21 August 2020

1) A controversy has arisen on the national political scene about removal of mail sorting machines in the USPS (United States Postal Service), some charging this is an attempt to interfere in the up coming national elections. Having already removed hundreds of machines, the USPS is poised to decommission 671 of the massive sorting machines, which is roughly 10% of its inventory. This represents the sorting ability of 21.4 million pieces of paper mail per hour. Presently, the USPS processes up to 500 million items each day. The removal is part of a long range plan, in response to American’s diminishing use of traditional letters.

2) The ride sharing services Uber and Lyft are preparing to shut down in California because of a new law that reclassifies their drivers from contract workers to employees. Under an order issued ten days ago for their drivers to be employees with state mandated pay, benefits and taxes, the two service providers have threaten to suspend services if the order is not resended until an up coming referendum in November to exempt them is held. This is a major case for the growing on-demand economy and what its future in America’s economy will be. Being forced to use employee drives would fundamentally change their business, making them far less competitive with traditional taxi services.

3) The woes of America’s airline industry continues with the announcement that American Airlines is suspending service to 15 U.S. cities this fall. The move comes in response to declining demand and as a federal requirement to service those locations comes to an end. This is the latest step taken by American Airlines to cut costs amid airlines racking up billions in losses during the pandemic. The company will slash 30% of its management and administrative jobs with about 25,000 of their workers furloughed by October. They have reached a deal with their pilots union to offer more leaves and early-retirement packages. Estimates are that domestic airlines will lose more than $20 billion dollars in revenue this year, while globally the industry could lose up to $84 billion dollars this year.

4) Stock market closings for – 20 AUG 20:

Dow 27,739.73 up 46.85
Nasdaq 11,264.95 up +118.49
S&P 500 3,385.51 up +10.66

10 Year Yield: down at 0.64%

Oil: down at $42.78

19 August 2020

1) Walmart retailer giant has had its second quarter e-commerce sales jump by 97% with customers having packages shipped to their homes and using curbside pick-up. This adds optimism to Walmart’s upcoming Walmart+ (pronounced Walmart plus) membership, a subscription based service to rival Amazon Prime designed to drive up sales and loyalty. Exceptions are for Walmart+ to continue pushing up e-commerce sales over and above the big jump for the second quarter, signaling again a major profound shift in American retail segment of the economy. The new service will deliver merchandise in one day, if not just a few hours.

2) FexEx is joining other package delivery services to add extra holiday fees for deliveries, from 2 November to 17 January. These surcharges on regular shipments to homes will be between $1 and $5. It’s been since 2016 when FedEx last applied surcharges during peak volume times, and follows UPS and the US postal service using surcharges for the peak package delivery times. With the massive increase in home delivery of merchandise, because of the pandemic, its expected that the holiday surge will set new records in package volume. This in turn will place a large strain on the company and therefore additional cost to overcome the strain. The amount of the fee will depend on the surge over normal volume. Both UPS and FedEx introduced surcharges earlier this summer, in part to make up for the extra cost to keep workers safe during the pandemic.

3) The USPS (United States Postal Service) chief Louis DeJoy announced he is suspending some changes in the post office until after the 2020 election. Dejoy is avoiding any appearance of any impacting on election mail. The suspension includes some longstanding operational initiatives that were in place before he took office. There are fears that cost cutting measures could impact the November election with widespread mail delays.

4) Stock market closings for – 18 AUG 20:

Dow 27,778.07 down 66.84
Nasdaq 11,210.84 up 81.12
S&P 500 3,389.78 up 7.79

10 Year Yield: down at 0.67%

Oil: down at $42.55

17 August 2020

1) Across America, schools are struggling over if and how they should open and operate amidst the Covid-19 crisis while knowing students are infected in growing numbers. Schools are opening their doors only to have to quickly backtrack as soon as infections pop up. Debates rage over using ‘remote learning’ verse ‘in class’, with a mirid of problems with either strategy. Add to this is fears of teachers and bus drivers being exposed to potentially life threatening infections. The main problem is schools just aren’t designed for social distancing, either in the classroom or hallways. There isn’t any federal standards to guide local schools in the opening and operating of schools in the shadow of the pandemic.

2) First class mail volume had declined significantly in America, especially since the pandemic, so the USPS (United States Postal Service) is removing mailboxes in parts of Oregon. The USPS has seen a significant decline in revenue, a decline that has been on going for many years as electronic billing/payment and email has become increasingly popular. This could be portends of things to come in the near future, as the USPS struggles with money to operate.

3) With China’s announcement of its latest combat drills near Taiwan, the democratic island is increasing its defense spending. China’s aggressiveness, both military and economic, in the pacific area is raising fears of surrounding countries about their safety. Japan is also concerned over what China might do with her fast growing military power. Taiwan is increasing their military budget by 10.2%. Since the early days of the cold war, Taiwan has been threatened by China, including direct military attacks, so Taiwan knows that China has to be taken seriously. The island nation is discussing acquiring sea mines to deter amphibious landings as well as cruise missiles for coastal defense. Last year the State Department approved $10 billion dollars in arms sales. Additionally, Taiwan is beginning free trade talks with the U.S., a move that would bring the two countries closer together.

4) Stock market closings for – 14 AUG 20:

Dow 27,931.02 up 34.30
Nasdaq 11,019.30 up 23.20
S&P 500 3,372.85 up 0.58

10 Year Yield: down at 0.71%

Oil: down at $42.23

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

11 May 2020

1) The Money market mutual funds have traditionally been the ultimate haven for investors wanting to preserve capital, but this is increasingly difficult in a zero interest rate environment. The problem centers on having twice as much cash as typical. The money market funds have soared with assets at a record high of $4.77 trillion dollars because of the flight to safety this year by investors. Of that, about 75% of those assets are in Treasury and other government funds perceived as the lest risky and therefor least likely to actually lose value. The U.S. Treasury has issued in excess of $1.5 trillion dollars to fund the stimulus program and the loss of tax revenues. With interest rates near zero, some fund companies are waving management fees in order to preserve returns for clients, otherwise their clients would actually be losing money.

2) The rural department chain store Stage Stores, who predominantly caters to the rural areas and small to mid-size markets, is also experiencing the crunch on retailing. The company’s owners are preparing for bankruptcy , another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic. The chain has about 700 department stores in small towns and rural communities with about 13,600 full and part time employees. The classic retailer JC Penny is reportedly preparing to also file for bankruptcy including plans to permanently close a quarter of its 850 stores. The company missed a $17 million dollar debt payment and is going into default. The cruise ship line Norwegian Cruise Line in Miami has warned the company could go out of business because of the pandemic. The company has $6 billion dollars in long term debt, plus it’s faced with a huge number of clients demanding their money back for cruises already booked.

3) The U.S. Postal Service is reporting a huge loss, a direct result of the coronavirus crisis. The government owned corporation reported a $4.5 billion dollar loss for the first quarter. The USPS anticipates losses for the next 18 months amid steep declines in revenues. They have warned congress that government assistance is required if they are to continue delivering the mail. The congress has authorized the Treasury Department to lend the USPS up to $10 billion dollars as part of the $2.3 trillion dollar stimulus package, but President Trump has threaten to block that aid.

4) Stock market closings for – 8 MAY 20:

Dow 24,331.32 up 455.43
Nasdaq 9,121.32 up 141.66
S&P 500 2,929.80 up 48.61

10 Year Yield: up 0.68%

Oil: up at $26.04

27 April 2020

1) People are tantalized by the incredibly low oil prices, thinking only of lower gas prices. But economically, there is much more to oil and its low price. First, there is the destruction of America’s shale oil (fracking) industry, which has made us independent of foreign oil. There are fears that if oil doesn’t pick up, then the world could see a major shift in global power. The economies of several nations are very dependent on oil sales, the revenue being the bulk of their GDP. For instance, Saudi Arabia’s oil revenues account for 60 percent of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product), two-thirds of its budget, and nearly three-quarters of its exports. For Russia, one-third of its GDP is petroleum, half its budget, and two-thirds of its exports. The turbulent Middle East has states with greater dependence on oil: including Iran, Iraq, Qatar, and Kuwait. For America, oil accounts for only 8% of our GDP. The coronavirus pandemic has drastically reduce oil consumption world wide, and if it’s slow in returning to pre-pandemic levels, some countries could find themselves in serious financial and geopolitical trouble, with their influence waning and other nations displacing them in the world pecking order. It’s anyone guess how things could settle out and in whose favor.

2) Amazon has been using data about independent sellers on its platform to develop competing products, which their stated policies forbid. Such practices would give the online retailer tremendous advantage in competing against similar products, but is using proprietary information. Information includes total sales, vendor cost for Amazon’s marketing and shipping, and how much Amazon made on each sale, and other non-public information.

3) President Trump stated he would veto an emergency loan for the U.S. Postal Service if the USPS didn’t immediately raise its prices for package delivery. The President considers package delivery prices need to be four times the present charges. He has been critical of the USPS for years, considering the postal service problems are a result of mismanagement.

4) Stock market closings for – 24 APR 20:

Dow 23,775.27 up 260.01
Nasdaq 8,634.52 up 139.77
S&P 500 2,836.74 up 38.94

10 Year Yield: down at 0.60%

Oil: up at $17.18

2 January 2020

1) The ride sharing business Uber has filed a lawsuit against California, in response to a landmark gig worker law as being unconstitutional. The new law is designed to upend gig economy companies such as Uber and Lyft. Uber claims the new law unfairly targets workers and companies in the on-demand economy, treating them differently than traditional companies. The law forces on-demand companies to reclassify their independent contractors as employees, which would break up their businesses. With Uber actively researching auto-driving cars, this point may soon become mute.

2) In the wake of continual losses despite rising postal rates, America’s postal system, as a public government run entity, may be coming to a end as early as this year. New leadership is being brought into the USPS tasked with creating a package of large structural changes intent on privatizing and selling pieces of the public service off. One proposal is that the postal service stops delivering packages, since there are already several successful businesses who are already doing that.

3) Department stores and apparel retailers continue to shrink as customers continue their migration to Amazon. For the last several years, retailers such as Sears, Macy’s and the Gap have struggled to survive and prosper by closing their retail outlets with even more closures are forecast for this next year. One additional loss of retail revenues is the lost of store credit cards.

4) Stock market closings for – 31 DEC 19:

Dow                28,538.44    up    76.30
Nasdaq            8,972.60    up     26.61
S&P 500           3,230.78    up        9.49

10 Year Yield:    up   at    1.92%

Oil:    down   at     $61.21