The big retailers have laid the groundwork that will be good for shoppers and investors.
Back when Black Friday meant people lining up outside of stores to battle for the hottest toys and cheap electronics, the holiday season sometimes produced a surprise winner. Maybe J.C. Penney had a good quarter because the traffic driven by more successful stores fed it customers or maybe an especially hot item powered an unlikely winner to a good season.
Now, for a variety of reasons, holiday retail has changed and in this (sort of) post-pandemic reality the best deals and biggest selection of in-demand items will be offered by retail's biggest players. Amazon (AMZN) - Get Free Report, Walmart (WMT) - Get Free Report, Target (TGT) - Get Free Report, and Costco (COST) - Get Free Report have all faced struggles over recent quarters, but they're still the best-positioned retailers for the holiday season.
That doesn't mean that niche players like Five Below (FIVE) - Get Free Report won't have a strong holiday season, some will, but 2022 will be a year where the strong get stronger and that's something both shoppers and investors should be aware of.
The Supply Chain Benefits Big Retailers
Target and Walmart both had to admit some major supply chain and inventory issues this year. Both companies ended up with too many bulky items like televisions that sold well during the height of the pandemic. When demand slowed, both chains made the decision to sell off items that did not fit their holiday plans.
That was a painful decision in the short term, but customers certainly saw it as a positive, so there was added goodwill for both chains. More importantly, Walmart and Target have the money to not have to hold onto bad inventory in order to clear space for what will sell.
Costco has a much more limited selection of inventory, which gives it the buying power to cut to the front of the line when supply is limited. The warehouse club gets what it wants simply because its orders are so big.
Amazon has had its struggles given the wildly varying demand caused by the pandemic. It too, however, used an added Prime Day as a way to clear its warehouses and rightsize its inventory for the holiday season.
All four of these companies have simply spent more on supply chain and inventory management than their rivals. That's always an edge, but it's a massive one this year.
Investors Take a Look at Big Retail
Analysts often use quarterly numbers to justify buying or selling a stock. Long-term investors ask questions like, "regardless of how the stock price moved, do I think this company will be a leader in its category for years to come?" It's hard to look at Target, Walmart, Amazon, or Costco and not think that will be the case.
That creates some interesting buying opportunities when you look at these stocks year-to-date:
The market has punished all of these companies for macroeconomic problems they don't control. In most cases, margins have dropped because these retailers have selectively opted to not pass on higher prices fully to their customers.
That may be a balance sheet negative for a quarter or even a few of them, but it's a massive edge in the marketplace long term. As an investor, it's hard to imagine a world where these four companies don't continue their sales dominance, driven by having the ability to do customer-friendly things like maintaining value relative to the competition.
There might be a surprise winner this holiday season, but it's unlikely we see any surprise losers from this group.
“[…] we set out to explore the effects of removing p16Ink4a+ senescent cells on the proliferative capacity and mass of β-cells […].”
Credit: 2023 Bahour et al.
“[…] we set out to explore the effects of removing p16Ink4a+ senescent cells on the proliferative capacity and mass of β-cells […].”
BUFFALO, NY- January 31, 2023 – A new research paper was published on the cover of Aging (listed as “Aging (Albany NY)” by Medline/PubMed and “Aging-US” by Web of Science) Volume 15, Issue 2, entitled, “Clearance of p16Ink4a-positive cells in a mouse transgenic model does not change β-cell mass and has limited effects on their proliferative capacity.”
Type 2 diabetes is partly characterized by decreased β-cell mass and function which have been linked to cellular senescence. Despite a low basal proliferative rate of adult β-cells, they can respond to growth stimuli, but this proliferative capacity decreases with age and correlates with increased expression of senescence effector, p16Ink4a.
In a new study, researchers Nadine Bahour, Lucia Bleichmar, Cristian Abarca, Emeline Wilmann, Stephanie Sanjines, and Cristina Aguayo-Mazzucato from the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard Medical School hypothesized that selective deletion of p16Ink4a-positive cells would enhance the proliferative capacity of the remaining β-cells due to the elimination of the local senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP).
“We aimed to investigate the effects of p16Ink4a-positive cell removal on the mass and proliferative capacity of remaining β-cells using INK-ATTAC mice as a transgenic model of senolysis.”
Clearance of p16Ink4a-positive subpopulation was tested in mice of different ages, males and females, and with two different insulin resistance models: high-fat diet (HFD) and insulin receptor antagonist (S961). Clearance of p16Ink4a-positive cells did not affect the overall β-cell mass. β-cell proliferative capacity negatively correlated with cellular senescence load and clearance of p16Ink4a positive cells in 1-year-old HFD mice improved β-cell function and increased proliferative capacity in a subset of animals. Single-cell sequencing revealed that the targeted p16Ink4a subpopulation of β-cells is non-proliferative and non-SASP producing whereas additional senescent subpopulations remained contributing to continued local SASP secretion.
“In conclusion, deletion of p16Ink4a cells did not negatively impact beta-cell mass and blood glucose under basal and HFD conditions and proliferation was restored in a subset of HFD mice opening further therapeutic targets in the treatment of diabetes.”
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Launched in 2009, Aging (Aging-US) publishes papers of general interest and biological significance in all fields of aging research and age-related diseases, including cancer—and now, with a special focus on COVID-19 vulnerability as an age-dependent syndrome. Topics in Aging go beyond traditional gerontology, including, but not limited to, cellular and molecular biology, human age-related diseases, pathology in model organisms, signal transduction pathways (e.g., p53, sirtuins, and PI-3K/AKT/mTOR, among others), and approaches to modulating these signaling pathways.
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Las Vegas December 2022: Visitor Traffic Down 4.6% Compared to 2019; Convention Traffic Down 38.2%
Note: I like using Las Vegas as a measure of recovery for both leisure (visitors) and business (conventions).From the Las Vegas Visitor Authority: December 2022 Las Vegas Visitor StatisticsFrom the initial shadow of the omicron variant to record‐shatte…
From the initial shadow of the omicron variant to record‐shattering room rates later in the year, Las Vegas enjoyed a robust recovery trajectory across core tourism indicators in 2022. With December 2022 visitation just 4.6% shy of December 2019, the year closed out with 38.8M annual visitors, 20.5% ahead of 2021 and ‐8.7% under 2019's tally.
Convention attendance for the year approached 5.0M attendees, dramatically ahead of pandemic‐suppressed volumes of 2021 and recovering to about three‐quarters of 2019's tally of 6.6M convention attendees.
Overall hotel occupancy reached 79.2% for the year , +12.4 pts YoY and down ‐9.7 pts vs. 2019. For the year, Weekend occupancy reached 89.3%, +8.0 pts over 2021 and ‐5.6 pts vs. 2019, while Midweek occupancy reached 74.7%, up 14.2 pts vs. 2021 but down ‐11.6 pts vs. 2019.
Strong room rates continued throughout 2022 as annual ADR reached $171, +24.5% higher than 2021 and +28.9% ahead of 2019 while RevPAR reached approx. $135 for the year, +47.6% YoY and +14.9% over 2019.
Click on graph for larger image.
The first graph shows visitor traffic for 2019 (dark blue), 2020 (light blue), 2021 (yellow) and 2022 (red)
Visitor traffic was down 4.6% compared to the same month in 2019.
Visitor traffic was up 10.1% compared to last December.
The second graph shows convention traffic.
Convention traffic was down 38.2% compared to December 2019.
Note: There was almost no convention traffic from April 2020 through May 2021.
US Job Opening Far Lower Than Reported By Department Of Labor, UBS Finds
When it comes to labor market data (or rather "data"), Biden's labor department is a study in contrasts (and pats on shoulders). One day we get a contraction in PMI employment (both manufacturing and services), the other we get a major beat in employment. Then, one day the Household survey shows a plunge in employment (in fact, there has almost been no employment gain in the past 9 months) and a record in multiple jobholders and part-time workers, and the same day the Establishment Survey signals a spike in payrolls (mostly among waiters and bartenders). Or the day the JOLTS report shows an unexpected jump in job openings even as actual hiring slides to a two year low. Or the straw the breaks the latest trend in the labor market's back, is when the jobs report finally cracks and shows the fewest jobs added in over a year, and yet initial jobless claims tumble and reverse all recent increases despite daily news of mass layoffs across all tech companies, as the relentless barrage of conflicting data out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (which is the principal "fact-finding" agency for the Biden Administration and a core pillar of the Dept of Labor) just won't stop, almost as if to make a very political point.
But while one can certainly appreciate Biden's desire to paint the glass of US jobs as always half full, reality is starting to make a mockery of the president's gaslighting ambitions, as one by one core pillars of the administration's "strong jobs" fabulation collapse. First it was the Philadelphia Fed shockingly stating that contrary to the BLS "goalseeking" of 1.1 million jobs in Q2 2022, the US actually only added a paltry 10,000 jobs (just as the Fed unleashed an unprecedented spree of 75bps rate hikes).
Then, it was Goldman's turn to make a mockery of the "curiously" low initial jobless claims, by comparing them to directly reported state-level WARN notices (mandatory under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act) which no low-level bureaucrat and Biden lackey can "seasonally adjust" because there they are: cold, hard, fact, immutable and truly representative of the underlying economic truth, and what they show is that - as the Goldman chart below confirms - layoffs are rising far faster than what the DOL's Initial Claims indicates.
More importantly, Goldman also found that WARN notices also track the JOLTS layoff rate: WARN notice counts remained elevated in late 2020 even as the layoff rate declined, but this likely reflects unusual reporting delays during the pandemic and the exclusion of layoffs at closing establishments in the JOLTS survey, which WARN notices capture provided firms remain in business. Not surprisingly, Goldman's tracking estimate based on December and January WARN notices for the large states covered not only shows that the recent drop in initial claims is unlikely, but that it is also consistent with a layoff rate of around 1.1%, higher than the 0.9% in the November JOLTS report.
And now, another core pillar of the US labor market is being dismantled, and it has to do with the Fed's favorite labor market indicator: the JOLTS report of job openings.
As UBS economist Pablo Villaneuva writes in a recent report by the bank's Evidence Lab group, Job openings in the JOLTS survey have not declined much since the March peak. Indeed, the BLS reports that openings were only 12% below the March 2022 peak in November and remain 48% above the pre-pandemic, 2019 average. This slight move downward has, as we noted recently, led to only a small decline in the vacancies-to-unemployment ratio, from 1.99 in March to 1.74 in November, still well above the 2019 average of 1.19.
Of course, such a high level of job openings is alarming to the Fed for the simple reason that it means Powell has failed at his mission at cooling off what appears to be a red hot jobs market; no wonder the Fed Chair has frequently flagged the high level of job openings as a sign of ongoing strength in the labor market. The bottom line, as UBS notes, is that "the BLS measure, although it has declined, remains historically high."
However, as in the abovementioned case of unexpectedly low jobless claims, there may be more here than meets the eye. According to Villanueva, "a range of other measures of job openings suggest normalization in the labor market—softening much more convincingly, often to pre-pandemic levels" - translation: whether on purpose or accidentally, the BLS is fabricating data.Also, the UBS economist flags, job openings are not a great indicator of current labor market conditions—they lagged the last two downturns in the labor market.
So what's the real story?
Well, as usual there is BLS "data" and everyone else... and as UBS cautions, other measures of openings tell a very different story: "Our UBS Evidence Lab data on job listings is weekly and more timely than the BLS series. The last datapoint is for the week of December 31. It shows openings down 30% from the March 2022 peak and only 25% higher than the 2019 average."
While BLS bureaucrats and Biden sycophants can argue UBS data is inaccurate, other longer dated series also indicate weaker openings. Take for example the NFIB Small Business Survey includes labor market measures that have correlated strongly with the JOLTS data over time but have weakened more sharply than the JOLTS measure in recent months. The percentage of small firms unable to fill open positions has a correlation of 0.95 with JOLTS openings since 2000. This series has declined 20% relative to the peak in May 2022 and is only 13% above the 2019 average. The NFIB series on percentage of firms with few or no qualified applicants tells a similar story.
Finally, the "Opportunity Insights" measure of openings (see here) is also below pre-pandemic levels.
So what's going on here?
As the UBS economist puts it, "in short, other surveys of job openings generally suggest that the BLS measure may be overstating labor market tightness. One reason to think the accuracy of the JOLTS data may have declined is that the sample shrank noticeably at the start of the pandemic. In 2019, the survey response rate was 60%. In December, it was 30%."
Or perhaps it's not gross BLS incompetence (or propaganda): maybe it's just a data quirk at key economic inflection points. As UBS observed in August, job openings tend to lag other labor market indicators. Ahead of the 2001 recession, the private sector job openings rate was still rising as private employment peaked and started printing negative. Again in 2007, as job openings were peaking, payroll employment in the revised data had slowed considerably, and job openings remained near their peak as employment was beginning to contract outright.
Whatever the reason for the discrepancy in this latest labor series, the bigger picture is getting troubling.
We already knew that the employment as measured by the Household survey has been flat since March even as the Establishment survey signaled 2.7 million job gains since then. Shortly thereafter the Philadelphia Fed found that contrary to the BLS "goalseeking" of 1.1 million jobs in Q2 2022, the US actually only added a paltry 10,000 jobs in the second quarter of 2022. As such, the validity and credibility of the US nonfarm payrolls report is suspect at best.
And now, we can also stick a fork in the JOLTS report, whose accuracy has just been steamrolled by UBS with its finding that job openings - a critical component of the US labor market and the Fed's preferred labor market indiator - are far lower than what the Dept of Labor suggests.
Bottom line: while it is obvious why the Biden admin would try hard to put as much lipstick as it can on US jobs data, the same data when measured with alternative measures shows a far uglier picture, one of a US labor market on the verge of cracking and hardly one meriting consistent rate hikes by the Fed.
Which, considering that in less than 24 hours the Fed will hike rates by another 25 bps, is extremely important, and we wish that we weren't the only media outlet to lay out the facts as the negative impact of continued policy error and tightening by the Fed will impact tens of millions Americans, not to mention the continued errors - whether premeditated or accidental - by the US Department of Labor. Alas, as so often happens, since nobody else in the "independent US press" is willing to touch the story of manipulated jobs data with a ten foot pole, it is again up to us to explain what is really going on.