3 July 2020

1) The aircraft manufacturer Boeing Aircraft is discontinuing production of it’s iconic 747 jumbo jet after a fifty year run. The last 747-8 will be completed in two years. This marks the end of an era of giant airliners with Airbus also discontinuing its A380 production. The number of routes in the world which requires a jumbo jet are few, with airline companies preferring the twin engine aircraft for long range flights. The 747 made its debut in 1970, and went on to rack up 1,571 orders over its production life, a record seconded only by the wide body 777. Boeing has lost 40$ million dollars for each 747 since 2016, with production down to just 6 units a year. The last 747 for passenger service was Air Force One. With air travel curtailed by the Covid-19 crisis, air carriers don’t expect air travel to recover fully until the mid decade, so airlines are culling out aging jetliners and four engine jumbos from their fleets to limit spending.

2) With interest rates near zero, the most used tool for the Feds to stimulate a sagging economy is becoming ineffective in reversing the pandemic induced recession. Therefore, the Feds are considering using quantitative easing or large scale assets purchases. This is where the U.S. central bank buys hundreds of billions of dollars in assets, most of which are U.S. Treasury and mortgage backed securities. By taking bonds (mostly 2 and 10 year Treasuries) off the market it replaces them with cash in the system, meaning there is now more cash available for lending to consumers, businesses and municipalities.

3) The Senate is considering a bill which would punish retailers for refusing cash payments. Retailers have been pushing for electronic payments to reduce the risk of virus contamination from contact of paying cash. The objective of the bill is to prevent disenfranchise of minorities who have limited to no banking access.

4) Stock market closings for – 2 JUL 20:

Dow 25,827.36 up 92.39
Nasdaq 10,207.63 up 53.00
S&P 500 3,130.01 up 14.15

10 Year Yield: down at 0.67%

Oil: up at $40.32

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

26 May 2020

1) Sales of homes in the U.S. have dropped their biggest drop in nearly 10 years, because of the coronavirus crisis in April. The upending of the labor market and the broader economy has undercut demand for housing. Sales of existing homes have plunged 17.8% with existing home sales making up about 90% of U.S. home sales. In addition, April showed a record collapse in homebuilding and permits. With unemployment up past 38 million people and still climbing, it’s expected the home sale market will remain depressed for long after the pandemic crisis is over. The problem is further exasperated by a four month inventory of homes where a six to seven month supply is considered a healthy balance between supply and demand.

2) More contraction of consumerism with more retailers announcing closing of stores. The retailers Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works will be permanently closing about 300 stores in America and Canada. With the young people of America having fewer good job opportunities and less disposable income, the hyper-consumerism economy born in the seventies is finding it harder to sustain itself, raising questions of what economic model might replace the present one . . . and what the job future would be for the young.

3) Companies have been borrowing at a rampant pace to shore up their liquidity during the pandemic. The wireless carrier AT&T is joining in with a new bond sale of $12.5 billion dollars of unsecured bonds in five parts. The intent is to take advantage of a global rally in credit to refinance their outstanding debt. Their 40 year security has a yield 250 basic points over the Treasuries. In the last few years, AT&T has been reducing its debt of nearly $200 billion dollars now down to $164 billion dollars, most of the debt coming from its acquisitions of Time Warner Inc and DirectTV.

4) Stock market closings for – 22 MAY 20:

Dow 24,465.16 down 8.96
Nasdaq 9,324.59 up 39.71
S&P 500 2,955.45 up 6.94

10 Year Yield: down at 0.66%

Oil: down at $33.56

22 April 2020

1) Many retailers have closed their stores because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Analysts think that over the coming years, many of these stores will remain closed for good. Analysts forecast that 100,000 stores will close by fiscal 2025, the hardest hit will be the apparel retailers accounting for 24,000 closures. Most retail categories will be impacted, with consumer electronics to see about 12,000 closures, while home furnishings and grocery retailers will each have about 11,000 closures. The most insulated retailers are those that have fared best during the pandemic, including Walmart, Target and Costco Wholesale. Home Depot and Lowe’s, plus dollar stores such as Dollar General and off-price retailers like Ross Stores and TJ Maxx are also well-positioned to survive. The once powerful department stores, which were the shopping meccas that anchored malls and main streets, are now considered in their death throes with very few expected to survive.

2) As oil futures continue to slide down, the extra oil is being stored in giant ocean supertankers as oil traders scramble to find places to keep their product. There is now 160 million barrels of oil which is being stored on tankers, a record amount. The previous record was 100 million barrels during the 2009 financial crisis. A large portion of this oil is stored in about 60 super tankers called very large crude carriers (VLCC) which can hold up to 2 million barrels each. Every conceivable place to store oil is being explored, while also the U.S. government is replenishing its strategic reserves stored in old underground oil fields.

3) The Bank of America is expecting gold prices to rise to $3,000 an ounce amid the deepening world economy, which is more than 50% above the existing price record. Much of this is driven by fears that the Federal government is just printing money for the trillions of dollars being spent to counter the stopped economy because of the coronavirus. The feeling being that the ‘feds can’t print gold’ and so it will hold its value. Historically, gold has been a ‘panic investment’, a safe heaven for hard economic times, a hedge against money dropping in value.

4) Stock market closings for – 21 APR 20:

Dow 23,018.88 down 631.56
Nasdaq 8,263.23 down 297.50
S&P 500 2,736.56 down 86.60

10 Year Yield: down at 0.57%

Oil: up at $13.12

20 April 2020

1) The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent ‘sheltering in place’ is changing the American supermarkets. Online shopping of groceries had been somewhat of an awkward luxury service, that was growing ever so slowly, despite efforts of retailers to promote the new service. But the lockdown, stay at home orders have catapulted the service forward by up to a fifty times (not percent) increase in usage. Stores have been left struggling to meet the demand with many unable to keep up with that demand. When the pandemic ends, it will have forever changed the supermarket for many Americans, for once customers have used and got use to the service, then they will most likely continue using online grocery shopping, at least in part. But online shopping eliminates one of the big mainstays of modern supermarkets, the psychology of shopping with the browsing and impulse buying. The counter to this is automation which reduces the staff and labor cost of traditional retail stores, just as Amazon has done with dry goods.

2) The Chinese maker of driverless cars, Pony.ai, has launched a delivery service in Irvine California using its robot cars to deliver to people stuck at home from the virus. Teaming up with the e-commerce site Yamibuy, orders from Yamibuy get delivered to the customers homes. Each car can deliver between 500 to 700 packages a day. A year ago the company launched a robo-taxi service in Irvine, but with the ‘shelter in place’ order, their taxis were repurposed for deliveries.

3) Everyone is baffled over how the stock market continues to hold, even climbing, with what is happening today. For example-
a) Unemployment is now at 22 million and still climbing
b) Threat of large numbers of businesses going bankrupt
c) Recession starting, which most expect will last at least 12 months
d) Automation expected to eliminate up to 50% of jobs in 15 to 25 years
e) Global coronavirus cases surpass 1.5 million and continue growing
At a time when the markets would normally be crashing down from all the uncertainty, what is holding them up? Experts think because of the quick reaction of the government in passing the $2.2 trillion dollar economic stimulus waylaid market fears by showing something is being done. Also, Warren Buffett’s axiom, “Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy only when others are fearful.” Finally, the ‘social distancing’ measures seems to be controlling the virus, thereby lessening its economic effects in the long run.

4) Stock market closings for – 17 APR 20:

Dow 24,242.49 up 704.81
Nasdaq 8,650.14 up 117.78
S&P 500 2,874.56 up 75.01

10 Year Yield: up at 0.65%

Oil: down at $18.12

10 March 2020

1) Monday markets opened in a steep downward spiral from sell offs, driven by the coronavirus fears, followed by the sharp drop in oil prices. The Dow dropped 2,000 points, with a massive sell off of both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq, which triggered a key market circuit breaker that halted trading for fifteen minutes. There are widespread fears over the economic impact of low oil prices, with some experts fearing oil prices down to $20 a barrel. Gold prices crossed the $1,700 dollar an ounce, hitting the highest since December 2012. The banks are hard pressed as the interest continues to sink, cutting into their margins.

2) Experts speculate that the Feds will cut the interest rate to zero in the next few months in an effort to forestall a downturn of the economy. The entire U.S. yield curve fell below 1% for the first time in history on expectations that the Federal Reserve will cut rates to zero in the next few months. Some speculate the Feds may adopt a negative rate just as some European countries have, such as Germany’s -1%.

3) While checkout-free with cashless supermarkets is now a novelty, Amazon expects this technology to spread to other retailers. Amazon has announced it plans to license its automated checkout technology to other retailers, telling of several other companies that have already signed up for the technology. The technology has been proven with cashless convenience stores across America and with Amazon’s new Go-supermarkets. The technology represents another significant step in retail automation.

4) Stock market closings for – 9 MAR 20: The stock market is like a rectal thermometer- it’s rude and crude, but surprisingly effective in showing a sick economy.

Dow 23,851.02 down 2013.76
Nasdaq 7,950.68 down 624.94
S&P 500 2,746.56 down 225.81

10 Year Yield: down at 0.50%

Oil: down at $30.24

6 February 2020

1) For the first time in six years, the U.S. trade deficit fell as the White House’s trade war with China curbed imports. The trade deficit dropped 1.7% to $616.8 billion dollars last year with steep decline in industrial materials and supplies, consumer goods and other goods. The trade deficit for goods with Mexico jumped to a record high of $101.8 billion dollars last year, with the European Union reaching an all time high of $177.9 billion dollars.

2) The Ford Motor Company is posting a$1.7 billion dollar loss and anticipates a weak forecast for 2020. General Motors is also reporting poor performance for 2019 and anticipates flat profits for 2020. Both Ford and GM’s troubles are in part from slaking sales in China, in particular with the economic slowdown in China from the coronavirus pandemic. The major competitor to the duet auto makers, Tesla, is suffering from the coronavirus closing of its Shanghai factory which builds its Model 3 sedans.

3) Macy’s, another major world renowned retailer, is experiencing the brick-and-mortar decline of other major traditional retailers. The chain is closing 125 of its stores, in addition to the 100 stores it has already closed, and cutting about 2,000 corporate jobs. Their strategy is to exit weaker shopping malls and focus towards opening smaller format stores in strip centers. But even with these changes, the future of Macy’s is abysmal. The company has lost market share in core categories such as apparel, as fewer shoppers take trips to malls, preferring on line shopping.

4) Stock market closings for – 5 FEB 20:

Dow                 29,290.85    up    483.22
Nasdaq             9,508.68    up      40.71
S&P 500            3,334.69    up      37.10

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.65%

Oil:    up   at    $51.17

12 December 2019

1) The U.S. Federal Reserve elected not to raise interest rates, thereby signaling borrowing cost will most likely remain unchanged, and they expect moderate economic growth and low unemployment to continue into the presidential election year. The Feds left the benchmark overnight lending rate at its current range of 1.5% to 1.75% with 13 of the 17 fed policymakers supporting no change.

2) American consumer prices rose more than expected in November, giving credence to the Fed’s decision not to raise interest rates. The consumer price index increased 0.3% last month, in part from households paying more for gas. In the twelve months through November, the CPI (Consumer Price Index) increased 2.3% after a similar gain in October. Gasoline prices rose 1.1% after rebounding 3.7% in October.

3) China is accused of dumping cheap mattresses which is disrupting the U.S. bedding industry, in an attempt to gain a foothold in American markets. In recent years dozens of Chinese companies have been flooding the market with super low priced mattresses, selling them to retailers for as little as $18 each. In turn, the mattresses are sold under a wide range of labels at national chains, online businesses, local retailers and mattress stores. In recent years the industry has been troubled by disruption including thousands of job losses, multiple bankruptcies and hundreds of store closures. In 2018, about five million mattresses were shipped to the U.S. from China.

4) Stock market closings for – 11 DEC 19:

Dow           27,911.30    up    29.58
Nasdaq       8,654.05    up     37.87
S&P 500      3,141.63    up       9.11

10 Year Yield:    down   at    1.79%

Oil:    down   at    $58.80

25 October 2019

1) Another wave of technology displacement is sweeping across America, with 32 stores getting rid of their cashiers and checkout lanes. For the last decade or so, there has been an increasing incident of self checkout facilities appearing in stores. Driven by Amazon’s marketing model, retailers are experimenting with ways and methods to dispense with the labor cost from check out clerks. The ‘one of a kind’ Sam’s Club Now is really an incubator to develop the technologies for automated check out systems in stores. Walmart has its Scan & Go app, Kroger its Scan Bag & Go service and fast food chains such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and burger King have kiosk systems for ordering.

2) California is not seeing the expected revenues for legalization of cannabis for personal use. After three years of legalization, the anticipated windfalls have failed to materialize a result of regulations and a robust black market cutting into legal sales. The legal market has produced just a fraction of what the state had anticipated, while legal growers who invested millions to cultivate the product are not seeing any profits. Growers must pay a number of fees to the government annually, which cut heavily into their profits.

3) If China signs a partial trade deal with the U.S., it will buy at least $20 billion dollars of agricultural products in a year. This would take China’s farm goods imports back to the levels of 2017, before U.S. imposed tariffs, which once removed might actually push imports up to as much as $40-$50 billion dollars a year. China has already issued waivers for 10 million tons of soybean purchases this week, and is considering an additional 4-5 million tons of grains.

4) Stock market closings for – 24 OCT 19:

Dow           26,805.53    down    28.42
Nasdaq        8,185.80          up    66.00
S&P 500       3,010.29          up      5.77

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.77%

Oil:    up   at    $56.15

10 June 2019

1) Many consider that it is no longer a question if the Fed will cut interest rates, but rather when. With the apparent softening of the job market, many investors firmly believe the Federal Reserve  will move to cut interest rates this year possible as soon as this July. The markets bounced up on the expectation.

2) The job numbers are in for May, with job creation slowing dramatically. There were just 75,000 new jobs added to the economy, about 100,000 less than economist expected. Both March and April job numbers were lower than expected leading experts to conclude a downward trend in the American economy is beginning. There are fears that we may see a recession as early as next year.

3) The book seller Barnes & Noble has closed a deal to sell itself to Elliott Management Corp, a hedge fund based in New York. The news sent Barnes & Noble stock surging upward as much as 36%. Like many other retailers, Barnes & Noble has struggled with little success to counter the power house e-commerce giant Amazon. It’s Nook e-book device was a bust, which the company had heavily invested in. Barnes & Noble has 600 brick and mortar retail stores.

4) Stock market closings for 7 JUN 19: The Dow has had its best week since November.

Dow                   25,983.94    up    263.28
Nasdaq                7,742.10    up    126.55
S&P 500               2,873.34    up       29.85

10 Year Yield:    down   at    2.08%

Oil:    up   at    $54.04