1 October 2020

1) After two previous recalls for Mustangs and Super Duty pickups, Ford has announced a third recall of nearly every new vehicle it sells today, a total of about 620,246 vehicles for dysfunctional (blank picture) backup cameras. All 2020 models are being recalled, the Ford Explorer, F-150 pickups, Mustang, Transit, Super Duty pickups, Expedition, Escape, Range and Edge. The only exception is the Ecosport. All have defective back up camera systems that can go dark or have a flickering image. Backup cameras are federally mandated, and therefore Ford vehicles don’t comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and therefore must be repaired.
2) Disney has announced it is laying off 28,000 employees in the U.S., a direct result of the pandemic’s effects on its theme parks. The laid-off employees comprise 67% of their part time workers and will affect Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Products unit. The parks and resorts division has more than 100,000 U.S. employees. On shutting down its theme parks globally this spring, Disney’s profits dropped a whopping 91% for the first three months of 2020. The theme parks have been impacted, a result of the limited capacity from physical distancing requirements and the continued uncertainty of the duration of the pandemic.
3) Nigeria is overhauling its State Oil Company and may sell a stake in the company. Nigeria is Africa’s biggest crude oil producer so the sale of shares is a big deal. The Nigerian government seeks to establish a commercially oriented and profit driven national petroleum company, which generates about half of the government’s revenue and more than 90% of its export earnings. The company has for years been a tool for political patronage to cronies, with its closed operations fueling corruption. Being a publicly traded company sheds the cloak of secrecy by opening the books for inspection thereby making corruption more difficult and likely to be detected.
4) Stock market closings for – 30 SEP 20:
Dow 27,781.70 up 329.04
Nasdaq 11,167.51 up 82.26
S&P 500 3,363.00 up 27.53
10 Year Yield: 0.68% up 0.03
Oil: up at $39.86

8 September 2020

1) About two-thirds of the restaurants in New York are expected to permanently close by the end of this year. Restaurants in New York State are not allowed to do indoor dining, only takeout and outdoor dining is permitted. Therefore, a major portion of New York restaurants are unable to meet their revenue requirements without the indoor dinning. Surveys indicated that 64% of restaurant owners are likely to close by the end of this year, and about 55% to shut down before November, which amounts to a collapse of the restaurant industry in New York State. A group of 100 restaurant owners are banning together to launch a class action lawsuit to open up indoor dining.

2) In August, the American economy added 1.37 million jobs, which was above the 1.32 million forecasted by economist. The big winners were the Government and Retail trade, with the 2020 censes accounting for much of the government’s increase in jobs, but like the censes itself, those jobs will be temporary. The job increase in retail is a result of retail stores opening back up, and so those jobs should remain, baring losses from stores closing from failure. With the growing signs that the U.S. economy is improving and jobs are coming back, there is less pressure on Congress to pass a new fiscal stimulus package. The unemployment rate has fallen below 10% to 8.4%, but is still a long way from the 3.5% before the pandemic.

3) The hopes of a comfortable retirement are continually dimming for the youth of America because of a number of reasons. The increase life span after retirement means more money is needed to cover retirement. Retired people are still subject to economic downfalls such as the Great Recession of 08 that robbed workers of earning power. The age of private pensions is gone, with workers now expected to provide all their own retirement out of their own pockets. This goes hand and hand with Social Security’s money reserves dropping as more retirees take their pension. Interest rates are low, making saving for retirement unproductive while the stock market is risky, plus people are reaching retirement with more debt and therefore requiring more money to sustain themselves. The average American needs to have three quarters of a million dollars to retire and be able to maintain their standard of living.

4) Stock market closings for – 4 SEP 20:

Dow 28,133.31 down 159.42
Nasdaq 11,313.13 down 144.97
S&P 500 3,426.96 down 28.10

10 Year Yield: up at 0.72%

Oil: down at $39.51

For- 7 SEP 20:

Dow 28,133.31 down 159.42
Nasdaq 11,313.13 down 144.97
S&P 500 3,426.96 down 28.10

10 Year Yield: up at 0.72%

Oil: down at $39.15

16 July 2020

1) Delta Airlines is expecting to spend up to $3.3 billion dollars on buyouts and early retirements in an effort to slash their labor cost. So far, 17,000 employees have signed up to leave the company because there is little in sight for the pandemic’s impact to end soon. The company is prohibited from laying off workers through 30 September under the terms of the $25 billion federal aid package met to support employee payroll. Delta has roughly 91,000 employees so this is a 19% reduction in their work force. The separation packages include cash severance, extended health care benefits and free flights. Other airlines are offering similar packages in an effort to reduce their work force.

2) Heritage Brands, an anchor of outlet malls across American, is closing all of its 162 stores starting next year. PVH Corp, which owns such brand names as Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, blames the closure on a combination of changing shopping habits of people and the Covid-19 pandemic. This will result in a 12% reduction in jobs or about 450 employees, saving the company $80 million dollars annually. The company had a 43% drop in revenue because of the impact of the coronavirus.

3) There are growing fears of an environmental disaster erupting in the Red Sea on the coast of Yeman. An abandoned oil tanker with 1.1 million barrels of crude oil, is beached on the coast of Yeman, with the potential to explode or rupture causing major environmental and humanitarian damage in the area. UN officials are trying to gain access to the ship to assess the tanker’s condition, conduct any possible urgent repairs and make recommendations for extraction of the oil, but the area is controlled by Houthi rebels. The danger is from sea water entering the ship’s interior causing rust and loss of structural integrity plus the inert gas that prevents the tanks from gathering inflammable gases has leaked out, so there is the threat of an explosion. To start with, an oil spill could result in 126,000 Yemeni fishermen losing their source of income.

4) Stock market closings for – 15 JUL 20:

Dow 26,870.10 up 227.51
Nasdaq 10,550.49 up 61.92
S&P 500 3,226.56 up 29.04

10 Year Yield: up at 0.63%

Oil: up at $41.04

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

17 June 2020

1) As restaurants start to reopen, they are finding a serious problem- it takes cash to reopen again, cash that many don’t have in the bank. The cost of food, staff, cleaning and training for new sanitary protocols is proving daunting, with one independent owner calculating he needs $80,000 cash to reopen. The suppliers are facing a similar problem since many of their restaurant customers still own them money, but need supplies on credit to reopen, so many suppliers are threatened with bankruptcy too. And if that’s not enough, restaurants that had opened in some major cities are threatened with another shutdown as the virus pandemic re-emerges again, and so not only face another loss of sales revenue, just when they need the money the most, but also have additional cash outlays for reopening. The closing of restaurants has shed more than 8 million jobs.

2) In a month filled with economic bad news, retail sales have posted their largest monthly jump upwards ever. With the cornonavirus lockdown coming to an end, consumers are out shopping again making a 17.7% headline gain including food sales, which beat the previous record of October 2001. Clothing and accessories were the biggest gains of 188%. This gain reverses the 16.4% plunged from a month ago. While very encouraging, the economy still has a lot to regain.

3) There is a faster than expected turnaround in home buyer demand, after a sharp drop-off at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index jumped 21 points in June to 58, where above 50 indicates a positive market. In April, the index dropped a record 42 points to 30. Builders report increase demand for families seeking single family homes in inner and outer suburbs featuring lower density neighborhoods.

4) Stock market closings for – 16 JUN 20:

Dow 26,289.98 up 526.82
Nasdaq 9,895.87 up 169.84
S&P 500 3,124.74 up 58.15

10 Year Yield: up at 0.76%

Oil: up at $37.76

15 June 2020

1) The Independent Restaurant Coalition estimates that 85% of the independent restaurants may go bust by the end of 2020. The independent restaurants comprise 70% of all the restaurants in America. These restaurants rely more heavily on dine-in revenue, which the franchise chains don’t because of their drive up and take out business is well established, while also having a corporate safety net or support system to fall back on. It will be a long time before dine-in revenue returns to pre-pandemic levels because independents depend on densely packed dinning rooms to generate sufficient revenue to meet expenses, something that social distancing prevents. Most owners just don’t have the cash reserves to survive.

2) J.C. Penny stores will begin their ‘going out of business’ sales having just received bankruptcy court approval to begin liquidation sales at those stores closing permanently. There are 242 stores closing leaving about 600 stores to continue. Sales could start as early as this weekend. J.C. Penny is the largest company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy since the pandemic started. Penny faces a crucial deadline of 15 July for a business plan, which without one, the company is expected to pursue a sale instead, which could mean total liquidation.

3) Some are proposing negative interest rates for U.S. bonds as some European countries are doing. The rational for negative interest rates is they spur economic growth, which is controversial among economist with evidence that it really works being mixed. Lowering interest rates encourages businesses and individuals to invest and spend more, which helps the economy grow. The doubts about negative interest rates is companies and individuals would rather hold cash which cost nothing rather than pay to park their money in the bank. This encourages the money to be loan out rather than be parked, which often means riskier loans. While there are studies made of how effective negative interest rates are, so far the results are mixed.

4) Stock market closings for – 12 JUN 20:

Dow 25,605.54 up 477.37
Nasdaq 9,588.81 up 96.08
S&P 500 3,041.31 up 39.21

10 Year Yield: up at 0.70%

Oil: up at $36.56

4 June 2020

1) The stock market continues to climb, with some saying this signals the end of the recession. The S&P 500 has a return of 37.7% over the past 50 trading days, which is the largest 50 day rally in history. This rally is attributed to the quick response of the Federal Reserve, with a record $2 trillion dollar federal stimulus package. Another factor is the unlimited asset purchases by the Federal Reserve. While the shutdown depressed retail and airlines businesses, other parts of the economy saw a boost, such as Netflix, Amazon and Facebook. But there is still the record high of over 40 million workers idled by the pandemic, while the weakening in the Chinese’s economy coupled with the tensions between China and America could have a telling effect to the economic recovery.

2) There are fears of another round of layoffs in the later part of 2020, amid questions of where the economy will go in the next six to twelve months. Businesses are now reluctant to expand and hire new people, and may decide to contract thus being better able to weather economic hard times. There is also the unspoken problem of continued automation taking jobs as AI (Artificial Intelligence) and automation that experts predict will continual to sap jobs for the next decade. Automation gives companies an added advantage in surviving when the economy slows down, but a second wave of layoffs may trigger that slowdown.

3) The giant movie theater chain AMC has announced they doubt they can remain in business after the effects of the coronavirus shutdown. The company has problems with their liquidity, their ability to generate revenue and the timeline for reopening its theaters. The chain expects to lose $2.1 to $2.4 billion dollars for the first quarter, with the second quarter to be even worst. With all its theaters closed down, AMC is generating zero revenues. The major problem in reopening is having enough cash for operations until cash starts coming in again, and there is still questions of when theaters will be able to open again, especially if there are flare-ups of the virus.

4) Stock market closings for – 3 JUN 20:

Dow 26,269.89 up 527.24
Nasdaq 9,682.91 up 74.54
S&P 500 3,122.87 up 42.05

10 Year Yield: up at 0.76%

Oil: down at $36.75

MAJOR TECH COMPANIES ARE BETTING ON PODCASTS….

By: Economic & Finance Report

Major technology companies such as Spotify, Apple, BarStool Sports, and Amazon, are racking up their check books in investing in podcast shows and networks.

Amazon is utilizing Audible to attain podcast shows, while Apple is using its Apple TV shows and other Apple products for podcasting viability. BarStools Sports which began as a sporting blog, has utilized its strong sports platform in the podcasting space.

Over 100 million people in the United States listen to podcast shows, one way or another. The number seems to be increasing on rolling average basis according to analysts estimates. The way that traditional radio has been digressing, don’t be surprised as podcasting surpassing the new normal. -SB

_Listen to the #EFRPodcast & #TheCastPodcast shows on the cloud, soundcloud.com/Economic-FinanceReport

5 February 2020

1) As the coronavirus continues the slowing of China’s economy, coupled with a general slow down in world economies, world oil prices are dropping. China is the world’s largest oil importer, with speculation that if oil continues to drop, America can expect a drop in gasoline prices, possibly going below $2 a gallon.

2) The credit card company Visa is planning major changes to the rates U.S. merchants pay to accept its cards. These changes are the biggest changes in a decade, with Visa hoping to encourage people to abandon checks and cash. Higher rates are coming for transactions on e-commerce sites, while certain retailers such as real estate and education will see lower rates. Retailers have long complained about the $100 billion plus dollars they spend each year to accept electronic payments.

3) Ford Motor Co. has posted a fourth quarter loss and provided weaker than expected 2020 forecast due to continued higher warranty cost, lower vehicle volumes, lower results from Ford Credit branch, and higher investment in future transportation. This is coming at a time when Ford and other automakers are making huge investments in producing a line of electric cars and trucks. For the fourth quarter, Ford is reporting a net loss of $1.7 billion dollars, or 42 cents a share. Revenue for the fourth quarter was down 5% to $39.7 billion dollars.

4) Stock market closings for – 4 FEB 20:

Dow                   28,807.63    up    407.82
Nasdaq                9,467.97    up    194.57
S&P 500               3,297.59    up      48.67

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.60%

Oil:    down   at    $49.45

17 January 2020

1) The trust funds for Social Security are in trouble and will run dry by 2035. But Social Security is not going bankrupt because the program’s primary source of revenue is payroll taxes, which at present is 12.4% of pay. So even if the trust fund should run out, Social Security still would have the money to largely keep up with benefits. A much greater danger for retirees is high inflation, for historically the first to suffer from a collapsing economy are those on fixed incomes.

2) The recently signed phase one agreement with China made for a cease-fire in the trade, but leaves the tariffs largely in place, with some considering the tariffs to be the new norm in international trade. China has committed to making $200 billion dollars in purchases from America. The agreement does not address the intellectual property issues, both the forced intellectual transfers and out right theft.

3) Claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, indicating a sustained strong labor market. Claims dropped 10,000 last week to 204,000 with the labor market remaining on a solid footing, the unemployment rate holding near a fifty year low of 3.5% for December. Layoffs were in manufacturing, transportation and warehousing.

4) Stock market closings for – 16 JAN 20:

Dow              29,297.64    up    267.42
Nasdaq          9,357.13    up      98.44
S&P 500         3,316.81    up      27.52

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.81%

Oil:    up   at    $58.59