20 November 2020

1) The pharmaceutical company Moderna Inc. has announced its experimental coronavirus vaccine is 94.5% effective against Covid-19, the second vaccine to hit a key milestone in U.S. testing. The 30,000-subject trial, which is still underway, indicates it is effective at preventing disease that causes symptoms, while also showing signs of being safe. Moderna said it plans to ask federal health authorities to clear the vaccine by early December, and if approved, could go into distribution that month, making it one of the first Covid-19 vaccines to go into distribution in the U.S., where reported coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are surging. Earlier this month two other companies, Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, said their experimental Covid-19 vaccine is more than 90% effective at protecting people from the virus in a large clinical trial.

2) American retail sales rose at a slower-than-expected pace last month, as spending slowed amid steady increases in weekly applications for unemployment benefits as the pandemic continues to accelerate. Retail sales for the month of October rose 0.3% to $553.3 billion, less than the forecasted 0.5% advance. Amazon, the online retail giant, is considered to be nearing its peak retail expansion in selling and delivering hard goods. Their problem is there’s really not much left to sell except maybe automobiles.

3) The spiraling COVID-19 crisis will confront president elect Joe Biden starting on day-one. But so far, there’s no indication he has any real plan and how he will get it done. He has vowed to enact a swift and aggressive national approach to combating COVID-19 with a federal mask mandate and impose similar restrictions at a local level. He wants to expanding testing and contact tracing efforts and use a more evidence-based approach in issuing guidance. But his success will partly hinge on the daunting task of controlling a spiraling pandemic that has constrained the country for nearly a year, and then repairing the economic damage it has wrought.

4) Stock market closings for – 19 NOV 20:

Dow 29,483.23 up by 44.81
Nasdaq 11,904.71 up by 103.11
S&P 500 3,581.87 up by 14.08

10 Year Yield: down at 0.85%

Oil: down at $41.58

12 November 2020

1) Biden said he’ll forgive $10,000 in student debt for all borrowers. Will it actually happen? During his campaign, Biden advocated forgiving a large portion of outstanding student loan debt. Now that Biden is the President-elect, the 42 million Americans with education loans may be wondering, will it really happen? Biden’s proposal is a scaled-down version of plans that his rivals to the left in the Democratic primary campaigned on. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, wants to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt for individuals with household incomes under $100,000, while Sen. Bernie Sanders, said he’d erase all of the country’s outstanding education debt.

2) The European Union will impose tariffs on $4 billion dollars of U.S. goods starting Tuesday. This is a tit-for-tat escalation of a transatlantic fight over illegal aid to aircraft manufacturers Boeing Co. and Airbus. The EU tariffs will be on various Boeing models of airliners with a 15% duty, as well as other goods ranging from spirits and nuts to tractors and video games, which will be subject to a 25% levy. The move comes at an awkward moment for the EU, which is contending with a surge of Covid-19 cases and its worsening recession. For the last 13 months, the EU has faced U.S. tariffs on $7.5 billion dollars of European goods after Washington won a WTO (World Trade Organization) case against market-distorting aid. In a parallel lawsuit, the EU received final WTO permission to hit $4 billion dollars of American products with duties because of unfair subsidies to Boeing.

3) EU (European Union) regulators announced antitrust charges against Amazon. The European Commission considers Amazon’s collection of non-public data on its platform is then used to benefit its own retail business because sales of third-party retailers is then used to launch Amazon’s own products and undercut its competition. This complaint is one of the most common charges against Amazon as an anti-competitive outfit. About 2.3 million third-party sellers do business on the Amazon marketplace. The EU also has a second formal investigation which has officially been opened.

4) Stock market closings for – 11 NOV 20:

Dow 29,397.63 down by 23.29
Nasdaq 11,786.43 up by 232.58
S&P 500 3,572.66 up by 27.13

10 Year Yield: down at 0.96%

Oil: down at$41.62

7 October 2020

1) Ikea, the big Swedish world wide modular furniture manufacture, has experienced a surge in sales from the pandemic as people turned homes into offices and schools. Their online sales are up 45% over the last 12 months to August, with 4 billion visits to their website. Outdoor furniture is the fastest growing category, followed by office furniture. While many of their stores were forced to close from the virus, their online sales remain high even as stores reopen. The furniture retailer has added 6,000 new employees world wide to make a total work force of 217,000. Online sales account for about one fifth of total sales.

2) Job openings in America fell in August for the first time in four months, indicating a moderation in hiring as the crisis continues. Available positions slipped down to 6.49 million from July’s 6.7 million. These numbers do not include recalls from layoffs or positions that are offered only internally. However, layoffs and discharges are at a low for August, although there are still 13.6 million Americans unemployed, which means there are about 2 unemployed competing for each job opening. There are fewer vacancies in construction, retail and health care industries, while vacancies increased for manufacturing, food service and government.

3) Federal reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says America is on the long road to economic recovery from the pandemic induced recession, but still there are other problems on the horizon. There are fears of the economy shifting into reverse once again, especially if a resurgence of the virus comes with cold weather . . . the flue season. Such a resurgence could significantly limit economic activity leaving many unemployed stranded with no jobs for many more months. Powell is calling for the passing of the second stimulus bill presently being debated in the Congress. He considers the risk of pouring too much money into the economy far lower than the risk of not spending enough, despite the already sky high federal budget. While he considers the debt is on an unsustainable path, and has been for some time, but this is not the time to address it.

4) Stock market closings for – 6 OCT 20:

Dow 27,772.76 down 375.88
Nasdaq 11,154.60 down 177.88
S&P 500 3,360.95 down 47.68

10 Year Yield: down at 0.74%

Oil: up at $39.83

10 September 2020

1) The renowned Mall of America announced plans to lay off and furlough hundreds of employees. Located in Bloomington, Minn. the shopping center will permanently lay off 211 workers across various departments at the end of the month with an additional 178 workers to remain on furlough beyond the end of September. The Mall employs about 1,000 workers. Like most other malls in America, the Mall of America has suffered severely from the pandemic and need for social distancing. The malls across America have suffered a decline in recent years as people’s shopping habits and revenues decline. The Mall of America has been delinquent on its $1.4 billion dollar mortgage for May, June and July, and in turn some of its 500 retail tenants are unable to pay rent or having skip out on lease obligations.

2) Federal report warns of the threat from climate change to the economy. The report considers there are consequences that can create chaos in the financial system and disrupt the American economy. It’s considered that climate change poses a major risk to the stability of the U.S. financial system to sustain the American economy, that jobs, income and opportunity are at stake. This is just another indication of the increasing difficulty and expense of keeping individuals in a high technology society. The report makes 53 recommendations for dealing with the climate risks.

3) With the start up of college and return to campus life, there has been a sharp increase in coronavirus cases stemming from universities. For instance, the University of Tennessee has more than 2,100 students and staff members quarantined for Covid-19. As of Monday the university has 600 active cases of Covid-19. Of the 2,100 quarantined cases, about half are on-campus students and the other half off-campus. The surge is blamed on reckless behavior by a small portion of the students, especially traditional college parties with close personal contact. Many other American universities are having similar experience such as the University of Notre Dame, and North Carolina State. Some universities have implemented curfews, restrictions on visitors and even lockdowns of fraternities and sororities.

4) Stock market closings for – 9 SEP 20:

Dow 27,940.47 up 439.58
Nasdaq 11,141.56 up 293.87
S&P 500 3,398.96 up 67.12

10 Year Yield: up at 0.70%

Oil: up at $37.78

3 September 2020

1) Major American companies are extending their ‘work from home’ policy, such as Google, Uber and Airbnb, until the summer of next year. The companies Zillow, Twitter, Facebook and Square have announce that employees can work from home indefinitely. Some companies are also offering stipends to employees for home office equipment as well as a $500 quarterly credit to use specifically on Airbnbs. This at home work policy remains in effect even after offices start reopening. The work at home is even spreading across the international scene with electronic giant Hitachi having 70% of its employees work permanently from home. Nationwide Insurance plans to downsize from 20 physical offices to just four with the majority of its employees continuing to work permanently from home. It’s looking more and more like working at home is becoming the norm for the future in America.

2) In a bid to counter the competition of e-commerce, the traditional department store giant Macy’s has started opening new, smaller stores away from the malls, reflecting a growing trend in the retail industry. The retail giant will test small-format Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s stores outside of underperforming malls, joining a growing trend in retail. The test stores will begin operation the fourth quarter of 2021 in Dallas, Atlanta and Washington DC. Many other major retailers are turning away from the mall format of retailing, leaving many malls withering on the vine, with foot traffic on the decline even before the Convid-19 crisis. This is another indication of a shift in American culture and society.

3) Fashion retailer Old Navy has announced they will pay their employees to work at polling stations comes election day. Each employee will be paid a full days wages for their poll work. Furthermore, store employees will have up to three hours of paid time-off on election day to vote. Old Navy joins other retailers such as Patagonia, PayPal and Levi Strauss & Co. to help in the national elections.

4) Stock market closings for – 2 SEP 20:

Dow 29,100.50 up 454.84
Nasdaq 12,056.44 up 116.78
S&P 500 3,580.84 up 54.19

10 Year Yield: down at 0.65%

Oil: down at $41.78

28 Auguest 2020

1) The decay of the worlds airline industry is reaching out past the airline companies themselves, with jet engine maker Rolls-Royce announcing a $7 billion dollar lost for the first half of 2020. Rolls-Royce gets paid by the hours their engines are flown on airliners, and with the massive drop in air travel from the pandemic, the company’s revenues have drastically dropped leaving its survival in doubt. The company is being forced to sell assets to meet its cash needs, so they are reducing eleven of their locations to just 6, with the loss of 9,000 jobs. Stock dropped 9% on the news of reorganization which was already down 66% since the start of the virus crisis.

2) Not all of the retail industry is bleak news, with Abercombie & Fitch outperforming expectations in the second quarter. While the apparel company did lose ground in the last quarter, it performed better than analyst expected, with sales down by 17%, nevertheless their earnings per share made remarkable gains over last year. This is a result of aggressive costs reductions earlier in the quarter when the company slashed expenses by $200 million dollars by reducing salary expenditures and skipping dividends. Success in their e-commerce operations has also pushed up the revenues and promises to add more as people go to online for more of their shopping.

3) Another small indication that manufacturing is returning to America is Roche Holding AG plans to move its glucose testing strips manufacturing plant from Pueto Rico, where it has operated for about 40 years. The company is streamlining its operations by combining the plant with its other existing facilities. The move will cost 200 jobs in Peuto Rico, which has a number of other drug and medical device manufacturing plants.

4) Stock market closings for – 27 AUG 20:

Dow 8,492.27 up 160.35
Nasdaq 11,625.34 down 39.72
S&P 500 3,484.55 up 5.82

10 Year Yield: up at 0.75%

Oil: down at $42.96

27 August 2020

1) Large hurricanes bring economic damage on a large scale when they make landfall. This season’s biggie is Hurricane Laura now expected to make landfall as a category 4 storm this Wednesday evening or early Thursday morning. The National Hurricane Center rates the storm as having an “un-survivable storm surge” with large and destructive waves causing catastrophic damage along the coast of eastern Texas to the eastern part of Louisiana. The surge could penetrate up to 30 miles inland from the coast. Add to this, the catastrophic wind damage, and Laura promises to carry a large price tag economically as the storm continues first up into Arkansas then across the United States for the Atlantic with rains and flooding. This year is forecast to be a very active hurricane season so more economic damage may be in the play book.

2) Walmart is suspending its InHome delivery service, which offered the convenience of having people’s groceries delivered and unpacked by the delivery person in the customer’s kitchens. But because of the Convid-19 crisis and the need for contactless service, Walmart is discontinuing the service in favor of its Doorstep Delivery service, where groceries are delivered to consumers but now is left on the door step. With its other two delivery service, Walmart is becoming a strong contender in the e-commerce business.

3) Two long established regional grocery chains have filed for bankruptcy, another sign of the shifting of retail business in America, as traditional retailers fail to adapt to the new economic world. Balducci’s and Kings Food Markets of the north eastern coast were having financial struggles before the pandemic set in, but even thought both had a boost in sales from the pandemic, it wasn’t enough to save them. All stores will remain open as their holding company seeks a buyer. The two grocery chains date back to the first half of the twentieth century and they prospered through the decades before e-commerce.

4) Stock market closings for – 26 AUG 20:

Dow 28,331.92 up 83.48
Nasdaq 11,665.06 up 198.59
S&P 500 3,478.73 up 35.11

10 Year Yield: unchanged at 0.69

Oil: unchanged at $43.43

13 August 2020

1) Another national retail outlet, Stein Mart, is going the way of the brick and mortar retail system announcing they are closing all their stores in bankruptcy amid Covid-19 pandemic. Based in Jacksonville, Florida the company operates 281 stores in 30 states with 9,000 employees. Stein Mart ‘going out of business’ sale is expected to begin in August 14 or 15 with complete liquidation of inventory, with the anticipation of all stores closed by the fourth quarter of 2020. The retailer joins a long list of businesses to file for bankruptcy protection amid the coronavirus crisis.

2) With all the money being pumped into the economy by the government, there were fears of fueling inflation. Those fears were increased with the July consumer price data showing that prices are indeed on the rise. But some are saying these price increases are a result of supply and demand dynamics from the pandemic, and will fall once the supply system becomes stable with production reaching equilibrium again. It’s just a matter of time.

3) Amid suspicion of a rigged election by authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko, Germany and Lithuania is calling for renewed sanctions on Belarus. Claiming a landslide victory in his presidential election, Lukashenko has cracked down on protesters and demonstrators. The EU (European Union) has call an extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the situation, considering the election was neither free nor fair, and efforts to suppress demonstrations as unacceptable. The EU is considering reinstating sanctions. The protest have been violent with about 1,000 people arrested to add to the 5,000 already being held, and injuries to both protesters and police.

4) Stock market closings for – 12 AUG 20:

Dow 27,976.84 up 289.93
Nasdaq 11,012.24 up 229.42
S&P 500 3,380.35 up 46.66

10 Year Yield: up at 0.67%

Oil: up at $42.56 +0.01

4 August 2020

1) Tailored Brands, who owns Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank, has filed for bankruptcy, becoming the latest retailer to succumb to the pandemic. The Covid-19 has wiped out demand for office attire forcing the layoffs of 20% of its workforce and closing up to 500 stores. Lord & Taylor, one of the oldest department stores in America has also filed for bankruptcy. It has started liquidating 19 of its 38 stores. In the first half of 2020, more than 3,600 companies have filed for bankruptcy, with experts predicting that things are only going to get worse. Retail names such as Justice, Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant, Luck Brand, J.C. Penny, Brooks Brothers, Sur La Table, Neiman Marcus, Tuesday Morning, Tailored Brands, GNC and J. Crew have gone into bankruptcy. Such a large number of retailers in trouble can only signal a fundamental change in the American economy.

2) The airline industry in America is facing a round of layoffs in the near future without additional federal aid to save jobs. The airlines received $32 billion dollars in federal payroll support from the CARES Act, with the condition of no layoffs until 30 September, and the anticipation of air traveling increasing by then. But this hasn’t occurred, so as the end of September approaches, layoffs loom. The airline unions have been pushing for an extension in payroll support to preserve the jobs sector of the airlines. American Airlines and United Airlines warn that more than 60,000 employees risk losing heir jobs when the aid terms expire. Other airlines like Alaska, Sprint and Frontier also warn of upcoming layoffs.

3) The owner of 7-Eleven is buying Marathon Petroleum’s Speedway gas stations for $21 billion dollars in cash. This will increase the present 9,800 convenience store chains by another 4,000. Investors were unnerved by the steep price for the deal, with shares falling nearly 9%. Like many other retailers, the chain has also been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with profits down significantly. Another acquisition that finalized is T-Mobile buying Sprint, with the Sprint brand name disappearing from the American business scene.

4) Stock market closings for – 3 AUG 20:

Dow 26,664.40 up 236.08
Nasdaq 10,902.80 up 157.52
S&P 500 3,294.61 up 23.49

10 Year Yield: up at 0.56%

Oil: down at $40.76

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