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

18 January 2021

1) One Chinese province, Heilongjiang, with more than 37 million, has declared an emergency state to snuff out a handful of Covid-19 cases, as China moves decisively to contain infections. China had largely brought the coronavirus under control since its emergence in Wuhan late in 2019, however in recent weeks China has seen smatterings of cases, prompting localize lock downs, immediate travel restrictions and widespread testing of tens of millions of people. China is trying to squash the virus ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year festival, when hundreds of millions of people are due to travel across the country. Those highly anticipated annual journeys are often the only time for many migrant workers to see their families.

2) Biden has promised to extend the pause on student loan payments during his first day in office. Here are other steps the new administration could take for student debt relief. Forgiving $10,000 in student loan debt for each person, but it’s unclear of the time frame to do so. Also, it is unclear on whether Biden can use executive powers to cancel student debt or if only the Congress can do it. On day one Biden will direct the Department of Education to extend the student loan forbearance program, the first promise the president-elect has made in combating the $1.6 trillion student debt crisis. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is pushing for $50,000 to be forgiven.

3) Scientist warns that civilization is on the precipice of a ‘ghastly future’ that humanity has gravely underestimated the effects of biodiversity decline, climate change, and pollution. A review of over 150 studies finds the central problems we face are economic and political systems centered around unsustainable human consumption and population growth at the expense of all else. Biodiversity loss started some 11,000 years with the start of agriculture, which has vastly accelerated in recent centuries due to ever-worsening pressures placed on natural ecosystems. With a world population of 7.5 billion, which is expected to peak at 10 billion, that is worsening existing food insecurity, soil degradation, biodiversity decline, pollution, social inequality, and regional conflicts. Food production is sustained with the increasing use of fossil fuels and petrochemicals. Humanity is running an ecological Ponzi scheme in which society robs nature and future generations to pay for boosting incomes in the short term, all supported with petrochemicals. Half the large mammals in the world are humans, the other half are the domestic animals providing humanity with subsistence. All the other large mammals fit into just a 5% sliver.

4) Stock market closings for – 15 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: down at $52.04

4 November 2020

1) The peak oil production could come in 2028 due to pandemic, a result of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, which suppresses oil demand to such a degree that it will accelerate society’s transition from the fossil fuel. Some analysts predict oil demand will peak at 102 million barrels per day in 2028, two years earlier than predicted before the virus struck. The slow recovery will permanently affect global oil demand levels, lockdowns will stunt economic recovery in the short-term and long-term, while the pandemic will leave a legacy of behavioral changes that will also affect oil use. Right now, global oil demand is averaging about 89.3 million barrels per day, a 10 percent decline from last year, which experts say won’t rebound to those levels until 2023. Despite possible economic fallout governments in Europe and Asia, they are not backing off their clean energy goals. Electric vehicle sales are expected to reach 14 percent of total global car sales by 2025, and reaching 80 percent by mid-century.

2) Norwegian Cruise Line gives up on 2020 with Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings suspended all cruises through the end of November. Resuming cruises have each company installing labs for COVID-19 testing at sea, then put through costly cruising simulations, and then following a number of additional regulations. So getting back to business by next month isn’t feasible anymore, therefore Norwegian Cruise Line became the first of the three giant operators to officially cancel the remainder of its 2020 voyages. Normally, December sailings are lucrative as people seek to leave cold weather behind during the holiday season. The cruise lines may not be able to hold out that long. To survive, companies need protocols that allows them to return to sailing safely, even if there’s a less than ideal experience for customers as well as the companies’ bottom lines. Consumers are already starting to lose faith in this once aspirational mode of leisure travel.

3) This last week, more than 61,000 children in the U.S. were diagnosed with Covid-19, the highest number than any other week. The true number of children with Covid-19 is higher because the illness tends to be mild in kids and because they may not always be tested. A 13-year-old boy has died over the weekend from Covid-19 infection, less than two weeks after he last attended class.

4) Stock market closings for – 3 NOV 20:

Dow 27,480.03 up by 554.98
Nasdaq 11,160.57 up by 202.96
S&P 500 3,369.02 up by 58.78

10 Year Yield: up at 0.88%

Oil: up at $38.15

7 October 2020

1) Ikea, the big Swedish world wide modular furniture manufacture, has experienced a surge in sales from the pandemic as people turned homes into offices and schools. Their online sales are up 45% over the last 12 months to August, with 4 billion visits to their website. Outdoor furniture is the fastest growing category, followed by office furniture. While many of their stores were forced to close from the virus, their online sales remain high even as stores reopen. The furniture retailer has added 6,000 new employees world wide to make a total work force of 217,000. Online sales account for about one fifth of total sales.

2) Job openings in America fell in August for the first time in four months, indicating a moderation in hiring as the crisis continues. Available positions slipped down to 6.49 million from July’s 6.7 million. These numbers do not include recalls from layoffs or positions that are offered only internally. However, layoffs and discharges are at a low for August, although there are still 13.6 million Americans unemployed, which means there are about 2 unemployed competing for each job opening. There are fewer vacancies in construction, retail and health care industries, while vacancies increased for manufacturing, food service and government.

3) Federal reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says America is on the long road to economic recovery from the pandemic induced recession, but still there are other problems on the horizon. There are fears of the economy shifting into reverse once again, especially if a resurgence of the virus comes with cold weather . . . the flue season. Such a resurgence could significantly limit economic activity leaving many unemployed stranded with no jobs for many more months. Powell is calling for the passing of the second stimulus bill presently being debated in the Congress. He considers the risk of pouring too much money into the economy far lower than the risk of not spending enough, despite the already sky high federal budget. While he considers the debt is on an unsustainable path, and has been for some time, but this is not the time to address it.

4) Stock market closings for – 6 OCT 20:

Dow 27,772.76 down 375.88
Nasdaq 11,154.60 down 177.88
S&P 500 3,360.95 down 47.68

10 Year Yield: down at 0.74%

Oil: up at $39.83

30 September 2020

1) American businesses have suffered stress that is breaking many, including some in the grocery chains. Like some popular restaurant chains, some grocery chains were filing for bankruptcy before the pandemic, but the virus crisis forced others over the brink. Five specialty and health forward chains have been forced to file for chapter 11. They are Earth Fare, Lucky’s Market, Fairway Market, Kings Food Markets and Balducci’s. The niche marketeers are finding it very difficult to survive in these changing economic hard times.

2) The U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Stout has set a new record for consecutive days at sea when it reached 208 days at sea on the 26th of September. The previous record was 207 days, held by the USS Eisenhower and USS San Jacinto, both records set this year too. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced the Navy to cancel port visits to prevent sailors from being exposed to the virus while ashore. More than 1,000 sailors were infected with the virus on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt at the start of the pandemic, with one sailor dying. Furthermore, the carrier was off line for weeks anchored in Guam until the virus ran its course. While the elimination of port calls and longer sea deployments has arrested the virus, it has put more stress on the crew members.

3) The ‘indoor food grower’ AppHarvest is going public by joining with Novus Capital Corp. (NOVS) and will soon be traded on the Nasdaq exchange. AppHarvest is developing large scale, efficient indoor farming technology, and their first farm is a 60 acre controlled environment in Kentucky. This facility is within a days drive of 70% of the American population and is now producing tomatoes. Right now, 60% of all fresh tomatoes in American are imported. Controlled environment agriculture facilities use far fewer resources to grow far more produce, however this method of agriculture requires far more capital, where conventional farms are themselves capital intensive enterprises.

4) Stock market closings for – 29 SEP 20:

Dow 27,452.66 down 131.40
Nasdaq 11,085.25 down 32.28
S&P 500 3,335.47 down 16.13

10 Year Yield: down at 0.64%

Oil: down at $39.16

25 September 2020

1) Tim Kendall, former Facebook director of monetization, says that Facebook “took a page from Big Tobacco’s play book, working to make our offering addictive at the outset.” The greater the usage of Facebook by people, the greater Facebook’s revenues, so it behooves the company to make its service as addictive at possible, as soon as possible with new people. But this drive to maximize engagements entails building algorithms that facilitate the spread of misinformation, encourages divisive rhetoric thereby laying the groundwork for a mental health crisis. While met to be a device for entertainment, Facebook is in fact tearing people apart with alarming speed and intensity. He fears that American’s are pushing ourselves to the brink of civil war. Presently, Section 230 is a law that makes social media platforms immune to legal liability for the content of users’ posts. But there are growing number of people calling for reforms.
2) California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed an executive order that bans the sale of all but electric and fuel cell cars by 2035. But legal experts say the order is ‘borderline worthless’, that there isn’t anyway to enforce it. The objective is to do away with the internal combustion engine in California by mandating an increasingly larger percentage of new car sales must be zero emissions machines starting with 2% for 1998, 5% by 2001, 10% for 2003 and etcetera. California auto dealers challenged the order in court and got it somewhat diluted. Nevertheless, it’s another step in the race to electrify California’s cars.
3) Half the people who lost their jobs from the pandemic are still unemployed, while 60% who did return to work have taken a cut in pay. As of 12 September, 12.6 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits, with an unemployment rate at 8.4%. The lower income workers are more likely to still be unemployed. The bottom line, the virus crisis lead to a unprecedented loss of jobs and six months later, America is still a long ways from recovery. The crisis has caused a split in America’s labor force, the higher earners are going one direction while the lower paid ones are going another.
4) Stock market closings for – 24 SEP 20:
Dow 26,815.44 up 52.31
Nasdaq 10,672.27 up 39.28
S&P 500 3,246.59 up 9.67
10 Year Yield: down at 0.67%
Oil: up at $40.28

23 September 2020

1) After Amazon’s Prime Day was postponed by the virus in July, it was tentatively reset for the fourth quarter. Amazon didn’t want their Prime Day to overlap with Black Friday, which set an upper limit to the date, so now the company is planning for the 13th and 14th of October. Prime Day is a very big retail day for Amazon, with their 2019 Prime Day grossing about $6 billion dollars in sales.

2) Another round of stimulus still remains on the burner and with the fall elections now closing in, both sides are saying they want a new stimulus bill with a second direct payment to the people. But the bill remains in limbo with no agreement on the details of the bill. The question on everyone’s minds is the direct payment checks to the people and how much they will be. No settlement on that question, but the rumors are this one will be based on each person’s income instead of the single lump sum of last time, with an upper limit of $1,200 per individuals. Only time will tell how much, or even if there is a personal payment, because if not passed before the elections, the possibility of passing will rapidly decrease.

3) The coronavirus has been a big stimulus for e-commerce from the stay at home shopping it stimulated, but surprisingly the home shopping boom has also been a boom for the shipping industry. Those huge ocean going ships stacked high with intermodal containers, their transpacific sea freight shipping rates have been sent to the highest on record, helping the container shipping industry in Asia. Household appliances imports have jumped 51% in August from last year, climbing for a third consecutive month. Shipments of computers, notebooks and other associated electronic gadgets has soared 169%. This increase consumer demand has shipping rates almost triple from this year’s low in March, when the pandemic led to border closures and a near halt in economic activity. With much of the world’s people housebound, the demand for electronic goods and do-it-yourself items has skyrocketed. There is also the coming Christmas holidays and therefore the stocking up in anticipation of sales.

4) Stock market closings for – 22 SEP 20:

Dow 27,288.18 up 140.48
Nasdaq 10,963.64 up 184.84
S&P 500 3,315.57 up 34.51

10 Year Yield: down at 0.66%

Oil: down at $39.55

14 September 2020

1) With 13 million Americans unemployed and their unemployment benefits running out, many will have only seasonal jobs to turn to. But with such wide spread unemployment, getting hired for seasonal work wont be easy. With the coming holidays, seasonal jobs traditionally mushroom with major companies already hosting hiring events to fulfill their temporary ranks. Companies like Michael’s will hire over 16,000 temporary people, with UPS expecting to hire over 100,000 for holiday package delivery. Retailers doing e-commerce, such as Amazon or Walmart are expected to need many seasonal workers and therefore are good places for job seekers to apply.

2) Fears are growing that the coronavirus crisis could cause a double dip recession, that the recession could end up looking like a roller coaster of ups and downs. The upsurge in virus cases is eroding consumer confidence and leading to renewed limits on certain businesses. Economic recovery can bloom then fade away only to repeat again. Some economic factors point to a recovery, yet others point downwards, with the picture further complicated by the ‘what ifs’ of the coronavirus and just how it will play out, where a second wave of the virus could be just as economically disruptive as the first one, maybe even more so. Additionally, a significant portion of the economy has been destroyed. Half the businesses in America are small businesses and at the start of the crisis, about half of those had cash reserves of just fifteen days or less . . . meaning by now they have gone bust! No one knows what the repercussion from such massive losses of business will ultimately have on the economy in general.

3) Mechanical breakdown insurance, which isn’t an extended warranty, but rather is insurance that pays for mechanical auto repairs of a car’s power train, much as accident insurance pays for the repair of body damage. It will have some amount for a deductible, then pays the remainder of a mechanic’s bill for repair, both labor and parts. Usually, any mechanic can be used. Most major insurance companies who offer auto insurance will also offer breakdown insurance too. Prices range from $20 to $100 a year.

4) Stock market closings for – 11 SEP 20:

Dow 27,665.64 up 131.06
Nasdaq 10,853.54 down 66.05
S&P 500 3,340.97 up 1.78

10 Year Yield: down at 0.67%

Oil: up at $37.39

11 September 2020

1) The new jobless numbers indicate the U.S. job losses persist with claims higher than was forecasts. Jobless claims were unchanged at 884,000 for last week, with the total number of people on unemployment rising by 93,000 to a total of 13.4 million people. Prior to the pandemic, new claims were about 212,000 a week with 1.7 million people on unemployment. What is concerning is the pace of layoffs has not slowed with the economy opening up, adding to fears of a second round of Convid-19 outbreaks. It appears that millions of Americans are heading for long term unemployment with most running out of unemployment benefits after 26 weeks.

2) Quantafuel AS, a Norwegian company established in 2014, who makes diesel fuel from plastic waste, is a success having tripled its value, which is now at $1 billion dollars. This is a time when the world is struggling over what to do with the monumental qualitites of plastic waste that continues to grow at an alarming rate. Even more welcomed is Quantafuel addressing the demand for fuel oils. Their process is more environmentally friendly than incineration of plastic. The company is increasing the production of its present plant and has plans to build additional plants with the goal of boosting production 100 fold in the next decade. No doubt, the Chinese will be showing great interest in this process because of their very limited oil resources.

3) One side effect of the coronavirus pandemic is limiting efforts to root out slavery across the world, because companies and investors are unable to visit factory floors in many countries. Even before the pandemic started, there was an estimated 40 million people working in slave like conditions, with the economic shock of the virus making people more vulnerable to exploitation. Companies are facing increasing legal obligations to ensure their supply chain doesn’t include slave labor.

4) Stock market closings for – 10 SEP 20:

Dow 27,534.58 down 405.89
Nasdaq 10,919.59 down 221.97
S&P 500 3,339.19 down 59.77

10 Year Yield: down at 0.68%

Oil: down at $37.00

25 August 2020

1) With the two storms in the Gulf of Mexico, off shore oil production rigs have been forced to suspend operations and evacuate their crews until the bad weather passes. This curtailment in oil production has caused oil futures to rise as much as 1.3%. The shutdown has closed 58% of crude oil output, or more than 1 million barrels a day. Additionally, oil refineries along the Gulf coast have shut down their operations until the oil returns. But still, the storms are anticipated to have little real damage to onshore and offshore oil production facilities, and so a quick recovery in the markets is anticipated.

2) About one third of companies are anticipating having half or more of their employees work remotely after the Convid-19 crisis ends. While previously, 1 in 30 companies had anticipated continuing work at home after the crisis passed, surveys now show it’s 1 in 3. The pandemic has forced companies across the world to rethink how they do business, with 72% saying they offer flexibility around hours and work scheduling. While 49% have implemented flexible policies on how work is done and what technology is used.

3) The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to e-commerce by five years. In many ways, the pandemic has reshaped our world, with our shopping habits being one of the prime ways. The fears of contracting the virus is forcing more people to shop online in the safety of their homes instead of going out into crowds of people to the traditional brick and mortar stores. This is causing the department stores to accelerate their decline. Sales of stores have declined by 25% in the first quarter of 2020, which grew to a 75% decline in the second quarter. Department stores are expected to decline by over 60% for the full year, while e-commerce is expected to grow by nearly 20%.

4) Stock market closings for – 24 AUG 20:

Dow 28,308.46 up 378.13
Nasdaq 11,379.72 up 67.92
S&P 500 3,431.28 up 34.12

10 Year Yield: up at 0.65%

Oil: down at$42.39