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2.25.20 Personal preparation for economic slowdown; Wells Fargo settlement; Best value supermarkets

Published: Tuesday, February 25, 2020 @ 5:00 PM

The coronavirus is spreading but know fatality rates are very low. It is creating enormous impact on economies around the world. The U.S. travel industry is hard hit. Airline and cruise line stocks are down and Expedia is laying off 3,000 people. Expect more lay off announcements as part of a response to economic slowdown. It’s unlikely we’ll follow much of the rest of the world into a recession cycle this year, because it’s an election year. But the tremendous job engine we’ve seen in the last 9 years will slow, pause or reverse. This is our signal to do what we can to prepare by getting our finances in order. Rethink impulse purchases. Build up a reserve of cash. Consider how you’d handle fewer work hours or a lay off. We may go into a growth recession, wherein technically the economy is still growing but the job market is weak. This is a yellow caution light moment in the economy. Interest rates are an economic tell more than stocks, and expectations are for lower interest rates moving forward. Look at what you’re spending and what you owe. Think through what you can do to get your finances in order to prepare.

Wells Fargo committed criminal acts against its own customers for a full generation, with cheating scandals that go back to 1998 according to Federal prosecutors. In the court filing they only admitted to unlawfully misusing customers’ sensitive, personal information. They paid a $3B fine and avoided criminal conviction, prosecution deferred. If Wells Fargo doesn’t engage in anymore such activity over the next 36 months they will not face criminal prosecution. WF engaged in massive ID theft, cheated their auto loan and mortgage customers and cheated their checking and investing customers over a generation and no one is going to prison. If you rob a bank, you get 20 years. But if a bank robs you, the executive leaves with $millions in their private jets for the country club – no jail.

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Around 5 regional supermarket chains have filed for bankruptcy over the last month. Many will disappear. Americans have changed our profile on how we buy foods, now more price focused. Supermarkets at all price points are pushing private labels more than ever. Most feared is Aldi – which is around 93% private label. An industry survey reveals Aldi is the cheapest place to shop, with a 40% price advantage over traditional mainstream supermarkets. Competitors are cutting hours to lower their costs. New England based Market Basket follows, WinCo is 3. Lidl is 4 in pricing followed by Trader Joe’s, a corporate sibling to Aldi. Amazon is also trying to complete. They’ve just opened their first of what they hope to be a chain of cashier free stores. They reportedly intend to sell this technology platform to other retailers to eliminate check-out lines, a convenience for shoppers and cost saver for retailers.
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