use as warehouses in their distribution system. Amazon is in talks with Simon Property Group, America’s largest mall owner, to convert J.C. Penny and Sears stores into distribution hubs for package delivery. Simon malls have 63 J.C. Penny and 11 Sears stores available. With many traditional brick-and-mortar stores in collapse, such a deal would make sense for both Amazon and Simon. Amazon is looking for more space closer to where customers live to help with its one day delivery strategy, while Simon needs cash rich tenants to bolster their business.

2) A report that outlines the three potential future movies in the Star Trek franchise has been released. The movies for Star Trek follow-on’s have been in limbo since the 2016’s Star Trek Beyond. There are three potential projects being considered for possible production, including a Tarantino’s Star Trek movie. The first movie by Noah Hawley (Fargo and Legion creator) is centered on a pandemic story line using a brand new cast, but is now on pause. The second is a movie by Tarantino, of Pulp Fiction fame, as writer, but not necessary directing it. Something of a take on of a prior Star Trek episode, it would be largely an earthbound 1930’s gangster setting. The third is a far more traditional Star Trek with the recent stars Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. The next few weeks is expected to yield the fate of the Star Trek franchise.

3) Latest job numbers show 1.8 million new jobs created last month to give a 10.2% unemployment rate. This is another coming down of the rate, a good sign for the economy. This leaves 43% unemployed of the 22 million people who lost their jobs from the pandemic, so the economy is still a long way from a full recovery. Fears are that it will be a long time before full recovery, what with the large number of small businesses that have succumb to the Covid-19 crisis with subsequent loss of jobs. The continual struggling price of oil indicates a still weak international economy.

4) Stock market closings for – 10 AUG 20:

Dow 27,791.44 up 357.96
Nasdaq 10,968.36 down 42.63
S&P 500 3,360.47 up 9.19

10 Year Yield: up at 0.57%

Oil: up at $41.99

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

1 April 2020

1) To aid in economic recovery, President Trump is calling for a $2 trillion dollar spending plan to update the country’s infrastructure. Monies would be used to update the country’s roads, bridges and other parts of the physical infrastructure. This would be part of Phase 4 response to the coronavirus crisis. The President said that with interest rates at zero, this is the ideal time to address our declining infrastructure.

2) There are growing fears of the devastation that the coronavirus has and continues to wrought on America’s economy. Layoffs are coming faster than unemployment offices can accommodate, increasing fears about making mortgage and loan payments, malls and shopping centers devoid of people with only the essential commerce. Economist are now forecasting a real GDP growth of negative 9% for the first quarter and minus 34% for the second. There is expected to be 4.5 million filings for jobless benefits this week, which will be the highest in history. While there are hopes for a quick turn around, the damage may be too great to quickly return to the economic boom prior to the virus.

3) Founders of the European Union (EU) have always feared that Italy’s proliferate borrowing would ultimately become the EU’s problem. Now with Italy’s coronavirus problems, the country is having to borrow again to care for its people, in turn pushing up its debt to dangerous levels which the EU will have to cover. This is made doubly critical with other EU member’s economies shaken by the shutdowns from the virus. Presently, Italy’s debt level is approaching 150% of its gross domestic product and may well surpass that.

4) Stock market closings for – 31 MAR 20:

Dow 21,917.16 down 410.32
Nasdaq 7,700.10 down 74.05
S&P 500 2,584.59 down 42.06

10 Year Yield: up at 0.70%

Oil: down at $20.10

12 February 2020

1) The demise of the big box and department stores in malls, has spawned a move to trendy local shops. These are standalone small format stores designed to experiment with new retail strategies and increased foot traffic. These stores tend to be positioned closer to neighborhoods away from the malls. The department stores and big box retailers grew rapidly and over saturated the market, while the small format stores have less investments and lower lease costs.

2) Boeing Aircraft company reported zero new orders for this January, while Airbus tallied 274 orders for commercial airplanes in the same month. The company did deliver 13 new airplanes in January, six were 787 Dreamliners, two 777s, two 767 and three 737NG. Boeing is anticipating re-certification of its 737MAX by the middle of 2020.

3) California is now estimated to have 150,000 homeless people, reaching record numbers, of which two-thirds are living on the streets. There are more than 100 homeless camps across Oakland, in which authorities are in the process of dismantling. The homeless scratch out a living doing odd jobs, focus groups or medial trials. The rising cost of housing is the prime force driving people to homelessness, the number increasing each day despite the soaring stock market and record low unemployment rate.

4) Stock market closings for – 11 FEB 20:

Dow 29,276.34 down 0.48
Nasdaq 9,638.94 up 10.55
S&P 500 3,357.75 up 5.66

10 Year Yield: up at 1.59%

Oil: up at $50.07

4 February 2020

1) All ready shaken by the trade war, China is now being racked by the coronavirus, with fears of the virus pushing the Chinese markets down by $393 billion dollars on the first day of trading since the Lunar New Year. This is an 8% drop on the Shanghai composite index, the biggest drop in more than four years. This is despite the biggest cash injection of China’s financial system since 2004. Additionally, commodities contracts have all posted sharp drops, a strong indication of an economic slowdown.

2) The shopping malls are dying as shopping habits of consumers change over to the internet. It’s estimated that 25% of American malls will shut their doors by 2022, and more of the 9,300 retail stores that closed in 2019 were in malls. Mall owners are searching for ways to halt the trend of shrinking retailing in malls, including buying major retail companies such as Forever 21 and Aeropostale.

3) As traditional brick-and-mortar stores continue its slide downwards, a number of companies are considered at risk of bankruptcy this next year. Stores like Neiman Marcus ply their way in red ink, including J. Crew, Francesca’s, Rite Aid, JCPenny, Pier 1, Dressbarn, Destination Maternity, Men’s Wearhouse and Stein Mart. Companies heavy into cloths and fashion ware are the ones struggling the most to avoid the bankruptcy courts.

4) Stock market closings for – 3 FEB 20:

Dow              28,399.81    up    143.78
Nasdaq          9,273.40    up     122.47
S&P 500         3,248.92    up       23.40

10 Year Yield:    unchanged   at    1.52%

Oil:    down   at    $49.91

23 January 2020

1) Present Trump has renewed his threats to impose tariffs on imported cars from Europe, citing that the European Union is even more difficult to do business with than China. His comments signals he is turning his attention to renegotiating trade deals with the bloc. Automobiles have been at the center of trade tensions for the past couple of years.

2) The millennials own just 4% of American real estate by value, much less than the 32% which baby boomers owned. This comparison is with approximately the same media age of the two groups, meaning the millennials are far behind the baby boomers economically. While millennials may close that gap in the next four years, it’s unlikely they will reach 20% ownership, still far behind the baby boomers.

3) There is a rash of retail store closings after the holiday season, due to sales slump. Fashion retailer Express is closing 91 stores, Bed Bath & Beyond is closing 60 , Schurman Retail Group is closing its Papyrus and American Greeting stores for a total of 254 locations in the next four to six weeks. Express is the latest in a serious of fashion retailers to close, part of the struggle of malls to compete in the new retail arena. Last year, retailers Forever 21 filed for bankruptcy, with Charlotte Russe and Payless ShoeSource going out of business.

4) Stock market closings for – 22 JAN 20:

Dow            29,186.27    down       9.77
Nasdaq         9,383.77          up     12.96
S&P 500        3,321.75          up       0.96

10 Year Yield:       unchanged   at    1.77%

Oil:         down   at    $56.17