20 January 2021

1) There are growing fears of another stimulus package as the national debt grows. One measure of unemployment suggests Biden’s $1.9 trillion dollar stimulus plan may do more harm than good. The U-6 unemployment rate, a less popular reading than the commonly cited U-3, suggests additional fiscal support could be unnecessary. The gauge (which includes those only partially participating in the labor force) currently is at 11.7%. Five of the past six recessions saw higher readings. The coronavirus pandemic initially pushed the U-6 rate to a record-high of 22.9% in April, but easy monetary conditions and the $2.2 trillion dollar stimulus package brought the rate down in a matter of months. Still, there are serious questions about the long term stability of the world economics as nations struggle to pay off these huge national debts.

2) A new Covid-19 variant has been discovered in Brazil adding to the two newly emerged variants from the United Kingdom and South Africa. Brazil is one of the worst affected countries by the virus, where more people have died of the virus than anywhere else outside the United States. An urgent COVID warning says the worst months are still ahead, and is expected to get more people sicker faster. Infections and deaths are expected to continue increasing.

3) President-elect Joe Biden has an ambitious environmental agenda, with a principle goal of transitioning away from using fossil fuels. There are many questions just how this climate plan could affect the oil and gas industry in America. The new requirements include disclosure of climate risks from public companies, a commitment to end new drilling permits for federal lands, and to eliminate tax subsidies for the oil and gas industry. Tougher methane regulations to give incentives for Americans to buy cars that do not run on gasoline. It’s not just the big oil companies which can be hurt, for there are thousands and thousands of small companies making up the supply chain businesses, as well as the small independent wildcatters who are producing oil. But while oil is slowly recovering with prices above $50 a barrel, it is all in jeopardy if these proposals go into effect. Biden’s proposals could face stiff challenges from Texas officials and the oil and gas industry itself.

4) Stock market closings for – 19 JAN 21:

Dow 30,930.52 up by 116.26
Nasdaq 13,197.18 up by 198.68
S&P 500 3,798.91 up by 30.66

10 Year Yield: down at 1.09%

Oil: up at $53.17

11 January 2021

1) Boeing Aircraft Co. has reached a $2.5 billion dollar agreement to settle the criminal charge that it defrauded the U.S. government by concealing information about the troubled 737 MAX. This is the ill-fated jet airliner involved in two fatal crashes that killed 346 people. The airline manufacturer entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and in turn, the Justice Department will dismiss the charge against Boeing. This settlement caps a two-year criminal investigation into the two MAX crashes. This settlement will have no bearing on any pending civil litigation. In addition, Boeing will pay a $243.6 million criminal penalty. With the penalty and the fund for relatives, Boeing says it expects to pay an additional $743.6 million dollars for the fourth quarter of 2020.

2) The cryptocurrency Bitcoin is at an all-time high in 2021, one coin now worth $36,000. It has doubled its value in 30 days. Bitcoin is the first and biggest cryptocurrency, which started up in January 2009, and eleven years after its invention, the total value of all Bitcoins in the world is around $359 billion. The Bitcoins are long, unbreakable codes stored in clouds or computers. Bitcoins were invented at the height of the 2008-9 financial crisis. The idea is a type of money that didn’t depend on the traditional banking systems. Cryptocurrency is popular in countries with inflation.

3) Venture capital backed companies in the United States raised nearly $130 billion dollars last year, setting a record despite the COVID-19 pandemic, up 14% from 2019, while the number of deals is down 9% to 6,022. The so-called mega-rounds, which are deals that are $100 million dollars or higher, also hit a record amount and number, with $63 billion dollars raised in 318 deals. However, there is a big drop in the very early stage investment called the seed money stage. The trend of big investments doesn’t look like it will slow in 2021 as there is a lot of capital chasing investments. It’s expected that 2021 is going to be a banner year for many tech companies.

4) Stock market closings for – 8 JAN 21:

Dow 31,097.97 up by 56.84
Nasdaq 13,201.98 up by 134.50
S&P 500 3,824.68 up by 20.89

10 Year Yield: up at 1.10%

Oil: up at $52.73

23 December 2020

1) The sailing of a Chinese aircraft carrier group, led by the country’s newest carrier, through the sensitive Taiwan Strait, caused Taiwan’s navy and air force to deploy. While this isn’t the first time China’s carriers have passed close to Taiwan, it comes at a time of heightened tension between Taipei and Beijing, which claims the democratically-ruled island as its territory. China says such trips by carriers through the strait are routine, often on their way to exercises in the disputed South China Sea. Taiwan said it sent six warships and eight military aircraft to monitor the Chinese ships’ movements. China has little experience with naval air operations compared to the United States, which has operated integrated carrier battle groups with multiple vessels for decades.

2) Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, said that millions of Americans could begin seeing stimulus payments as soon as next week. The stimulus measure is combined with other bills into a giant piece of legislation to include money to fund the government through September 2021 as well as the extension of various tax cuts. The stimulus has $600 direct payments to people as part of the bill, plus $300 in weekly unemployment benefits for 11 weeks.

3) The Justice Department has filed suit against Walmart, alleging they unlawfully dispensed controlled substances through their pharmacies thereby fueling the nation’s opioid crisis. Claims are Walmart pressured its pharmacists to fill opioid prescriptions quickly, thus denying pharmacists the ability to refuse invalid prescriptions. Therefore those pharmacists were knowingly filled thousands of prescriptions that came from ‘pill mills’. The government charges Walmart with failing to detect and report suspicious prescriptions to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, as the law requires, so for years Walmart has reported virtually no suspicious orders at all. Walmart has more than 5,000 pharmacies around the country, but Walmart contends that bad doctors are to blame. Therefore, Walmart filed its own preemptive suit against the Justice Department, Attorney General William Barr and the Drug Enforcement Administration saying the Justice Department’s investigation has identified hundreds of doctors who wrote problematic prescriptions. The company is asking a federal judge to declare that the government has no basis to seek civil damages.

4) Stock market closings for – 22 DEC 20:

Dow 30,015.51 down by 200.94
Nasdaq 12,807.92 up by 65.40
S&P 500 3,687.26 down by 7.66

10 Year Yield: down at 0.92%

Oil: down at $46.80

1 December 2020

1) Amazon’s cloud-computing unit, Amazon Web Services, suffered an outage, for such services as Adobe and Roku, who rely on Amazon for their websites, while major clients like Apple and Slack appeared to be unaffected. Amazon status page said it was experiencing problems with Kinesis, its service that processes large streams of data, causing increased error rates for a number of websites. Other services affected are Amazon’s smart security subsidiary Ring, software maker Autodesk, the lending company Affirm, Target’s Shipt delivery service and the subway status site operated by New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

2) Elon Musk says the Tesla semi truck could go 621 miles on a battery charge, while paying a small weight penalty. Production is due to start this next year. Driven by four electric motors, one for each wheel, the same used on the Model 3 truck, and also uses the regenerative braking that gives quasi-infinite brake life. Tesla claims the truck can go 400 miles on a 30-minute charge using a Megacharger. Musk further claims that from day one a conventional diesel powered truck is 20% more expensive than a Tesla. One main problem is the size and weight of a battery pack to go those distances, so that means a 1-ton penalty compared to diesels. Trucks in the U.S. have a total weight limit of 40 metric tons or 80,000 pounds including their load. Regulations allows 11 hours of driving a day during a 14-hour window, so if a truck averaged 50 mph over that time, it would move 550 miles in a day. For 60 mph it would be 660.

3) The Philippines’ defense secretary has warned that increasing tensions in the South China Sea between the United States and China could easily spill over into war. If a shooting war happens, the Philippines will be involved whether she likes it or not. The crux of the threat is a confrontation of the U.S. and its allies against China for the South China Sea. An example is a Chinese destroyer recently coming threateningly close to an American warship who was conducting a ‘freedom of navigation’ patrol in the South China Sea. Also, China continues its threatening actions against Taiwan by staging amphibious landing maneuvers for invasions of islands like Taiwan.

4) Stock market closings for – 30 NOV 20:
Dow 29,638.64 down by 271.73
Nasdaq 12,198.74 down by 7.11
S&P 500 3,621.63 down by 16.72
10 Year Yield: unchanged at 0.84%
Oil: up at $45.14

25 November 2020

1) Apple Inc is trying to limit the impact of a bill aimed at fighting child labor in China, having had meetings with government representatives in an attempt to water down the bill. Under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, U.S. companies are required to ensure that their products are not made by forced labor in the region of Xinjiang. Many American companies, including Apple, have manufacturing sites that would be effected by this legislation, which would obligate public companies to report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and could lead to prosecutions over violations. A report by an Australian government body published in March claims that around 1,000-2,000 workers from the Chinese region were involved in Apple’s camera production.

2) Royal Dutch Shell has closed its Convent refinery in Louisiana. Convent is far from obsolete, indeed it is fairly big by U.S. standards and sophisticated. While Convent’s 700 workers are out of a job, the Convent replacement complex in northeast China is starting up. China has at least four projects underway in the country, totaling 1.2 million barrels a day of crude-processing capacity. This is just one example of a seismic shift in the global refining industry as demand for plastics and fuels grows in China and the rest of Asia. America has been the top refiner since the start of the oil age in the mid-nineteenth century, but China will dethrone the U.S. as early as next year. Oil exporters are selling more crude to Asia and less to long-standing customers in North America and Europe. China’s refiners are becoming a growing force in international markets for gasoline, diesel and other fuels.

3) The United States has officially exited the Open Skies Treaty on Sunday, six months after the Trump administration signaled it would. The reason is repeated Russian Federation violations of the treaty designed to allow unarmed aerial surveillance flights by the treaty participants in Europe, Russia, and the U.S. The treaty was negotiated in 1992 and entered into in 2002, and now has 34 participant states after the U.S. exit. Russia has consistently acted as if free to turn its obligations on and off at will by unlawfully denying or restricting Open Skies observation flights whenever it desires. For more than 20 years, Open Skies has been one of the most wide-ranging international arms control efforts to promote openness and transparency in military forces and activities. But Russia has denied flights within 6.2 miles of the Georgia-Russia border, and denying a previously approved flight over a major Russian military exercise. America’s European allies, however, value the treaty as it gives them the ability to collect aerial reconnaissance information, when lacking sophisticated satellite capabilities, that they would not have access to outside of the treaty.

4) Stock market closings for – 24 NOV 20:

Dow 30,046.24 up by 454.97
Nasdaq 12,036.78 up by 156.15
S&P 500 3,635.41 up by 57.82

10 Year Yield: up at 0.88%

Oil: up at $44.81

18 November 2020

1) Crude oil prices and energy stocks aren’t the only things that have fallen during this oil downturn, land prices with potential oil shale have also plummeted. The average price of U.S. oil shale acreage has fallen by more than 70 percent in two years, falling from $17,000 per acre in 2018 to $5,000 per acre in 2020. The value of oil and gas assets has plunged because of the coronavirus pandemic sending crude oil demand down globally, consequently most energy companies are slashing their costs instead of purchasing new land for oil and gas drilling. Oil and gas companies are forced to sell assets to make up money lost on deals.

2) On January the first of next year, President Trump’s pause on student loan payments for 33 million Americans is set to expire, just three weeks before President-elect Joe Biden is slated to take over. The Education Department is warning borrowers this week that their monthly payments will resume. For the incoming president, the economic and administrative mess could take months to untangle, consuming the early days of his Education Department. The student loan system was not designed to start and stop at any time for 30 million borrowers. This became apparent in March when loan payments were suspending and problems for borrowers quickly arose. This is just one facet of the economic problems facing the new president in just a few months, that not only must be addressed, but addressed correcting if problems are not to get worst.

3) The United States has surpassed 11 million coronavirus cases , that’s 1 million new infections in just one week, or 2 million since the beginning of the month. Consequently, hospitals are reaching a breaking point trying to treat nearly 70,000 Covid-19 patients. Medical workers are tired . . . mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. The stress is being felt around the nation, with the virus spreading like wildfire and the medical system having no backup. If you act early, you can save lives, but if you don’t, you’ll be swamped by a tsunami of this virus. But a Covid-19 vaccine may be in the making with Moderna announcing it has developed a vaccine that’s nearly 95% effective, capable of preventing severe illness, and it could start giving vaccinations to high-risk patients and health care workers as soon as December. A week before, drugmaker, Pfizer announced that its human trials suggest its coronavirus vaccine is more than 90% effective.

4) Stock market closings for – 17 NOV 20:

Dow 29,783.35 down 167.09
Nasdaq 11,899.34 down 24.79
S&P 500 3,609.53 down 17.38

10 Year Yield: down at 0.87%

Oil: down at $41.40

10 November 2020

1) The United States became the first nation to surpass 10 million coronavirus infections since the worldwide pandemic started. This is the feared third wave of the Covid-19 virus now surging across the nation. America has reported about a million cases in the past 10 days, the highest rate of infections since the first reporting, while worldwide, coronavirus cases now exceeds 50 million. In the United States the daily average of new deaths account for 1 in every 11 deaths worldwide. The Midwest remains the hardest-hit region based on the most cases per capital with the top five worst-affected states being North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska.

2) With Joe Biden now expected to enter the Oval Office, the American workplace is going to look much different. Biden has four decades of union leaders behind him, making him potentially the most labor-friendly president of the U.S., who won the endorsement of almost every major union in the country. Labor reform is a fundamental part of his administration with at least one union leader to be named to his Cabinet. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to drive permanent job losses and compromise worker safety, the case for structural change may be stronger than ever. A sharp turn from the Trump White House on labor policy is expected with the Democrats to reverse the present labor policies. Worker safety enforcement, progressive labor policy with a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour, boost manufacturing via trade, and a more labor-friendly National Labor Relations Board are just some of the areas for major changes to be made. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama push through a wide range of policies, only to have their plans overtaken by other agenda items like health care. But the most important factor being overlooked is AI (Artificial Intelligence) experts are predicting that up to 50% of American jobs will disappear in the next 15 to 25 years. Also, any time you raise the cost of labor, then those jobs will be replaced by automation.

3) Japan moves to reduce its fossil fuel emissions, with Japan being the fifth largest polluter, by using hydrogen fuel for its energy needs. Hydrogen offers the greatest potential to decarbonize industries like steel, cement and heavy duty transport, to achieve net-zero emissions.

4) Stock market closings for – 9 NOV 20: The Dow surged to 1,500 points on news of an effective Covid-19 vaccine trials by Pfizer with early results showing at 90% effectiveness. The Dow was briefly over 30,000.

Dow 29,157.97 up by 834.57
Nasdaq 11,713.78 down by 181.45
S&P 500 3,550.50 up at 41.06

10 Year Yield: up at 0.96%

Oil: up at $39.84

9 November 2020

1) Missouri, in what some are calling the lawsuit heard round the world, is suing China, to hold the global heavyweight responsible for the losses of life and commerce from the COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan, China. Other states are also filing class action suits in U.S. federal courts, but Beijing is aware that sovereign nations, including the U.S., have wide immunity from such claims. Experts warn that a potential decoupling of the world’s largest economies, the United States and China, is causing further concern. Even before the pandemic, there were concerns as China took dramatic steps in recent decades to grow its reach in the world. China is part of massive shifts in the balance of global powers, with some countries reasserting themselves and others finding it difficult to keep up with technological advancements and reap their economic rewards.

2) The giant ExxonMobil has low debt, high yield, and commitment to its dividend. Chevron is like ExxonMobile having a relatively low leverage (in the industry), and long histories of annual dividend increases behind them. But then the pandemic upended the supply/demand dynamics of the oil industry which sent company’s shares tumbling. This has brought the two oil companies dividends into question, and therefore the desirability of the stock as an investment. Major foreign oil companies are facing the same dilemma. Royal Dutch Shell and BP (British Petroleum) have both said they plan to also cut their dividends because of the shift. The dividends can be supported as long as the average oil price sticks around the $40 level.

3) US government has seized a $1 billion dollars in bitcoin as the cryptocurrency rockets past $15,000 per coin, the highest value since January 2018. The organization Silk Road was the most notorious online criminal marketplace of its day, until its founder was prosecuted in 2015 leaving a billion-dollar question of where did all the money go? It remained in the digital wallet for many years before a unit within the Internal Revenue Service, that tracks digital currencies, noticed 54 new transactions from the wallet, prompting the seizure of currency. Analysts noted the movement of more than 69,000 bitcoins in a single transaction from a digital wallet tied to Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht, which held the fourth-highest bitcoin balance of any in the world. But the Silk Road founder is serving two consecutive life sentences in a maximum-security federal prison, which prompted the government to seized the money, however, the government must prove its case before it can keep the forfeited assets.

4) Stock market closings for – 6 NOV 20:

Dow 28,323.40 down by 66.78
Nasdaq 11,895.23 up by 4.30
S&P 500 3,509.44 down by 1.01

10 Year Yield: up at 0.82%

Oil: down at $37.49

24 September 2020

1) California’s annual bout of fires has just added a new dimension to the state’s history. The Creek Fire has become the state’s single most massive wildfire in history by burning 286,519 acres in Fresno and Madera counties. Ignited on September the fourth, it has so far destroyed 855 structures and damaged 71 others. There are now 50 major fires across the West coast this week, so far claiming 26 fatalities, while consuming 2.2 million acres. There are forty crews with 3,100 personnel who are fighting the fires, but only about 32% of the Creek fire blaze has been contained. No estimates yet of just how much monetary damages the state has suffered.
2) As the remnants of Sally continue moving across the southeastern United States, the first estimates are in for the damages. Sally made landfall as a category 2 storm near Gulf Shores, Alabama bringing a storm surge that caused major flooding in places like Pensacola with several feet of water. Damages are expected to cost upwards of $2 billion dollars. NOAA’s aerial imagery is being evaluated to more accurately determine the extent of flooding and damages in Florida and Alabama. Major beach erosion is also apparent too.
3) Tesla’s much touted Battery Day appears to have disappointed most of the average people, with Tesla (TSLA) stock tumbling down 8.6% in midday trading, on track for its lowest close in two weeks. Investors fear that promised new batteries will take years to fully develop and be available for automobiles. Tesla unveiled a new battery design that is 56% cheaper and more efficient for use in automobiles, which should be a big step towards the viability of fully electric cars. Additionally, the company announced a future robot car for $25,000 that will be fully autonomous, and available in the next three years. The new battery technology will enable sleeker affordable cars that can travel much longer distances on a single charge. Investors had expected announcements of two big innovations, the first one is a ‘million mile’ battery that would be good for ten years or more, as well as a cost reduction, a target specified as dollars per kilowatt-hour, which would finally drop the price of an electric vehicle below that of a gasoline car.
4) Stock market closings for – 23 SEP 20:
Dow 26,763.13 down 525.05
Nasdaq 10,632.98 down 330.65
S&P 500 3,236.92 down 78.65
10 Year Yield: up at 0.68%
Oil: up at $39.59