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

25 June 2020

1) There are ten companies that may not make it through the summer. These are high brand names of Hertz, J.C. Penney, Pier 1 Imports, Tuesday Morning, J. Crew, Neiman Marcus, Gold’s Gym, Tailored Brands (Men’s Warehouse and Jos. A. Banks) and Diamond Offshore Drilling, which are all in bankruptcy now. The high number of retailers shows the ongoing retail apocalypse with the retail sector, which had already hit before the pandemic by falling sales, lower costumer traffic and too many stores. Retail was near the edge of collapsed with last years Christmas holiday shopping doing little to boost business, especially those located in malls. Last year, 9,500 retail stores closed, with estimates of 15,000 stores closing for good in 2020. This may indicated a fundamental shift in America’s economy, a shift away from hyper-consumerism to something else besides a service based economy. Shopper visits to stores are about half of last year’s numbers, and that’s with businesses reopening after more than two months on lockdown.

2) Fears continue to grow that we are not finished with the Convid-19 crisis yet, as the number of new cases continues to increase. This is happening with states and cities easing their shutdown measures to reopen the economy to start a recovery. The seven day average of new virus cases has swung up 30% from a week ago. It was hoped the warm weather would suppress the virus spread as it does with the flu, but if the virus is resurrecting, then the shutdown may need to returned with the resulting economic impact.

3) The Ford Motor Co., who is in the process of its global restructuring plan and paying off debt related to the coronavirus pandemic, is betting its future on its new line of pickups. Ford is offering its popular F-150 model in traditional internal combustion engines, new hybrids and all electric versions. The Ford F-150 has been the country’s top selling truck for more than 40 years, the best selling for the last consecutive 38 years. Their F-150 is a key part in Ford’s plans to profitably grow their business, to help in the $11 billion restructuring cost and pay off the $20 billion dollars in new debt.

4) Stock market closings for – 24 JUN 20:

Dow 25,445.94 down 710.16
Nasdaq 9,909.17 down 222.20
S&P 500 3,050.33 down 0.96

10 Year Yield: down at 0.68%

Oil: down at $38.07

18 June 2020

1) Retail giant Target has announced it is raising the minimum wage they pay to store and warehouse workers to $15 an hour, a $2 increase. Target had 350,000 workers employed in 1,900 stores across America. The company is also extending the benefits it started offering during the pandemic, including a new one of free visits to a virtual doctor. All this increases Target’s operating cost by more than $1 billion dollars a year. The company’s margins have been under pressure from pandemic related expenses, in addition to selling fewer high margin items such as apparel and accessories, as well as customers shifting to online shopping. Rival Walmart has announced they are testing a totally cashierless store as a way of limiting human contact because of the Convid-19 threat, but a cashierless store also means reduce labor cost, a goal long sought after by retailers.

2) There is a spike in mortgage demand driven by the record low interest rates. There is a 21% increase in mortgage applications from this time last year. The easing of the pandemic is releasing the pent up demand caused by the shutdown. A 30 year mortgage with 20% down fixed rate has an interest rate now of 3.3%. Refinancing continues to play a significant part in the home mortgage market.

3) Hilton Hotels is laying off 22% of its corporate workforce of 2,100 employees as a result of the coronavirus, while also extending furloughs for many of its corporate staff for an additional 90 days. The virus crisis has brought the hotel business to a near complete halt. The industry has lost about 7.7 million jobs, although occupancy has started to increase, signaling the worst may be coming to an end.

4) Stock market closings for – 17 JUN 20:

Dow 26,119.61 down 170.37
Nasdaq 9,910.53 up 14.66
S&P 500 3,113.49 down 11.25

10 Year Yield: down at 0.73%

Oil: down at $37.65

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

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

26 February 2020

1) Global trade experiences its first full-year drop since the financial crisis, with weaker world growth and a manufacturing recession taking their toll. The spread of the coronavirus, with its impact on businesses and households, is increasingly pulling world economics down. While the decline isn’t huge, it is the first since 2009 and follows growth of more than 3% in 2018. The virus has shut off huge areas of China causing the closing of factories and now is spreading internationally.

2) The markets continue to follow the Dow’s thousand point drop with more large loses. To add to the financial worries, bond yields are slipping down, raising concerns that the global economy is slowing significantly because of the spreading coronavirus. There is heavy buying of treasuries in order to shelter money, with the ten year Treasury yield traded at 1.32%, an all time low, with the thirty year bond yield also reaching a record low. Analysts are already cutting their earnings estimates for the first quarter, further dampening hopes for better near term growth.

3) Retail giant Amazon has opened its first Go Grocery store in Seattle. The automated store is cashierless where customers walk in, and get what they want, and on walking out, computer and sensors electronically charging their purchases. The store is over 10,000 square feet and has about 5,000 items including fresh produce, meats and alcohol. This is just another example of the grocery retailers efforts to automate their operations and reduce labor costs.

4) Stock market closings for – 25 FEB 20: Dow is down 1900 points in two days and some experts fear the markets are 500 points away from being a correction.

Dow 27,081.36 down 879.44
Nasdaq 8,965.61 down 255.67
S&P 500 3,128.21 down 97.68

10 Year Yield: down at 1.33%

Oil: down at $50.10

31 January 2020

1) Hallmark Greeting Cards is suffering a downturn in the brick-and-mortar retail industry, closing sixteen of its retail outlets across America. Social media is crushing the card business, so it’s no longer a viable business. People use to buy and send cards all the time, but now it’s all online. This is just another indicator of how the retail business is changing, more people doing their shopping on line.

2) Franchise businesses remain a popular strategy for people to start their own business, giving them the benefit of an established brand. About two-thirds of Americans say they want to start a small business, but fears of failure stop most, with good reason. About half the small business startups fail within five years, and two-thirds within ten years. Most businesses do not fail because they don’t make a profit, but rather because of insufficient cash flow problems.

3) Independent grocery stores and regional supermarket chains, who are already facing brutal competition and shrinking profits, now face losing a valuable source of sales- the food stamp recipients. New rules for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) could eliminate 700,000 people from eligibility. Loss of sales could result in reduce orders from suppliers, reducing labor in stores or the closing of stores. Grocery stores have a profit margin of only about 1 % to 2% leaving little room for changes in their sales volume.

4) Stock market closings for – 30 JAN 20:

Dow              28,859.44    up    124.99
Nasdaq          9,298.93    up      23.77
S&P 500         3,283.66    up      10.26

10 Year Yield:    down   at    1.56%

Oil:    down   at    $52.87

23 January 2020

1) Present Trump has renewed his threats to impose tariffs on imported cars from Europe, citing that the European Union is even more difficult to do business with than China. His comments signals he is turning his attention to renegotiating trade deals with the bloc. Automobiles have been at the center of trade tensions for the past couple of years.

2) The millennials own just 4% of American real estate by value, much less than the 32% which baby boomers owned. This comparison is with approximately the same media age of the two groups, meaning the millennials are far behind the baby boomers economically. While millennials may close that gap in the next four years, it’s unlikely they will reach 20% ownership, still far behind the baby boomers.

3) There is a rash of retail store closings after the holiday season, due to sales slump. Fashion retailer Express is closing 91 stores, Bed Bath & Beyond is closing 60 , Schurman Retail Group is closing its Papyrus and American Greeting stores for a total of 254 locations in the next four to six weeks. Express is the latest in a serious of fashion retailers to close, part of the struggle of malls to compete in the new retail arena. Last year, retailers Forever 21 filed for bankruptcy, with Charlotte Russe and Payless ShoeSource going out of business.

4) Stock market closings for – 22 JAN 20:

Dow            29,186.27    down       9.77
Nasdaq         9,383.77          up     12.96
S&P 500        3,321.75          up       0.96

10 Year Yield:       unchanged   at    1.77%

Oil:         down   at    $56.17

20 January 2020

1) A year ago, Boeing Aircraft had record revenues of over $100 billion dollars, anticipating delivery of record number of aircraft including the 737 MAX jetliner. With the grounding of its 737 MAX, that has been reversed with Boeing posting losses from massive pay outs as well as lost revenues as undelivered aircraft sit waiting in its parking lots. Boeing may ultimately have $20 billion dollars in cost from the 737 MAX problem. Boeing’s problems has been a bonus for China’s airline manufacturing giving them a big advantage to gain market share.

2) India is resisting Amazon’s efforts to expand into India with an investment of $1 billion dollars, fearful of predatory business practices. The investment would bring Amazon India investment up to $6.5 billion dollars. But Amazon is meeting growing resistance, first with an Indian anti-trust investigation by Indian regulators, then protest from a confederation of Indian traders and organizations.

3) As hiring surged in November, the employment market got tighter, job openings plunged to their lowest level in nearly two years. The total vacancies is down by 561,000 to 6.8 million for the month. This is the lowest since February of 2018, the trend telling the economy has finally reached full employment. The biggest drops came in retail and construction.

4) Stock market closings for – 17 JAN 20: All three exchanges closed on record highs.

Dow          29,348.10    up    50.46
Nasdaq       9,388.94    up    31.81
S&P 500      3,329.62    up     12.81

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.84%

Oil:    up   at    $58.81