22 March 2021

1) The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an antitrust investigation into the practices of renowned credit card company Visa regarding debit-card transactions. The DOJ is looking into the rules for routing transactions, both in stores and online. In its suit against Visa last year, the Justice Department claimed Visa already possesses monopoly power in the market for online debit-card transactions, arguing that roughly 70% of such transactions in the U.S. are routed over the firm’s network. At the heart of the Justice Department’s issues with Visa is the 2010 law known as the Durbin Amendment, which requires banks to include two networks on their debit cards. Merchants are then supposed to be given the choice of routing over a major network versus a smaller alternative such as Pulse, Star or NYCE. Those alternative networks can be cheaper for merchants.

2) The Federal Reserve stated that while the U.S. economy has been steadily rebounding from the pandemic recession, the recovery is far from complete and needs continued support from the Fed. About half the 20 million jobs that were lost to the pandemic have been recovered, and the outlook is brightening as vaccinations are more widely administered. The central bank’s policymakers forecasts are sharply upgraded, with the economy expected to accelerate quickly this year. At the same time, their forecast showed that the benchmark rate remains near zero through 2023, despite concerns in financial markets about potentially higher inflation.

3) Flipping houses in America is an easy way to make a quick buck. With the real-estate market red hot, profits on flips are at a record high, averaging some $66,000 per home. There are more than 60 banks and other financing companies catering to flippers. Memories of the 2007 real-estate bust are fading, and with interest rates on most fixed income investments still so paltry, lenders are desperate for anything that provides higher returns. The 7.9% average annual rate on a fix-and-flip loan is more than twice the 3.09% rate that a bank can earn on a 30-year mortgage. But there aren’t that many houses to purchase, the inventory of existing homes for sale is at its lowest since 1999, so now more flippers are chasing fewer transactions. Almost 68% of all home flippings last year sold for $300,000 or less.

4) Stock market closings for – 19 MAR 21:

Dow 32,627.97 down by 234.33
Nasdaq 13,215.24 up by 99.07
S&P 500 3913.10 down by 2.36

10 Year Yield: unchanged at 1.75%

19 January 2021

1) President Trump and several of his key aids are preparing to move en masse to Florida this Wednesday just prior to the swearing in of Joe Biden as President. Trump plans to make his resident at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Staff members moving with the President are said to be White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and White House legislative aide Cassidy Hutchinson. Other aides who may work for Trump include Nick Luna, the director of Oval Office Operations and Molly Michael, a deputy assistant to Trump. Additionally, Luna’s wife, Cassidy Luna, a deputy assistant to the president, may work for the President’s son in law, Mr. Kushner.

2) There are fears that more than 90,000 Americans could die of Covid-19 in the next three weeks, with more than 38,000 Americans having died in the first two weeks of the new year from the pandemic. Presently, more than 130,000 people are hospitalized with the virus, with hospitals across the nation at or near the maximum capacity of their intensive care abilities. The US has added more than three million new infections since the start of the month. Mass vaccination centers are being opened. More than 30.6 million vaccine doses have been distributed, but only 11.1 million Americans have received their first dose, leading to out of date vaccine having to be thrown away. There are plans to press the large pharmacies chains into service to also give vaccinations.

3) Major labor unions are urging Speaker Nancy Pelosi and incoming Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer to provide $1 trillion dollars in emergency funding for states, cities, towns and schools. All of these entities have heavy union representation whose members stand to benefit from the increased monies. It is unclear how spending of this money is suppose to stimulate the economy.

4) Stock market closings for – 18 JAN 21:

Dow 30,814.26 down by 177.26
Nasdaq 12,998.50 down by 114.14
S&P 500 3,768.25 down by 27.29

10 Year Yield: down at 1.10%

Oil: up at $52.19

18 December 2020

1) American drivers are facing the highest gasoline prices in two months, a result of the rising cost of crude oil used to make the gas. Presently, retail gasoline prices average $2.19 a gallon, up about 5 cents so far this month. Benchmark futures in the U.S. are the most expensive in months, following a rally, fueled in part by optimism around the impending circulation of Covid-19 vaccines, with the price of oil possibly rising further, and so pushing up gas prices. The crude oil needed to produce gasoline is climbing because of availability of the vaccination and anticipation that distribution will be more widely available in 2021.

2) Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D. Mich.) has proposed that the U.S. funding for another round of $1,200 stimulus checks for Americans can be had by reversing President Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cuts passed in 2017. A point of contention in the negotiations has been another round of stimulus checks. The bipartisan $908 billion dollar proposal unveiled on Dec. 9 and then split into two parts, but did not include stimulus payments. Tlaib has criticized Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos and wants him and other billionaire CEOs to pay more in taxes by reversing Trump’s signature tax cuts. Amazon paid no U.S. federal income taxes in 2017 and 2018 despite incomes of $3.03 billion and $10.07 billion dollars.

3) The U.S. dollar fell sharply relative to other major currencies, spurred by the Federal Reserve’s reassurance that it won’t be reducing its bond purchases, which is a green light to sell American currency. The Fed has vowed not to change its policy even if the outlook for the U.S. economy brightens as is now expected. The dollar weakening also comes from rising expectations that Washington lawmakers will finally agree on an economic rescue package that’s seen as necessary to shore up a sagging recovery. A falling dollar is typically seen as positive for American and global equities as well as the world economy. Other central banks are also employing extraordinary measures aimed at supporting their economies. And while a weaker dollar is viewed generally as positive for the U.S. and the global economy, it’s been a source of consternation for some rivals, including the European Central Bank.

4) Stock market closings for – 17 DEC 20:
Dow 30,303.37 148.83 up by 0.49%
Nasdaq 12,764.74 106.56 up by 0.84%
S&P 500 3,722.48 21.31 up by 0.58%
10 Year Yield: up at 0.93%
Oil: up at $48.40

16 December 2020

1) While some Covid-19 infected people required intensive care and struggle to live, others only get sick with something akin to the flu to recover without any complications. This has raised suspicions that there might be a genetic factor that makes some people much more susceptible to sever illness and threatening of life. Researchers have found five key genetic issues that might favor severe Covid-19 illness, which in turn could lead to the discovery of new therapies that specifically target the types of genetic imbalances that can lead to life-threatening complications, which include genes involved in antiviral immunity and lung inflammation. The black plague of medieval times has been found to have a genetic factor that allowed some people to survive the plague, while many others died. Scientist have discovered key differences in these five genes: IFNAR2, TYK2, OAS1, DPP9, and CCR, that may partially explain why some people become severely sick with Covid-19, while others are not affected. This research will most likely lead to better treatment programs with a higher survival rate.

2) The Japanese research capsule, which returned from the asteroid Ryugu has yielded a black sandy dust from the distant asteroid Ryugu. The black dust was found in the capsule’s outer shell, with more substantial samples expected to be found when the inner container is opened. These results comes a week after the Hayabusa-2 space probe dropped off its capsule, which entered the atmosphere to land in the Australian desert and then was transported to Japan. The black sand-like particles are believed to be derived from the asteroid Ryugu about 200 million miles from Earth. The asteroid probe collected both surface dust and pristine material from below the surface that was stirred up by firing a projectile into the asteroid. But work is not over for the probe, which now begins an extended mission targeting two new asteroids.

3) The first U.S. Covid-19 vaccinations outside of clinical trials has began, starting the most urgent mass immunization campaign since polio shots were rolled out in the 1950s. The newly authorized vaccine was developed by Pfizer and BioNTech SE. The Pfizer vaccine was shipped out Sunday, with hospitals and health departments receiving them early Monday. A total of 55 sites nationwide have received vaccine shipments Monday. A total of 636 locations are scheduled to receive vaccines by Wednesday and an additional 581 between Thursday and Sunday, for a distribution of an initial 2.9 million doses. The vaccines are given in two doses several weeks apart. Public health officials are counting on a vaccine to help bring an end to the deadly pandemic, which has killed 300,000 Americans and infected 16.25 million since the start of the pandemic.

4) Stock market closings for – 14 DEC 20:

Dow 29,861.55 down by 184.82
Nasdaq 12,440.04 up by 62.17
S&P 500 3,647.49 down by 15.97

10 Year Yield: unchanged at 0.89%

Oil: up at $46.98