International Forecaster Weekly

What am I missing??

So, from up here in the cheap seats, it seems to me that Amazon and other major companies have the scale and scope to work out insanely cheap rates with UPS, so they can offer “free shipping,” while the “retail” guy gets to make up for all the money they’re losing on Amazon.

Bob Rinear | February 24, 2021

Saturday when we got back home from our Friday’s 38th anniversary trip, I finished up the “project” I started a couple/three weeks ago. I removed all the crap from the attic, placed it in the garage and we tried to figure out what to keep, what to donate, what to sell, etc. It was a daunting task. Which brings me to something that maybe you guys can explain to me.

In the attic, my wife had a pretty large collection of “Precious Moments” figurines. She collected them in the 80’s, not as an investment, she simply liked the spiritual message they represented. So we got the big idea, that hey, they’ve been in an attic for 12 years, obviously we don’t need them. Maybe we should sell them? She agreed, and we opened an Ebay account.

The first thing we put up was the “manger” scene. A wooden manger, you could buy the accompanying figurines. There was a set of animals like camels and sheep, and then there was a set of the “wise men” that went with it. These things aren’t terribly valuable, and she was offered 100 dollars for the set. She accepted the offer.

Sounds great right? Well yeah. Until we boxed it up and took it to the post office. Now understand this, the box we used for the entire set was18 inches long, 11 inches wide and 12 inches high. I weighed it on our kitchen scale at 8.9 pounds. I figured this would cost maybe 20 bucks, right? Well the wife comes home from the post office WITH the box. I’m like “what’s up, you look miffed?”

She says, they want 73 dollars to ship this little box!! I shook my head. I couldn’t have heard that right. So I asked, “did you say 73 bucks??” and the reply was “yup.” Again I couldn’t fathom this. There must be something wrong. So we used Ebay’s shipping calculator and that came out even worse! 79 bucks!

Now here’s where my mind was completely blown. We are Amazon prime customers, as so many are. You know, you get free shipping on darned near anything. As we’re standing in the driveway trying to make sense of the Post office charging 73 bucks to ship a small box from Sarasota to Washington State, a UPS delivery truck pulls up. The driver pulls a box out of the back of the truck and I asked the wife, “holy crap, did we buy a new big screen TV or something?” She says “not that I know of.”  So the guy walks up with this box that would easily hold a 50 inch LED TV.

I ask him, “Are you sure this is for us??” He checks and says yeah. What ever it is, it’s awful light. I take the box from him and yes it is very light. Maybe 3 pounds. I put it in the garage, and go grab a knife to open it. I get the flaps peeled back and what do I find? An umbrella. The ONLY thing in that huge box, was one umbrella. No packing, no sealed air, no popcorn. An umbrella.

It was then my wife remembered that my son ordered it because sometimes it’s pouring down here, and he’s got a bit of a walk between where he parks and where he works. Okay, no problem there. I’m having a problem with the idea that Amazon can use a box that measures 50 wide by 35 high by 7 deep to deliver us an single umbrella for “free”, while my wife is holding a box the size of a breadbox and they want 73 bucks for it.

            So, from up here in the cheap seats, it seems to me that Amazon and other major companies have the scale and scope to work out insanely cheap rates with UPS, so they can offer “free shipping,” while the “retail” guy gets to make up for all the money they’re losing on Amazon.

We didn’t have time for me to go research things and see if there was a much cheaper way to get our package out to the buyer in Washington, so we sucked it up, paid the 73 bucks and off it went. So instead of her 100 dollar windfall, she made a whopping 27 bucks. It wasn’t worth the trouble.

So the question is, am I right? Has UPS, the USPS, and other major carriers, been giving outfits like WMT and AMZN insanely cheap rates, and then beating the hell out of the retail guy to make up the difference?  It sure seems so on the surface.

My wife told me that while in the post office, two elderly ladies came in with two pretty large boxes to ship. She then said that those same two, came out of the post office WITH their boxes. Something tells me they got sticker shock over the price of sending them, and decided against it.

Now obviously we are doing something wrong, because there’s many Ebay listings for such collectibles as we have, and many of the listings say things like Shipping 7.99, or 20.50. Some say free with 4 day shipping. So, there’s obviously some way, and they aren’t paying 73 bucks.

As I’m typing this, there’s a “vintage Nativity scene” that’s very similar to the precious moments we shipped. They want 44.95 for it and offer Free shipping in the US. I have to imagine it would take the same sized box that we used, so how are they shipping for free, and we paid 73 dollars? Unless somehow they’re shipping it for 20 bucks and are happy with making 20 bucks?

I don’t know, but I figured I’d ask if some of you are Ebay types that use it as a hobby or small business. How do you deal with shipping?

The Market:

Tuesday morning the market was in a grumpy mood. Shortly after the open the NASDAQ was down 400, the S&P down 70, the DOW down 200+. There was some real carnage taking place with Tesla down another 70 bucks at one point.

But at 10 am, Jay Powell began his statements to Congress and the world. I had mentioned in the premarket that it would be interesting to see if Powell could jawbone the market back up from the depths. Sure enough, he started saying the “right things” that Wall Street wanted to hear.

Powell: "We are committed to using our full range of tools to support the economy and to help ensure that the recovery from this difficult period will be as robust as possible.

Powell: “we will not tighten monetary policy solely in response to a strong labor market"

He then went on to suggest he’s going to keep policy as loose as a goose for a long time. But we expected all of that. What I didn’t expect, was how much time he was going to spend talking about a “digital dollar.”  Powell: Looking very carefully at whether to Issue Digital Dollar.

He said they’re looking at it closely. He said they’re wondering if it should be the new thing. He spent a lot of time on it, which means it’s already built and ready to go.

Of course they’re going to issue digital currency. I’ve predicted it since they rolled out their test pattern back in 2009 with Bitcoin. They wanted to watch adoption of it, use of it, problems with it, etc. Then they’d be ready to launch THEIR digital dollar, which is one of the most frightening things that can happen to us.

But in any case, it worked as far as saving the market from the morning plunge. The market loves to hear that the free money is still going to flow, since that’s the only thing that fuels this market. By 10:40 the NASDAQ wasn’t down 400 it was down 140. The S&P wasn’t down 70 it was down 16.

Yet I questioned its holding power. With very little fanfare, when we opened this morning, the NASDAQ was down over 1000 points in just 6 sessions. Was Powell’s love talk about extending QE enough to end the slide?  By 1 pm, the NASDAQ was back to – 325. Didn’t he say enough?

But bless their hearts they didn’t give up. First it was the DOW, which went green and kept climbing. It was up almost 100. Then the S&P crossed the line, gaining 16. The NASDAQ which was off 400 points, just missed going green by about 4 points at 3:30. It looked like the big save was in and we were off to the races.

Then suddenly, it all faded off in the last 15 minutes. Instead of being up 100 the DOW closed up 15. The NASDAQ faded back to – 64. And the S&P which had hit + 17, only managed to stay green by 4.

So the question is, is the selling over? It was a massively volatile day, and that close was NOT impressive. I mentioned over the weekend that I thought this week could be lumpy and we’re seeing the lumps. With that in mind, we have to try and use a bit of logic. If Fed money is the reason why the market is so high in the first place (it is) and the Fed is still telling us they’re “all in” ( they just did) then logic tells us that the market “should” continue higher.

But that doesn’t explain the 1000 point drop the NASDAQ put in in 6 sessions. It doesn’t explain the 70+ point drop in the S&P in 6 sessions. So there is some sector rotation going on, and some selling going on. So it’s possible we remain “lumpy” and bumpy for a few more days. My stance is caution is warranted here.

If you’re an active trader, then fine, ride the ups and downs of the volatility. But for you longer term holds folks, it might be time to sit on your hands before buying anything just yet.