3 July 2020

1) The aircraft manufacturer Boeing Aircraft is discontinuing production of it’s iconic 747 jumbo jet after a fifty year run. The last 747-8 will be completed in two years. This marks the end of an era of giant airliners with Airbus also discontinuing its A380 production. The number of routes in the world which requires a jumbo jet are few, with airline companies preferring the twin engine aircraft for long range flights. The 747 made its debut in 1970, and went on to rack up 1,571 orders over its production life, a record seconded only by the wide body 777. Boeing has lost 40$ million dollars for each 747 since 2016, with production down to just 6 units a year. The last 747 for passenger service was Air Force One. With air travel curtailed by the Covid-19 crisis, air carriers don’t expect air travel to recover fully until the mid decade, so airlines are culling out aging jetliners and four engine jumbos from their fleets to limit spending.

2) With interest rates near zero, the most used tool for the Feds to stimulate a sagging economy is becoming ineffective in reversing the pandemic induced recession. Therefore, the Feds are considering using quantitative easing or large scale assets purchases. This is where the U.S. central bank buys hundreds of billions of dollars in assets, most of which are U.S. Treasury and mortgage backed securities. By taking bonds (mostly 2 and 10 year Treasuries) off the market it replaces them with cash in the system, meaning there is now more cash available for lending to consumers, businesses and municipalities.

3) The Senate is considering a bill which would punish retailers for refusing cash payments. Retailers have been pushing for electronic payments to reduce the risk of virus contamination from contact of paying cash. The objective of the bill is to prevent disenfranchise of minorities who have limited to no banking access.

4) Stock market closings for – 2 JUL 20:

Dow 25,827.36 up 92.39
Nasdaq 10,207.63 up 53.00
S&P 500 3,130.01 up 14.15

10 Year Yield: down at 0.67%

Oil: up at $40.32

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

11 June 2020

1) This last April, the government offered $349 billion dollars to small businesses, in their stimulates package called the Paycheck Protection Program or PPP, as a way of limiting the economic damaged from the shutdown orders and pandemic. This money was gone in just 13 days, so Congress approved a second round of $310 billion dollars, but so far there is $130 billion dollars left with more monies being returned than borrowed. Thousands of companies sent loan money back because loan terms were too restrictive, or the criteria for loan forgiveness was too murky. There has been about $3 billion dollars in loans that have been canceled or returned. Congress has moved to loosen the program’s rules giving businesses more flexibility in spending their aid. Nevertheless, many small businesses are facing closure amid the uncertainty of the economy and what the future holds.

2) America is on track for another 2008 class financial crisis with threats of financial collapse. The 2008 crisis forced banks to rethink their risk taking, and new regulations were put through designed to limit the risk that banks take in making loans. Already facing a prolong recession, the balance sheets of big banks could precipitate a collapsed of the financial sector, as almost happened in 2008. The last crisis was caused by CDO (Collateralized Debt Obligations) where sub-prime home mortgages were packaged and given ratings of high quality mortgages. When these over-rated CDOs began to default, the banks were on the verge of collapse, but the feds stepped in and saved the day . . . just barely. The banks have fallen back into their old habits now by using CLO (Collateralized Loan Obligations) which are like CDOs, however they are for businesses instead of home mortgages, but still having the high risk. With the threat of many small businesses failing from the coronavirus crisis, these CLOs could default causing the big banks to collapse, bringing the American economy down.

3) A record number of retail stores are expected to permanently close this year as consumer demand for discretionary items stalls and people shift to online shopping. As many as 25,000 retail stores could fold up, with more than 4,000 having all ready given up the ghost. It is anticipated the closures will snowball from the recession, adding to the effects of unsustainable debt levels. The retailers were struggling to stay afloat before the pandemic struck.

4) Stock market closings for – 10 JUN 10:

Dow 26,989.99 down 282.31
Nasdaq 10,020.35 up 66.59
S&P 500 3,190.14 down 17.04

10 Year Yield: down at 0.75%

Oil: up at $38.78

9 June 2020

1) The worst U.S. economic downturn since the Great Depression has been officially declared a recession by the National Bureau of Economic Research. While the recession had been a foregone conclusion for most people since the coronavirus outbreak shut the economy down, the NBER declaration makes it a fact, adding that the different characteristics and dynamics makes this recession different from previous recessions. The recession is officially to have started in February.

2) The child care businesses are the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown with a third of the child care workers laid off or furloughed nation wide. Only the hotel and restaurant industries were hit harder, but because child care providers operate on such thin margins, many are going out of business. With parents unable to find day care for their children, they are unable to return to work, as much as they would like to. So this in turn is another hindrance to economic recovery for America. Therefore, Congress is proposing as much as $100 billion dollars for the child care industry in the next stimulus package.

3) A ten year long treasure hunt has come to an end with the finding of a treasure chest filled with jewels and gold coins worth a reported million dollars. An estimated 350,000 treasure hunters have been searching in the Rocky Mountains since 2010, a ten year long treasure hunt. Hidden by Forrest Fenn, an 89 year old art dealer, who confirmed the treasure was found by an anonymous person from the east. Thousands have spent considerable time and resources searching for the treasure, some even giving up their jobs to search full time. Some have claimed the entire enterprise is an elaborate hoax and have filed lawsuits. Clues to the treasure’s location were in a cryptic 24 line poem that Fenn wrote and published in his book, “The thrill of the Chase”, published in 2010.

4) Stock market closings for – 8 JUN 20:

Dow 27,572.44 up 461.46
Nasdaq 9,924.74 up 110.66
S&P 500 3,232.39 up 38.46

10 Year Yield: down at 0.88%

Oil: down at $38.51

4 June 2020

1) The stock market continues to climb, with some saying this signals the end of the recession. The S&P 500 has a return of 37.7% over the past 50 trading days, which is the largest 50 day rally in history. This rally is attributed to the quick response of the Federal Reserve, with a record $2 trillion dollar federal stimulus package. Another factor is the unlimited asset purchases by the Federal Reserve. While the shutdown depressed retail and airlines businesses, other parts of the economy saw a boost, such as Netflix, Amazon and Facebook. But there is still the record high of over 40 million workers idled by the pandemic, while the weakening in the Chinese’s economy coupled with the tensions between China and America could have a telling effect to the economic recovery.

2) There are fears of another round of layoffs in the later part of 2020, amid questions of where the economy will go in the next six to twelve months. Businesses are now reluctant to expand and hire new people, and may decide to contract thus being better able to weather economic hard times. There is also the unspoken problem of continued automation taking jobs as AI (Artificial Intelligence) and automation that experts predict will continual to sap jobs for the next decade. Automation gives companies an added advantage in surviving when the economy slows down, but a second wave of layoffs may trigger that slowdown.

3) The giant movie theater chain AMC has announced they doubt they can remain in business after the effects of the coronavirus shutdown. The company has problems with their liquidity, their ability to generate revenue and the timeline for reopening its theaters. The chain expects to lose $2.1 to $2.4 billion dollars for the first quarter, with the second quarter to be even worst. With all its theaters closed down, AMC is generating zero revenues. The major problem in reopening is having enough cash for operations until cash starts coming in again, and there is still questions of when theaters will be able to open again, especially if there are flare-ups of the virus.

4) Stock market closings for – 3 JUN 20:

Dow 26,269.89 up 527.24
Nasdaq 9,682.91 up 74.54
S&P 500 3,122.87 up 42.05

10 Year Yield: up at 0.76%

Oil: down at $36.75

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

19 May 2020

1) The managing director Kristalina Georgieva of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) says the Fund is likely to revise downward its forecast of a 3% contraction of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) for 2020. In turn, this will most likely cause a revision of the IMF’s forecast for a partial recovery of 5.8% in 2021. This means a longer time for a full economic recovery from the virus crisis. The IMF had forecasted that the business closures to slow the virus would throw the world into the deepest recession since the 1930’s Great Depression.

2) Gold markets have risen to their highest in more than seven years, a result of the Federal Reserve saying stocks and asset prices could suffer a significant decline as a result of the coronavirus crisis. The economic recovery could go to the end of 2021, depending on the arrival of an effective vaccine. Owning gold is considered to be a safe haven in times of economic turmoil, able to retain its value when other assets are sinking in value. Other precious metals such as silver, platinum and palladium are also experiencing a swing upward in price, but since these are commodities, their value may drop in a slower economy and reduced industrial demand.

3) The price of oil is above $30 a barrel for the first time in two months as U.S. and other country producers continue to cut production in order to restore the balance of the oil market. The world wide shut downs from the virus has drastically reduced the demand for oil world wide, with the world’s storage capacity quickly filling to maximum capacity, and for a time, producers having to pay to have their oil production removed. While the price of oil is still too low to salvage the shale oil (fracking) business in America, it still bodes well for the U.S. and world economies. Nevertheless, expectations are it will be well into the next year for the oil markets to be fully restored. Oil futures contracts that are due in June, show few signs of a resulting plunge in oil prices as when the May contracts came due and investors had to pay others to take their oil away.

4) Stock market closings for – 18 MAY 20:

Dow 24,597.37 up 911.95
Nasdaq 9,234.83 up 220.27
S&P 500 2,953.91 up 90.21

10 Year Yield: up at 0.74%

Oil: up at $32.21

23 April 2020

1) The present unemployment rate is thought to be higher than anytime during the Great Depression, raising the question if the present day recession will last as long as the Depression, which was almost ten years. While some sever recessions have been short lived, usually they are long affairs. Lowering the interest rates is a traditional tool used by the government to counter a recession and stimulate the economy, but interest rates are already near zero when the coronavirus hit, so the government didn’t have its primary tool. Many economist are considering the strategy ‘America is back open for business’ as unlikely to create a huge surge in growth. There are three other major factors to consider- 1) the other world economies are continually pulling America’s down 2) the big mess that oil is in and 3) predictions from several different experts that in the next 15 to 25 years as much as 50% of the jobs will disappear to technology. It will be difficult for employment to return to pre-coronavirus levels if jobs are continually disappearing faster than people are being rehired. One interesting point, a financial analyst is predicting that Disney World, Disneyland and their overseas parks will not be able to reopen until January 2021, and if such a cash rich company is having so much difficulty reopening, how about the multitude of smaller companies with much more limited resources?

2) U.S. automakers are taking the first steps to bring workers back and start manufacturing operations again, but are finding it easier said than done. There are negotiations with the United Auto Workers union, for the manufactures to provide protective gear, frequently sanitize equipment and take worker temperatures to prevent infection of the virus to the union members. As much as workers want to return to a paycheck, there are real fears of catching the virus. Fiat Chrysler has announced May 4 as the gradual restart date, with General Motors and Ford expected to quickly follow.

3) Reports are building that the coronavirus may cause lasting damage to some organs such as the kidneys. There are fears from reports that the virus may cause damage to the heart, lungs and possibly the liver. Furthermore, the blood from Covid-19 patients is having unprecedented blood clotting, evident by blood clots forming while trying to insert IVs or taking blood samples. Internal blood clots can be life threatening, and autopsies are finding such internal blood clots.

4) Stock market closings for – 22 APR 20:

Dow 23,475.82 up 456.94
Nasdaq 8,495.38 up 232.15
S&P 500 2,799.31 up 62.75

10 Year Yield: up at 0.62%

Oil: up at $14.23

20 April 2020

1) The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent ‘sheltering in place’ is changing the American supermarkets. Online shopping of groceries had been somewhat of an awkward luxury service, that was growing ever so slowly, despite efforts of retailers to promote the new service. But the lockdown, stay at home orders have catapulted the service forward by up to a fifty times (not percent) increase in usage. Stores have been left struggling to meet the demand with many unable to keep up with that demand. When the pandemic ends, it will have forever changed the supermarket for many Americans, for once customers have used and got use to the service, then they will most likely continue using online grocery shopping, at least in part. But online shopping eliminates one of the big mainstays of modern supermarkets, the psychology of shopping with the browsing and impulse buying. The counter to this is automation which reduces the staff and labor cost of traditional retail stores, just as Amazon has done with dry goods.

2) The Chinese maker of driverless cars, Pony.ai, has launched a delivery service in Irvine California using its robot cars to deliver to people stuck at home from the virus. Teaming up with the e-commerce site Yamibuy, orders from Yamibuy get delivered to the customers homes. Each car can deliver between 500 to 700 packages a day. A year ago the company launched a robo-taxi service in Irvine, but with the ‘shelter in place’ order, their taxis were repurposed for deliveries.

3) Everyone is baffled over how the stock market continues to hold, even climbing, with what is happening today. For example-
a) Unemployment is now at 22 million and still climbing
b) Threat of large numbers of businesses going bankrupt
c) Recession starting, which most expect will last at least 12 months
d) Automation expected to eliminate up to 50% of jobs in 15 to 25 years
e) Global coronavirus cases surpass 1.5 million and continue growing
At a time when the markets would normally be crashing down from all the uncertainty, what is holding them up? Experts think because of the quick reaction of the government in passing the $2.2 trillion dollar economic stimulus waylaid market fears by showing something is being done. Also, Warren Buffett’s axiom, “Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy only when others are fearful.” Finally, the ‘social distancing’ measures seems to be controlling the virus, thereby lessening its economic effects in the long run.

4) Stock market closings for – 17 APR 20:

Dow 24,242.49 up 704.81
Nasdaq 8,650.14 up 117.78
S&P 500 2,874.56 up 75.01

10 Year Yield: up at 0.65%

Oil: down at $18.12

13 April 2020

1) As the administration considers efforts to restart the economy, economist are considering what a recovery will look like. Although there are widely differing opinions, most consider it will be a long slow process. While it was a great shock with the sudden stopping of businesses followed by the sudden massive unemployment, few consider that there will be a quick ‘snap back’ like with a light switch being snapped back on. The shutdown is causing fundamental shifts in the social-economic system. People’s shopping and ‘going-out’ habits such as restaurants, movies and sporting events is changing, which is also a change in spending habits. People are more reluctant to travel in high density such as airliners or cruise ships. Many small businesses will not survive this recession, and with half the businesses in America classed as small, there will be a significant change in the business environment, plus it will be a long time to reabsorb the massive unemployed, since automation will move in to fill the void. Finally, America’s economy is subject to being pulled down by the world economies, which few are expecting a strong comeback from, since so many were already weak before the coronavirus.

2) Consumer prices fell 0.4% in March, the largest monthly decline in five years. This is from the cost of things like traveling, gasoline, airfares and hotel rooms plunging. Energy cost is down 5.8% with gasoline prices down 10.5%. Food prices did continue rising. There are fears that the GDP will drop 30% or more adding to the economic bad news.

3) The wild gyrations of the stock market is leaving investors confused over what is happening. Stocks are going up when the future is filled with doubts and uncertainty, not a time when investors buy equities. The unemployment is quickly approaching, and may surpass 15% amidst fears of a huge economic contraction with a long term recession- a time when normally only fools would buy into the markets.

4) Stock market closings for – 10 APR 20:

Markets closed for Good Friday