Beverly, Hills That Is
DOW – 469 = 16,058
SPX – 58 = 1913
NAS – 140 = 4636
10 YR YLD – .03 = 2.17%
OIL – 4.99 = 44.21
GOLD + 5.40 = 1140.80
SILV – .01 = 14.72
Another rough day for stocks across the world after twin surveys showed China’s manufacturing sector in the grip of its worst slump in several years. Asian stocks slumped on the first trading day of September, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 index chalking up a near 4 percent loss into correction territory. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index dropped as much as 3.2 percent. The major US averages lost more than 6 percent each in August. The New York Stock Exchange invoked Rule 48 for the fourth time in two weeks.
If you want, you could blame it on the Fed, as good a culprit as any; they want to raise rates despite data. Or you could look to a global slowdown, as emerging markets struggle with lower and lower commodity prices. The High Frequency Traders certainly can be considered culpable, not for starting the fire but for splashing kerosene on the flames. But really, this is just what markets do. It’s not one thing that causes a market to tumble, it is the added weight of many things. And a market looking to sell is going to sell. The major averages ended in correction territory, down nearly 3 percent in their third-largest daily decline for 2015.
All the turbulence has created a fertile playing field for those who trade the market on a short-term basis, but otherwise has sent many to the sidelines. The recent market rout caught some star Wall Street traders by surprise, others not so much; not a hedge fund affiliated with “The Black Swan” author Nassim Nicholas Taleb that seeks to profit from extreme events in the financial markets. Universa Investments LP gained roughly 20% last Monday.
The gains, some realized, some just paper gains for now, amounted to more than $1 billion in the past week; largely on Monday, as its returns for the year climbed to roughly 20% through earlier this week. Meanwhile, David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital told investors it lost 5.3% in August; widening Greenlight Capital’s loss for the year to 13.8%, or about $1.4 billion
U.S. construction spending in July rose 0.7%, to an annual rate of $1.08 trillion – its highest level in more than seven years, boosted by an increase in the building of houses, factories and power plants. Construction of single-family houses advanced 2.1 percent in July. Factories rose 4.7 percent, and power facilities increased 2.1 percent. Spending on government building projects slipped 1 percent. Total construction spending has risen 13.7 percent over the past 12 months.
Manufacturing grew at the slowest pace in August in more than two years. The Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index dropped to 51.1% last month from 52.7% in July. Readings over 50% indicate more companies are expanding instead of shrinking. The ISM’s new-orders index dropped 4.8 points to 51.7%, the lowest since May 2013. The employment gauge slipped 1.5 points to 51.2%. And the exports index fell 0.5 points to 46.5%.
Roller-coaster stock markets appeared to have no major impact on auto purchases. The six largest automakers in the U.S. market all beat the sales forecasts of industry analysts. The gains contributed to a total seasonally adjusted annual rate of 17.81 million, the highest rate since July 2005. GM, the No. 1 automaker in the U.S. market, reported that sales dropped 0.7 percent. Ford, the No. 2 U.S. automaker by vehicle sales, showed a gain of 5 percent, easily outdistancing expectations. Toyota, No. 3 in U.S. sales, reported an 8.8 percent decline in August. Fiat Chrysler showed a rise of 2 percent, boosted by Jeep SUVs, extending the auto maker’s streak of sales gains to 65 months. For the first time since 2012, Labor Day sales will be included in September results.
If you think the stock market is crazy, just look at the oil market. From Thursday through Monday, West Texas Intermediate crude oil posted its best 3-day gain in a quarter century. What was behind the move? Apparently not much. The fundamentals in the oil market didn’t really change; there is still an oil glut. The Energy Information Agency reported that US shale production was a little lower than previously thought, but it wasn’t a huge drop and there are still massive inventories, especially for refined petroleum, which then causes an inventory backup for crude.
There were rumors of slowing production from Saudi Arabia; rumors, not actual cutbacks. So, it looks like the big parabolic rally in oil was largely spurred by speculation that prices had hit a bottom, and then as prices started rising, it squeezed short sellers. Another way of saying it is – speculation; not exactly the stuff of bottoms. Sure enough, today oil prices dropped 10.1%.
Many see recent events in oil production as a straight battle between Saudi Arabia and the USA. The Saudis seemed intent on crashing American shale producers and for political reasons too intricate to detail in this moment, but it hasn’t really worked out that way. The US frackers have figured out how to keep the rigs pumping. The high priced oil phase of the shale revolution can be seen as the gold rush days of the industry’s history. Frackers paid millions for mineral rights and a whole new generation of Beverly Hillbillies came into being. And while the boom times in the oil patch didn’t last, oil industry insiders who predicted the death of shale oil in the United States got it wrong.
U.S. oil production has begun to drop in response to low oil prices, but not as dramatically as many had anticipated. Oil companies have cut back spending significantly in response to the fall in the price of oil. The number of rigs that are active in the main U.S. tight oil producing regions– the Permian and Eagle Ford in Texas, Bakken in North Dakota and Montana, and Niobrara in Wyoming and Colorado– is down 58% over the last 12 months.
Nevertheless, U.S. tight oil production continued to climb through April. It has fallen since, but the EIA estimates that September production will only be down 7%, or about 360,000 barrels/day, from the peak in April. Shale oil producers are getting more oil out of fewer wells and that factor is keeping the industry alive. Adjustments were made. Analysts now estimate that the breakeven point of new shale oil wells is $27.50 per barrel, not counting financing costs. Recent oil price falls did not lead to the extinction of fracking, it promoted efficiency in the sector, which heralds further price falls.
Meanwhile, the Saudis probably never suspected that Green Energy could flourish amidst low oil prices. The U.S. Navy has invested an undisclosed amount in the Mesquite solar farm about 40 miles west of Phoenix Arizona, allowing for an expansion of the facility that is anticipated to make it the world’s largest solar farm. The farm will provide 210 megawatts of direct power, a third of the energy needed to power 14 Navy and Marine Corps sites. The solar farm, slated to go online next year, is expected to save the Navy “at least” $90 million in energy costs over the course of the 25-year contract with Sempra U.S. Gas and Power, which operates it.
The Mesquite facility, which completed its first phase of buildout in late 2012, has a potential capacity of 700 megawatts, which would power up to 260,000 homes. It requires no water to operate and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. The investment marks a big step toward the Department of Defense’s Congress-mandated goal to either produce or procure 25 percent of its total energy needs from renewable sources by 2025.
General Electric announced it has won more than $1 billion in orders from customers in the Asia Pacific region, as energy generators look for ways to improve efficiency and reduce costs and environmental damage. GE is providing six new gas turbines in Thailand, two steam turbines and generators for Vietnam, and starting a large-scale replacement project in Japan. The company made the announcement at the start of the Power-Gen Asia conference.
The White House is considering sanctions against both Russian and Chinese companies and individuals as it tries to stop its alleged cyber theft of commercial and economic information. The move comes as the U.S. grows increasingly frustrated at efforts to steal commercial secrets. President Obama signed an executive order in April declaring a national emergency over cyber-attacks, which “constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat.”
You might want to send Google a Thank You note. Starting today, Google Chrome, the browser of choice for a majority of desktop users, will be effectively cutting off Flash advertising at the knees, ignoring those intrusive, battery-sucking, fan-spinning, auto-play videos and banners. Now people will have to click on the ads to see them in Flash, but if you just want to read something on the internet without being distracted by an advertisement masquerading as a slot machine on meth, well, you have that option. Google’s move follows a similar anti-Flash play by Mozilla, the third-most-used browser, and Amazon’s recent decision to ban Flash-based ads from its ad network. Facebook also recently called on browser makers to stop supporting Flash altogether.
After years of sticking with Flash for desktop browsers, the big software firms and advertisers are suddenly getting scared straight by the prospect of ad blocking. People have been increasingly turning to browser add-ons that block advertising (and the creepy tracking and security vulnerabilities that come along with many of the ads). By preventing people from seeing ads, blocking software will cut off $22 billion in advertising revenue this year, up 41% from last year.