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

20 May 2020

1) Just three months after filing for bankruptcy, the Pier 1 retail chain is closing down all its retail store outlets as soon as possible. This drastic action is blamed on store closure from the pandemic and failure to find a buyer. After modeling several options for remaining in business, they found liquidation was the best option to maximize Pier 1’s assets. Plans are to sell its remaining inventory, website and intellectual property. Once a large seller of home goods, the company has suffered severely from online retailers such as Amazon and Wayfair, while big box stores such as Target and Walmart have increased their marketing of home goods products. The fifty-eight year old retailer joins several other big name store chains now in bankruptcy, in what appears to be a fundamental change in consumerism.

2) The damage to employment continues to spread, starting with 1 million public sector workers possibly losing their jobs. All governments are seeing a drop in revenue from businesses being shut down because of the coronavirus. With limited money- cities, counties and states are facing layoffs of their workers until things improve. Restaurants have loss 417,000 jobs to closure. The low wage workers account for 86% of job losses, while over two hundred hospitals have laid off staff because of elective procedures being suspended to accommodate Covid-19 patients, because hospitals have experienced cash crunches.

3) The ride sharing service Uber has had steep revenue losses from the pandemic shutdown, and so announced another 3,000 layoffs to bring their total layoffs to 6,700 or 25% of its workforce. It’s anticipated this action will save the company more than $1 billion dollars annually. Additionally, the company is reorganizing into transportation (Uber Works) and food delivery (Uber Eats).

4) Stock market closings for – 19 MAY 20:

Dow 24,206.86 down 390.51
Nasdaq 9,185.10 down 49.72
S&P 500 2,922.94 down 30.97

10 Year Yield: down at 0.71%

Oil: down at $31.86

13 May 2020

1) The U.S. consumer prices has declined for the second straight month as the shutdown continues with people spending less. Prices have fallen 0.8% on a seasonally adjusted basis in April, which makes it the largest drop since December 2008. The prices are being forced down by the falling cost of gasoline and energy prices. While falling prices might at first seem like a good thing, economist say that deflation, the opposite of inflation, would be very bad news. This starts a chain reaction spurred by people not buying things, which means manufactures and producers often can’t charge enough to make the product they are trying to sell, so then they stop making products and layoff people. But food prices are climbing, with the biggest increase since February 1976 by 2.6%. The Federal Reserve tries to keep inflation at around 2%, which is considered ideal, but core inflation is likely to be below 1% for the coming year. Normally, it’s expected that a large release of money into the economy, such as the recent stimulus program, would cause inflation to increase.

2) Tim Hortons of Restaurant Brands International, says the food service industry needs to change for the near future, and possibly forever. The company is increasing its digital ordering capabilities by adding to restaurants smartphone apps with enhancements to its drive-thrus and curb service. Restaurant brands using delivery services such as pizza have seen an increase in revenues during the shutdown. The delivery service industries such as GrubHub were growing before the virus crisis, but have been given a real boost which will most likely be sustained when restrictions are lifted. Some restaurant chains are even experimenting with ‘kitchen only’ restaurants with multiple brands under the same roof providing delivery only. This could be an answer to the ‘living wage’ problem with restaurant systems using less labor thereby making a greater surplus of labor which keeps wages low.

3) The economic damage to the economy may not be over with yet, indeed there are fears that the economic crisis could still get worst. The provisions from Congress has done a fair job of sheltering the most vulnerable citizens, whose provisions will run out at the end of July. It’s unlikely that the labor market will be restored by July, so if the Congress doesn’t act, the economy could slide downward even more.

4) Stock market closings for – 12 MAY 20:

Dow 23,764.78 down 457.21
Nasdaq 9,002.55 down 189.79
S&P 500 2,870.12 down 60.20

10 Year Yield: down at 0.68%

Oil: up at $25.83

8 May 2020

1) The shutdown orders are being lifted in many states, which also includes the shopping malls, but those malls remain eerily quite, almost void of humans, where once mobs crowded and surged in the hallways. People are electing to do a minimum of shopping or to shop online instead. The change is in part from fears of the virus and in part because of the high unemployment and fears of the economy floundering. There are questions of how much the American shopping ethos will return, or if consumerism is experiencing a fundamental change. The big department stores and big box stores were already suffering from changes in shopping habits and the virus may have accelerated that trend, plus many malls across America had already closed up before the pandemic. With consumerism accounting for half the economy, the future of shopping is a serious question.

2) A second major retailer has filed for bankruptcy during the coronavirus crisis. The 113 year old chain Neiman Marcus Group, which has been struggling with a $5 billion dollar debt much of it from leveraged buyouts in 2005 and 2013. With having to close 43 of its stores and laying off most of its 14,000 worker, the pandemic forced reduction of revenues that made the debt unsustainable. And that’s what broke their financial back. More than 263,000 stores in America have had to closeup leaving them with little to no revenues while their monthly fix cost remained unchanged, so questions abound of how many others will follow in the next few months, particularly if jobs don’t quickly return. On the positive note, restaurants doing takeout service, like Papa John’s Pizza, have done quite well.

3) The number of jobless Americans reached 33 million with the addition of another 3.2 million filings for unemployment benefits. This is over a seven week period, while previously 200,000 a week had once been the norm. There just doesn’t seem to be any letup in unemployment in sight from the virus crisis, with deepening fears a recession could be a long affair. On a positive note, this is the fifth week where the jobless claims have fallen, but still there are worries that the total number may go over 40 million before returning back to normal.

4) Stock market closings for – 7 MAY 20:

Dow 23,875.89 up 211.25
Nasdaq 8,979.66 up 125.27
S&P 500 2,881.19 up 32.77

10 Year Yield: down at 0.63%

Oil: down at $23.81

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

16 April 2020

1) With many of the big box stores under siege from store closings and bankruptcies, the U.S. retail sales has suffered a record drop in March. In turn, factory outputs have declined by the most since 1946, as part of the coronavirus economic contraction in the first quarter. The drop is the sharpest rate in decades despite the measures taken to prop up the economy. People are now making comparisons to the Great Depression of 1930’s, considering this recession will be as deep if not deeper than that depression. People are losing jobs by the millions, and one question is how many of those jobs will return and how many will be taken by technology displacement. Last month, retail sales plunged 8.7%, the biggest decline since 1992 when government began taking numbers. Restaurants and bars are included in the retail decline with a drop of 26.6% last month, although grocery and health care rose. Consumer spending has dropped sharply with forecast of a 41% decline for second quarter. Consumer spending accounts for more than two thirds of the U.S. economic activity.

2) The price of oil has fallen below $20 per barrel because of predictions of a record slump in world demand. In April, global oil demand is expected to fall by 29 million barrels a day from last year. This is oil demand levels that was last seen in 1995. The U.S. had been oil independent for several years now, because of its domestic shale oil production, but for this oil to be profitable to extract, oil prices must be above $40 a barrel. With oil prices forecast to be low for the foreseeable future, the shale oil industry is in dire straights.

3) Time when companies are under stress, such as during a recession, provides impudence for them to reorganize and streamline their operations. By adapting to a new environment through restructuring of a company, they are able to reduce operating cost, thereby being better able to survive. Recession brings layoffs and furloughs, so companies seek to get work done with fewer people, usually by using new technologies. Consequently, those jobs are gone, never to return, when the economy returns to health.

4) Stock market closings for – 15 APR 20:

Dow 23,504.35 down 445.41
Nasdaq 8,393.18 down 122.56
S&P 500 2,783.36 down 62.70

10 Year Yield: down at 0.64%

Oil: down at $20.15

15 April 2020

1) A second round of layoffs is starting, the first being workers at restaurants, malls and hotels, most of them lower skill levels, but now it’s higher skilled jobs threatened. Those higher skilled jobs had seemed secure, however the ‘work at home’ people are seeing layoffs and furloughs to add to the unemployed numbers. Jobs such as corporate lawyers, government workers and managers are seeing the pink slip with a threat of a prolonged labor downturn in 2007-09 recession. Economist anticipated that 14.4 million jobs will be lost in coming months, raising the unemployment rate to 13% for June. Already, 17 million Americans have been laid off, with estimates of 27.9 million jobs to be lost. The information businesses are being hit, with revenues not sufficient to pay electric bills for servers and computers to host web sites. Even large law firms catering to the corporate world are having significant layoffs. State and local governments employ 20 million people, but as tax revenues drop, they too are faced with reducing employees. Analysts consider it will take 5 1/2 years for the labor market to recover.

2) Boeing, the airline manufacture, is further suffering business setbacks with the cancellation of orders for 150 jets in March. This is a result of a near total halt in demand for air travel because of the coronavirus pandemic. There are now nearly 14,000 jets parked by airlines around the world. Boeing did report new orders for 31 aircraft in March. While Boeing still has a backlog of orders for about 5,000 jets, there are fears that delivery will be deferred which will further add to Boeing’s financial woes.

3) The IMF (International Monetary Fund) is predicting that the Great Lockdown recession will be the worst in almost a century, warning the world economy’s contraction and recovery will be worst than anticipated. The IMF estimates the global gross domestic product will shrink 3% this year, compared to a 3.3% growth in January. This will dwarf the 0.1% contraction in the 2009 financial crisis. These forecast dashing any hopes for a V-shaped economic rebound after the virus subsides, with a commutative loss of global GDP of this and next year, of about $9 trillion dollars. Economic damage is driven by how long the virus remains a major threat.

4) Stock market closings for – 14 APR 20:

Dow 23,949.76 up 558.99
Nasdaq 8,515.74 up 323.32
S&P 500 2,846.06 up 84.43

10 Year Yield: unchanged at 0.75%

Oil: down at $20.82