25 March 2021

1) There is a large backup of freighters parked in the San Francisco Bay and in Long Beach, which are awaiting an opening at the Port of Oakland. This is because of a trade bottleneck, a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, thereby leaving U.S. businesses anxiously awaiting goods from Asia. The pandemic has wreaked havoc with the supply chain since early 2020, because it forced the closure of factories throughout China. The problem arose last March, when Americans stayed home, thus dramatically changing their buying habits. Instead of clothes, they bought electronics, fitness equipment and home improvement products. In turn U.S. companies responded by flooding the reopened Asian factories with orders, which then lead to a chain reaction of congestion at ports and freight hubs as the goods began arriving. Ships with as many as 14,000 containers have sat offshore, some of them for over a week, with as many as 40 ships waiting.

2) The manufacturing crisis with automakers continues to grow, with the auto industry bracing for more chip shortages after a fire at a plant owned by Japanese chipmaker Renesas. The company makes chips for Toyota, Nissan and Honda, and expects production at one of the buildings at its Naka Factory in Hitachinaka to be halted for a month. Renesas said the fire started when some equipment overheated and ignited, though it isn’t known what caused it to overheat. Renesas said two-thirds of the products made in the building could be produced elsewhere, although due to the recent increase in demand for semiconductors, the situation does not allow for all products to be immediately produced alternatively. This further reduction in semiconductor production will further reduce production of automobiles worldwide.

3) North Korea tells China they should team up as ‘Hostile Forces’. North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un reportedly praised his country’s close ties with neighboring China, looking to boost their ties to counter the hostile policies of the United States. China and North Korea’s close ties date back to the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, then the outbreak of the Korean War a year later. In the war, Chinese troops supported North Korean forces with the backing of the Soviet Union, against South Korea and a U.S. led United Nations coalition. However, the fighting ended in a stalemate with an armistice but no official peace, which continues to this day. The North Korea considers that the world is now undergoing transformations rarely seen in a century, which is also overlapped by the ‘once in a century’ pandemic. What this portents for China and North Korea’s future actions . . . only time will tell.

4) Stock market closings for – 24 MAR 21:

Dow Jones 32,420 down by 3.09
NASDAQ 12,962 down by 265.81
S&P 500 3,889 down by 21.38

10 Year Yields: 1.6280

Oil: up at 64.41

18 February 2021

1) Demand for natural gas is currently at an unprecedented level according to Atmos Energy, because of freezing rain, snow, ice and dangerous travel conditions. Atmos Energy is asking all of its customers and businesses to conserve as much energy as possible. The Dallas-based natural-gas-only company is one of the nation’s largest distributors, serving about three million customers in more than 1,400 communities in nine states. This request comes after a new Winter Storm Warning was issued for all of North Texas while millions in the state remain without power. Atmos Energy has offered their customers a number of suggestions on how they can limit their energy usage.

2) Texas produces more energy than any other state, yet in the midst of the arctic freeze gripping the central U.S., Texas is faced with insufficient energy for its citizens. The arctic freeze gripping the central U.S. is raising the specter of power outages in Texas. The deep freeze this week in the Lone Star state, is causing power demand to skyrocket. The people of Texas relies on electricity to heat many homes, while at the same time, natural gas, coal, wind and nuclear facilities in Texas have been knocked offline by the unthinkably low temperatures. This situation could have wide-reaching implications as the US power industry attempts to slash carbon emissions in response to the climate crisis and move away from fossil fuels. Texas has been hit with life-threatening blackouts. More than 4 million people in the state were without power early Tuesday. Authorities defended the controlled outages, called rolling blackouts, which kept the grid from collapsing. The situation raises the question that if a state like Texas is now having trouble meeting its energy requirements, then how will the other states fare as America moves to a green energy environment.

3) Motorola Solutions has consolidated its video security and AI video analytics production into a newly renovated manufacturing facility in Richardson Texas, with plans to expand staffing in the coming year. The new facility opened in January housing 250 employees, with plans to expand by at least another 50 this year. Motorola acquired the camera and analytics company Avigilon, for a reported $1 billion in February 2018 and the Fort Worth based license plate recognition camera and software maker Vigilant Solutions in January for $445 million. In March 2019, it bought voice-over IP dispatch console maker Avtec, then Watchguard, which designs and sells in-car video systems and police body cameras to law enforcement agencies. Two additional California-based companies Pelco and Scotland-based IndigoVision were also added to Motorola’s growing security abilities.

4) Stock market closings for – 17 FEB 21:

Dow 31,613.02 up by 90.27
Nasdaq 13,965.50 down by 82.00
S&P 500 3,931.33 down by 1.26

10 Year Yield: unchanged at 1.30%

Oil: up at $61.66

17 February 2021

1) General Motors boldly announced plans to make only battery-powered vehicles by 2035, breaking from more than a century of internal combustion engines. However, the future for 50,000 GM workers, whose jobs could become obsolete far sooner than they realize, was not considered. The manufacturing of electric cars is simpler than conventional cars, which means fewer man-hours to make and therefore fewer jobs. Ford and Volkswagen executives estimate that EVs will reduce labor hours per vehicle by 30%. Electric vehicles contain 30% to 40% fewer moving parts than petroleum-run vehicles, which also translates into fewer failures, and in turn that also will mean fewer jobs for auto mechanics. Most vulnerable in the transition will be roughly 100,000 workers at plants that make transmissions and engines for gas and diesel vehicles.

2) Apple Inc is increasingly serious about entering the auto market because even though the smartphone is large, it is dwarfed by the opportunities in transportation. The smartphone market is worth about $450 billion dollars, while analyst estimates the global market for new vehicles, including cars, light trucks, commercial vehicles, and semi-trucks to be about $2.8 trillion dollars. There are three criteria that must be met for Apple to enter a market: vertical integration ability, a massive market, and a profitable market. While the vertical integration and massive market conditions are met, profitability is uncertain as the automotive industry has thin operating margins, indeed they’re in the mid-single digits. The electric car maker Tesla Inc is suppose to have margins in the 20% range, but with so many other companies getting into the market, competition will most likely narrow those margins.

3) With the big push to electric vehicles, with their exotic batteries having a finite useful life, new businesses are emerging to deal with salvaging used batteries. Li-Cycle Corp is one of those recyclers who is going public through a merger with the blank-check acquisition company Peridot Acquisition Corp in a deal valued at $1.67 billion dollars. This is a bet on the growing need to recycle used batteries as well increasing demand for lithium-ion power sources for emerging products like electric vehicles. Li-Cycle plans to use $615 million in additional funding to build more facilities to recycle and repurpose batteries. About 1.2 million tons of batteries are expected to end their life cycle in 2025, followed by 3.5 million tons in 2030. Investors are showing increasing interests in companies involved with lithium-ion technology, especially in recycling components which are harmful to the environment.

4) Stock market closings for – 16 FEB 21:

Dow 31,522.75 up by 64.35
Nasdaq 14,047.50 down by 47.98
S&P 500 3,932.59 down by 2.24

10 Year Yield: up at 1.30%

Oil: down at $59.76

7 October 2020

1) Ikea, the big Swedish world wide modular furniture manufacture, has experienced a surge in sales from the pandemic as people turned homes into offices and schools. Their online sales are up 45% over the last 12 months to August, with 4 billion visits to their website. Outdoor furniture is the fastest growing category, followed by office furniture. While many of their stores were forced to close from the virus, their online sales remain high even as stores reopen. The furniture retailer has added 6,000 new employees world wide to make a total work force of 217,000. Online sales account for about one fifth of total sales.

2) Job openings in America fell in August for the first time in four months, indicating a moderation in hiring as the crisis continues. Available positions slipped down to 6.49 million from July’s 6.7 million. These numbers do not include recalls from layoffs or positions that are offered only internally. However, layoffs and discharges are at a low for August, although there are still 13.6 million Americans unemployed, which means there are about 2 unemployed competing for each job opening. There are fewer vacancies in construction, retail and health care industries, while vacancies increased for manufacturing, food service and government.

3) Federal reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says America is on the long road to economic recovery from the pandemic induced recession, but still there are other problems on the horizon. There are fears of the economy shifting into reverse once again, especially if a resurgence of the virus comes with cold weather . . . the flue season. Such a resurgence could significantly limit economic activity leaving many unemployed stranded with no jobs for many more months. Powell is calling for the passing of the second stimulus bill presently being debated in the Congress. He considers the risk of pouring too much money into the economy far lower than the risk of not spending enough, despite the already sky high federal budget. While he considers the debt is on an unsustainable path, and has been for some time, but this is not the time to address it.

4) Stock market closings for – 6 OCT 20:

Dow 27,772.76 down 375.88
Nasdaq 11,154.60 down 177.88
S&P 500 3,360.95 down 47.68

10 Year Yield: down at 0.74%

Oil: up at $39.83

28 Auguest 2020

1) The decay of the worlds airline industry is reaching out past the airline companies themselves, with jet engine maker Rolls-Royce announcing a $7 billion dollar lost for the first half of 2020. Rolls-Royce gets paid by the hours their engines are flown on airliners, and with the massive drop in air travel from the pandemic, the company’s revenues have drastically dropped leaving its survival in doubt. The company is being forced to sell assets to meet its cash needs, so they are reducing eleven of their locations to just 6, with the loss of 9,000 jobs. Stock dropped 9% on the news of reorganization which was already down 66% since the start of the virus crisis.

2) Not all of the retail industry is bleak news, with Abercombie & Fitch outperforming expectations in the second quarter. While the apparel company did lose ground in the last quarter, it performed better than analyst expected, with sales down by 17%, nevertheless their earnings per share made remarkable gains over last year. This is a result of aggressive costs reductions earlier in the quarter when the company slashed expenses by $200 million dollars by reducing salary expenditures and skipping dividends. Success in their e-commerce operations has also pushed up the revenues and promises to add more as people go to online for more of their shopping.

3) Another small indication that manufacturing is returning to America is Roche Holding AG plans to move its glucose testing strips manufacturing plant from Pueto Rico, where it has operated for about 40 years. The company is streamlining its operations by combining the plant with its other existing facilities. The move will cost 200 jobs in Peuto Rico, which has a number of other drug and medical device manufacturing plants.

4) Stock market closings for – 27 AUG 20:

Dow 8,492.27 up 160.35
Nasdaq 11,625.34 down 39.72
S&P 500 3,484.55 up 5.82

10 Year Yield: up at 0.75%

Oil: down at $42.96

20 August 2020

1) Boeing Aircraft has received its first 737 MAX orders since 2019, from Enter Air, a Polish charter airline that exclusively uses only Boeing airplanes. They have ordered two 737 MAX with an option to order two more. With the option, this would bring its MAX fleet to ten aircraft. Frzegorz Polaniecki, the general director and board member of Enter Air, said he’s convinced the 737 MAX will be the best aircraft in the world for many years to come. This order for two aircraft pales in comparison to Boeing’s July net negative order of 836 aircraft, but it’s a start in the right direction. Cancellation of Boeing aircraft sales have far outpaced new orders this year because of the pandemic. The last six months, Boeing has faced a combination of problems specific to Boeing and the pandemic.

2) The Federal Reserve is lowering their estimate for economic growth over the second half of the year. The Reserve presents its forecast at the central bank’s eight interest rate committee meetings in a year. The reduced forecast is because they expect the rate of recovery in the Gross Domestic Product and the rate for reducing unemployment to be slower than previously expected. Reduction of the unemployment depends on the reopening of businesses, which in turn is depended on the pandemic.

3) According to Bank of America, moving manufacturing out of China could cost U.S. and European companies $1 trillion dollars over five years. Companies in over 80% of global sectors have experienced supply chain disruptions during the pandemic, so many are widening the scope of their reshoring plans. The shift to return manufacturing back to home countries has been spurred on by the Convid-19 crisis. Supporting companies will also benefit with the increase of economic activity by having manufacturing return.

4) Stock market closings for – 19 AUG 20:

Dow 27,692.88 down 85.19
Nasdaq 11,146.46 down 64.38
S&P 500 3,374.85 down 14.93

10 Year Yield: up at 0.68%

Oil: up at $42.79

19 June 2020

1) Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the U.S., has been surprised by a 92% gain in its e-commerce sales. The giant has lagged behind its competitors like Walmart, Amazon and Target with e-commerce, but the coronavirus has provided the motivation for people to use the service to stay at home and do their cooking during the pandemic. The grocer has been working hard to expand into the electronic marketing area, including working with a robotics company for automated ‘stores’ to fill orders for delivery. With the pandemic changing shopping habits of Americans, now is the time for Kroger to establish its position for the future. The question now is can Kroger maintain this increased sales of e-commerce as the virus crisis subsides. Kroger had $41.55 billion dollar revenues compared with $37 million a year ago.

2) Looking back at the 100 days of the Convid-19 crisis and shutdown, we find the American economy has endured an extraordinary upheaval. Americans have endured over 2.1 million people suffering with Covid-19 which resulted in 117,000 deaths. The closing of non essential businesses sent the economy crashing into a deep recession, with record numbers of layoffs and a skyrocketing unemployment rate. This in turn made for record drops in household spending and manufacturing. Businesses such as automobile manufacturing, the airlines and hotels came to a near complete standstill. Small businesses such as restaurants were stopped dead in their tracks with fears than a large portion would not survive. The feds cut the interest rates to near zero, while pumping in trillions of dollars to stabilize the economy and support businesses until recovery starts.

3) Unemployment claims for last week were 1.5 million more people, up from the expected 1.3 million. This is the thirteenth straight week that claims were above one million. The elevated claims continue even as the country starts to open up and resume business. The real question is how many of those jobs will return and how many will be replaced by technology. Times of economic stress is when automation makes significant inroads as companies look for ways to cut cost to survive.

4) Stock market closings for – 18 JUN 20:

Dow 26,080.10 down 39.51
Nasdaq 9,943.05 up 32.52
S&P 500 3,115.34 up 1.85

10 Year Yield: down at 0.69%

Oil: up at $38.84

3 June 2020

1) The economic activity for the second quarter is down, while more than half the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is now showing a 52.8% drop. Consequently, the personal consumption expenditures is expected to fall 58.1%, which makes up 68% of the nation’s GDP. The current recession is unique in that it was lead by the services sector instead of the traditional manufacturing or construction sectors.

2) Because of the Convid-19 shutdown, the retail industry has a mountain of apparel stock piling up in stores, distribution centers, warehouses and shipping containers. Those retailers now face the difficult decisions of what is best to do with this overstock and choked supple chain. Their options are to keep it in storage, hold sales, offload to ‘off price’ retailers who then sell at deep discounts or move it to online resale sites. None of these options are ideal, but they do limit the damage to company’s bottom line. For apparel that isn’t so fashion sensitive, such as underwear, t-shirts and chinos, warehousing for a short time to wait for demand to return is a viable option. But storing inventory cost money. The opposite strategy is to hold sales and sell stock to the off-price retailers. The ‘in store’ sales is usually better because dumping in bulk to the discounters usually brings only pennies on the dollar for retailers. This amounts to huge losses for the retailer. The most lucrative option is moving merchandise to online re-sellers who take a commission on sales, however this is largely only open for high end brands. No matter what options a retailer takes, it all spells out large losses for them because of the pandemic.

3) Southwest Airlines is offering buyout packages and temporary paid leaves to employees in an attempt to ensure survival, in anticipation of a slow recovery. The airline company has not imposed any layoffs or furloughs in its 49 year history, and while overstaffing isn’t tied to 100% capacity levels, it has never faced the drastic drop in passenger service as now seen with the pandemic. Therefore, Southwest if seeking to voluntarily reduce workforce as softly as possible.

4) Stock market closings for – 2 JUN 20:

Dow 25,742.65 up 267.63
Nasdaq 9,608.38 up 56.33
S&P 500 3,080.82 up 25.09

10 Year Yield: up at 0.68%

Oil: up at $36.90

26 February 2020

1) Global trade experiences its first full-year drop since the financial crisis, with weaker world growth and a manufacturing recession taking their toll. The spread of the coronavirus, with its impact on businesses and households, is increasingly pulling world economics down. While the decline isn’t huge, it is the first since 2009 and follows growth of more than 3% in 2018. The virus has shut off huge areas of China causing the closing of factories and now is spreading internationally.

2) The markets continue to follow the Dow’s thousand point drop with more large loses. To add to the financial worries, bond yields are slipping down, raising concerns that the global economy is slowing significantly because of the spreading coronavirus. There is heavy buying of treasuries in order to shelter money, with the ten year Treasury yield traded at 1.32%, an all time low, with the thirty year bond yield also reaching a record low. Analysts are already cutting their earnings estimates for the first quarter, further dampening hopes for better near term growth.

3) Retail giant Amazon has opened its first Go Grocery store in Seattle. The automated store is cashierless where customers walk in, and get what they want, and on walking out, computer and sensors electronically charging their purchases. The store is over 10,000 square feet and has about 5,000 items including fresh produce, meats and alcohol. This is just another example of the grocery retailers efforts to automate their operations and reduce labor costs.

4) Stock market closings for – 25 FEB 20: Dow is down 1900 points in two days and some experts fear the markets are 500 points away from being a correction.

Dow 27,081.36 down 879.44
Nasdaq 8,965.61 down 255.67
S&P 500 3,128.21 down 97.68

10 Year Yield: down at 1.33%

Oil: down at $50.10

20 January 2020

1) A year ago, Boeing Aircraft had record revenues of over $100 billion dollars, anticipating delivery of record number of aircraft including the 737 MAX jetliner. With the grounding of its 737 MAX, that has been reversed with Boeing posting losses from massive pay outs as well as lost revenues as undelivered aircraft sit waiting in its parking lots. Boeing may ultimately have $20 billion dollars in cost from the 737 MAX problem. Boeing’s problems has been a bonus for China’s airline manufacturing giving them a big advantage to gain market share.

2) India is resisting Amazon’s efforts to expand into India with an investment of $1 billion dollars, fearful of predatory business practices. The investment would bring Amazon India investment up to $6.5 billion dollars. But Amazon is meeting growing resistance, first with an Indian anti-trust investigation by Indian regulators, then protest from a confederation of Indian traders and organizations.

3) As hiring surged in November, the employment market got tighter, job openings plunged to their lowest level in nearly two years. The total vacancies is down by 561,000 to 6.8 million for the month. This is the lowest since February of 2018, the trend telling the economy has finally reached full employment. The biggest drops came in retail and construction.

4) Stock market closings for – 17 JAN 20: All three exchanges closed on record highs.

Dow          29,348.10    up    50.46
Nasdaq       9,388.94    up    31.81
S&P 500      3,329.62    up     12.81

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.84%

Oil:    up   at    $58.81