S&P 500 Rallies As U.S. Dollar Pulls Back Towards Weekly Lows

Key Insights
The strong pullback in the U.S. dollar provided significant support to stocks.
Treasury yields have pulled back after touching new highs, which served as an additional positive catalyst for S&P 500.
A move above 3730 will push S&P 500 towards the resistance level at 3760.
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Pfizer Rallies After Announcing A Huge Price Hike For Its COVID-19 Vaccines
S&P 500 is currently trying to settle above 3730 as traders’ appetite for risk is growing. The U.S. dollar has recently gained strong downside momentum as the BoJ intervened to stop the rally in USD/JPY. Weaker U.S. dollar is bullish for stocks as it increases profits of multinational companies and makes U.S. equities cheaper for foreign investors.

The leading oil services company Schlumberger is up by 9% after beating analyst estimates on both earnings and revenue. Schlumberger’s peers Baker Hughes and Halliburton have also enjoyed strong support today.

Vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna gained strong upside momentum after Pfizer announced that it will raise the price of its coronavirus vaccine to $110 – $130 per shot.

Biggest losers today include Verizon and Twitter. Verizon is down by 5% despite beating analyst estimates on both earnings and revenue. Subscriber numbers missed estimates, and traders pushed the stock to multi-year lows.

Twitter stock moved towards the $50 level as the U.S. may conduct a security review of Musk’s purchase of the company.

From a big picture point of view, today’s rebound is broad, and most market segments are moving higher. Treasury yields have started to move lower after testing new highs, providing additional support to S&P 500. It looks that some traders are ready to bet that Fed will be less hawkish than previously expected.

S&P 500 Tests Resistance At 3730

S&P 500 has recently managed to get above the 20 EMA and is trying to settle above the resistance at 3730. RSI is in the moderate territory, and there is plenty of room to gain additional upside momentum in case the right catalysts emerge.

If S&P 500 manages to settle above 3730, it will head towards the next resistance level at 3760. A successful test of this level will push S&P 500 towards the next resistance at October highs at 3805. The 50 EMA is located in the nearby, so S&P 500 will likely face strong resistance above the 3800 level.

On the support side, the previous resistance at 3700 will likely serve as the first support level for S&P 500. In case S&P 500 declines below this level, it will move towards the next support level at 3675. A move below 3675 will push S&P 500 towards the support at 3640.

Industrial Vs Non Industrial Plasma Cutting Machines

Industrial vs Non-industrial Plasma machinesPlasma cutting technology is a widely used process that has gained widespread popularity for its ability to cut most forms of metal and is quite favoured for its simplicity in use. It’s versatility with its range of capabilities and applications have made it a universally accepted metal cutting process.Non-industrial Plasma Non industrial plasmas are best suited for garage users of steel fabrication who require plasma cutting perhaps 2-3 hours per day 3-4 days per week. A plasma in this class is best suited to small operations that work on mostly customised jobs. Non industrial plasma units are much cheaper to purchase than industrial plasmas but cannot tolerate the ongoing high volume that an industrial Plasma is designed for. Air plasmas and lower end conventional mechanised plasmas generally fall into the category of non-industrial plasmas.Industrial Plasma Industrial plasmas refer to plasma units geared towards high volume large production facilities that have enough work to elicit a machine to operate a full eight hour shift five days per week. Plasmas in this class usually can operate up to three eight hour shifts per day, seven days per week if necessary. If your operation fits into this category then an industrial plasma is not only preferable, but an absolute necessity.Higher end Conventional plasma and High Definition Plasmas fall into the category of industrial plasmas. With modern day advances however High definition is generally the plasma of choice due to the higher levels of automation they provide as well as the higher level of cutting proficiency they are capable of achieving.Advantages of Industrial Plasma (high definition plasma) • Lower operating Costs• Oxygen and multi-gas capability for improved• Faster Cut speeds• Improved weldability• Significantly longer consumable life• Thicker cutting capability• Quick disconnect torch• 100% duty cycle• Hi-Definition technology• Best cut quality including squarer edges and rounder holes• Mark, cut and bevel with the same consumables• More process options for optimizing cut quality• Remote (CNC) gas switching capability• Patent TruHole technology for best plasma cut holes – unique to Hypertherm high definition plasmas• Hdi thin stainless technology• Optimal gas mixing for mid-range stainless steel• Higher pierce capability• Much higher automation• Higher resale value• Much longer life on machine• Significantly higher production capability• Significantly higher computer aided design capabilityEssential components of an Industrial plasma cutting machine What is most essential to a plasma machines ability to provide continuous quality cutting are the ‘Controllers’ of a plasma unit. A well-engineered, well-constructed control unit is essential to providing consistent high level cutting precision and quality, carried out at high speeds over long hours. A poor to average control unit is incapable of achieving consistent precision especially over long production intervals where it is likely to overheat or break down.Controllers consist of five main components: Power source, controller, a lifter, drives and servo motors.Power SourceIt is very important to get a renown plasma source for your machine to achieve a high performance and reliability to deliver consistent cut quality, high productivity, lowest operating costs whilst lasting you a long time for your business.LifterThe lifter is an essential component providing precise height control of the plasma torch. Utilising a quality THC height sensor will reduce the cut to cut cycle time (up to 60%), provides better cut quality due to proper assembly of torch height, savings on power and longer consumable life.In addition the quality torch height controllers automatically adjusts voltage for proper torch height to optimize cut quality and consumable life. Traditional torch height controls require an operator to periodically adjust arc voltage to ensure proper cut height.Control The controller needs to have all the process expertise built in resulting in flexibility and ease of use for the end user. A quality controller has a digital I/O sercos system that will deliver reliable motion system quality and will improve the cut quality and productivity.The software should allow flexibility and ease of use for the end user, so a person with little or no experience on the controller can cut like a seasoned professional in as little as a day.High End Servo Drives and motorsHigh end drives like Bosch help ensure high stiffness essential for accuracy, minimal backlash and easy adjustment. The servo drives receive command signals that amplify and transmit electric current to the servo motor in order to produce motion proportional to command signals.Their main advantage over DC and AC motors used in non-industrial plasmas is the addition of motor feedback which can be used to detect unwanted motion or to ensure the accuracy of a command motion. Servos in constant speed changing use typically have a better lifecycle than DC/AC motors and can also act as a brake by shutting off generated electricity from the motor itself.Bosch Servo motors Bosch servo motors allow for precise control of angular position, velocity and acceleration. It consists of a sophisticated motor coupled to a sensor for position feedback.Stepper motors typically used in low end CNC machines provide no feedback encoder as drive signal specifies the number of steps of movement to rotate. This lack of feedback limits performance as the stepper motor can only drive a load that is well within its capacity otherwise missed steps under load may lead to positioning errors.Low rails Industrial plasma’s usually feature low rails secured to the ground to ensure the highest level of stability driven by helical drives to provide optimal accuracy during the rapid fast moving of the plasma beam during long production intervals.Table design rails usually seen on non-industrial plasmas won’t have the same level of rigidity and are thus less suited to high volume rapid pace production. In addition with rails built onto the cutting table and so close to the plasma, with constant long duration cutting the rails are at risk of distorting in shape (over time) due to the constant exposure to heat.CAD / CAM software To greatly improve the efficiency of production in a high volume settings you require a more advanced software to provide a much wider range of functions which greatly enhance the productivity of that operation. Using a more advanced software unit can provide some of the following advantages just a to name a few:• Import CAD and CNC files• Separate multiple parts from a single CNC file• Group Parts into clusters for nesting• Automatic and manual nest sequencing• Control cut directions and cut sequencing on part by part basisThe addition of a quality software allows a much higher level of automation, significantly reducing key punching and is user friendly enough to allow even the most novice operator to cut parts like a seasoned professional.Cutting table For the purposes of industrial fabrication it is essential that a cutting table is well constructed, heavy and durable to meet the demands of an industrial operation. In most non-industrial plasma units, cutting tables are constructed from thin sheet metal and alluminium castings to reduce the cost of the overall unit. The problem with this is that due to the thin, light construction, the table can shake or wobble, adversely affecting the accuracy of a cut part. Furthermore over long production periods, due to the ongoing exposure of heat generated from the plasma these tables are likely to distort over time.The durable robust construction of an industrial plasma table is essential to give the table stability for the highest level of accuracy and to prevent heat distortion.Industrial plasma units usually offer the choice of a water or dry table with a dust collection unit. Water tables are cheaper to purchase but require much more ongoing maintenance and cleaning which over time becomes more expensive than using a dry table with a fume extraction unit. In an industrial environment both are acceptable.Non-industrial plasmas usually come with water tables once again to reduce overall the cost of the unit though some are offered with a dry table and fan which is only sufficient in removal of dust and fumes in a light fabrication setting.Having a Support team The purchase of a Plasma machine whilst being an expensive investment can provide enormous returns to any business where there is a demand for work, the correct facilities are utilised and they are maintained with the right level of care.It is essential therefore that a full support team is available to service your machine for ongoing maintenance, in the incident of a breakdown or where any other form of technical support is required.In any high volume industrial environment any down time can translate into large losses in profit so it is important to have a local service team, but more to the point a team who knows the full operation of the machine from bolt to bolt, to shorten the time required to fix the machine, though also to provide phone support for quick fixes that do not cost any call out fees.Why Non-Industrial Plasmas are so much cheaper to purchase than Industrial Plasmas Many first time buyers of Plasma machines may look into purchasing a non-industrial plasma as a form of entry level use not fully understanding the full capabilities or limitations they have especially when compared to industrial level plasmas.A cheaper price tag is often the motivator to go with a non-industrial plasma but in the long run once users have been able to thoroughly compare the two in performance, reliability and productivity it becomes very clear why non-industrial plasmas are so much cheaper.In most situations fabricators who start out using non-industrial plasmas find with ongoing use that their functional capacity is very limited and with further research and exposure to industrial plasmas that they eventually upgrade to one as they provide much greater productivity, more flexibility in use and better quality cut parts with consistent precision. In addition industrial plasmas have a much greater lifespan, are a lot more durable and are built to handle a much higher degree of volume equating to far better value.Many manufacturers of non-industrial plasma machines try to capitalise on the lower end cheap market by providing only the bare essentials of plasma cutting. Many of the reasons they can offer a plasma machine at a cheaper price is due to reasons including:- Often software is not included in the package and in many cases users need to integrate a separate laptop/PC to operate the CNC cutting function. Even when software is provided usually they only provide very basic functions.-Table and beam are constructed of thin light constructed sheet metal, not suited to heavy duty fabrication and are highly likely to distort in shape over time, due to ongoing heat exposure generated from the plasma. Rails are also built onto the table rather than being bolted into the ground.This type of design does not provide the stability required to support quality precision during fast rapid movement due to the lack of rigidity and lightness of the table construction.-Use of DC/AC motors and stepper motors as alternatives to drives and servo motors translate to limited performance, slower cutting, inconsistent poorer precision and positioning, slower acceleration and velocity.-Fume extraction units are not included and another way to reduce the price on non-industrial units. A water table or dry table with fan are usually what are provided, though with light fabrication this is usually sufficient.-Cheaper components are normally incorporated that don’t have any real brand reputation for performance or reliability.-Aside from the above non-industrial plasmas can generally operate perhaps 2-3 hours per day 4-5 days per week and have an average lifespan of about 3-5 years.Conclusion For those considering the purchase of a plasma unit it is very important to be clear on the capability of the unit and whether or not that unit can meet all their requirements not just that of a single part.Plasma machines have been designed to provide varying levels of functionality with a price range to match. Industrial plasma machines are logically more expensive but when the components are thoroughly broken down, one can clearly see that the cost is commensurate with the performance and capability, and in retrospect this is also true of non-industrial plasma machines. When matched in the suitable environment, business owners often see a return on investment within 2-3 years and as smaller businesses grow, industrial plasmas become a very natural progression.

Best in Class Finance Functions For Police Forces

Background

Police funding has risen by £4.8 billion and 77 per cent (39 per cent in real terms) since 1997. However the days where forces have enjoyed such levels of funding are over.

Chief Constables and senior management recognize that the annual cycle of looking for efficiencies year-on-year is not sustainable, and will not address the cash shortfall in years to come.
Facing slower funding growth and real cash deficits in their budgets, the Police Service must adopt innovative strategies which generate the productivity and efficiency gains needed to deliver high quality policing to the public.

The step-change in performance required to meet this challenge will only be achieved if the police service fully embraces effective resource management and makes efficient and productive use of its technology, partnerships and people.

The finance function has an essential role to play in addressing these challenges and supporting Forces’ objectives economically and efficiently.

Challenge

Police Forces tend to nurture a divisional and departmental culture rather than a corporate one, with individual procurement activities that do not exploit economies of scale. This is in part the result of over a decade of devolving functions from the center to the.divisions.

In order to reduce costs, improve efficiency and mitigate against the threat of “top down” mandatory, centrally-driven initiatives, Police Forces need to set up a corporate back office and induce behavioral change. This change must involve compliance with a corporate culture rather than a series of silos running through the organization.

Developing a Best in Class Finance Function

Traditionally finance functions within Police Forces have focused on transactional processing with only limited support for management information and business decision support. With a renewed focus on efficiencies, there is now a pressing need for finance departments to transform in order to add greater value to the force but with minimal costs.

1) Aligning to Force Strategy

As Police Forces need finance to function, it is imperative that finance and operations are closely aligned. This collaboration can be very powerful and help deliver significant improvements to a Force, but in order to achieve this model, there are many barriers to overcome. Finance Directors must look at whether their Force is ready for this collaboration, but more importantly, they must consider whether the Force itself can survive without it.

Finance requires a clear vision that centers around its role as a balanced business partner. However to achieve this vision a huge effort is required from the bottom up to understand the significant complexity in underlying systems and processes and to devise a way forward that can work for that particular organization.

The success of any change management program is dependent on its execution. Change is difficult and costly to execute correctly, and often, Police Forces lack the relevant experience to achieve such change. Although finance directors are required to hold appropriate professional qualifications (as opposed to being former police officers as was the case a few years ago) many have progressed within the Public Sector with limited opportunities for learning from and interaction with best in class methodologies. In addition cultural issues around self-preservation can present barriers to change.

Whilst it is relatively easy to get the message of finance transformation across, securing commitment to embark on bold change can be tough. Business cases often lack the quality required to drive through change and even where they are of exceptional quality senior police officers often lack the commercial awareness to trust them.

2) Supporting Force Decisions

Many Finance Directors are keen to develop their finance functions. The challenge they face is convincing the rest of the Force that the finance function can add value – by devoting more time and effort to financial analysis and providing senior management with the tools to understand the financial implications of major strategic decisions.

Maintaining Financial Controls and Managing Risk

Sarbanes Oxley, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Basel II and Individual Capital Assessments (ICA) have all put financial controls and reporting under the spotlight in the private sector. This in turn is increasing the spotlight on financial controls in the public sector.

A ‘Best in Class’ Police Force finance function will not just have the minimum controls to meet the regulatory requirements but will evaluate how the legislation and regulations that the finance function are required to comply with, can be leveraged to provide value to the organization. Providing strategic information that will enable the force to meet its objectives is a key task for a leading finance function.

3) Value to the Force

The drive for development over the last decade or so, has moved decision making to the Divisions and has led to an increase in costs in the finance function. Through utilizing a number of initiatives in a program of transformation, a Force can leverage up to 40% of savings on the cost of finance together with improving the responsiveness of finance teams and the quality of financial information. These initiatives include:

Centralization

By centralizing the finance function, a Police Force can create centers of excellence where industry best practice can be developed and shared. This will not only re-empower the department, creating greater independence and objectivity in assessing projects and performance, but also lead to more consistent management information and a higher degree of control. A Police Force can also develop a business partner group to act as strategic liaisons to departments and divisions. The business partners would, for example, advise on how the departmental and divisional commanders can meet the budget in future months instead of merely advising that the budget has been missed for the previous month.

With the mundane number crunching being performed in a shared service center, finance professionals will find they now have time to act as business partners to divisions and departments and focus on the strategic issues.

The cultural impact on the departments and divisional commanders should not be underestimated. Commanders will be concerned that:

o Their budgets will be centralized
o Workloads would increase
o There will be limited access to finance individuals
o There will not be on site support

However, if the centralized shared service center is designed appropriately none of the above should apply. In fact from centralization under a best practice model, leaders should accrue the following benefits:

o Strategic advice provided by business partners
o Increased flexibility
o Improved management information
o Faster transactions
o Reduced number of unresolved queries
o Greater clarity on service and cost of provision
o Forum for finance to be strategically aligned to the needs of the Force

A Force that moves from a de-centralized to a centralized system should try and ensure that the finance function does not lose touch with the Chief Constable and Divisional Commanders. Forces need to have a robust business case for finance transformation combined with a governance structure that spans operational, tactical and strategic requirements. There is a risk that potential benefits of implementing such a change may not be realized if the program is not carefully managed. Investment is needed to create a successful centralized finance function. Typically the future potential benefits of greater visibility and control, consistent processes, standardized management information, economies of scale, long-term cost savings and an empowered group of proud finance professionals, should outweigh those initial costs.

To reduce the commercial, operational and capability risks, the finance functions can be completely outsourced or partially outsourced to third parties. This will provide guaranteed cost benefits and may provide the opportunity to leverage relationships with vendors that provide best practice processes.

Process Efficiencies

Typically for Police Forces the focus on development has developed a silo based culture with disparate processes. As a result significant opportunities exist for standardization and simplification of processes which provide scalability, reduce manual effort and deliver business benefit. From simply rationalizing processes, a force can typically accrue a 40% reduction in the number of processes. An example of this is the use of electronic bank statements instead of using the manual bank statement for bank reconciliation and accounts receivable processes. This would save considerable effort that is involved in analyzing the data, moving the data onto different spreadsheet and inputting the data into the financial systems.

Organizations that possess a silo operating model tend to have significant inefficiencies and duplication in their processes, for example in HR and Payroll. This is largely due to the teams involved meeting their own goals but not aligning to the corporate objectives of an organization. Police Forces have a number of independent teams that are reliant on one another for data with finance in departments, divisions and headquarters sending and receiving information from each other as well as from the rest of the Force. The silo model leads to ineffective data being received by the teams that then have to carry out additional work to obtain the information required.

Whilst the argument for development has been well made in the context of moving decision making closer to operational service delivery, the added cost in terms of resources, duplication and misaligned processes has rarely featured in the debate. In the current financial climate these costs need to be recognized.

Culture

Within transactional processes, a leading finance function will set up targets for staff members on a daily basis. This target setting is an element of the metric based culture that leading finance functions develop. If the appropriate metrics of productivity and quality are applied and when these targets are challenging but not impossible, this is proven to result in improvements to productivity and quality.

A ‘Best in Class’ finance function in Police Forces will have a service focused culture, with the primary objectives of providing a high level of satisfaction for its customers (departments, divisions, employees & suppliers). A ‘Best in Class’ finance function will measure customer satisfaction on a timely basis through a metric based approach. This will be combined with a team wide focus on process improvement, with process owners, that will not necessarily be the team leads, owning force-wide improvement to each of the finance processes.

Organizational Improvements

Organizational structures within Police Forces are typically made up of supervisors leading teams of one to four team members. Through centralizing and consolidating the finance function, an opportunity exists to increase the span of control to best practice levels of 6 to 8 team members to one team lead / supervisor. By adjusting the organizational structure and increasing the span of control, Police Forces can accrue significant cashable benefit from a reduction in the number of team leads and team leads can accrue better management experience from managing larger teams.

Technology Enabled Improvements

There are a significant number of technology improvements that a Police Force could implement to help develop a ‘Best in Class’ finance function.

These include:

A) Scanning and workflow

Through adopting a scanning and workflow solution to replace manual processes, improved visibility, transparency and efficiencies can be reaped.

B) Call logging, tracking and workflow tool

Police Forces generally have a number of individuals responding to internal and supplier queries. These queries are neither logged nor tracked. The consequence of this is dual:

o Queries consume considerable effort within a particular finance team. There is a high risk of duplicated effort from the lack of logging of queries. For example, a query could be responded to for 30 minutes by person A in the finance team. Due to this query not being logged, if the individual that raised the query called up again and spoke to a different person then just for one additional question, this could take up to 20 minutes to ensure that the background was appropriately explained.

o Queries can have numerous interfaces with the business. An unresolved query can be responded against by up to four separate teams with considerable delay in providing a clear answer for the supplier.

The implementation of a call logging, tracking and workflow tool to document, measure and close internal and supplier queries combined with the set up of a central queries team, would significantly reduce the effort involved in responding to queries within the finance departments and divisions, as well as within the actual divisions and departments, and procurement.

C) Database solution

Throughout finance departments there are a significant number of spreadsheets utilized prior to input into the financial system. There is a tendency to transfer information manually from one spreadsheet to another to meet the needs of different teams.

Replacing the spreadsheets with a database solution would rationalize the number of inputs and lead to effort savings for the front line Police Officers as well as Police Staff.

D) Customize reports

In obtaining management information from the financial systems, police staff run a series of reports, import these into excel, use lookups to match the data and implement pivots to illustrate the data as required. There is significant manual effort that is involved in carrying out this work. Through customizing reports the outputs from the financial system can be set up to provide the data in the formats required through the click of a button. This would have the benefit of reduced effort and improved motivation for team members that previously carried out these mundane tasks.

In designing, procuring and implementing new technology enabling tools, a Police Force will face a number of challenges including investment approval; IT capacity; capability; and procurement.

These challenges can be mitigated through partnering with a third party service company with whom the investment can be shared, the skills can be provided and the procurement cycle can be minimized.

Conclusion

It is clear that cultural, process and technology change is required if police forces are to deliver both sustainable efficiencies and high quality services. In an environment where for the first time forces face real cash deficits and face having to reduce police officer and support staff numbers whilst maintaining current performance levels the current finance delivery models requires new thinking.

While there a number of barriers to be overcome in achieving a best in class finance function, it won’t be long before such a decision becomes mandatory. Those who are ahead of the curve will inevitably find themselves in a stronger position.