29 June 2020

1) Microsoft is permanently closing almost all of its stores across the nation and world. Just like other retail outlets, Microsoft had to shutter all its stores due to the coronavirus pandemic. There are 83 stores worldwide of which 72 are in the U.S., however only four will remain open in the world. The stores allowed people to try out software and hardware offered by Microsoft including laptop computers. No news if there will be any layoffs or how many, the stores are moving to the digital realm, which will absorb many of the store employees. The physical stores generated negligible retail revenue for Microsoft.

2) As oil prices reach the magic $40 a barrel, shale fracking is starting to reawaken to pump oil. The number of fracking crews had bottomed out at 45 last month, but is now back up to 78 this last week. There had been roughly 400 fracking crews before the decline in oil prices started. The drilling of new oil wells remains on hold with a 70% slump, making for the lowest number of active drilling rigs since 2011.

3) Nike is warning its employees of coming layoffs, but these layoffs will not effect store employees. The layoffs are expected to come in two waves, the first this July followed in the fall with a the second wave. These layoffs come amid reports of poor earnings, with sales down 38% giving a net loss of $790 million dollars when the Convid-19 virus forced closing of most of its stores. This compares with nearly a billion dollars in earnings for the same time last year. Nike has 76,700 employees, but it’s not know yet how many will lose their jobs. All wasn’t bad for Nike, with their online sales skyrocketing 75%, with e-sales accounting for 30% of Nike’s total business.

4) Stock market closings for – 26 JUN 20:

Dow 25,015.55 down 730.05
Nasdaq 9,757.22 down 259.78
S&P 500 3,009.05 down 74.71

10 Year Yield: down at 0.64%

Oil: down at $38.16

27 April 2020

1) People are tantalized by the incredibly low oil prices, thinking only of lower gas prices. But economically, there is much more to oil and its low price. First, there is the destruction of America’s shale oil (fracking) industry, which has made us independent of foreign oil. There are fears that if oil doesn’t pick up, then the world could see a major shift in global power. The economies of several nations are very dependent on oil sales, the revenue being the bulk of their GDP. For instance, Saudi Arabia’s oil revenues account for 60 percent of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product), two-thirds of its budget, and nearly three-quarters of its exports. For Russia, one-third of its GDP is petroleum, half its budget, and two-thirds of its exports. The turbulent Middle East has states with greater dependence on oil: including Iran, Iraq, Qatar, and Kuwait. For America, oil accounts for only 8% of our GDP. The coronavirus pandemic has drastically reduce oil consumption world wide, and if it’s slow in returning to pre-pandemic levels, some countries could find themselves in serious financial and geopolitical trouble, with their influence waning and other nations displacing them in the world pecking order. It’s anyone guess how things could settle out and in whose favor.

2) Amazon has been using data about independent sellers on its platform to develop competing products, which their stated policies forbid. Such practices would give the online retailer tremendous advantage in competing against similar products, but is using proprietary information. Information includes total sales, vendor cost for Amazon’s marketing and shipping, and how much Amazon made on each sale, and other non-public information.

3) President Trump stated he would veto an emergency loan for the U.S. Postal Service if the USPS didn’t immediately raise its prices for package delivery. The President considers package delivery prices need to be four times the present charges. He has been critical of the USPS for years, considering the postal service problems are a result of mismanagement.

4) Stock market closings for – 24 APR 20:

Dow 23,775.27 up 260.01
Nasdaq 8,634.52 up 139.77
S&P 500 2,836.74 up 38.94

10 Year Yield: down at 0.60%

Oil: up at $17.18

21 April 2020

1) The second wave of unemployment is coming after an unprecedented spike in layoffs from the cornonavirus ‘stay at home’ orders. But while businesses will soon start rehiring workers, many will take the opportunity to replace their workers with cheaper and more contingent labor. The crisis will accelerate trends towards industry consolidation that reduces potential employers, automation, which replaces human labor, and worker precarity when convenience of employers and customers entirely overrides the well being of workers. Further aggravating employment will be the large number of small businesses expected to succumb to the recession leaving fewer employment opportunities. Also, the force isolation is changing people’s buying habits with more online shopping, delivery services and self service kiosks. These methods of automation also represent cost cutting methods, which companies will cultivate to make more wide spread. All this promises to make the second round even harsher.

2) Oil prices continue their downward spiral, with futures at record lows as investors worry about lack of storage and the world economy. German and Japanese data indicates a bleak global economy, which will in turn pull America’s down. Despite measures being taken to reduce the supply, the glut will continue for the foreseeable future. Numerous statistics and prices point to a continual crisis for the world and American economies.

3) Restaurants are particularly hard hit by the coronavirus economy, with more than 8 million workers having lost their jobs, about two-thirds of the restaurant labor force. About four in ten restaurants have closed, while many others struggle to stay afloat by providing curbside service. The National Restaurant Association is asking for more monies to support survival of restaurants during this period of government enforced business closure. Like so many other small businesses, the future for many restaurants is looking very doubtful.

4) Stock market closings for – 20 APR 20: Oil drops from $18.12 for Friday to -$16.10, almost a complete inversion in price.

Dow 23,650.44 down 592.05
Nasdaq 8,560.73 down 89.41
S&P 500 2,823.16 down 51.40

10 Year Yield: down at 0.63%

Oil: down at -$16.10

6 April 2020

1) Across the world, truckers are having a difficult time in their role of delivering food stocks to the people. In America, truck drivers are finding it more difficult to operate, unable to find places to eat, with restaurants shut down and their rigs too big to go to the drive-thru lanes. They are unable to find places to sleep, shower or even clean toilet facilities. Nevertheless, the food supply chain continues to struggle to get the necessary food to the people.

2) With the government announcement that we are now in a recession, questions abound how long will it last? For the ‘08 recession, it took more than a decade to recover. One major obstacle facing a recovery, from a near total shutdown of the economy, is the small businesses. Half the businesses in the American economy are classed as small businesses, and half of those have less than fifteen days cash reserves, which means a significant number of American businesses will not survive the virus shutdown. This will leave millions of workers scrambling to find work and therefore will greatly hinder a recovery.

3) Oil prices have rallied from news that the Saudi Arabia – Russia price war may be coming to an end with agreements to cut back oil production by ten million barrels a day. Oil is the keystone to economic vitality with oil prices needing to be above about $40 a barrel for shale oil to be profitable so America can remain oil independent.

4) Stock market closings for – 3 APR 20:

Dow 21,052.53 down 360.91
Nasdaq 7,373.08 down 114.23
S&P 500 2,488.65 down 38.25

10 Year Yield: down at 0.59%

Oil: up at $29.00

3 April 2020

1) Unemployment claims have jumped twice the previous week’s numbers, with 6.6 million Americans filing for benefits. This brings the last two weeks total of new unemployed to 10 million. The speed and scale of job losses are unprecedented. The record for loses in a month had been 695,000 in 1982. The coronavirus has wiped out more jobs in two weeks than were lost in the worst months of the last recession. Companies based on white-collar workers, have been able to keep their people working with work at home, but as revenues dry up, it’s questionable how long before they too will be forced to start layoffs. The growing number of laid off workers unable to pay their bills could well lead to a cascade of further layoffs and business failures.

2) While the price of oil has always had an effect on the equities, the recent plunged has had a more profound effect and therefore causing the roller-coaster volatility of the markets. This dramatized how very central oil is to the entire modern world. Stabilizing the oil prices would greatly help stabilizing the markets, and therefore the whole world economic system. Central to this is for Russia and Saudi Arabia to end their price war and resume limiting production. But central to this is Russia’s desire to damage American domestic oil production by destroying the shale oil companies, which would reduced American’s influence in the world especially in the middle east where Russia is very active.

3) Already wracked by fiscal problems from decline of the milk product markets, dairymen now suffer a further decrease in their market as a result of the coronavirus crisis. This is a result of restaurants, schools and other food service outlets reduced to stopping operations and therefore not needing milk products. The dairy industry is still producing, but doesn’t have anyplace to sell their milk, so the industry is asking the government to increase its purchases of dry milk, butter and cheese.

4) Stock market closings for – 2 APR 20:

Dow 21,413.44 up 469.93
Nasdaq 7,487.31 up 126.73
S&P 500 2,526.90 up 56.40

10 Year Yield: down at 0.63%

Oil: up at $24.90

31 March 2020

1) Oil prices have crashed to an eighteen year low as coronavirus lockdowns cascaded through the world economies, which have drastically cut oil demand. The surplus in oil stocks is ballooning amid the Saudi Arabia and Russia’s dispute over struggle for oil control. The slump in petroleum based products has shut down refineries around the world. Prices are on track for the worst quarter on record. There are no signs of Saudi Arabia and Russia’s dispute being resolved as Saudi Arabia increases its production to further increase surpluses of oil thereby dropping oil prices more.

2) The coronavirus pandemic is expected to drive March auto sales off a cliff, from consumer confidence dropping and shuttered dealerships across much of the country. It’s expected that April may be as bad as or worst than March. Sales forecast for March has dropped 37% and April could be off between 50% and 60%. States under ‘stay at home’ orders have seen an 80% drop in auto sales.

3) With millions of Americans already laid off, fears among experts that job losses could be as high as 47 million to give an unemployment rate of 32%. The loses are a result of government induced economic freeze to contain the spread of the virus. A record 3.3 million Americans have filed initial jobless claims for the week ending 21 March of this year, with an estimated 66.8 million workers consider to be in jobs at high risk for layoff. With a loss of 47 million jobs, the unemployment rolls would rise to 52.8 million, or more than three times the peak number of unemployment in the 2008 Great Recession.

4) Stock market closings for – 30 MAR 20:

Dow 22,327.48 up 690.70
Nasdaq 7,774.15 up 271.77
S&P 500 2,626.65 up 85.18

10 Year Yield: down at 0.67%

Oil: down at $20.28

16 March 2020

1) Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft is stepping down from the company’s board of directors, which makes it the biggest boardroom departure in the tech industry, since the death of Apple’s Steve Jobs. Additionally, Mr. Gates is vacating his board seat at Berkshire Hathaway Inc., intending to devote his time to his philanthropic efforts. He will continue serving as a technical advisor to Microsoft.

2) Oil prices climbed up 5% on the announcement by President Trump that the Department of Energy would purchase crude for the nations’ strategic petroleum reserve. The objective is to boost oil prices to keep shale producers in business, because oil needs to be $40 or more a barrel to break even, depending on the particulars of an oil field. The shale oil companies are further in trouble because they are carrying a high debt level. Shale oil production is very capital intensive and therefore very sensitive to oil prices if companies aren’t to go bankrupt. Some suggest that the Russians engineered the rupture of the Saudi Arabia – Russian agreement to limit production levels as a means to cripple the U.S. shale oil production and thereby make America dependent on foreign oil again.

3) President Trump and the Congress have agreed on several provisions of a package, but have been far apart on others. Their discussions center on ways to minimize the economic impact of the coronavirus fears. One point is to ensure that every American can receive a virus test without consideration of money.

4) Stock market closings for – 13 MAR 20:

Dow 23,185.62 up 1985.00
Nasdaq 7,874.88 up 673.07
S&P 500 2,711.02 up 230.38
10 Year Yield: up at 0.95%
Oil: up at $32.93

12 March 2020

1) The WHO (World Heath Organization) has declared the coronavirus to be a pandemic, which in turn has cause the markets to make another plunge after its apparent recovery on Tuesday. The number of coronavirus cases world wide is now in excess of 100,000 with more than 1,000 in the U.S. The central banks in other western nations are cutting their interest rates in an attempt to minimize the effects of the virus and avoid a world wide economic slowdown. At present, there doesn’t seem to be an end to the markets volatility.

2) The United Kingdom is levying an additional 2% tax on big high tech companies starting the first of April. Call the ‘digital services tax’, it will levy a tax on the revenues from search engines, social media services and online marketplaces used by British citizens, but it only applies to companies making more than $650 million dollars and derive more than $35 million dollars revenue from UK users. This will encompass companies like Amazon, Apple, facebook and Google. The EU (European Union) is considering a similar tax, but with a 3% rate.

3) Oil production in the U.S. is expected to drop as a result of the dramatic collapse in oil prices. This would be the first decline in output since 2016 as drillers are cutting back on capital spending. Oil prices are below $35 a barrel, well below the breakeven price for most American shale fields. Oil prices have been pushed down by the economic impact of the coronavirus plus Saudi Arabia and Russian failing to agree on limited oil production.

4) Stock market closings for – 11 MAR 20 Stocks down 20% from their high.

Dow 23,553.22 down 1464.94
Nasdaq 7,952.05 down 392.20
S&P 500 2,741.38 down 140.85

10 Year Yield: up at 0.82%

Oil: down at $33.12

10 March 2020

1) Monday markets opened in a steep downward spiral from sell offs, driven by the coronavirus fears, followed by the sharp drop in oil prices. The Dow dropped 2,000 points, with a massive sell off of both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq, which triggered a key market circuit breaker that halted trading for fifteen minutes. There are widespread fears over the economic impact of low oil prices, with some experts fearing oil prices down to $20 a barrel. Gold prices crossed the $1,700 dollar an ounce, hitting the highest since December 2012. The banks are hard pressed as the interest continues to sink, cutting into their margins.

2) Experts speculate that the Feds will cut the interest rate to zero in the next few months in an effort to forestall a downturn of the economy. The entire U.S. yield curve fell below 1% for the first time in history on expectations that the Federal Reserve will cut rates to zero in the next few months. Some speculate the Feds may adopt a negative rate just as some European countries have, such as Germany’s -1%.

3) While checkout-free with cashless supermarkets is now a novelty, Amazon expects this technology to spread to other retailers. Amazon has announced it plans to license its automated checkout technology to other retailers, telling of several other companies that have already signed up for the technology. The technology has been proven with cashless convenience stores across America and with Amazon’s new Go-supermarkets. The technology represents another significant step in retail automation.

4) Stock market closings for – 9 MAR 20: The stock market is like a rectal thermometer- it’s rude and crude, but surprisingly effective in showing a sick economy.

Dow 23,851.02 down 2013.76
Nasdaq 7,950.68 down 624.94
S&P 500 2,746.56 down 225.81

10 Year Yield: down at 0.50%

Oil: down at $30.24

5 March 2020

1) The newest supercomputer called El Capitan, which will become operational in 2023, is being built in Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory at a cost of $600 million dollars. The new computer will perform 2 exaflops or 2,000,000,000,000,000,000 floating point calculations per second. If the world population was to perform one such calculation per second it would take everybody eight years to do what El Capitan does in one second. The computer will be used to do simulations of nuclear explosions, genetics research, astrophysical modeling, aircraft/automotive design and climate change. It’s the size of two tennis courts, and will use 30 megawatts of power, enough for 12,000 homes.

2) The long time publishing giant Simon & Schuster, founded in1924, is up for sale by its present owner ViacomCBS. In the last few decades, the traditional publishers have been devastated by technologies and the internet, in particular publishing on demand services. Although Simon & Schuster is not losing money, the publishing industry is no longer a growth industry. The company will most likely be sold to another publisher seeking to reduce cost by merging assets.

3) Oil prices have plunged in response to demand caused by flight cancellations, factory shutdowns and slowdowns in passenger traffic, all caused by fears of the coronavirus crisis. Natural gas prices are also down at a near four year low. The oil and gas companies, who have piled on debt to capitalize on the shale boom, are facing serious fiscal problems and may not survive. The markets for energy have dropped seriously, both stocks and bonds, which in the past, have had a detrimental ripple effect on the rest of the economy.

4) Stock market closings for – 4 MAR 20: The Dow jumped more than 1,000 points after Biden Victories.

Dow 27,090.86 up 1173.45
Nasdaq 9,018.09 up 334.00
S&P 500 3,130.12 up 126.75

10 Year Yield: down at 0.99%

Oil: up at $47.20