28 September 2020

1) Another round of protest against the police was spurred by the grand jury in Kentucky deciding to indict only one of the three officers in the case of the 26 year old medical technician. The case of Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by police inside her apartment during a no-knock drug raid on 13 March 2020, is a closely watched case across the nation. The protests which started almost four months ago, seem to be getting more violent with one policemen in Seattle attacked by a protester and struck from behind with a metal baseball bat that cracked the policeman’s helmet. The officer sustained only minor injuries and was checked at the scene by the Seattle Fire Department. A video of the incident instantly went viral.

2) The U.S. Navy is considering expanding the naval force to a maximum of 534 ships by the year 2045, with many of the ships unmanned designs. Currently, the fleet has 355 ships, so this would mean a major construction undertaking that in turn would be a stimulus to the economy for years to come. The plan is to build a new fleet of lightly manned ships that over time can be unmanned. The goal for the unmanned ships is to allow the independently operated robot navigation systems to provide ammunition reloads to attacking vessels. Right now, the Navy is researching and developing the means to deploy the automated systems.

3) Florida is reopening from the coronavirus with Governor Ron DeSantis lifting restrictions on capacity of restaurants and other businesses, vowing not to turn back. This is despite the state reporting hundreds of Covid-19 deaths a week. Furthermore, the Governor is making it harder for local governments to institute their own restrictions that go above and beyond the state’s rules. There is still uncertainty about the consequences of schools reopening and other more relaxed measures. Presently, Florida is experiencing about 700 Covid-19 deaths a week.

4) Stock market closings for – 25 SEP 20:

Dow 27,173.96 up 358.52
Nasdaq 10,913.56 up 241.30
S&P 500 3,298.46 up 51.87

10 Year Yield: down at 0.66%

Oil: down at $40.04

22 September 2020

1) Bad news from the conronavirus continuing to pile in with a just-released report that 60% of the small businesses that have closed because of the virus, and will never open again. Of nearly 163,700 businesses that have closed since March 1, about 98,000 say they’ve shut their doors for good. This is a 23% increase from July. About 32,100 of these businesses are restaurants, with close to 19,600, or about 61%, closing permanently. The National Restaurant Association says 100,000 restaurants have closed, either permanently or long-term, with a lose of $240 billion in sales this year. Restaurants operate on razor-thin margins even in the best of times, and so are less likely to make it through the disruption. Consumers are spending less on dining-out, while the disposable income for Americans is shrinking. Retail stores are also struggling with about 30,400 shopping and retail establishments closing since March 1, and of these 17,500, or 58% of them are permanent.

2) Many of the workers now working at home, are engaged in day trading to counter boredom for both entertainment and profits, but with growing fears that this trend could end badly. Most of these individual investors do not have the wealth, time or temperament to make money and sustain losses for any period of time. Major companies can have big rallies on the market, only to suddenly turn around with big losses. These casual investors are competing with large investors who have technology that allows them to trade on information before most people have time to read about it. In the long run, small investors, with about 30 stocks, have only a 40% chance of doing as well as the overall market.

3) The incredibly low interest rates have caused a rush of home sales in 2020 as people take advantage of the low interest rate, and in turn all these new mortgages have flooded the bond market as investors scoop them up. But it’s not just home sales, because 69% of the new mortgages are refinances of old mortgages. Many of these mortgages are then sold to government sponsored agencies such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae, who then repackage the loans into mortgage backed bonds or securities. These bonds often have higher returns than traditional Treasurys. Additionally, the bonds are often backed by government guarantees meaning there is little risk to the investors.

4) Stock market closings for – 21 SEP 20:
Dow 27,147.70 down 509.72
Nasdaq 10,778.80 down 14.48
S&P 500 3,281.06 down 38.41
10 Year Yield: down at 0.67%
Oil: down at $39.72

16 September 2020

1) A survey by Photonics and Harris Insights and Analytic, a market research company, has found that 35% of Americans would like to avoid traditional in-store shopping, another indication of how American consumerism is fundamentally changing. The traditional in-store sales are becoming less attractive to customers who are now less likely to browse. Retailing is responding by investing in new technologies and creating jobs to meet e-commerce. Now 37% of the fashion retailers are selling more through social media.

2) The aquatic-life theme park SeaWorld is laying off nearly 1,900 furloughed workers because of low attendance from the pandemic. These layoffs include 450 food service attendants, 270 park operation hosts, 121 performers and 18 senior trainers. SeaWorld furloughed 95% of its staff back in March, but long term success of the company has forced less optimistic forecast for the economic recovery time wise.

3) In the last six months, about 100,000 restaurants have had to close permanently as independently owned business struggle to make ends meet during the virus crisis. There are one in six restaurants across America that have closed in just a half a year. Another 40% of owners say it is unlikely their restaurant will still be in business six months from now. Presently, outdoor dining has allows many restaurants to maintain a sustainable revenue stream, but with winter approaching, much of this opportunity will disappear. Coronavirus restrictions limit the in-dinning to as little as 30% normal capacity, which means a drastic cut in sales and revenue to the point that many restaurants are unable to support themselves.

4) Stock market closings for – 15 SEP 20:

Dow 27,995.60 up 2.27
Nasdaq 11,190.32 up 133.67
S&P 500 3,401.20 up 17.66

10 Year Yield: up at 0.68%

Oil: down at $38.51

8 September 2020

1) About two-thirds of the restaurants in New York are expected to permanently close by the end of this year. Restaurants in New York State are not allowed to do indoor dining, only takeout and outdoor dining is permitted. Therefore, a major portion of New York restaurants are unable to meet their revenue requirements without the indoor dinning. Surveys indicated that 64% of restaurant owners are likely to close by the end of this year, and about 55% to shut down before November, which amounts to a collapse of the restaurant industry in New York State. A group of 100 restaurant owners are banning together to launch a class action lawsuit to open up indoor dining.

2) In August, the American economy added 1.37 million jobs, which was above the 1.32 million forecasted by economist. The big winners were the Government and Retail trade, with the 2020 censes accounting for much of the government’s increase in jobs, but like the censes itself, those jobs will be temporary. The job increase in retail is a result of retail stores opening back up, and so those jobs should remain, baring losses from stores closing from failure. With the growing signs that the U.S. economy is improving and jobs are coming back, there is less pressure on Congress to pass a new fiscal stimulus package. The unemployment rate has fallen below 10% to 8.4%, but is still a long way from the 3.5% before the pandemic.

3) The hopes of a comfortable retirement are continually dimming for the youth of America because of a number of reasons. The increase life span after retirement means more money is needed to cover retirement. Retired people are still subject to economic downfalls such as the Great Recession of 08 that robbed workers of earning power. The age of private pensions is gone, with workers now expected to provide all their own retirement out of their own pockets. This goes hand and hand with Social Security’s money reserves dropping as more retirees take their pension. Interest rates are low, making saving for retirement unproductive while the stock market is risky, plus people are reaching retirement with more debt and therefore requiring more money to sustain themselves. The average American needs to have three quarters of a million dollars to retire and be able to maintain their standard of living.

4) Stock market closings for – 4 SEP 20:

Dow 28,133.31 down 159.42
Nasdaq 11,313.13 down 144.97
S&P 500 3,426.96 down 28.10

10 Year Yield: up at 0.72%

Oil: down at $39.51

For- 7 SEP 20:

Dow 28,133.31 down 159.42
Nasdaq 11,313.13 down 144.97
S&P 500 3,426.96 down 28.10

10 Year Yield: up at 0.72%

Oil: down at $39.15

18 August 2020

1) A good sign for the U.S. economy, the American shale oil companies plan to restore nearly all oil production by the end of the third quarter. This will return production to nearly what it was when the shut down came resulting in the oil crash. As oil prices raised to $30 to $40 per barrel range, oil production started to rise. By September, nearly all of the production is expected to be restored. There were fears that shutting down shale oil wells prematurely could hamper future production, but nearly all of the restarted wells are producing normally because of a buildup of pressure. Most companies report a smooth return of operations.

2) Pizza Hut is closing up to 300 locations as part of a deal between the pizza chain and its largest franchisee, NPC International, who is filing for bankruptcy. These will be under performing restaurants, mostly with dine in facilities. The franchisee will put its remaining 927 Pizza Hut locations up for sale. NPC also operates nearly 400 Wendy’s restaurants, but has had to file for chapter 11 protection because of its $1 billion dollar debt. In recent years, Pizza Hut has drawn away from the dine-in business and concentrated more on delivery and takeout. Final determinations has not been made as to which locations will close or when.

3) In an indication of just how quickly the virus can pop up, the Oklahoma State sorority Pi Beta Phi has had 23 members test positive for the coronavirus, resulting in the entire sorority being put in quarantine. So far, none of the girls have been hospitalized and any who are ill are experiencing minor effects from the virus. The sorority members moved into the sorority house (off campus) between August 2 and 6, with all testing negative for the Covid-19. Then on 11 August, a small group of members who reside outside the house joined the chapter for a short informal gathering at the house. Within just a few days, the members in the sorority house tested positive. There has been a major spike in the pandemic, with the number of cases surpassing the previous peak levels on 31 of May, with 78% of new cases in the Sun Belt states.

4) Stock market closings for – 17 AUG 20:

Dow 27,844.91 down 86.11
Nasdaq 11,129.72 up 110.42
S&P 500 3,381.99 up 9.14

10 Year Yield: down at 0.68%

Oil: up at $42.77

10 August 2020

1) With the expiration of the stimulus bill, there are now 40 million Americans who are at risk of eviction unless the new stimulus bill is passed. This means the threat of eviction by the end of this year. Forty-three percent of renter households are facing eviction. This will result in homelessness and negative health outcomes, greater unemployment, educational decline and long term harm for renters, property owners and communities. Renters in the southern part of the country face the highest risk of eviction, with Mississippi the highest at 58% followed by Louisiana at 56%.

2) The sheltering in place, because of the pandemic, has brought a boom to the home remodeling market. Now unable to go out people are looking to make improvements to their homes, both inside and out, to make them more comfortable. Home improvements have shot up 58% since the stay at home orders started, with the outdoors improvement the most. New swimming pools and spas are now three times as many as they were last year. With most people now cooking at home, demand for decks, patios and barbeques are also in high demand.

3) Restaurant Brands International, the holding company for Burger King, Tim Hortons and Popeyes restaurants is planning to close hundreds of locations this year. These are restaurants deemed to be underperforming, and closing outlets is a measure usually taken to curb cash outflow. No words on which restaurants might be close or even what country they are in. The closings will balance out the new openings for this year, for a net zero count of closures. RBI is still the process of researching which restaurants are unprofitable and need to be closed with the aim of making the company stronger financially, but closures are expected to start in the second half of 2020.

4) Stock market closings for – 7 AUG 20:

Dow 27,433.48 up 46.50
Nasdaq 11,010.98 down 97.09
S&P 500 3,351.28 up

10 Year Yield: up at 0.56%

Oil: down at $41.60

29 July 2020

1) The fast food mega-giant McDonald’s is reporting a bigger than expected drop in global restaurant sales across the world. This is a result of the pandemic restricting sales of their drive thru and delivery operations, and in some cases shutting restaurants down completely. With second quarter sales down by 30%, McDonald’s is facing a bumpy and expensive recovery. The franchise chain has 39,000 restaurants worldwide, of which 96% are now open, verses 75% at the start of the second quarter. Store sales were down 39% in April but by June was down only 12%. Net income is down by 68% for $483.8 million dollars. McDonald’s is permanently closing 200 locations in the U.S. amid those losses, more than half located in Walmart stores.

2) The Federal Reserve has announced that its lending programs will be extended until the end of the year. This indicates the feds don’t think the U.S. economy is weathering the pandemic storm very well and needs continued help. The program lends to small and medium sized businesses and was due to expire at the end of September. Continuing the program will provide a critical backstop to help the economy recover. This Thursday will bring the first look at the second quarter gross domestic product, which is the broadest measure of the economy, but it’s expected to show an ailing economy.

3) For the second time, the renowned gun maker Remington Arms is filing for bankruptcy. This is the second time in two years that Remington has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Chronic low sales is blamed for Remington’s decline, despite the overall increase in sales of guns in America because of the pandemic. One by one, American gun manufactures have succumb to imports. Remington reports assets of $100 million dollars compared to $500 million dollars in liabilities.

4) Stock market closings for – 28 JUL 20:

Dow 26,379.28 down 205.49
Nasdaq 10,402.09 down 134.17
S&P 500 3,218.44 down 20.97

10 Year Yield: down at 0.58%

Oil: down at $41.07

24 July 2020

1) The parent company of Ann Taylor and Lane Bryant clothing chains, the Ascena Retail Group Inc., will close more than half its stores, a total of more than 1,000 stores. The troubled retailer was struggling like many other retailers to remain afloat, but the Covid-19 crisis tipped the scales into bankruptcy. Ascena has about 40,000 employees and there’s the expectation of cutting its 2,800 stores down to just 1,200 with significant losses of jobs. The chapter 11 will erase about $1 billion dollars in debt from its $12.5 billion dollars of liabilities, which includes $1.6 billion dollars of funded debt. Retailers have been among the hardest hit by Covid-19 lockdowns coupled with online shopping, which drained revenues and pushed so many retailers into bankruptcy.

2) Almost 16,000 restaurants have closed permanently from the Covid-19 pandemic, an indication of just how deeply the virus has affected the food industry, especially the restaurants. So far, about 60% of the restaurant closures have been permanent, with the number increasing with time. Restaurants now surpass the retail industry in the highest total business closures since the start of the pandemic. Bars and the night life industry has met the same fate, with 5,454 total business closures of which 2,429 are considered permanent closures, or 44% lost.

3) There is mounting evidence that America’s fragile economic recovery is faltering even as the pandemic seems to be leveling out. Reservations for restaurants are waning, air traffic is leveling off and foot traffic at stores is dwindling again. With rising infections in California, Texas and Florida, there is a growing sense that the recovery is fading. Small businesses have suffered the worst, having limited cash reserves and ability to obtain loans, and therefore are failing at record numbers. To compound the problem, there is weaker spending by consumers. Hopes for a real recovery depend more and more on an effective vaccine being created and available. Until there is one, there appears little hope that the economic will make any real lasting progress towards recovery.

4) Stock market closings for – 23 JUL 20:

Dow 26,652.33 down 353.51
Nasdaq 10,461.42 down 244.71
S&P 500 3,235.66 down 40.36

10 Year Yield: down at 0.58%

Oil: down at $41.21

23 July 20

1) The business community of America is facing a national coin shortage, making it even more difficult for the retail sector to function. Across the country, restaurants, grocery stores, and retail outlets are posting signs near their cash registers and drive thru windows asking people to pay with credit cards or exact change. This shortage is a result of the spreading coronavirus closing businesses that crippled economic activity in the U.S., so the circulation of coins dropped off significantly. Furthermore, the U.S. Mint who manufactures the nation’s coinage supply, has decreased staffing because of the pandemic, thus reducing the availability of coins.

2) New research has directly connected the explosive growth of passive investing to deteriorating corporate performance over the long haul. Companies with higher passive ownership spent more on stock repurchases, but saw worse financial outcomes. Passive investment can allow opportunistic management behavior with negative effects of future company performance. Companies with high passive ownership are less monitored, therefore allowing management to act unhindered in their own best interest. Passive ownership is a result of investing by mutual and ETF funds who track indexes instead of actively manage counterparts.

3) The government has placed orders for up to 600 million doses of Covid vaccine to Pfizer and BioNTech. The U.S. health officials have agreed to pay $1.95 billion dollars for 100 million doses of a vaccine. Nations around the world have begun ordering vaccines that are still being tested in an effort to halt the spread of the virus. To date, the coronavirus has killed 600,000 people around the world. It is planned the vaccine will be free to U.S. citizens.

4) Stock market closings for – 22 JUL 20:

Dow 27,005.84 up 165.44
Nasdaq 10,706.13 up 25.76
S&P 500 3,276.02 up 18.72

10 Year Yield: down at 0.60%

Oil: up at $41.90

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