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
1) A massive winter storm system, a polar vortex, will bring sever winter storm conditions with ice, snow, and very low temperatures to millions of Americans from Texas to New Jersey. Some of the worst weather will be in portions of Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky where an ice storm is expected with accumulations exceeding a half inch in some locations. This will likely lead to hazardous travel conditions with accidents, power outages and scattered tree damage. All of this promises huge economic losses for the people and local governments. Plus, there has already been loss of life and no doubt more will unfortunately will be lost.
2) NASA’s experimental ‘RainCube’ satellite is now dead. In mid-2018, NASA launched a tiny CubeSat as a proof of concept experiment to study weather on Earth. The objective was to see if compact satellites could return ‘science-quality data’ at a much lower cost than much larger conventional weather satellites. The RainCube satellite not only outlived its designed three-month lifespan, but it returned a wealth of data that proved useful for researchers. The CubeSat is just the size of a shoebox. RainCube’s mission was to study weather on Earth and show scientists what a tiny satellite could do. It completed its three-month mission… and then another three more months… and then three more. Finally, in late December of 2020, the test satellite died, having outlived and outperformed its design several times over.
3) Bank of America forecast the US dollar will strengthen throughout 2021 for 5 key reasons. 1- After several actions to pump dollars into the US economy, the Federal Reserve is starting to end its ultra-easy money policy and purchases of less assets. 2- Stimulus boost with an additional $1.9 trillion dollar stimulus proposal in a bid to supercharge the US economic recovery. 3- Faster growth with the global economy expected to rebound in 2021with the US growth to handily outpace that of the EU. 4- Dollar shorts as the market continues to short the dollar despite the currency’s recent rally. 5- Return of the safe haven as reversal stands to push more investors into cash positions and away from the risk of the markets. The peak in the market is expected this first quarter with a 10% market correction forecasted to arrive sometime this year and shake investors’ appetite for stocks.
4) Stock market closings for – 11 FEB 21:
Dow 31,430.70 down by 7.10 Nasdaq 14,025.77 up by 53.24 S&P 500 3,916.38 up by 6.50
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
1) The Federal Reserve announced it is keeping its key policy rate unchanged and it intended to keep interest rates near zero for a least the next three years. This is a time period that is much longer than analysts had expected and reflects the concern for near future economic growth. The Feds will continue to purchase additional assets, principally government and corporate bonds, to support its monetary stance. Their goal is to achieve a maximum employment while keeping inflation at 2% over the long term. The prime interest rate will remain between 0% and 0.25% until at least the end of 2023. Their actions essentially acknowledge they were a bit behind the curve with their forecast on the economy.
2) Fox News is beginning a round of layoffs, the hair and makeup department being particularly hard hit. None of the network’s on-air talent is being let go, but now only the news anchors will receive hair and makeup services, while their guess will not. This is, in part, because since the pandemic more and more of interviews are being done remotely. The job cuts are expected to affect less than 3% of the overall staff, with the intent to streamline operations. TV news services are shifting from traditional TV broadcast to on-demand outlets streaming video services. Fox News is the most watched cable news network with 3.28 million viewers, that’s more than CNN and MSNBC combined. A time of economic stress causes changes to the economic environment, which opens the way for new technologies to emerge that reduce labor cost.
3) As hurricane Sally continues its journey into the interior of America, the next question on people’s minds is the ‘dollar amount for damages?’, a question that follows every hurricane which makes landfall on the continental United States. Sally dumped heavy rains and has brought historic flooding to the Gulf Coast, leaving much of Alabama and Florida coast lands under water. There were forecast of some areas receiving over three feet of rain, but as the storm system travels north and east, inundating land with water that runs off into rivers, more flooding is feared down river from the runoff. The flooding is a result of Sally moving so slow, slower than the average person walks, turning heavy rains into heavy flooding.
4) Stock market closings for – 16 SEP 20:
Dow 28,032.38 up 36.78 Nasdaq 11,050.47 down 139.86 S&P 500 3,385.49 up 15.71
1) Boeing Aircraft has received its first 737 MAX orders since 2019, from Enter Air, a Polish charter airline that exclusively uses only Boeing airplanes. They have ordered two 737 MAX with an option to order two more. With the option, this would bring its MAX fleet to ten aircraft. Frzegorz Polaniecki, the general director and board member of Enter Air, said he’s convinced the 737 MAX will be the best aircraft in the world for many years to come. This order for two aircraft pales in comparison to Boeing’s July net negative order of 836 aircraft, but it’s a start in the right direction. Cancellation of Boeing aircraft sales have far outpaced new orders this year because of the pandemic. The last six months, Boeing has faced a combination of problems specific to Boeing and the pandemic.
2) The Federal Reserve is lowering their estimate for economic growth over the second half of the year. The Reserve presents its forecast at the central bank’s eight interest rate committee meetings in a year. The reduced forecast is because they expect the rate of recovery in the Gross Domestic Product and the rate for reducing unemployment to be slower than previously expected. Reduction of the unemployment depends on the reopening of businesses, which in turn is depended on the pandemic.
3) According to Bank of America, moving manufacturing out of China could cost U.S. and European companies $1 trillion dollars over five years. Companies in over 80% of global sectors have experienced supply chain disruptions during the pandemic, so many are widening the scope of their reshoring plans. The shift to return manufacturing back to home countries has been spurred on by the Convid-19 crisis. Supporting companies will also benefit with the increase of economic activity by having manufacturing return.
4) Stock market closings for – 19 AUG 20:
Dow 27,692.88 down 85.19 Nasdaq 11,146.46 down 64.38 S&P 500 3,374.85 down 14.93
Businessman and former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has died from corona virus (Covid-19) at age 74 years old. Mr. Cain was a Republican presidential candidate in the 2012 elections. He came up with the 9-9-9 Plan which was tax proposal for fixing the USA tax code. It was a paramount plan for his campaign. He was a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
Before his journey into politics and monetary policy, Herman can was CEO and President of Godfather Pizza (subsidiary of Burger King). After his stint at Godfather Pizza he became the CEO of the National Restaurant Association. He was also on various company board of directors as well. -SB
1) The fast food mega-giant McDonald’s is reporting a bigger than expected drop in global restaurant sales across the world. This is a result of the pandemic restricting sales of their drive thru and delivery operations, and in some cases shutting restaurants down completely. With second quarter sales down by 30%, McDonald’s is facing a bumpy and expensive recovery. The franchise chain has 39,000 restaurants worldwide, of which 96% are now open, verses 75% at the start of the second quarter. Store sales were down 39% in April but by June was down only 12%. Net income is down by 68% for $483.8 million dollars. McDonald’s is permanently closing 200 locations in the U.S. amid those losses, more than half located in Walmart stores.
2) The Federal Reserve has announced that its lending programs will be extended until the end of the year. This indicates the feds don’t think the U.S. economy is weathering the pandemic storm very well and needs continued help. The program lends to small and medium sized businesses and was due to expire at the end of September. Continuing the program will provide a critical backstop to help the economy recover. This Thursday will bring the first look at the second quarter gross domestic product, which is the broadest measure of the economy, but it’s expected to show an ailing economy.
3) For the second time, the renowned gun maker Remington Arms is filing for bankruptcy. This is the second time in two years that Remington has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Chronic low sales is blamed for Remington’s decline, despite the overall increase in sales of guns in America because of the pandemic. One by one, American gun manufactures have succumb to imports. Remington reports assets of $100 million dollars compared to $500 million dollars in liabilities.
4) Stock market closings for – 28 JUL 20:
Dow 26,379.28 down 205.49 Nasdaq 10,402.09 down 134.17 S&P 500 3,218.44 down 20.97
1) Another indication of the contraction of the oil business is the oil services company Schlumberger who cut 21,000 jobs or about one fifth of its 105,000 global employees. This is a direct result of an expected 25% drop in the number of oil wells drilled worldwide. Revenues fell 58% from last year for north American operations. The world wide cornavirus crisis caused a massive drop in oil demand, which collapsed the price of oil.
2) Boeing aircraft is facing another trouble, this time with their older Boeing 737 jets. The FAA was warned of corrosion which could cause dual-engine failure, and has ordered inspections. The corrosion problem is a result of hundreds of aircraft now in storage that have been idled because of the drop in air travel from the virus. The order requires aircraft that have not been operated for a week or more must be inspected which will impact about 2,000 aircraft. The corrosion is in engine valves, which has caused single-engine shutdowns which resulted from engine bleed air valves being stuck open.
3) Junk bonds are back again, but are packaged in a format met to appeal to investors, avoiding their seamy 1980s era reputation. Low interest rates driven by the Federal reserve is encouraging companies to borrow, which has lead to a record $51.5 billion dollars worth of junk bonds issued in June. Junk bonds are bonds with high yields (interest rates) but having a lot higher risk. The high risk comes from companies fiscal ability to pay out the bond on maturity or dividends. In a recessionary environment awash in cheap money, a troubled company can collapse under the weight of their debt. But extensive use of junk bonds pose the same dangers of the mortgage backed securities in 2008 with massive failing of businesses pulling the already fragile economy down.
4) Stock market closings for – 24 JUL 20:
Dow 26,469.89 down 182.44 Nasdaq 10,363.18 down 98.24 S&P 500 3,215.63 down 20.03
1) The markets sank Monday, down by 762 points, when the news of the Feds bond-buying plan became known, reversing the selling to buying which raised the Dow up 150 points. The downward slide was from fears of a second round of the Convid-19 virus with the possibility of more economic damage. The plan is for the Federal Reserve to buy individual corporate bonds, on top of the exchange traded funds it is already buying. This is a move to ease credit conditions to further stimulate the economy. The program can buy up to $750 billion dollars worth of corporate credit, which the Feds can buy on the secondary market, individual bonds that have maturities of five or less years. Bonds is how corporations typically fund their operations and expansion using debt, and this program will ease debt for corporations allowing them to grow more and provide jobs.
2) The oil giant BP (British Petroleum) has signaled to investors that the economic shock of the pandemic will reverberate for years. This in turn means less gas and oil needed by the world in the future. The company is expected to write down $17.5 Billion dollars of its oil and gas holdings this next quarter, meaning they are worth less in the future than what they are worth today. The coronavirus pandemic has caused steep declines in demand for gas and oil worldwide, and this is expected to last for a number of years. This write down is in the approximate class of the Deepwater horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which was $32 billion dollars.
3) Britain’s Brexit, the planned exit of Britain from the European Union, has been overshadowed by the world wide pandemic, but nevertheless Brexit trade talks have continued. But the talks have reached an impasse. Britain left the union at the end of January, but had not reached agreements on traded with the other European countries. Although Britain left the union, the two economies have continued operating as before Brexit, so there has been little changed in trading. But this is only to the end of the year, and with Britain a major trader of goods with Europe, it’s important to reach agreements before that time comes. One major point of contention is how future disagreements will be adjudicated or arbitrated.
4) Stock market closings for – 15 JUN 20:
Dow 25,763.16 up 157.62 Nasdaq 9,726.02 up 137.21 S&P 500 3,066.59 up 25.28