19 March 2021

1) American military officials are warning that, in the next few years, China could invade Taiwan. The island nation has long been a sore subject of U.S.-China relations. China’s rapid military build-up, are recent indications that Taiwan could unilaterally declare its independence from the mainland. An invasion could throw the whole region into chaos and potentially culminate in a shooting war between China and the United States, who is treaty bound to help Taiwan defend itself against Beijing. The Chinese army’s capabilities have matured to such a degree that this is no longer a dilemma we can afford to brush off. The Biden administration must signal its willingness to ‘go to the mat’ for Taiwan and help ensure the island can defend itself, but without further spooking Beijing. China has commissioned 25 advanced new ships, including cruisers, destroyers and ballistic missile submarines, with capabilities designed to keep America and its allies, who might interfere on Taiwan’s behalf, at bay. Meanwhile, China is integrating its new equipment into an increasingly sophisticated force

2) Production at U.S. manufacturers unexpectedly declined in February, representing a pause in recent momentum as factories were beset by severe winter weather and supply-chain challenges. The 3.1% decrease in output was the first since April, following an upwardly revised 1.2% gain in January. Total industrial output reflected a 7.4% surge at utilities, that was the largest advance since March 2017, also driven by increased demand for heating. Manufacturers continue to battle supply shortages and shipping challenges, but lean business inventories, steady demand from consumers and solid capital spending should push manufacturing back up.

3) A Tesla Model Y electric car, with its Autopilot engaged, crashed into a Michigan police car that had pulled over with its lights on. The driver was using Tesla’s Autopilot system when he crashed into the police vehicle, but there were no injuries, according to police. The 22-year-old driver was issued citations for failure to move over and driving with a suspended license. Tesla’s Autopilot system allows the car to brake, accelerate, and steer automatically. The electric car maker also sells its full self-driving software as a $10,000 one-off add-on and plans to release it as a subscription model this summer.

4) Stock market closings for – 18 MAR 21:

Dow 32,862.30 down by 153.07
Nasdaq 13,116.17 down by 409.03
S&P 500 3,915.46 down by 58.66

10 Year Yield: 1.73%

Oil: down at $59.53

8 February 2021

1) Ford Motor Company reports quarterly loss of $2.8 billion dollars, amid increases in investment in electric vehicles. This is a larger than expected quarterly loss, but Ford’s stock traded higher as Wall Street focused on the auto maker’s renewed push toward autonomous and electric vehicles. Their sales fell to $36 billion from $39.7 billion a year ago. Ford increased its commitment to invest in growth, with plans to spend more than $22 billion dollars in electric vehicles and $7 billion in autonomous vehicles. This investment in EVs is nearly double an earlier allocation. In the fourth quarter, Ford began U.S. sales of its all-electric Mustang, the Bronco Sport and 2021 F-150 pickup. These vehicles, alongside the return of the Ford Bronco this summer, are expected to be significant contributors to 2021.

2) Another looming uncertainty for the world automotive industry is the global shortage of automotive microprocessors. Subaru has already suspended operations for two days because of shortages. The company expects to lose 48,000 units of production in this fiscal year to March 31 because of the electronic shortages. The semiconductor shortage is bad! Subaru said that they don’t know how long this impact will last. Also Fiat Chrysler and Jeep are also limiting production because of the chip shortage and weak demand. German car makers (Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler and Volkswagen’s Porsche) are considering building up semiconductor stockpiles, to prevent a repeat of the crippling chip shortages that brought assembly lines to a standstill and stalled the production of hundreds of thousands of vehicles worldwide. A few weeks after a German official sent the Taiwanese government a letter asking for help on the semiconductor issues, Taiwan claims to have not received it.

3) China’s unconventional weapons are reportedly winning the Middle East. China has mastered the art of slowly and meticulously shaping the conditions for its interactions with the United States, gaining an advantage. From a military perspective, the Chinese have diagnosed America’s strategic reliance on conventional overmatch in order to deter major conflict. Instead, they have sought to achieve their objectives through unorthodox approaches that limit the effectiveness of our preferred conventional toolkit.

4) Stock market closings for – 5 FEB 21:

Dow 31,148.24 up by 92.38
Nasdaq 13,856.30 up by 78.55
S&P 500 3,886.83 up by 15.09

10 Year Yield: up at 1.17%

Oil: up at $57.07

8 Janury 2021

1) The price of oil advanced as shrinking U.S. crude inventories added to expectations of a tighter global supply outlook after Saudi Arabia surprised the markets by pledging to reduce production for the next two months. Gasoline demand is falling to its lowest level since late May, spelling trouble for refining margins as a tighter global crude balance and straggling demand crimp profits for processing a barrel of oil. Saudi Arabia has decided to reduce crude output in February and March as part of an OPEC+ supply agreement. With the outlook for crude oil supply suddenly looking tighter, the oil options markets have grown less bearish.

2) A top scientist explains why a more infectious coronavirus variant is a bigger problem than a deadlier strain, with the deadly coronavirus having now mutated. One variant, called B.1.1.7, is more infectious, and has forced the UK into national lock down, with the variant having also been discovered in several US states, as well as other countries around the world. However, the new variant does not appear to be more deadly, so existing vaccines should also work against it. A really severe disease that one person gets won’t necessarily have as much impact as a lesser disease which a huge number of people get. While not any more deadly the new mutant B.1.1.7 is much more infectious, and is to blame for the surging numbers of people infected, filling up UK hospitals that forced the national lock down. It is estimated to have a 71% higher growth rate than other variants.

3) North Korea’s supreme ruler Kim Jong Un has announced a military expansion, but it is unclear if Pyongyang plans to ramp up its nuclear program too. This could put pressure on the incoming Joe Biden administration just when it is most vulnerable. North Korea plans to boost its military capacities in defiance of international sanctions, as well as a new five-year economic plan, admitting the previous program has failed. It’s unclear just what the military expansion will involve.

4) Stock market closings for – 7 JAN 21:

Dow 31,041.13 up by 211.73
Nasdaq 13,067.48 up by 326.69
S&P 500 3,803.79 up by 55.65

10 Year Yield: up at 1.07%

Oil: up at $50.91

Oil: up at $50.48

30 December 2020

1) With President Trump signing the COVID-19 relief bill into law, millions of Americans will again have pandemic-related benefits. The COVID-19 relief bill gives those who depend on unemployment benefits some amount of relief. In addition to enhancing unemployment benefits, there is also a $600 check for every adult making less than $75,000 a year.

2) To add to the economic woes of many Americans this year, for a second consecutive week, a massive winter storm is sweeping across the north and east. A new storm system brought heavy rain, gusty winds and thunderstorms to Southern California and will move across the country this week. The new storm system will move across the US during New Year’s Eve leaving heavy snow, winds, severe thunderstorms.

3) With President Trump’s veto of the annual military bill, the House voted to override President Trump’s veto, mustering bipartisan support to enact the legislation over the president’s objections and handing him a rare legislative rebuke in the final days of his presidency. The defense bill also takes steps to slow or block President Trump’s draw down of American troops from Afghanistan. The 322 to 87 vote is the first time a chamber of Congress has overridden one of Trump’s vetoes. The bill also authorizes a pay raise for the nation’s troops. However, the Senate, which must also get a two-thirds vote of its chamber to override vetoes, will take up the legislation later in the week. But the vote is complicated by another separate bill that would increase the size of individual stimulus checks to $2,000. For 60 years, lawmakers have used the annual military bill to bring home wins to their constituents. So far, the Congress has failed to over ride any of President Trump’s vetoes. But for the Senate to gain the two thirds vote to over ride, twelve Republicans must cross over. Other provisions of the bill are new benefits for tens of thousands of Vietnam-era veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange, a 3% increase in pay for service members and a boost in hazardous duty incentive pay. The bill also requires all federal officers enforcing crowd control at protests and demonstrations to identify themselves and their agencies, as well as directing the Pentagon to rename military bases which are named after Confederate leaders.

4) Stock market closings for – 29 DEC 20:

Dow 30,335.67 down by 68.30
Nasdaq 12,850.22 down by 49.20
S&P 500 3,727.04 down by 8.32

10 Year Yield: unchanged at 0.93%

Oil: up at $48.25

17 August 2020

1) Across America, schools are struggling over if and how they should open and operate amidst the Covid-19 crisis while knowing students are infected in growing numbers. Schools are opening their doors only to have to quickly backtrack as soon as infections pop up. Debates rage over using ‘remote learning’ verse ‘in class’, with a mirid of problems with either strategy. Add to this is fears of teachers and bus drivers being exposed to potentially life threatening infections. The main problem is schools just aren’t designed for social distancing, either in the classroom or hallways. There isn’t any federal standards to guide local schools in the opening and operating of schools in the shadow of the pandemic.

2) First class mail volume had declined significantly in America, especially since the pandemic, so the USPS (United States Postal Service) is removing mailboxes in parts of Oregon. The USPS has seen a significant decline in revenue, a decline that has been on going for many years as electronic billing/payment and email has become increasingly popular. This could be portends of things to come in the near future, as the USPS struggles with money to operate.

3) With China’s announcement of its latest combat drills near Taiwan, the democratic island is increasing its defense spending. China’s aggressiveness, both military and economic, in the pacific area is raising fears of surrounding countries about their safety. Japan is also concerned over what China might do with her fast growing military power. Taiwan is increasing their military budget by 10.2%. Since the early days of the cold war, Taiwan has been threatened by China, including direct military attacks, so Taiwan knows that China has to be taken seriously. The island nation is discussing acquiring sea mines to deter amphibious landings as well as cruise missiles for coastal defense. Last year the State Department approved $10 billion dollars in arms sales. Additionally, Taiwan is beginning free trade talks with the U.S., a move that would bring the two countries closer together.

4) Stock market closings for – 14 AUG 20:

Dow 27,931.02 up 34.30
Nasdaq 11,019.30 up 23.20
S&P 500 3,372.85 up 0.58

10 Year Yield: down at 0.71%

Oil: down at $42.23

11 August 2020

1) Both Japan and China are building up their military forces for possible future contest over Pacific islands. This is another sign of China’s increasing contentious relations with neighbors, in particular Japan over disputes of several islands in the East China Sea. This is necessitating the buildup of military forces to approach, capture and defend islands. So this means a build up of Marine forces, which both countries are in the process of doing. This includes amphibious armored vehicles and self propelled artillery. U.S. intelligence consider the Chinese Marines to be fully amphibious and able to use combined arms tactics and multiple avenues of approach. This includes building a blue water navy with well over 300 vessels. In response, Japan is starting up its first Marine unit since World War II, modeled after the U.S. Marine Corps, to defend its southern islands. This buildup means massive expansions which neither country’s economies are able to tolerate with the worsening world economy.

2) Boeing aircraft manufacture’s troubles continue to get worst with the loss 737 MAX orders now over 400 and stymied shipments of its 787 Dreamliner because of the world pandemic. Last month, Boeing delivered just four jetliners while also booking zero new orders. Their total stockpile of orders was 4,496 aircraft at the end of July, which is down 1.2% from June. There is the risk that Boeing will have to halt 787 production to preserve cash. Most airline companies have grounded a significant portion of their fleets and are operating only a fraction of their pre-pandemic schedules.

3) Instacart, the young food delivery service, is partnering with Walmart, Amazon’s biggest competitor, to bring Walmart one day delivery service. This will make thousands of items, from groceries to home decor and improvement, personal care and electronics go from Walmart stores to customers’ doors as fast as an hour. This is another ratchetting up of the retail business, when many big name retailers are floundering and some going under. A fundamental change in the way Americans are buying things for their everyday lives is occurring.

4) Stock market closings for – 11 AUG 20:

Dow 27,686.91 down 104.53
Nasdaq 10,782.82 down 185.53
S&P 500 3,333.69 down 26.78

10 Year Yield: up at 0.66%

Oil: down at $41.66

13 July 2020

1) Robert De Niro, the world famous actor, has had his personal finance’s badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic. He’s been forced to cut the credit limit of his ex-wife from $100,000 to $50,000 a month because of his cash flow problems. His restaurant and hotel chain, the Nobu and The Greenwich Hotel, have had huge losses over the past few months. Additionally, his earnings from the movie “The Irishman” have almost dried up. It’s reported that the actor will be lucky to make $7.5 million this year. Both the restaurant chain and hotel have been closed or partially closed for months with next to no income. The Nobu lost $3 million in April and $1.87 million in May, with De Niro forced to borrow money to pay investors $500,000 on a capital call.

2) The online retailer giant Amazon is requiring employees to remove the Tik Tok application from their phones if their device accesses Amazon email because of security concerns. Tik Tok is a video sharing app which has become the most popular social media apps in the world. But government officials and business leaders are becoming wary of the Chinese owned company. The U.S. military has already banned using Tik Tok because of threat of spying by the Chinese. A new privacy feature in iOS 14 revealed Tik Tok was accessing users’ clipboard content despite promises by the Chinese to discontinue the practice last year.

3) An underwater or upside-down mortgage occurs when the home value is lower than the mortgage. While not common, this occurs when home values decline leading to owing more than the current house value and therefore having negative equity. Factors which cause home values to rise and fall are interest rates, high rates of foreclosures and short sales in your area, and natural disasters. Underwater mortgages usually occur during an economic downturn where home values fall off. One way to become up-side down is when secondary financing (home equality loan) equals more than 100% of the home value.

4) Stock market closings for – 10 JUL 20:

Dow 26,075.30 up 369.21
Nasdaq 10,617.44 up 69.69
S&P 500 3,185.04 up 32.99

10 Year Yield: up at 0.63%

Oil: up at $40.62

24 June 2020

1) Economists are concerned about four major factors bearing down on a recovery of the economy. These are 1) the household fiscal cliff, 2) a great business die-off, 3) state and local budget shortfalls, and 4) the lingering health crisis. The pandemic shutdown cost the jobs of 40 million Americans, 40% of them low wage workers. This has left many households short of money, having little to no savings to meet their fiscal obligations such as rent and utilities. Add to this, there has been a steep decline in consumer spending leaving large numbers of businesses to face bankruptcy, thereby making a contraction of the economy. But businesses are not the only one facing revenue shortfalls, for governments are also facing shortages of money needed for their operations and paying employees, as in more layoffs. Finally, the cost of controlling the Convid-19 virus, especially if a major second wave does emerge, for both preventive treatment and caring for the sick. All four of these factors may very well be pushing America’s economy towards another Great Recession, which could last for many years.

2) The New York eviction moratorium ended this weekend, raising fears that tens of thousands of residents will soon face evictions which will flood the courts. This problem is a reflection of a problem across all of America as those 40 million laid-off workers have been unable to pay rent or mortgage payments and now face losing their residence. But it isn’t one sided, for landlords and lenders are also facing money shortages to meet their obligations too, which can lead to their fiscal demise. Most of the tenants and home owners have limited monies beyond their income, so paying back rent and mortgage is going to be near impossible.

3) China is warning of the risk of a naval incident with the US. Claiming that the U.S. military is deploying in unprecedented numbers to the Asia-Pacific region, which makes for a rising risk of an incident with China’s navy. The United States freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea has angered the Chinese, who is trying to establish dominance in the area and hence control of the territory. The Chinese claim that 60% of America’s warships and 375,000 soldiers are deployed in the Indo-Pacific region, including three aircraft carriers. So far, the U.S. Navy has conducted 28 freedom of navigation operations by sailing through the area where China has built islands, and therefore claiming the area as theirs.

4) Stock market closings for – 23 JUN 20:

Dow 26,156.10 up 131.14
Nasdaq 10,131.37 up 74.89
S&P 500 3,131.29 up 13.43

10 Year Yield: unchanged at 0.71%

Oil: up at $40.02