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

16 December 2020

1) The East Coast is bracing for a very heavy snow storm which is forecast to blanket Massachuset, New York and Pennsylvania. The storm system started on the West Coast over the weekend and is moving east, with some of the most intense snow and rainfall the region has seen in years. More than 63 million people are under some sort of winter storm watch this week. The winter storm is expected to strengthen as moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic clashes with cold air in the north to give the ingredients for a major snowstorm on Wednesday and Thursday. Forecasts are for 3-6 inches of snow from central Virginia up through Maine, with a swath of 6-12 inches or more, and higher amounts locally. Some isolated locations at higher elevations could potentially see up to 2 feet of snow and wind gusts that could exceed 40-50 mph. Such storms always wrought economic havoc.

2) Speaker Nancy Pelosi has invited congressional leaders to a meeting in a bid to break the months long stalemate over coronavirus relief negotiations, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. There has been major movement in recent weeks toward a potential deal, including the bipartisan proposal finally unveiled by centrist senators. But still, chances of another coronavirus stimulus bill passing are far from certain. A recently introduced $908 billion dollar compromise plan has been broken up into two parts. The goal of this is to produce a small-scale bill that can get broad support by separating out controversial provisions.

3) The mega-retailer Walmart will start testing driverless delivery trucks in Arkansas next year. Since 2019, Walmart has been working with a company called Gatik to test autonomous delivery trucks from its store in Bentonville, Arkansas. After logging more than 70,000 miles with a human driver-observer to guard that nothing went wrong, Walmart and Gatik say they’re ready to operate without any human drivers in the trucks. This makes Gatik one of the first companies to operate a fully autonomous route in this way. These delivery truck’s strategy is to use a simplified approach of using autonomous vehicles on specific routes. This limits the type of factors that can paralyze robots with indecision. Walmart has been a very active developer of the driverless delivery vehicles.

4) Stock market closings for – 15 DEC 20:

Dow 30,199.31 up by 337.76
Nasdaq 12,595.06 up by 155.02
S&P 500 3,694.62 up by 47.13

10 Year Yield: up at 0.92%

Oil: up at $47.59

2 December 2020

1) Orders for long-lasting goods, such as computers and military weapons, rose again in October by 1.3%. Additionally business investment increased for the sixth straight month, despite the question if manufacturers will escape the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. The surge in orders was driven by Pentagon spending, so if defense spending is excluded, orders rose a modest 0.2%. The demand for computers and related products has increased during the pandemic, from so many people working from home and needing upgraded equipment. Orders for new cars and trucks declined 3.2%, but new jobless claims rose for the second week in a row to a five-week high, pointing to an increase in layoffs. Manufacturers are less likely to be affected since they have more control over their work environments.

2) The U.S. has added 10,000 ‘budget dollar retail outlets’ since 2001, but some towns and cities are trying to push back. This is becoming a common story. A dollar store opens up in an economically depressed area, with little for healthy and affordable food options, sometimes with the help of local tax incentives. It advertises hard-to-beat low prices but it offers little in terms of fresh produce and nutritious item . . . further trapping residents in a cycle of poverty and ill-health. Since 2001, outlets of Dollar General and Dollar Tree (which bought Family Dollar in 2015) have grown from 20,000 to 30,000 in number, the number of dollar-store outlets nationwide now exceeds Walmart and McDonalds put together, and they’re still growing at a breakneck pace. This raises questions of poor nutrition in neighborhoods with limited full service food retailers. So now, communities are standing up saying that while the dollar stores may be good in the short term, in the long term there are serious disadvantages.

3) American bank profits were significantly higher in the third quarter than the first half of 2020, but still lags behind 2019 levels. Their profits jumped 173% in the third quarter, but that amount is still 10.7% lower than 2019 levels, with about half of banks reporting lower profits than a year prior. The banking industry is well capitalized with ample liquidity and so far has weathered the economic effects of the pandemic. An explosion in bank deposits drove profits up, but that appears to have now slowed.

4) Stock market closings for – 1 DEC 20:
Dow 29,823.92 up by 185.28
Nasdaq 12,355.11 up by 156.37
S&P 500 3,662.45 up by 40.82
10 Year Yield: up at 0.93%
Oil: down at $44.36

27 October 2020

1) Oil and gas companies are bringing record level of debt to bankruptcy court, making this year the worst oil bust in decades. Companies have brought $89 billion dollars of debt to bankruptcy court this year, compared to $70 billion during the last oil bust in 2014-16. While fewer companies have gone bankrupt this year, 84 compared with the historical high of 142 in 2016, each bankruptcy filing this year reported significantly higher debt. The average bankruptcy debt per company this year is $1.05 billion dollars so far, almost twice as much as the 2017 level of $576 million. But the worst isn’t over yet, it is expected that another 15 to 21 exploration and production companies will file for bankruptcy by the end of the year, pushing the related debt to more than $100 billion. Although crude prices have climbed back to around $40 a barrel, recovery remains tenuous, since energy bankruptcies was rising before the coronavirus pandemic wiped out global demand for crude and petroleum products such as gasoline and jet fuel.

2) Another tropical storm threatens the Gulf Coast again, as 2020 ties record for most named storms. Tropical Storm Zeta has formed in the western Caribbean and is drifting north promising to unleash wind, heavy rainfall and possible ocean surge as it approaches the U.S. Gulf Coast Tuesday night and Wednesday. The storm is most likely to come ashore on Wednesday at tropical-storm level or possibly as a hurricane. The landfall zone includes areas in Louisiana where hurricanes Delta and Laura hit as well as parts of Alabama hit by Sally. The hurricane season still has five weeks left, so the record for most named storms could fall. There are some indications that Zeta could sneak in some last-minute intensification before landfall, possibly becoming a Category 2 hurricane. Zeta’s eventual merger with a frontal system could bring a swath of three to four inches of rain or more into parts of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic late in the week.

3) Walmart is suing the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration as a pre-emptive strike, anticipating a legal battle over the retailer’s responsibility in the opioid abuse crisis. Operating more than 5,000 pharmacies in its stores, Walmart says it is seeking a declaration from a federal judge that the government has no lawful basis for seeking civil damages from the company. The government blames Walmart for continuing to fill purportedly bad prescriptions written by doctors that the DEA and state regulators had enabled to write those prescriptions in the first place and continue to stand by today. In 2018, 46,802 people died from an opioid overdose, and health care providers across the country wrote prescriptions for opioid pain medication at a rate of 51.4 prescriptions dispensed per 100 people.

4) Stock market closings for – 26 OCT 20:
Dow 27,685.38 down 650.19
Nasdaq 11,358.94 down 189.34
S&P 500 3,400.97 down 64.42
10 Year Yield: down at 0.80%
Oil: down at $38.64

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

27 August 2020

1) Large hurricanes bring economic damage on a large scale when they make landfall. This season’s biggie is Hurricane Laura now expected to make landfall as a category 4 storm this Wednesday evening or early Thursday morning. The National Hurricane Center rates the storm as having an “un-survivable storm surge” with large and destructive waves causing catastrophic damage along the coast of eastern Texas to the eastern part of Louisiana. The surge could penetrate up to 30 miles inland from the coast. Add to this, the catastrophic wind damage, and Laura promises to carry a large price tag economically as the storm continues first up into Arkansas then across the United States for the Atlantic with rains and flooding. This year is forecast to be a very active hurricane season so more economic damage may be in the play book.

2) Walmart is suspending its InHome delivery service, which offered the convenience of having people’s groceries delivered and unpacked by the delivery person in the customer’s kitchens. But because of the Convid-19 crisis and the need for contactless service, Walmart is discontinuing the service in favor of its Doorstep Delivery service, where groceries are delivered to consumers but now is left on the door step. With its other two delivery service, Walmart is becoming a strong contender in the e-commerce business.

3) Two long established regional grocery chains have filed for bankruptcy, another sign of the shifting of retail business in America, as traditional retailers fail to adapt to the new economic world. Balducci’s and Kings Food Markets of the north eastern coast were having financial struggles before the pandemic set in, but even thought both had a boost in sales from the pandemic, it wasn’t enough to save them. All stores will remain open as their holding company seeks a buyer. The two grocery chains date back to the first half of the twentieth century and they prospered through the decades before e-commerce.

4) Stock market closings for – 26 AUG 20:

Dow 28,331.92 up 83.48
Nasdaq 11,665.06 up 198.59
S&P 500 3,478.73 up 35.11

10 Year Yield: unchanged at 0.69

Oil: unchanged at $43.43

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

11 August 2020

1) Both Japan and China are building up their military forces for possible future contest over Pacific islands. This is another sign of China’s increasing contentious relations with neighbors, in particular Japan over disputes of several islands in the East China Sea. This is necessitating the buildup of military forces to approach, capture and defend islands. So this means a build up of Marine forces, which both countries are in the process of doing. This includes amphibious armored vehicles and self propelled artillery. U.S. intelligence consider the Chinese Marines to be fully amphibious and able to use combined arms tactics and multiple avenues of approach. This includes building a blue water navy with well over 300 vessels. In response, Japan is starting up its first Marine unit since World War II, modeled after the U.S. Marine Corps, to defend its southern islands. This buildup means massive expansions which neither country’s economies are able to tolerate with the worsening world economy.

2) Boeing aircraft manufacture’s troubles continue to get worst with the loss 737 MAX orders now over 400 and stymied shipments of its 787 Dreamliner because of the world pandemic. Last month, Boeing delivered just four jetliners while also booking zero new orders. Their total stockpile of orders was 4,496 aircraft at the end of July, which is down 1.2% from June. There is the risk that Boeing will have to halt 787 production to preserve cash. Most airline companies have grounded a significant portion of their fleets and are operating only a fraction of their pre-pandemic schedules.

3) Instacart, the young food delivery service, is partnering with Walmart, Amazon’s biggest competitor, to bring Walmart one day delivery service. This will make thousands of items, from groceries to home decor and improvement, personal care and electronics go from Walmart stores to customers’ doors as fast as an hour. This is another ratchetting up of the retail business, when many big name retailers are floundering and some going under. A fundamental change in the way Americans are buying things for their everyday lives is occurring.

4) Stock market closings for – 11 AUG 20:

Dow 27,686.91 down 104.53
Nasdaq 10,782.82 down 185.53
S&P 500 3,333.69 down 26.78

10 Year Yield: up at 0.66%

Oil: down at $41.66

31 July 2020

1) The American economy last quarter is the worst on record, with a 32.9% annual rate contraction (April – June). American business ground to a halt from the pandemic lockdown this spring, leaving the country in its first recession in eleven years. This wipes out five years of economic gains in just months. From January to March, the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) declined by an annualized rate of 5%. While the unemployment is declining as states open up from the shutdown, there are still about 15 million unemployed workers. Americans are spending less money during th lockdown, partly because of lost of jobs. Consumer spending is the biggest driver of the economy, and it declined at an annual rate of 34.6% for the second quarter.

2) While Walmart has posted surging sales for each month, it is still taking cost savings measures. The retailer has laid off hundreds of workers including store planning, logistics, merchandising and real estate. Also, Walmart is reorganizing its 4,750 stores by consolidation of divisions and eliminating some regional manager roles. Walmart is performing well because of high demand and low prices during the pandemic. The company isn’t opening as many new stores in the U.S. anymore, so Walmart doesn’t need as many people to find new locations and so design them.

3) Job postings in technology are 36% down from 2019 levels. This is attributed to increased competition, low priority in hiring and uncertainty over the pandemic. Therefore, the tech industry is also feeling the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Sending a very significant portion of its workers remote to work at home, there were predictions tech jobs would lead the recovery with increase job numbers. The ‘work at home’ was thought to show tech jobs might be available outside the traditional hubs. Neither has proved to be true. In short, the tech jobs are faring worst than the overall economy.

4) Stock market closings for – 30 JUL 20:

Dow 26,313.65 down 225.92
Nasdaq 10,587.81 up 44.87
S&P 500 3,246.22 down 12.22

10 Year Yield: down at 0.54%

Oil: down at $40.45

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