….Dow and S&P 500 hit record highs. Retail sales slip. Industrial production down. Oracle disappoints. Equifax continues to disappoint and outrage. Dangerous airline seats. Goodbye, Yellow Pages.
Financial Review by Sinclair Noe for 09-15-2017
DOW + 64 = 22,268
SPX + 4 = 2500
NAS + 19 = 6448
RUT + 6 = 1431
10 Y +0.005 = 2.20%
OIL – .06 = 49.83
GOLD – 9.80 = 1320.20
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index closed above 2,500 for the first time. The S&P is up 12% since the start of the year. The Dow Industrials posted their fourth consecutive record high close. The Nasdaq hit an intraday high but trended down to miss a record close. The Dow gained 2.2% for the week, the best weekly gain since December 9. The S&P was up 1.5% for the week. The Nasdaq registered a weekly advance of 1.4%.
Exactly nine years ago, on September 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers became the largest bankruptcy in US history.
For the second time in less than a month, Pyongyang has fired a ballistic missile that flew over Japan, prompting the UN Security Council to call an emergency meeting for today. Arms race? South Korea responded by conducting live fire drills that mimicked attacking Pyongyang’s launch site, and completed its own ballistic missile test into the sea. Wall Street seems inured.
Prime Minister Theresa May announced the U.K. terror threat level has been raised to critical, its highest level, as police hunt for a suspect who set off an improvised bomb on a packed London commuter train. At least 22 people were injured in the blast.
Brazilian President Michel Temer has been charged with obstruction of justice and racketeering, related to the plea-bargain testimony by executives at JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker. It will now be up to the lower house of Congress to vote on whether or not the president should stand trial before the Supreme Court.
Retail sales dropped 0.2% last month after a 0.3% gain in July. It was the biggest one-month decline since a 0.2% decline in February. Auto sales sank 1.6% in August, the most in seven months. Excluding autos and gas, which tend to be volatile from month to month, sales dipped 0.1% in August after having risen 0.5% in July. Sales rose last month at general merchandise stores, a category that includes big-box retailers such as Target. For August, gasoline sales were up 2.5%, the biggest jump since last December; we weren’t buying more gasoline, just paying more. Non-store retail spending dropped 1.1% in August after a 1.6% gain in July – this is the category that includes internet purchases. You will recall that Amazon Prime Day was July 11, so it looks like shoppers bought the deals, then took a break.
Industrial production in the U.S. fell 0.9 percent in August, the biggest drop in eight years, as Harvey knocked numerous oil refining, plastics and chemicals factories out of business for a time. Many of those factories are based in the Gulf Coast region that Harvey hit. The Federal Reserve said the weather and flooding was responsible for almost all of the loss.
Oracle shares had their roughest day in more than four years following the company’s earnings report, and the kicker is that earnings were better than expected. The problem was worse-than-expected outlook for the coming quarter. Shares dropped 7.7%
Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing unit of Amazon, has a new market for its analytics and storage services. This week, the U.S. Defense Department granted the company a provisional authorization to host Impact Level 5 workloads, which are the military and Pentagon’s most sensitive, unclassified information. Only two other companies, IBM and Microsoft, are able to store the material.
Equifax said two of its senior executives are leaving. The firm’s chief information and chief security officers are retiring immediately. Equifax “Chief Security Officer” Susan Mauldin has a bachelor’s degree and a master of fine arts degree in music composition from the University of Georgia. Her LinkedIn professional profile lists no education related to technology or security. This is the person who was in charge of keeping your personal and financial data safe — and whose apparent failings have put 143 million of us at risk from identity theft and fraud. The credit reporting industry behaves as a governor of our credit relations, reputations and identities. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Congress recognized that power embedded in data is a political matter and created a regulatory regime for these bureaus. What we are seeing now is that this regulatory regime is inadequate and that the regulators ― like the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ― are weak. So the credit-reporting regime to which we’ve entrusted our identities and our commercial lives remains opaque and vulnerable to abuse. Senator Elizabeth Warren has begun an investigation into Equifax’s massive data breach, and along with 11 other Democratic senators, introduced a bill to allow consumers to freeze their credit for free. A credit freeze restricts access to an individual’s credit report, which prevents thieves from applying for credit using another person’s information. Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and more than 30 others in a state group investigating the breach said that while Equifax has agreed to give free credit monitoring to hack victims, they asked Equifax to stop collecting any money to monitor or freeze credit.
There was good news in the Census Bureau’s poverty report for most age groups in America. The national poverty rate declined by 0.8 percentage points to 12.7%. Poverty rates, while still the highest among wealthy nations, fell across the board for groups including whites, blacks, Hispanics, males, females, children, American citizens, and immigrants. Individuals ages 65 and older had the unique distinction of being the only population segment to experience a significant increase in the number of individuals in poverty, with 367,000 more older Americans in poverty in 2016.
Airline seats are too small, and the problem is not that it is uncomfortable – it is dangerous. This summer a federal court ordered the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to look into shrinking seat sizes in coach on airline carriers and determine its effect on passenger safety. In the court case, a judge called the situation “a plausible life-and-death safety concern.” The FAA requires that an airplane, regardless of size, be able to be evacuated in 90 seconds or less with at least half of the exits blocked. Besides limiting egress, another concern of tight airplane seats is the risk of head trauma in the event of a crash or hard landing. The space between rows has shrunk from 35 inches to between 28 and 31 inches. The DOT requires at least 35 inches for flight attendants, but no airline offers any more than 32 inches for passengers. The FAA has until December 28th to respond to the court’s ruling.
You could take the train instead. Amtrak has launched a new advertising campaign focused heavily on why so many airlines have been despised by so many for so very long. From free Wi-Fi to the absence of middle seats to the two bags you may check for free, Amtrak is pitching itself as a more comfortable, civilized travel alternative to an airline. A coach seat on a train is more comfortable than a first-class seat on a domestic flight.
The Yellow Pages will be ceasing its 50-year print run in January 2019. Launched in 1966, the Yellow Pages is perhaps the best known classified business directory. The most recent version stretches from abattoirs to yoga, covering everything from taxidermists to graffiti removal. Inevitably the rise of the internet has led to a dwindling interest in artifacts of a slower age. The comparative slimness of the recent editions is testament to this: the book is getting smaller with each passing year. What will you use as a door stop now? Check Google for ideas.