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Three Steps and No Stumble…

Technical analyst Edson Gould developed a market rule of thumb known as ‘three steps and a stumble.’ It states stock prices may fall after the Federal Reserve (Fed) raises the Fed funds rate three times in a row without a decline, according to Market Technicians Association.

The idea is three increases show the Fed is serious about keeping rates at a relatively high level for a significant length of time. Higher interest rates could potentially mean higher costs and lower profits for businesses. As a result, stock investors may sell shares and share prices may fall.

Last week, with employment and inflation data approaching Fed targets, the Federal Open Market Committee raised rates for the third time, pushing the Fed funds target rate into the 0.75 percent to 1 percent range, reported Financial Times:

“Fed policymakers’ forecasts for growth and inflation remained little changed, with growth tipped to be 2.1 percent this year and next year, slipping to 1.9 percent in 2019. Core inflation is set to be 1.9 percent in 2017 and 2 percent in the two following years. The possibility of looser fiscal policy emerging from Congress has triggered speculation that the central bank will have to further accelerate its rate-rising campaign, but a number of policymakers are insistent that they want to see firmer plans emerging from Congress before making a call on the impact of possible tax cuts on the economy.”

Major U.S. stock market indices finished the week higher, as did most markets in Europe and Asia.  MarketWatch indicated Asian markets were encouraged by indications the Fed may not increase rates as often as expected this year, and CNBC reported European markets were boosted by a better-than-expected outcome for mainstream parties in Dutch elections.

 

Data as of 3/17/17 1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks) 0.2% 6.2% 16.6% 8.6% 11.0% 5.4%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. 2.4 7.8 10.8 -0.4 2.0 -0.6
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 2.5 NA 1.9 2.7 2.4 4.6
Gold (per ounce) 2.2 6.1 -2.9 -3.7 -5.8 6.5
Bloomberg Commodity Index 1.0 -2.7 4.8 -14.1 -10.3 -6.5
DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index 2.3 1.1 5.5 10.3 10.1 4.8

 

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.

Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

 

I spy with my little eye…Robots! If you take a cruise anytime soon, the bartender may not be able to lend an ear. According to Financial Times, one cruise line has installed robotic bartenders that produce one drink per minute per arm, and can make up to 120 drinks an hour.

It’s not just cruise lines, either. The food industry in the United States is automating. Financial Times described food preparation at a pizza restaurant in California:

“…Pepe squirts tomato sauce on to a pizza base before his colleague Marta spreads it; Noel has 22 seconds to correct any imperfections and add cheese and other toppings, after which Bruno takes the pizza from the line and places it in the oven. But on this production line, only Noel is human. The others – anthropomorphised by name only – are machines conducting tasks usually performed by people.”

The restaurant has 75 human employees who earn about $18.00 an hour. They all are given opportunities to take coding classes so they can better understand and manage robots as well as the artificial intelligence used to evaluate delivery routes.

Then, there is Sally, a robot offered by a food robotics firm. Sally can produce “… fully-customized, fresh, and healthy salads. Sally’s proprietary technology dispenses measured quantities of more than 20 ingredients – refreshed daily – to create a ready-to-eat meal any time of day.” Alternate versions of this robot will offer Mexican and Indian food choices.

Competition for employees is becoming a significant issue in the restaurant industry, reported the National Restaurant Association. More than a quarter of restaurant operators, who participated in a January 2017 survey, said recruiting and retaining employees is the single most important challenge they face – a 9 percent jump from 2015. That’s the highest level since October 2007.

Soon, the attraction for young children at burger joints may be watching robotic characters pull together kids’ meals!

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It

 

“There is a point in every contest when sitting on the sidelines is not an option.”

–Dean Smith, Former Head Coach, University of North Carolina Tar Heels

 

 

Written by Your Family CFO Team

March 20th, 2017 at 4:13 pm

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March 17th, 2017 at 9:16 am

Posted in Social Media

Rate Hike Ahead… Maybe

Last week’s U.S. employment report was better than expected. The United States added 235,000 jobs in February, which was a few more than economists had forecast.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the positive economic data helped push U.S. stock markets lower. The jobs report was a sign the American economy continues to be strong and indicates a rate hike may be on the horizon. Barron’s reported:

“If anything, the data just confirms what we’ve known for a while now: The economy is growing, and one rate hike is unlikely to do much damage…There’s still a strong likelihood of some sort of economic stimulus plan from the Trump administration sometime this year…But the fact that tax cuts and infrastructure projects are even being considered at a time when the U.S. economy is adding 200,000-plus jobs a month is ‘unprecedented’…”

Federal Reserve (Fed) interest rate hikes affect stock markets because they make borrowing more expensive. Higher borrowing costs may reduce the amounts people and companies spend and affect companies’ profitability and share values.

At the end of last week, CME’s FedWatch Tool, which gauges the likelihood of changes in U.S. monetary policy, indicated there was better than an 88 percent chance of a rate hike when the Fed meets on March 15.

It’s interesting to note investor sentiment has become less optimistic. Last week, the AAII Investor Sentiment Survey showed investor pessimism had reached its highest level since February 2016. Bearish sentiment increased by almost 11 points, finishing at 46.5 percent. That’s significantly higher than the historic average of 30.5 percent. Bullish sentiment fell by almost eight points to 30 percent. That’s below the historic average of 38.5 percent. The AAII survey is often used as a contrarian indicator.

 

Data as of 3/10/17 1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks) -0.4% 6.0% 19.3% 8.1% 11.6% 5.4%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. 0.1 5.2 11.7 -1.7 1.9 -0.9
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 2.6 NA 1.9 2.8 2.0 4.6
Gold (per ounce) -1.9 3.8 -5.0 -3.6 -6.7 6.4
Bloomberg Commodity Index -3.4 -3.7 6.2 -14.6 -10.3 -6.6
DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index -4.2 -1.1 8.3 9.8 10.3 4.4

 

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.

Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

 

They’re all on the pro rodeo circuit. They all grow corn and soybeans. They all have renowned universities. In addition, according to The Economist, Texas, Iowa, Nebraska, Mississippi, Alabama, and Michigan are likely to experience the biggest increase in tariffs – as a percent of state gross domestic product (GDP) – if and when the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is revised.

Under NAFTA, goods are imported from and exported to Mexico and Canada without tariffs, which are essentially taxes on imported goods. Tariffs typically increase the cost of imports, making them less attractive to consumers. This can help support the market for domestically produced goods and help protect domestic jobs and industries. Currently, the United States sends about $240 billion worth of goods to Mexico, each year, and Mexico sends even more to the United States.

The Economists analysis measured potential increases in tariffs, in tandem with the volume of state exports to Mexico, to determine the possible impact on a state’s economy. (The analysis did not include Canadian exports, even though Canada is also a NAFTA participant.) While the effect on the majority of states’ economies would be relatively small, the impact on others could be more significant:

“In 2015, Iowa’s farmers shipped $132M of high-fructose corn syrup to Mexico. Without NAFTA, Mexico would slap a tooth-aching 100 percent tariff on the stuff…Among this group, Texas stands out. It faces an average tariff of only 3 percent, but its exports to Mexico are worth nearly 6 percent of its GDP (compared with 1.3 percent nationally)…Michigan also fits this category. Its exports of cars and parts – many of which end up back in America – would attract tariffs averaging only about 5 percent. But, with such shipments totaling $4.1B, the bill would be painfully large.”

No one yet knows how renegotiating NAFTA may affect any of the countries involved because talks are not expected to begin for several months.

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“Making good decisions involves hard work. Important decisions are made in the face of great uncertainty, and often under time pressure. The world is a complex place: People and organizations respond to any decision, working together or against one another, in ways that defy comprehension. There are too many factors to consider. There is rarely an abundance of relevant, trusted data that bears directly on the matter at hand. Quite the contrary – there are plenty of partially relevant facts from disparate sources – some of which can be trusted, some not – pointing in different directions. With this backdrop, it is easy to see how one can fall into the trap of making the decision first and then finding the data to back it up later. It is so much faster. But faster is not the same as well-thought-out.”

–Thomas C. Redman, “the Data Doc”

Written by Your Family CFO Team

March 13th, 2017 at 4:25 pm

Grand Slam!

Major U.S. stock markets were positively euphoric following President Trump’s speech on February 28. Optimism about the new administration’s pro-growth policies propelled the four major U.S. stock indices to record highs, despite a dearth of policy details, reported Financial Times.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why stocks have moved so far, so quickly. However, it appears that mom-and-pop investors have become quite enthusiastic about the asset class according to data from JPMorgan Chase cited by Bloomberg. While institutional investors (pensions, insurance companies, etc.) have been reducing exposure to stocks, smaller investors have been loading up on shares.

CNBC reported some industry professionals, including Goldman’s chief U.S. equity strategist David Kostin, believe stocks have become too highly valued. ZeroHedge.com quoted Kostin, who said:

“Cognitive dissonance exists in the U.S. stock market. S&P 500 is up 10 percent since the election despite negative EPS [earnings per share] revisions from sell-side analysts…Investors, S&P 500 management teams, and sell-side analysts do not agree on the most likely path forward. On the one hand, investors, corporate managers, and macroeconomic survey data suggest an increase in optimism about future economic growth. In contrast, sell-side analysts have cut consensus 2017E [estimated] adjusted EPS forecasts by 1 percent since the election and ‘hard’ macroeconomic data show only modest improvement.”

Financial Times reported pessimism prevails in the bond market. One bond market professional said, “The bond market is taking a totally different view from the equity market. Blowing raspberries is a good way to put it…There’s no belief that the growth agenda will be dramatic.”

So, is strong economic growth ahead? Do bond investors or stocks investors have it right? Are institutional investors or mom-and-pop investors positioning themselves correctly? Only time will tell.

 

Data as of 3/3/17 1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks) 0.7% 6.4% 19.6% 8.9% 11.8% 5.7%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. -0.2 5.2 12.2 -1.4 1.7 -0.5
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 2.5 NA 1.8 2.6 2.0 4.5
Gold (per ounce) -2.2 5.8 -1.9 -3.1 -6.4 6.8
Bloomberg Commodity Index -0.3 -0.4 13.4 -13.6 -9.8 -6.2
DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index -1.0 3.2 12.4 11.0 11.2 5.5

 

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.

Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

 

Don’t Think So!  Tax season is upon us. That means we can all use some entertainment. While many folks dread the process of completing and filing taxes, some see it as an opportunity to test the boundaries of the system. Here are a few deductions Americans have taken that have failed to pass muster in tax court, courtesy of Kiplinger.com:

  • You cannot deduct the cost of a good night’s sleep. A tax preparer who worked from home escaped to a hotel because her clients were calling in the wee hours of the night and causing her to lose sleep. When she attempted to take a business deduction for the hotel expense, the tax court ruled a good night’s sleep is a non-deductible personal expense.
  • You cannot take a theft loss deduction for poor construction. A couple moved into their newly built dream home only to realize the builder had cut some corners. The house had some serious issues, including its foundation. The couple claimed the builder had defrauded them and took a large theft loss deduction. While taxpayers can deduct losses from a home-related theft, shoddy construction doesn’t qualify.
  • You cannot take a depletion deduction for bodily fluids. A woman earned $7,000 a year donating blood plasma because of her rare blood type. She took a depletion deduction, claiming “the loss of both her blood’s mineral content and her blood’s ability to regenerate,” wrote Kiplinger. While companies that take coal, iron, and other minerals from the ground can take a depletion deduction, the tax court ruled that individuals cannot claim depletion on their bodies.
  • You cannot deduct a business trip if there are no formal business meetings involved. A repo firm sponsored a trip to Las Vegas for its bank customers. The firm’s employees chatted with clients about business on the way to Vegas, but no formal meetings were held. The tax court denied the deduction.

 

Before you get creative with your taxes, consult with a tax professional.

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It

 

“Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful.”

–Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist

Written by Your Family CFO Team

March 6th, 2017 at 4:38 pm

Dow Finishes at a Record High

Once upon a time, five blind men discovered an elephant. Each man examined a different part of the elephant and formed a unique impression about the animal. One believed an elephant was like a pillar, while another decided an elephant was like a snake.

In recent weeks, stock and bond markets have been telling different stories, too.

Following a rally on Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished at a record high for the 11th time last week. Reuters reported major U.S. benchmark indices have been driven higher by optimism about tax reform, eased regulation, and increased infrastructure spending.

Both Reuters and Financial Times wrote some investors have become more cautious amidst growing doubts about the pace at which the new administration’s economic policies may be achieved, as well as concerns about the outcome of European elections. These concerns are reflected in the bond market. Barron’s reported:

“The market’s recent advance has taken place on expectations of the reflationary impact of the Trump administration’s policies…the action in global bond markets suggests something else. The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield ended the week at 2.317 percent, the lowest since late November, despite the reflation trade in stocks and expectations of a Fed hike by June, if not May. Even more startling was the slide in the German two-year yield, to minus 0.95 percent, by week’s end, close to a record low, amid growing concern about France’s coming presidential election. While stock investors are smiling at daily Dow records, the bond crowd seems to be hunkering down.”

Who is correct? As with the folk tale about the elephant, both stock and bond markets may be right. Fiscal stimulus could boost economic growth, supporting higher stock values. However, the positive effects of a potential stimulus package are unlikely to be felt before 2018, according to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin. In the meantime, uncertainty about governments and policies at home and abroad may have investors opting for investments they perceive to be lower risk, such as U.S. Treasuries, and that could keep bond yields lower than some had expected.

 

Data as of 2/24/17 1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks) 0.7% 5.7% 22.7% 8.6% 11.6% 5.0%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. -0.2 5.4 18.5 -1.9 1.5 -1.3
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 2.3 NA 1.7 2.8 2.0 4.6
Gold (per ounce) 1.3 8.2 0.2 -2.1 -6.7 6.2
Bloomberg Commodity Index -0.7 0.0 15.4 -13.2 -10.2 -6.6
DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index 2.1 4.2 19.5 11.7 11.5 4.6

 

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.

Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

 

THE BEST INVENTIONS OF 2016.  

Late last year, Time Magazine selected 25 inventions that “are making the world better, smarter, and – in some cases – a little more fun.” Past editions have included underground parks, gluten sniffers, and the desktop DNA lab. For 2016, the list included:

 

  • Spherical tires. Intended for self-driving cars, spherical tires move in every direction, allowing cars to maneuver in new and unexpected ways. For example, a car can slide sideways into a parallel parking space. A critical difference between current tires and spherical tires is magnetic levitation. That’s right. The tires hover beneath the car instead of being bolted on.
  • Levitating lightbulbs. This wireless floating lightbulb “relies on electromagnetism to levitate and spin, and on resonant inductive coupling – a technical term for wireless power transmission – to shine.” The bulbs were so popular, the company created levitating clocks (with custom orbits that can be set for one minute or one year) and planters.
  • Smarter toothbrushes. The war on gum disease is never over. Dental hygiene slackers may find using these electric toothbrushes, which vibrate every 30 seconds to remind users to switch brush position, more rewarding. Next up: a more satisfying flossing experience.
  • Assistive tableware. If you have a loved one with a cognitive disability, assistive tableware may provide a mealtime solution, helping users eat more and maintain their dignity. The trick is in the design – bright colors, wide rubber bases, and easy-to-hold cups and flatware.
  • Playful prosthetics. A new prosthetic arm for children encourages play and is likely to make siblings and friends jealous. “When they need a hand, they have one. But they can replace it with any number of toy-like attachments, all of which are compatible with” a famous brand of building blocks.

It’s always impressive to discover what a well-leavened blend of technology and cleverness will produce.

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It

 

“Their conclusion: more gender diverse companies offer similar return with lower volatility. In other words: More gender diversity, particularly in corporate settings, can translate to increased productivity, greater innovation, better decision-making, and higher employee retention and satisfaction.”

–Morgan Stanley, An Investor’s Guide to Gender Diversity

Written by BFG Editor

February 27th, 2017 at 4:15 pm

A ‘Phenomenal’ Week for the Markets

What’s the word ‘phenomenal’ worth? It all depends on who says it.

Barron’s shared Wilshire Associates’ calculations which indicated the word was worth about $175 billion – the amount markets gained last Thursday – when President Trump used it to describe the tax plan his administration will deliver “ahead of schedule.” Markets gained another $100 billion in value on Friday. Barron’s reported:

“While tax reform is definitely coming, a final bill is still a long way off, and a 2017 effective date is looking less likely…Yet, as the action late last week suggests, the equity markets are more than willing to give the new administration the benefit of the doubt. Something’s coming, even if we don’t know what or when. And that seems good enough to bid stocks higher…”

The word ‘phenomenal’ is probably worth a bit less than Wilshire’s estimate. United States stocks pushed higher on positive earnings growth, too. With 71 percent of companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index reporting results for the fourth quarter of 2016, “…the blended earnings growth rate for the S&P 500 is 5.0 percent. The fourth quarter will mark the first time the index has seen year-over-year growth in earnings for two consecutive quarters since Q4 2014 and Q1 2015.”

Consumer confidence remained high, but wavered a bit in February, according to the University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers. Americans are happy with their current financial circumstances, but expectations for the future dropped sharply. Surveys of Consumers chief economist, Richard Curtin, wrote:

“… a total of nearly six-in-ten consumers made a positive or negative mention of government policies. In the long history of the surveys, this total had never reached even half that amount…These differences are troublesome: the Democrat’s Expectations Index is close to its historic low (indicating recession) and the Republican’s Expectations Index is near its historic high (indicating expansion). While currently distorted by partisanship, the best bet is that the gap will narrow to match a more moderate pace of growth.”

This week could be bumpy. On Valentine’s Day, Fed Chair Janet Yellen will testify about the state of the economy before the U.S. Senate.

 

Data as of 2/10/17 1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks) 0.8% 3.5% 25.1% 8.8% 11.5% 4.9%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. 0.4 4.7 19.2 -1.0 2.0 -1.0
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 2.4 NA 1.7 2.7 2.0 4.8
Gold (per ounce) 1.1 6.0 3.2 -1.3 -6.4 6.3
Bloomberg Commodity Index 1.6 2.1 20.9 -11.3 -9.2 -5.9
DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index 1.1 1.9 22.4 11.6 10.9 4.3

 

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.

Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

 

On the road to brexit… Last week, Members of Parliament (MPs) approved the Article 50 bill, green-lighting Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU). If the House of Lords follows suit, which is far from certain, then the British government will follow the lead of the British people and invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. (Article 50 gives member states the right to withdraw from the EU.)

The Economist reported:

“But a different sort of Brexit bill is approaching and will be harder to manage. It could yet scupper the whole process. Leave campaigners promised voters that Brexit would save the taxpayer £350m ($440m) a week. That pledge was always tendentious. But officials in Brussels are drawing up a bill for departure that could mean Britain’s contributions remain close to its membership dues for several years after it leaves. In a new report for the Centre for European Reform, a think-tank, Alex Barker, a Financial Times correspondent, puts the figure at anything between €24.5bn ($26.1bn) and €72.8bn.”

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, indicated the matter of how much Britain owes must be settled before questions about Britain’s future relationship (i.e., trade agreements) with the EU can be addressed, according to Bloomberg.

To date, Prime Minister Theresa May has been taking a hard line, which has roiled tempers throughout the EU. Bloomberg reported the Prime Minister’s comments:

“…are elevating the likelihood that the United Kingdom leaves the bloc in 2019 without an exit deal, let alone the sweeping trade pact it seeks…The messages from the diplomats are that EU governments are preparing to enforce their line that the United Kingdom can’t be better off outside the bloc than inside it and that they value safeguarding their own interests and regional stability above the need to maintain good relations with the United Kingdom.”

The pending negotiations bring to mind the words of German Field Marshal Helmut Von Moltke, “No operation extends with any certainty beyond the first encounter with the main body of the enemy.”

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“What counts for most people in investing is not how much they know, but rather how realistically they define what they don’t know.”

–Warren Buffett, The Oracle of Omaha

 

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Written by Jon McGraw

February 13th, 2017 at 4:56 pm

U.S. Stock Markets Were Unsettled Last Week…

President Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries to the United States for 90 days, in tandem with some disappointing earnings reports, inspired turmoil and uncertainty that helped push U.S. stock markets lower early in the week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped below 20,000.

Mid-week, markets remained sanguine after the Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged. An economist cited by Barron’s said:

“[The Federal Reserve] left open the door to hike rates further should the trend in inflation accelerate while also maintaining the option to hold rates steady for an extended period. I expect the minutes to be released in a few weeks will show a more wide ranging debate than that indicated by the policy statement, but the clear lack of visibility on key trade, tax, spending, and regulatory initiatives argued for a well-scrubbed statement.”

Late in the week, markets rallied when the Bureau of Labor Statistics delivered a reasonably strong jobs report. The Boston Globe wrote, “…employers added a healthy 227,000 workers to their payrolls in January. But, despite a surge of local minimum-wage increases in states across the country, wage growth was meager.”

Financial shares gained on Friday. The Washington Post reported market optimism returned after The Wall Street Journal published an interview with Gary Cohn, White House Economic Council Director. Cohn indicated President Trump planned to sign executive orders preparing the way to dismantle Dodd-Frank reforms and limit other regulations affecting the financial industry.

The Dow finished the week just above 20,000.

 

Data as of 2/3/17 1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks) 0.1% 2.6% 20.1% 9.7% 11.3% 4.7%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. 0.3 4.3 15.3 -0.1 1.8 -1.0
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 2.5 NA 1.9 2.6 2.0 4.8
Gold (per ounce) 2.6 4.8 7.4 -1.3 -6.9 6.5
Bloomberg Commodity Index -0.1 0.5 15.3 -11.4 -9.6 -6.1
DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index 0.8 0.7 13.4 12.5 10.2 4.2

 

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.

Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

 

Does college open doors? A new study examined how college affects Americans’ social mobility by cross-referencing data from the Department of Education (from 1999-2013) with 30 million tax returns. The researchers looked at the earnings of graduates from various colleges and how graduates’ earnings varied relative to parental income. The Economist described some of the findings:

 

“…some colleges do a better job of boosting poor students up the income ladder than others. Previously, the best data available showed only average earnings by college. For the first time, the entire earnings distribution of a college’s graduates – and how that relates to parental income – is now known.

 

These data show that graduates of elite universities with single-digit admissions rates and billion-dollar endowments are still the most likely to join the top 1 percent (though having wealthy parents improves the odds). And despite recent efforts to change, their student bodies are still overwhelmingly wealthy…

 

…legacy admissions, which give preferential treatment to family members of alumni, exacerbate the imbalance. Of Harvard’s most recently admitted class, 27 percent of students had a relative who also attended. There’s evidence that this system favors the already wealthy. MIT and the California Institute of Technology, two elite schools with no legacy preferences, have much fewer students who hail from the ranks of the super-rich.”

 

The top colleges by mobility rate (students moving from the bottom to the top 20 percent) included: Cal State University-Los Angeles, Pace University-New York, SUNY-Stony Brook, Technical Career Institutes, University of Texas-Pan American, CUNY System, Glendale Community College, South Texas College, Cal State Polytechnic-Pomona, and University of Texas-El Paso.

 

The top colleges by upper-tail mobility rate (students moving from the bottom 20 percent to the top 1 percent) were: University of California-Berkeley, Columbia University, MIT, Stanford University, Swarthmore College, Johns Hopkins University, New York University, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, and University of Chicago.

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam,

Where the deer and the antelope play,

Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,

And the skies are not cloudy all day.”

–Lyrics to Home on the Range

Written by Jon McGraw

February 6th, 2017 at 11:08 am

A Historic Moment for U.S. Stock Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average surpassed 20,000 last week. Barron’s cautioned investors not to make too much of the milestone since, “There are only 30 stocks in the index so each one carries a lot of weight.”

Regardless of the significance of the Dow’s move, U.S. stock markets generally were upbeat about President Trump’s first week in office. Financial Times reported ‘animal spirits’ – a term British economist John Maynard Keynes used to describe the emotions that drive consumer and investor confidence – returned as rapid executive action indicated the new President would follow through on campaign promises, including infrastructure spending.

“However, the Trump trade – reflecting hopes of tax cuts, higher infrastructure spending, and an easing in business regulation – that had dominated financial markets since November also underwent a subtle shift this week. While financial shares still shone, it was sectors that will benefit from infrastructure spending and cope with higher inflation that led the way. Up 3.4 percent, the materials sector was the best performer on the S&P 500 with miners also seeing gains.”

Concerns about trade protectionism and rising inflation lingered.

U.S. stocks upward move was also supported by earnings growth. At the end of each quarter, companies report their earnings (which indicate how much profit they made during the period). FactSet reported 34 percent of companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index have reported fourth quarter earnings, so far. Altogether, earnings are 2.7 percent above the estimates, although they remain below the five-year average.

Markets could be in for a bumpy ride next week as investors weigh in on President Trump’s immigration ban. Bloomberg reported one large technology company, “…inserted language in a securities filing on Thursday on the issue, cautioning investors that immigration restrictions ‘may inhibit our ability to adequately staff our research and development efforts.’”

 

Data as of 1/27/17 1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks) 1.0% 2.5% 21.9% 8.8% 11.8% 4.9%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. 1.6 4.1 15.3 -1.0 2.3 -0.9
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 2.5 NA 2.0 2.8 1.9 4.9
Gold (per ounce) -1.3 2.2 6.2 -2.0 -7.3 6.3
Bloomberg Commodity Index -0.5 0.5 15.6 -11.2 -9.7 -5.8
DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index -0.8 0.0 14.4 12.3 10.5 4.3

 

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.

Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

 

Are your children smart shoppers?

Science Daily reported a meta-analysis of 73 studies nationwide evaluated parenting styles and children’s buying habits. The findings suggest, “children raised by parents who set limits and explain the reason behind these limits are most likely to develop into wise consumers.”

The study, which was conducted by the Society for Consumer Psychology, looked at the ways parents raise and communicate with their children. It defined four basic parenting styles:

  • Authoritative parents generally tell children what to do and also explain why the children should do it. “These parents tend to relate quite effectively with their children and expect them to act maturely and follow family rules, while also allowing a certain degree of autonomy.”
  • Authoritarian parents are restrictive, too. They tell children what to do, but don’t often explain why it should be done. These parents are “…not as likely to exhibit as much warmth in their communications.”
  • Neglecting parents don’t offer much guidance or actively monitor children’s activities. “They neither seek nor use parental power and control and, as a result, communication between Neglecting parents and their children is generally strained and minimized.”
  • Indulgent parents often “…give children adult rights without concomitant responsibilities while maintaining an open communication environment with children.” These parents are described as “lenient, compliant, accepting, affirmative, and non-punitive.”

The researchers concluded children whose parents take an authoritative approach to parenting tend to make better choices. The children choose to consume healthier foods (like fruits and vegetables), make better safety decisions (such as wearing a bike helmet), develop self-esteem, and offer viable opinions with regards to family consumption decisions.

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite. Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave, futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small; Americans use associations to give fêtes, to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they create hospitals, prisons, schools. Finally, if it is a question of bringing to light a truth or developing a sentiment with the support of a great example, they associate.”

–Alexis de Tocqueville, Author of ‘Democracy in America’

Written by Jon McGraw

January 30th, 2017 at 12:43 pm

Markets Weren’t Quite Sure Which Direction to Move Last Week…

The Trump rally, which lost some steam, gained momentum early in the week. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index finished January 19, the day before the inauguration, with its biggest election-to-inauguration gain since Bill Clinton won a second term in 1996, according to MarketWatch, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average remained within striking distance of 20,000, according to Yahoo!Finance.

On Friday, President Trump delivered his inauguration address, but it didn’t resolve the uncertainty that has been nagging investors. The speech mentioned infrastructure activity, brushed over stimulus spending and tax cuts, and leaned heavily into protectionism. Mr. Trump said:

“America will start winning again, winning like never before. We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams. We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off of welfare and back to work – rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor. We will follow two simple rules; buy American and hire American.”

The market response to Friday’s speech was subdued, according to Financial Times:

“…with U.S. stocks edging higher, Treasuries putting in mixed performances and the dollar easing back against its main rivals. Oil prices rose sharply amid hopes that producers would show compliance to a global deal to cut output. Gold initially struggled for traction but held above the $1,200 an ounce mark.”

All major U.S. stock markets finished the week slightly lower, and 10-year Treasury yields finished the week slightly higher.

 

Data as of 1/20/17 1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks) -0.2% 1.5% 22.2% 7.2% 11.5% 4.8%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. -0.5 2.5 18.2 -2.6 2.3 -1.1
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 2.5 NA 2.0 2.8 2.0 4.8
Gold (per ounce) 0.9 3.6 9.0 -1.5 -6.2 6.5
Bloomberg Commodity Index -0.2 1.0 21.3 -10.9 -9.0 -5.8
DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index 0.7 0.8 18.8 11.8 11.3 4.7

 

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.

Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

 

TREMENDOUS. Awe-inspiring. Groundbreaking. OVERWHELMING. Those were just a few of the adjectives used to describe 2017’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which showcased all kinds of new technology. This year, gadgets and gizmos included wall-sized televisions that are as thin as house keys, computers that scan 2D and 3D objects, and beds that read biometric clues to warm your feet and reduce snoring. Here are a few notable trends that captured media attention:

Smart cars. Black Enterprise reported, “If there was one, star attraction at CES this year, arguably it was vehicles…Artificial intelligence is the power behind the new crop of autonomous, assistive vehicles. These cars not only self-drive, they can read your emotions, make snap decisions in the presence of danger on the road, and can even tell you about the flora and fauna at your destination site.”

Smarter homes. CNET Magazine wrote, “For…years, we’ve been saying the “real” smart home is just around the corner. But at CES 2017, it finally felt more tangible than ever before…Whether it’s lighting, DVRs, refrigerators, robot vacuums, home security systems, phones, or cars – to name just a few – the list of stuff you’ll be able to interact with…is set to explode in the coming months. And with such networked integration now becoming the rule rather than the exception in major appliances…there’s no turning back.”

Even smarter routers. Popular Science liked a new Wi-Fi router that “…rather than protecting each of your devices individually…will use…software to protect up to 20 laptops, computers, tablets, or smartphones – and an unlimited number of IoT devices – in one fell swoop…You’ll be able to monitor…all devices connected to the router, through a smartphone app…You can even tell the router to turn off internet access to certain devices – or devices linked to a particular profile – at certain times. So, you can make sure little Johnny isn’t up all night watching YouTube videos on any of his devices (except for his phone, maybe, but that’s your own dang fault for getting the kid a data plan).”

Of course, trends in technology are just one American story. Another trend, in some states, is the growing popularity of rural, sustainable, off-the-grid properties, according to NPR. “Despite the remoteness of these homes, they’re not backwoods shacks with sagging metal roofs. Some… listings sell for more than $1 million if there’s a lot of land and if water rights are included. The one with the helicopter pad is a spiffy, two-story log home with a wraparound porch.”

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

–Audre Lorde, African American writer

Written by Jon McGraw

January 23rd, 2017 at 3:29 pm

Around the World in a Few Paragraphs

The post-election adrenaline rush may be over in the United States. Barron’s reported:

“The new year began with high hopes, with the bulls expecting the rally that began with Donald J. Trump’s election victory to continue into 2017, while the bears salivated at the opportunity presented by a market that had gotten way ahead of itself. Instead, the market has failed to break up or down…At his press conference last week, Trump covered a lot of ground…But he didn’t cover the three subjects investors especially wanted to hear about – namely taxes, fiscal policy, and infrastructure. As a result, some of the primary beneficiaries of the Trump trade stalled: The S&P 500 Financials index declined 0.1 percent, while the energy sector dropped 1.9 percent.”

Investors in the Asia Pacific region were less optimistic last week, too. Disappointing economic and international trade data from China unsettled markets, as did uncertainty about the global trade policies the new U.S. administration will pursue. National indices for Australia, Japan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines finished the week lower.

In the United Kingdom, the FTSE 100 gained for the 14th consecutive day, closing at an all-time high for the 12th time in as many days, according to Trading Economics. Bloomberg reported European shares eked out a gain for the third straight week. Financials led the way after a large industry firm reported better-than-expected profits, inciting optimism about fourth quarter’s earnings season.

 

Data as of 1/13/17 1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks) -0.1% 1.6% 20.3% 7.7% 12.0% 4.7%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. 1.0 2.9 12.2 -2.3 3.2 -0.9
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 2.4 NA 2.1 2.8 1.9 4.8
Gold (per ounce) 1.2 2.7 9.4 -1.6 -6.2 6.6
Bloomberg Commodity Index -0.2 -0.2 14.0 -11.3 -9.3 -5.7
DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index -1.8 0.1 14.2 12.3 11.7 4.7

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.

Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

Burgernomics: Here’s A big mac index update

The Economist invented the Big Mac index in 1986 as an entertaining way to assess whether currencies were at the “correct” levels. The index reflects the idea that countries’ exchange rates should balance so the same product (in this case, a hamburger) costs the same in two different countries when the price is denominated in the same currency. After updating the index on January 11, 2017, The Economist reported the “all-meaty” dollar was stronger than usual:

“The dollar is now trading at a 14-year high in trade-weighted terms. Emerging-world economies may struggle to pay off dollar-denominated debts. American firms may find themselves at a disadvantage against foreign competition. And, American tourists will get more burgers for their buck in Europe.”

A Big Mac in the United States cost about $5.06 last week. In the Euro area, the price was about $4.06 and in Britain $3.73. A Big Mac is cheapest in Russia ($2.15) and most expensive in Switzerland ($6.35). Here are the prices of a Big Mac (a.k.a. the Maharaja Mac in India) in a few other locales:

Norway           $5.67

Sweden           $5.26

Brazil               $5.12

Japan               $3.26

China               $2.83

India                $2.49

Mexico            $2.23

It should be noted the Big Mac index is not a perfect measurement tool. The price of a burger should be less in countries with lower labor costs and more in countries with higher labor costs. When prices are adjusted for labor (using gross domestic product per person), the Brazilian real is the world’s most overvalued currency, followed by Pakistan and Thailand. The most undervalued currencies include Egypt, Malaysia, and Hong Kong.

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions of hope.”

–John Buchan, Former Governor General of Canada

Written by Jon McGraw

January 17th, 2017 at 5:09 pm