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

7 July 2020

1) Research by the Wall Street firm UBS, predicts that as many as 100,000 brick and mortar retail stores in the U.S. will close by 2025. Because of the pandemic, retailers are closing store locations permanently at an un-precedent rate. But this closure was going on before the coronavirus shutdown, with shoppers embracing other ways to buy such as e-commerce and picking up products at stores purchased online. This is in addition to large traditional retailers going into bankruptcy. This prediction is in keeping with the 9,800 stores already closed this year, with 25,000 stores predicted to close by the end of 2020. The retail sector has already lost 1.2 million jobs between March and June. This opens questions if the present hyper-consumerism economy can continue.

2) With the continued threat of the pandemic and a slowdown of reopening of economies in states, evictions are likely to skyrocket as jobs remain scarce. This is because a backlog of eviction cases is beginning to move through the court system. Millions of people had been counting on federal aid and eviction moratoriums to remain in their homes, but now fear of being thrown out is mounting. This situation is further aggravated as the enhanced unemployment benefits run out at the end of July. The enhanced unemployment and $1,200 stimulus payment had been supporting households this spring. There are 110 million people living in rental households with 20% at risk of eviction by the end of September.

3) The food delivery service Uber has acquired rival Postmates, despite Uber not having become a profitable enterprise yet. This should make Uber a stronger competitor to its main rival Doordash. The food delivery sector is undergoing a major consolidation this year, people jumping from service to service to find the best deal. With this acquisition, Uber gets a bigger share of the market with 31% of the business with DoorDash the largest at 44%.

4) Stock market closings for – 6 JUL 20:

Dow 26,287.03 up
Nasdaq 10,433.65 up
S&P 500 3,179.72 up

10 Year Yield: 0.68%

Oil: up at $40.59

1 June 2020

1) For the last few years, a number of retailers have been downsizing by closing a number of their stores across the country, something that the coronavirus pandemic has greatly accelerated. But the restaurant chains have also been downsizing as well, closing branches all across the county. Such popular names as Jack in the Box, Luby’s, Pizza Hut, Ruby Tuesday, Steak’nShake , Subway, Burger King, TGI Fridays and Applebee’s just to name a few, who are closing restaurants across the country. Each have been struggling for the last several years. This is another sign that the American consumer market is in the process of fundamentally changing.

2) The U.S. consumer spending plunged in April by the most on record because of the nation wide lock down. Spending fell 13.6% from the prior month, making for the sharpest drop in six decades. A rise in income temporarily masks the fact that people are in a fragile economic position, because the rise was a result of the one time stimulus checks. The virus crisis halted all but the most essential purchases, with economists expecting it will take a year or more before spending recovers.

3) It’s anticipated that the national debt will increase to more than 100% of the national GDP (Gross Domestic Product) by the end of the year. This will exceed the record set after World War II. The $25 trillion dollar national debt equates to $76,665 dollars per citizen or $203,712 dollars per taxpayer. The federal deficit is over $1.9 trillion dollars through April, and is expected to rise to $3.7 trillion dollars by the end of September, which is the end of the fiscal year. Such debt could draw investors to demand higher interest rates, as the federal government’s position becomes increasingly precarious. This is like an individual piling on credit card debt without consideration for the short or long term consequences to their financial position. For America, those consequences could be deep depression coupled with inflation of the dollar leaving money far less valuable than today.

4) Stock market closings for – 29 MAY 20:

Dow 25,383.11 down 17.53
Nasdaq 9,489.87 up 120.88
S&P 500 3,044.31 up 14.58

10 Year Yield: down at 0.65%

Oil: up at $35.32

28 May 2020

1) The aircraft manufacture Boeing is laying off almost 12,000 workers this week, a result of the coronavirus crisis impact on the aircraft company. Boeing, which is the largest exporter in the U.S., is trimming its workforce by about 10% which include international locations. It is anticipated the airline industry will take some years to recover with air travel dropping a whopping 95% because of the virus, and major airlines canceling the majority of their domestic flights while suspending nearly all international flights. The company suffered a major set back with its 737 MAX grounding that resulted in near record number of order cancellations for passenger jets with zero new orders in April. This has been Boeing’s worst year in decades.

2) The discount home goods retailer Tuesday Morning has filed for bankruptcy, a result of the prolong store closings from Covid-19. The lost revenues created an insurmountable financial hurdle in a company that was thriving before the pandemic. The chain is closing 230 of its nearly 700 US stores across America. The first phase of closures of 130 stores will begin this summer. This is in line with another home goods retailer, Pier 1, which filed for bankruptcy in February, another casualty of the virus.

3) More than one in every six young workers have stopped working because of the coronavirus pandemic world wide. There are fears that young workers (15 to 28 years old) could face the inability to get proper training or gain access to jobs long after the pandemic ends, maybe even deep into their careers. Of those still working, about 23% report reduction in the number of hours they work. For 178 million young workers around the world, more than 40% are in the food services and hospitality industries, which is the hardest hit sector from the virus. Three fourths of the young workers are in informal jobs or casual labor. In addition, many companies in the U.S. are cutting salaries of those who still have a job, trying to remain in business, which will reduce discretionary income that will further slow economic recovery.

4) Stock market closings for – 27 MAY 20:

Dow 25,548.27 up 553.16
Nasdaq 9,412.36 up 72.14
S&P 500 3,036.13 up 44.367

10 Year Yield: down at 0.68%

Oil: down at $32.22

22 May 2020

1) Again, there is additional unemployment this week with 2.4 million people filing for unemployment benefits this last week. This brings the total U.S. unemployment during the pandemic up to 38 million, with continuing claims at 25.07 million, the highest level on record. The good news is the filings continue to decline from previous weeks. So far, there’s no indications that the easing of the lockdowns is having any effect on the unemployment dilemma.

2) The apparel retailer chain ‘The Gap’ is accelerating its implementation of robots in warehouses to assemble online orders, thus avoiding the use of human contact during the pandemic. The Gap is tripling the number of item picking robots in use to 106 by the fall. With the pandemic forcing the closure of its stores nationwide, their online sales shot up just when social distancing rules reduced their staff. Each robot does the work of four humans in a warehoused that was already highly automated. This is an example of increased automation occurring during times of economic shock, leaving fewer jobs for when the economy improves. These are times when employers shed less skilled workers by replacing them with technology and higher skilled workers thereby reducing their labor cost.

3) The second crisis for the American economy is arriving. The pandemic is having sever consequence for state and local governments with lockdowns eviscerating their finances. Monies needed to pay for public services and infrastructure have withered leaving governments to do triage of the services they provide. Basic services such as police, fire fighting, health, trash and water/sewer services are threatened with curtailment for lack of monies to pay salaries and supplies such as gasoline. Such actions is politically dangerous which can fuel political extremism that threatens democracy. Losses of state and local revenues are estimated to be 15 to 45 percent, or an overall loss of $1.75 trillion dollars a year. With growing doubts of re-employment after the crisis passes, this economic crisis is long term.

4) Stock market closings for – 21 MAY 20:

Dow 24,474.12 down 101.78
Nasdaq 9,284.88 down 90.90
S&P 500 2,948.51 down 23.10

10 Year Yield: down at 0.68%

Oil: up at $33.82

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

30 January 2020

1) The Federal Reserve has left the interest rates unchanged, which was widely expected as the U.S. economy continues to grow at a slow and steady pace. So the interest rate will remain in the range of 1.5% to 1.75% , thereby encouraging more lending and home buying. Presently, those in the government don’t anticipate any changes, up or down, to the interest rate this year.

2) Founded in 1893, Sears was once the world’s largest retailer with billions of dollars in profits. Ten years ago, the giant retailer had 3,500 stores, but now Sears’ and Kmart combined have just 182 locations. Sears became the first major retailer to have an IPO (Initial Public Offering) in 1906 at $97.50 a share. Originally a mail order retailer, Sears opened its first department store in Chicago in 1928.

3) The budget deficient for the Federal government is forecast to past $1 trillion dollars in 2020 from contentious spending exceeding government income. Federal borrowing is likely to continue climbing dramatically over the next decade, reaching an un-precedent $31 trillion dollars by 2030. Some say this is a poor refection on the fiscal health of the nation.

4) Stock market closings for – 29 JAN 20:

Dow           28,734.45         up    11.60
Nasdaq        9,275.16         up      5.48
S&P 500       3,273.40    down      2.84

10 Year Yield:    down   at    1.59%

Oil:    down   at    $53.15

27 December 2019

1) The Permian Basin continues to experience difficulties producing oil, becoming increasingly gassy as drilling slows down. This undercuts profits for producers at a time when investors are demanding better returns. The region has long been plagued with a massive glut of gas which crude producers must sometimes pay to have hauled away or burn in the open air. This problem is intensifying as wells age and fewer new wells are drilled.

2) Oil prices rise to a three month high because of optimism on supply. The stage is set for the biggest monthly gain in almost a year on speculation that supplies are shrinking. Prices are up almost 12% for this month and are now higher since the mid-September high. The U.S. stockpiles have dropped 7.9 million barrels this last week, while Russia cut their crude output with a reduction of 240,000 barrels a day for December. Oil has surged about 36% for this year.

3) American retailers continue to struggle while some are actually thriving. The once giant Sears has fallen into bankruptcy having closed over 3,000 stores. Other major retailers in decline are Blockbuster Video, Radioshack, Victoria’s Secret, the Gap, JCPenny, Toys R Us and Borders Books. Retailers such as TJ Maxx, Amazon, Walmart, Target, Dollar General, Costco and Ross have flourished in the peril waters of American consumerism.

4) Stock market closings for – 26 DEC 19:

Dow                28,621.39    up    105.94
Nasdaq             9,022.39    up      69.51
S&P 500            3,239.91    up      16.53

10 Year Yield:    down   at    1.90%

Oil:    up   at     $61.68

25 November 2019

1) American retailers, such as Home Depot are facing a new crime wave driven by drugs and fueled by the opioid crisis. Known as organized retail crime, people steal for crime rings in exchange for cash they can buy drugs with. The stolen merchandise is then resold at pawnshops, online or directly to a buyer. Worst yet, the thieves are using violence against store employees who try to stop the open theft, even using guns and knifes. The store is left to just stand and watch as thieves roll shopping carts of merchandise out the door to sell for drugs.

2) The tuna supplier Bumble Bee Foods announced they are filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to be purchased by its largest creditor FCF Fishery, for $925 million dollars. Bumble Bee’s debt burden has forced the bankruptcy, which in turn was caused by a $25 million dollar fine for forming a cartel with Chicken of the Sea and Starkist to fix prices. The fine was levied by the Department of Justice. Additionally, the popularity of packaged tuna has been declining with a 42% per capita drop over the last 30 years.

3) There are growing fears that phase one of the China-American trade deal may not get signed before the additional tariffs take effect in mid-December. Phase one would not eliminate tariffs on either side, instead would address issues of intellectual property and financial services access including sizeable purchases by China of American agricultural products. Phase one is considered a starting point for resolving trade differences.

4) Stock market closings for – 22 NOV 19:

Dow          27,875.62    up    109.33
Nasdaq       8,519.88    up      13.67
S&P 500      3,110.29    up         6.75

10 Year Yield:    unchanged   at    1.77%

Oil:    up   at    $57.93

5 November 2019

1) Saudi Arabia has started its long anticipated IPO (Initial Public Offering) of Aramco, the Saudi state run oil giant. A sliver of the firm will be offered on a local stock exchange with the intent of raising billions of dollars for the kingdom. Initially, the firm’s shares will be traded on Riyadh’s Tadawul stock exchange, but later shares will be offered on foreign exchanges. Aramco is valued at $2 trillion dollars, with first and second quarter income of $46.8 billion dollars.

2) The high end luxury retailer Barneys of New York fell into bankruptcy, parts sold off as scrape to end an era. The retailer introduced such names as Armani, Alaia, Comme des Garcons, Louboutin and Zegna. The name Barneys was taken control of by Authentic Brands Group, a name which is part of the New York culture since 1923, and will license it to other companies like Saks Fifth Avenue. Next week, the company’s inventory at its five stores and two warehouse locations will be sold.

3) Predictions for 2020 investors include a recession, questions of interest rate cuts, market volatility, impact of the up coming election cycle, Brexit, earnings growth, low unemployment, mild inflation and wage growth. Each of these uncertainties can play a part on the ultimate outcome for the 2020 economy with interactions of them making the future economy uncertain for investors.

4) Stock market closings for – 4 NOV 19:

Dow           27,462.11    up    114.75
Nasdaq        8,433.20    up      46.80
S&P 500       3,078.27    up      11.36

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.79%

Oil:    up   at    $56.45