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

5 May 2020

1) Apparel retailer J. Crew is filing for bankruptcy, with other struggling retailers expected to succumb this year too, big retailer names like Sears and J.C. Penny. J Crew is considered to be the first retail casualty of the pandemic with others expected to quickly follow. The pandemic has caused numerous stores to be closed, laying off hundreds of thousands of employees and losing most of their sales. The big retail stores were struggling before the virus hit, with people backing away from consumerism and now after the coronavirus shutdown, people are spending little other than for groceries and daily essentials. With further declining retail revenues, more stores will close with more layoffs. Furthermore, Americans’ appetite and ability to shop continues to decline, so it looks very dismal for a major segment of the American economy, which in turn will be a burden on other segments of the economy continually pulling the rest down.

2) The service sector of the economy is also experiencing troubles in what appears to be an emerging new economy for America. Gold’s Gym International is seeking bankruptcy protection as it struggles with debt after the prolong shutdown from the virus. With the shrinking of people’s disposable income, that is the money they have left after essential spending like food, housing and transportation, the non essential businesses of the service economy are finding it harder to survive.

3) General Electric is eliminating as many as 13,000 jobs in its jet engine business, another casualty of the coronavirus devastation to the aviation segment of the economy. With airline manufactures, such as Boeing building fewer airliners, there is less demand for new jet engines. This means a 25% reduction on GE’s aviation work force with little near future likelihood of those jobs returning, indeed if the recession deepens, more jobs may be lost. Like Boeing, GE aviation was having troubles before the virus hit.

4) Stock market closings for – 4 MAY 20:

Dow 23,749.76 up 26.07
Nasdaq 8,710.72 up 105.77
S&P 500 2,842.74 up 12.03

10 Year Yield: down at 0.64%

Oil: up at $21.33

16 April 2020

1) With many of the big box stores under siege from store closings and bankruptcies, the U.S. retail sales has suffered a record drop in March. In turn, factory outputs have declined by the most since 1946, as part of the coronavirus economic contraction in the first quarter. The drop is the sharpest rate in decades despite the measures taken to prop up the economy. People are now making comparisons to the Great Depression of 1930’s, considering this recession will be as deep if not deeper than that depression. People are losing jobs by the millions, and one question is how many of those jobs will return and how many will be taken by technology displacement. Last month, retail sales plunged 8.7%, the biggest decline since 1992 when government began taking numbers. Restaurants and bars are included in the retail decline with a drop of 26.6% last month, although grocery and health care rose. Consumer spending has dropped sharply with forecast of a 41% decline for second quarter. Consumer spending accounts for more than two thirds of the U.S. economic activity.

2) The price of oil has fallen below $20 per barrel because of predictions of a record slump in world demand. In April, global oil demand is expected to fall by 29 million barrels a day from last year. This is oil demand levels that was last seen in 1995. The U.S. had been oil independent for several years now, because of its domestic shale oil production, but for this oil to be profitable to extract, oil prices must be above $40 a barrel. With oil prices forecast to be low for the foreseeable future, the shale oil industry is in dire straights.

3) Time when companies are under stress, such as during a recession, provides impudence for them to reorganize and streamline their operations. By adapting to a new environment through restructuring of a company, they are able to reduce operating cost, thereby being better able to survive. Recession brings layoffs and furloughs, so companies seek to get work done with fewer people, usually by using new technologies. Consequently, those jobs are gone, never to return, when the economy returns to health.

4) Stock market closings for – 15 APR 20:

Dow 23,504.35 down 445.41
Nasdaq 8,393.18 down 122.56
S&P 500 2,783.36 down 62.70

10 Year Yield: down at 0.64%

Oil: down at $20.15

17 February 2020

1) Surging demand for sugar is causing global supply shortages. With changing diets and lifestyles the demand for sugar has drastically increased in third world nations. For instance, Southeast Asia has had an eleven fold increase in demand. Global sugar prices have increased 12% this last year with the commodities trader ED&F Man Holdings Ltd. forecasting a world sugar deficit this year of about 10%.

2) Financial analyst forecast a number of traditional brick-and-mortar retailing chains will go bankrupt this year. Renowned names such as J.C. Penny, Pier 1 Imports, Rite Aid, Neiman Marcus, Stein Mart and the nutrition chain GNC are expected to continue their downward slide with many not surviving until the next Christmas. For the past several years or more, these name brand chains have be contracting with store closings and layoffs as they struggle to adapt to a new consumer environment.

3) While e-commerce is largely blamed for the demise of shopping malls and traditional brick-and-mortar stores, with online shopping growing tremendously over the last twenty years, expanding from $5 billion dollars per quarter to $155 billion dollars. Presently, e-commerce represents only 11% of the total retail sales. More than 70% of retail spending is in categories that has been slow or impossible for internet sales to captures such as automobiles, gasoline, home improvement and garden supplies. Inroads in drugs and pharmacy sales are being made, as well as food and drink from food delivery services.

4) Stock market closings for – 14 FEB 20:

Dow 29,398.08 down 25.23
Nasdaq 9,731.18 up 19.21
S&P 500 3,380.16 up 6.22

10 Year Yield: down at 1.59%

Oil: up at $52.25

10 January 2020

1) HP’s board has rejected Xerox’s $33 billion dollar takeover bid, for the same reason as Xerox’s previous offer, that the proposal significantly undervalues HP. Xerox first moved to acquire HP in November, but was rejected because HP stock holders would lose much of their value in the company. HP is a 2015 spinoff of giant Hewlett-Packard who has a market value of $300 billion dollars that dwarfs Xerox’s value of 7.7 billion dollars.

2) Mack Trucks, the manufacturer of large commercial trucks, announced plans to layoff 305 employees, which is about 13% of their payroll. After two years of high volumes of production, marked demand has dropped so the company must adapt to the lower demand. There are expectations of the truck market in America being down 30% this next year.

3) The American consumer continues to shun the traditional big department stores. Despite the monster holiday shopping season, America’s biggest department stores still lost money. This is a trend that has been in progress for several years as typified by Sears’ decline. Department stores such as JCPenny, Kohl’s and Macy’s continue to decline with dropping sales and store closings. Consumers are now going to big box stores and the internet commerce to save money, signaling a fundamental change in American consumerism.

4) Stock market closings for – 9 SEP 20:

Dow              28,956.90    up    211.81
Nasdaq           9,203.43    up      74.18
S&P 500          3,274.70    up      21.65

10 Year Yield:    down   at    1.86%

Oil:    down   at    $59.59

3 May 2019

1) The Canadian book retailing chain Indigo is expanding into the United States with its new model for brick and mortar bookstores at a time when online book selling is squeezing out traditional American bookstores. Indigo’s success is credited by selling signature gift items along with their books, such as beach mats, bento lunch boxes, herb growing kits, scented candles and crystal pillars.

2) The drug giant CVS Health is closing 46 of its stores as they become more involved in health care services. Nevertheless, CVS remains a solidly profitable business, but like so many other retailers, is worried about Amazon’s entry into the prescription drug business. Amazon has acquired the online drug retailer PillPack, which could serve as a bases for Amazon’s launch into the drug retailing business.

3) The millennials and generation-Z are not the only Americans facing massive college student loans to pay off. Senior citizens are struggling to pay off their student loans. More than three million people, who are over sixty, are still paying for college loans, owing more than $86 billion dollars.

4) 2 MAY 19 Stock market closings:

  Dow            26,307.79    down    122.35
Nasdaq           8,036.77    down      12.87
S&P 500          2,917.52    down        6.21

10 Year Yield:    up   at    2.55%

Oil:    down   at    $61.54