30 July 2020

1) First Walmart then Target and Dick’s Sporting Goods and now Best Buy have announced they will be closed on Thanksgiving, with more retailers expected to follow suit. The decision is in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Traditionally, Thanksgiving Day is the kick off of Black Friday sales, where retailers offer their lowest sales prices as the kickoff of the Christmas shopping season. But this also draws large crowds, something that goes against public health guidelines for social distancing. Instead, retailers will be offering their big sales online.

2) The spending habits of millennials had been credited with the decline of traditional consumer products, but now seem to be reversing for comebacks. Things like golf, starter homes and canned tuna are now on the rise, in part because of the covid-19 crisis. Some other products now on the rise is beer, mayo and cereal to name a few. More indications of how economic times in America are ever changing and becoming more unpredictable.

3) The pandemic crisis has sent the U.S. Postal Service into a fiscal tailspin, with President Trump saying he would not support a financial bailout until the Postoffice reformed its pricing of package deliveries for large on-line retailers like Amazon. But the federal government is preparing a $10 billion dollar loan to the Postoffice to continue services. This loan is part of the proposed $2 trillion dollar pandemic relief package passed in March, but the President said he wont spend the money until the USPS agrees to raise its prices. Much of the online retail business is dependent on the USPS to deliver their goods via mail delivery.

4) Stock market closings for – 29 JUL20:

Dow 26,539.57 up 160.29
Nasdaq 10,542.94 up 140.85
S&P 500 3,258.44 up 40.00

10 Year Yield: down at 0.58%

Oil: up at $41.32

26 June 2020

1) General Motors is eliminating 700 factory jobs in Tennessee as a result of low sales, which they are blaming on the Convid-19 crisis. This is the third shift at their Spring Hill assembly plant, leaving 3,000 workers still employed. This plant makes Cadillac XT5 and XT6 SUVs plus the GMC Acadia. This is another sign of the weakness in auto demand, a result of record job loss coupled with people working at home and therefore putting less wear on their old cars. The GM plant for building truck engines remains unchanged, since they were working just two shifts to start with.

2) The nation wide retailer Macy’s is cutting nearly 4,000 corporate jobs, about 3% of its overall workforce. The pandemic has taken a toll on the department store chain, just like so many other traditional chain retailers. This move will save the company about $630 million dollars per year, amid a quarterly net loss of $652 million dollars. Macy’s was struggling long before the pandemic because of competition from lower priced retailers such as Walmart, T.J. Maxx and Target.

3) The U.S. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) shrank by 5% for the first quarter, compared to an increase in the previous quarter of 2.1%, prior to the coronavirus pandemic onset. This drop is attributed to a decrease in personal consumption expenditures (PCE) because people are spending less. The real gross domestic income decreased 4.4% as compared to a 3.1% increase in the fourth quarter of last year.

4) Stock market closings for – 25 JUN 20:

Dow 25,745.60 up 299.66
Nasdaq 10,017.00 up 107.84
S&P 500 3,083.76 up 33.43

10 Year Yield: down at 0.67%

Oil: up at $39.18

19 June 2020

1) Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the U.S., has been surprised by a 92% gain in its e-commerce sales. The giant has lagged behind its competitors like Walmart, Amazon and Target with e-commerce, but the coronavirus has provided the motivation for people to use the service to stay at home and do their cooking during the pandemic. The grocer has been working hard to expand into the electronic marketing area, including working with a robotics company for automated ‘stores’ to fill orders for delivery. With the pandemic changing shopping habits of Americans, now is the time for Kroger to establish its position for the future. The question now is can Kroger maintain this increased sales of e-commerce as the virus crisis subsides. Kroger had $41.55 billion dollar revenues compared with $37 million a year ago.

2) Looking back at the 100 days of the Convid-19 crisis and shutdown, we find the American economy has endured an extraordinary upheaval. Americans have endured over 2.1 million people suffering with Covid-19 which resulted in 117,000 deaths. The closing of non essential businesses sent the economy crashing into a deep recession, with record numbers of layoffs and a skyrocketing unemployment rate. This in turn made for record drops in household spending and manufacturing. Businesses such as automobile manufacturing, the airlines and hotels came to a near complete standstill. Small businesses such as restaurants were stopped dead in their tracks with fears than a large portion would not survive. The feds cut the interest rates to near zero, while pumping in trillions of dollars to stabilize the economy and support businesses until recovery starts.

3) Unemployment claims for last week were 1.5 million more people, up from the expected 1.3 million. This is the thirteenth straight week that claims were above one million. The elevated claims continue even as the country starts to open up and resume business. The real question is how many of those jobs will return and how many will be replaced by technology. Times of economic stress is when automation makes significant inroads as companies look for ways to cut cost to survive.

4) Stock market closings for – 18 JUN 20:

Dow 26,080.10 down 39.51
Nasdaq 9,943.05 up 32.52
S&P 500 3,115.34 up 1.85

10 Year Yield: down at 0.69%

Oil: up at $38.84

2 June 2020

1) Experts say it could take as much as a decade for America’s economy to fully recover from the coronavirus and the subsequent massive shutdown of businesses. Presently, it’s expected that the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) will decrease about 3% from 2020 to 2030 or about $7.9 trillion dollars. It’s expected that the measures to counter the virus, the business closures and social distancing measures, will reduce consumer spending, which in turn will cool the economy. With 41 million people now unemployed, more layoffs are expected for the next week with an unemployment rate of 19.6%. Furthermore, it’s expected that the coronavirus will cost the economic about $7.9 trillion dollars.

2) The reopening of America from the lockdown was going to be difficult enough, but now the growing violence of protest is threatening to hamper that recovery. Stores in the protest areas are closing for the protection of its employees such as CVS and Target, with doubts mounting if some of the stores will ever reopen. Mayor Lightfood of Chicago said the continuing violence is making the city reconsider the opening of Chicago’s businesses. Also, the wireless carriers T-Mobile has closed Metro and Sprint stores over the same consideration of possible violence.

3) China has stopped some imports of U.S. farm products such as soybeans and pork meat. This is the latest sign that the January phase one trade deal between the world’s two largest economies is unraveling. The halts come after President Trump’s criticism of China’s efforts to bring Hong Kong under the firm control of the communist. The president is threatening to strip Hong Kong of some of it’s special privileges, which in turn would make Hong Kong less valuable economically to China. Further aggravating U.S. and Chinese relations is the charges that China shares some responsibility for the Convid-19 pandemic.

4) Stock market closings for – 1 JUN 20:

Dow 25,475.02 up 91.91
Nasdaq 9,552.05 up 62.18
S&P 500 3,055.73 up 11.42

10 Year Yield: up at 0.66%

Oil: up at $35.56

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

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

16 January 2020

1) Nigeria may become the superpower of Africa, repeating the economic miracle of China and India. While investors are not moving into Nigeria yet, they are watching. Like China and India, Nigeria was once a colony of the west, and like India, was a colony of the British, and just like India its language is English. Right now, Nigeria is economically where China was forty years ago, before Mao Zedong died and Deng Xiaoping deregulated the economy to unleash it. For many other reasons, Nigeria is set to repeat the economic miracle of China.

2) House mortgage applications has soared to its highest level in eleven years, for new homes and refinance. Applications are up 30.2% from last week, and are 109% higher than a year ago. The interest rates are under 4% , combining with a rosy economic outlook and high employment causing home buyers to rush into the market. This is causing a near record low supply of housing across America, pushing prices up.

3) Retailer giant Target didn’t have a strong holiday sales in their toy departments, less than what was expected. This is ringing alarm bells for the entire industry. While Target gained market share in toys, its toy sales were flat over the 2019 holidays compared to last year. Toy makers like Hasbro, Mattel and Spin Master are offering a smaller variety of toys and games, a result in part from the bankruptcy of Toys-R-Us. Increasingly, toy sales is going to online retailers such as Amazon.

4) Stock market closings for – 15 JAN 20:

Dow            29,030.22    up    90.55
Nasdaq         9,258.70    up      7.37
S&P 500        3,289.29    up      6.14

10 Year Yield:    down   at    1.79%

Oil:    down   at    $58.13

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

8 November 2019

1) Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, says he’s happy to pay his share of taxes, but expressed consternation over Elizabeth Warren’s proposals to tax America’s wealthy. He considers the presidential hopeful is not very open minded to consider his concerns. Warren’s wealth tax proposal is 2% annual levy on household wealth above $50 million dollars with an additional 1% tax on wealth above $1 billion dollars. She estimates this would cover 75,000 tax payers raising $2.6 to $2.75 trillion dollars over a ten years.

2) Stores are starting their Black Friday sales earlier this year, in part because the holiday shopping season is six days shorter. Retailer Target will begin online Black Friday sale on Thanksgiving morning, with stores opening their doors at 5 p.m. and remaining open through 1 a.m. the next day. On Black Friday, their stores open at 7 a.m.. Other retailers such as Walmart started their holiday shopping season last October.

3) Xerox is offering HP a takeover bid of $22 per share. The bid consists of 77% cash and 23% stock which would be $17 in cash and 0.137 Xerox shares for each HP share. If accepted, the deal would generate about $2 billion dollars in cost synergies with HP stock holders owning 48% of the company. HP has announced job cuts between 7,000 and 9,000 by the end of fiscal 2022. HP is worth $29 billion dollars and is more than three times the size of Xerox in terms of market cap.

4) Stock market closings for – 7 NOV 19:

Dow                 27,674.80    up    182.24
Nasdaq              8,434.52    up      23.89
S&P 500             3,085.18    up        8.40

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.93%

Oil:    up   at    $57.07

6 November 2019

1) The money-markets have about $3.4 trillion dollars invested, and the large pile of cash could push the already soaring markets higher. The money-markets have grown by $1 trillion dollars over the last three years because of higher money-market rates, concerns of the ten year economic expansion and the ageing of the bull market. But despite the double digit gains this year, that cash remains in the money-markets amid concerns of an economic slowdown, investors wanting the safe bet of having a large cash reserve. Many fear the markets are at an unstable high and a reversal could occur at any time.

2) The U.S. trade deficit for September has falling to its lowest level in five months with imports dropping more sharply than exports. America has a rare surplus of petroleum, which has traditionally been a major source of imports. The import-export difference shrank 4.7% to $52.5 billion dollars, down from the August deficit of $55 billion dollars, with the deficit with China creeping down 0.6% to $31.6 billion dollars.

3) The Bank of America announced it will pay a $20 dollar minimum wage in 2020, a year earlier than planned. This will raise wages for more than 208,000 of its U.S. employees. The higher pay for retail bankers is becoming crucial with the increasingly competitive job market. Other main street banks have also raised their minimum wage, such as Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase. Other major companies including Amazon, Walmart, Target and McDonald’s have also increased their minimum pay.

4) Stock market closings for – 5 NOV 19:

Dow              27,492.63         up    30.52
Nasdaq           8,434.68         up      1.48
S&P 500          3,074.62    down      3.65

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.87%

Oil:    up   at    $57.27