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Weekly Market Commentary, January 19, 2021

The Markets
 
Investors were rocked by economic data showing the economy hit the brakes hard in December.
 
Last week, major U.S. stock indices decelerated as investors gaped at the economic damage caused by the rising number of coronavirus cases around the world. There have been more than two million COVID-19 deaths globally, with more than 390,000 deaths in the United States. The spread has resulted in new lockdowns and restrictions and has hurt economic recovery.
 
Ben Levisohn of Barron’s reported:
 
“This past week – with the market looking ahead to the inauguration and what might
be in store following the Capitol riots and Donald Trump’s second impeachment –
was a terrible one for economic data. Whether it was small-business confidence,
consumer inflation, or just about anything else, the numbers painted a picture of an
economy that was slowing more rapidly than expected. Initial jobless claims, which
spiked to their highest level since August, and retail sales, which fell 0.7 percent,
were particularly frightening.”
 
On Thursday, President-elect Biden explained his $1.9 trillion economic relief package. The announcement of new stimulus didn’t move investors. That may be because the potential impact of a new stimulus plan has already been priced into markets, as has the new administration’s longer-term plans for infrastructure spending, reported Katherine Greifeld of Bloomberg. The relief package that passes Congress may be smaller – about $1.1 trillion, according to a Goldman Sachs economist cited by Randall Forsyth of Barron’s.
 
Investors are keeping an eye on inflation, which remains relatively low but has begun trending higher, according to Jeffry Bartash of MarketWatch. During the past few months, the core rate of inflation has remained below the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target. However, inflation expectations and bond yields have been moving higher, reported Jonnelle Marte, Ann Saphir, and Howard Schneider of Reuters. As bonds provide more attractive returns, income investors may shift away from stocks and into less risky opportunities.
 
Last week, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index lost more than 1 percent for the first time since October.
 
 
Trading teeth for treasure during the pandemic. Around the globe, the pandemic helped make 2020 one the most challenging years ever for dentists. The Dental Tribune reported most dental offices around the world closed their doors in March. While most eventually reopened, the impact on dental practices and suppliers was significant. Many adopted cost-cutting measures.
 
The Tooth Fairy did not suffer the same fate.
 
In August 2020, Delta Dental’s Original Tooth Fairy Poll® found, “…the Tooth Fairy’s average cash gift increased 30 cents for a lost tooth, for a total of $4.03 per tooth.” The value of a lost tooth has tripled since the poll began in 1998. (The Tooth Fairy exchange rate was about $1.30/tooth back then.)
 
Four dollars may seem steep, but the United States isn’t the only country where lost teeth command a high price. For example:
 
  • Japanese children receive ¥437.93 from the Tooth Fairy. That’s about $4.22.
  • Ireland and Spain, a baby tooth is worth €3.64 or $4.41.
  • Canadian kids receive $5.36 Canadian or $4.38 American.
  • Brazilian parents get off lighter. A tooth there is valued at R$17.12 or $3.27.
 
Visits from the Tooth Fairy offer teachable moments – times when kids may be interested in learning about money. One way to get the discussion going is to ask recipients of the Tooth Fairy’s generosity how they plan to spend the money. Once you’ve listened to the answer, you may want to offer other ideas like saving or donating part of the money. If you would like more ideas, let us know.
 
Weekly Focus – Think About It
 
“Inflation is when you pay fifteen dollars for the ten-dollar haircut you used to get for five dollars when you had hair.”
--Sam Ewing, Baseball player
 
Best regards,
 
Lee Barczak
President
 
* Government bonds and Treasury Bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value. However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate. *Corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds but normally offer a higher yield and are subject to market, interest rate and credit risk as well as additional risks based on the quality of issuer coupon rate, price, yield, maturity, and redemption features. * The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. You cannot invest directly in this index. * The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged index. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment. * The Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. Index covers approximately 95% of the market capitalization of the 45 developed and emerging countries included in the Index. * The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market. * Gold represents the afternoon gold price as reported by the London Bullion Market Association. The gold price is set twice daily by the London Gold Fixing Company at 10:30 and 15:00 and is expressed in U.S. dollars per fine troy ounce. * The Bloomberg Commodity Index is designed to be a highly liquid and diversified benchmark for the commodity futures market. The Index is composed of futures contracts on 19 physical commodities and was launched on July 14, 1998. * The DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index measures the total return performance of the equity subcategory of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry as calculated by Dow Jones. * Yahoo! Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods. * Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance. * Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful. * Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investing involves risk, including loss of principal. * You cannot invest directly in an index. * Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.
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Weekly Market Commentary (December 28, 2020)

The Markets
 
U.S. stock markets remained calm as a fresh chapter opened in the coronavirus stimulus saga last week.
 
Congress managed to cobble together a new stimulus package that was acceptable to both sides and pass it. The proposed package included money to help states distribute vaccines, an unemployment benefits extension, $600 checks for eligible Americans, aid for airlines, and other provisions, reported Mike Calia of CNBC.
 
“…fiscal support is seen as critical to keep the economic recovery from faltering as coronavirus cases rise and cities consider new shutdowns. Consumer spending has flagged, and labor market gains have begun to stall. While the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits declined last week, it still remains elevated compared with pre-COVID levels,” reported Colby Smith and Eric Platt of Financial Times.
 
President Trump disagreed with some provisions in the bill, reported Financial Times. Over the weekend, it was unclear whether he would sign it, veto it, or just hold it without taking action.
 
Since the $900 billion stimulus bill was attached to the $1.4 trillion government funding bill, the impact of a veto or inaction could be quite significant. “Without Trump’s signature, the government may partially shut down on Tuesday as funding runs out, though Congress could pass a stopgap measure,” reported Daren Fonda of Barron’s.
 
Stock investors appeared optimistic President Trump would sign the bill. News of a Brexit trade deal and a more contagious version of the virus in the United Kingdom had limited impact on U.S. markets.
 
All-in-all it was a quiet holiday week and major U.S. indices finished with mixed results. If the stimulus bill is not signed and a stopgap measure is not passed, markets could be volatile next week.
 

Data as of 12/24/20

1-Week

Y-T-D

1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks)

-0.2%

14.6%

14.9%

11.4%

12.4%

11.4%

Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.

-0.7

7.4

7.9

2.4

6.0

2.6

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

1.0

NA

1.9

2.5

2.2

3.4

Gold (per ounce)

-0.3

23.1

25.8

13.6

11.8

3.1

Bloomberg Commodity Index

-0.4

-4.8

-4.5

-3.9

-0.4

-7.0

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; 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, MarketWatch, 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.

THERE WILL ALWAYS BE RISKS.After a year of living with the fear of COVID-19, many investors are hoping 2021 will bring a return to ‘normal,’ even if the new normal may not be exactly like the old one.
 
Optimism about the future has many investors feeling bullish, according to most of the sentiment surveys listed in Barron’s last week.Financial Times reported, “Almost universally, fund managers believe the year will bring a rebound in economic activity, supporting assets that have already soared in value since the depths of the pandemic crisis in March, but also lifting sectors that had been left behind. Bond yields are expected to stay low, lending further support to stock valuations.”
 
This doesn’t mean 2021 will be risk free. In its December market sentiment survey, Deutsche Bank asked more than 900 market professionals about the biggest risks to global financial markets in 2021. Here are the concerns they highlighted:
 
38 percent      Virus mutates and vaccines are less effective
36 percent      Vaccine side effects emerge
34 percent      People refuse to take the vaccine
34 percent      Technology bubble bursts
26 percent      Central banks end stimulus too soon
22 percent      Inflation returns earlier than expected
 
It’s possible none of these will occur and investors will sail smoothly into and through the new year. We hope that’s the case and next year brings with it a return to normal. Just remember, normal doesn’t mean risk-free. In 2021, investors will still need to balance risk and reward on the journey toward their financial goals – just as they do every year.
 
Weekly Focus – Think About It
Qualities you need to get through medical school and residency: Discipline. Patience. Perseverance. A willingness to forgo sleep. A penchant for sadomasochism. Ability to weather crises of faith and self-confidence. Accept exhaustion as fact of life. Addiction to caffeine a definite plus. Unfailing optimism that the end is in sight.
--Khaled Hosseini, Novelist
 
Best regards,
 
Lee Barczak
President
 

 

* Government bonds and Treasury Bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value. However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate. *Corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds but normally offer a higher yield and are subject to market, interest rate and credit risk as well as additional risks based on the quality of issuer coupon rate, price, yield, maturity, and redemption features. * The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. You cannot invest directly in this index. * The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged index. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment. * The Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. Index covers approximately 95% of the market capitalization of the 45 developed and emerging countries included in the Index. * The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market. * Gold represents the afternoon gold price as reported by the London Bullion Market Association. The gold price is set twice daily by the London Gold Fixing Company at 10:30 and 15:00 and is expressed in U.S. dollars per fine troy ounce. * The Bloomberg Commodity Index is designed to be a highly liquid and diversified benchmark for the commodity futures market. The Index is composed of futures contracts on 19 physical commodities and was launched on July 14, 1998. * The DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index measures the total return performance of the equity subcategory of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry as calculated by Dow Jones. * Yahoo! Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods. * Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance. * Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful. * Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investing involves risk, including loss of principal. * You cannot invest directly in an index. * Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.
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Weekly Market Commentary December 23, 2020

 

The Markets
 
Congress is at $900 billion, will they hear $1.4 trillion, $1.4 trillion, governments at $900 billion, who’ll go $1.4 trillion, $1.4 trillion…
 
The stimulus auction continued last week. Early on Sunday, The New York Times reported, “Lawmakers are on the brink of agreement on a $900 billion compromise relief bill after breaking through an impasse late Saturday night, with votes on final legislation expected to unfold as early as Sunday afternoon and very likely just hours before the government is set to run out of funding.”
 
Among other items, policymakers’ plan to deliver new stimulus and fund the government is expected to include:
 
  • $600 relief checks
  •  $300/week of enhanced jobless benefits through early spring
  • $15 billion for airlines
  • $14 billion for public transit systems
  • $10 billion for state highways
  • $2 billion for airports
  • $2 billion for motorcoach, school bus, and ferry industries
 
The Federal Reserve met last week, too. It affirmed it will continue to hold rates near zero and purchase $120 billion of bonds every month. Nalak Das of Nasdaq reported:
 
“A low interest rate will reduce the cost of capital for businesses, while consumers will have a lesser propensity to save due to a low deposit rate. Therefore, higher spending by businesses and consumers is likely to bolster the overall economy and raise stock prices. In its latest projection, the Fed forecast the GDP [*] to decline 2.4 percent in 2020, reflecting an improvement over September's projection of a decline of 3.7 percent.”
 
*Gross Domestic Product is the value of all goods and services produced in the nation.
 
Major U.S. stock indices moved higher last week.
 
 
If you can keep your head when everyone around you is bullish... (Apologies to Rudyard Kipling for paraphrasing his poem, If.) Tis the season when everyone assesses where we’ve been and where we might be going. Last week, a lot of research companies and publications explored investor confidence and expectations. Here is a brief review of the commentary being offered:
 
“The Great Reflation Trade of 2021: Most Optimistic Survey in its Six-Year History.” Absolute Strategy Research published its survey of probabilities, which asked chief investment officers, asset allocators, economists, and multi-asset strategists to describe their 12-month outlook for financial markets. The results the most optimistic result in six years with 81 percent of those participating saying they were bullish.
 
Froth or fundamentals? What explains investors’ enthusiasm for risky assets?” The Economist wrote, “…equities have become more attractive than bonds – at first probably because bond yields fell so quickly, boosting the relative appeal of stocks, but lately thanks to the vaccine heralding the return of growth and profits, which a modest increase in yields has not offset. The rise in share prices alone, then, is probably not enough to indicate a mania…”
 
“The S&P 500 Could Gain Another 10% Next Year, Experts Say.” Barron’s cover article sported this optimistic headline and confidently reported, “This year brought heartache to Main Street but joy to Wall Street. Next year, if vaccines vanquish the coronavirus, as expected, and the economy rebounds, it could be a time of celebration for both.”
 
Gleeful consensus on equities sparks concern over ‘groupthink’” Financial Time’s Naomi Rovnick spoke with the head of behavioral finance at a British consulting firm about exceptional levels of bullishness. He said, “‘This year has been dominated by one story, which is COVID, and this is a very new and unusual situation that financial forecasters have no pre-existing framework to use to form their views…It is likely they are cleaving to consensus more than they otherwise would.’”
 
No matter what you read about what’s to come, the important thing to remember is this: “No one can predict the markets. The overwhelming evidence from decades of academic research is that nobody can reliably and accurately forecast what the stock market will do,” reported Jeff Sommer of The New York Times.
 
Weekly Focus – Think About It
 
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
 --Helen Keller, Author and lecturer
 
 
 
Best regards,
 
Lee Barczak
President
 
* Government bonds and Treasury Bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value. However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate. *Corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds but normally offer a higher yield and are subject to market, interest rate and credit risk as well as additional risks based on the quality of issuer coupon rate, price, yield, maturity, and redemption features. * The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. You cannot invest directly in this index. * The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged index. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment. * The Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. Index covers approximately 95% of the market capitalization of the 45 developed and emerging countries included in the Index. * The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market. * Gold represents the afternoon gold price as reported by the London Bullion Market Association. The gold price is set twice daily by the London Gold Fixing Company at 10:30 and 15:00 and is expressed in U.S. dollars per fine troy ounce. * The Bloomberg Commodity Index is designed to be a highly liquid and diversified benchmark for the commodity futures market. The Index is composed of futures contracts on 19 physical commodities and was launched on July 14, 1998. * The DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index measures the total return performance of the equity subcategory of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry as calculated by Dow Jones. * Yahoo! Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods. * Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance. * Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful. * Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investing involves risk, including loss of principal. * You cannot invest directly in an index. * Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.
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Weekly Market Commentary, December 14, 2020

 

 The Markets
 
When it comes to beverages, frothy can be delicious.
 
In what may be the least inspiring description of fizzy drinks ever written, a group of food engineers explained, “Aeration in beverages, which is manifested as foam or bubbles, increases the sensory preference among consumers.”
 
Stock markets can fizz up, too. Share prices bubble, enthusiastic investors invest, and prices go even higher. In a frothy market, share prices often rise above estimates of underlying value. The terms that describe this financial market phenomenon include irrational exuberance, animal spirits, and overconfidence.
 
Last week, there was speculation about whether some parts of the U.S. stock market have gotten frothy. Eric Platt, David Carnevali, and Michael Mackenzie of Financial Times wrote about an initial public offering (IPO) of stock by a hospitality company. They reported:
 
 
“…[the share price] more than doubled in value on Thursday in a return to the kind of
mammoth pops that came to define the dotcom boom of the late 1990s…It’s a sign of
frothiness, a sign of incredible demand, a sign of a retail investor that…just wants to
get in.”
 
That observation about investor enthusiasm for stocks was supported by the AAII Sentiment Survey. Last week, 48.1 percent of participants were bullish. The long-term average is 38 percent. (Some believe the survey is a contrarian indicator. When bullishness is stronger than usual, contrarian investors would adopt a bearish stance, and vice versa.)
 
Despite IPO fervor, major U.S. stock indices finished lower last week. The decline has been attributed to a lack of new stimulus from Congress rather than concerns about high share prices. Inflation worries may have played a role, too. Last week, headlines in both The Economist and The Wall Street Journal suggested the post-pandemic world may include higher inflation.
 
Wall Street’s fear gauge, the CBOE Volatility Index edged higher last week, reported Ben Levisohn of Barron’s. It’s at about 24.6, which is above its long-term average of 19. That’s a sign markets may be volatile during the next few weeks.
 
 
A HOLIDAY SEASON LIKE NO OTHER. The coronavirus, which The Economist estimates has infected one-in-five Americans, is reshaping holiday traditions this year. “COVID-19 is playing on shoppers’ psyches as they weigh its impact on their health and finances. But, as we’ve seen with previous periods of recession, as well as those of growth, consumers are resilient and will adjust their habits to adapt,” reported Deloitte’s 2020 holiday retail sales consumer survey report:
 
  • 33 percent of survey participants were in a worse financial position than last year, especially those in lower income groups.
  • 40 percent planned to spend less on the holidays than they did last year because they are concerned about the economy.
  •  51 percent were anxious about shopping in stores because of COVID-19. Deloitte estimated shoppers would spend about $390 of their holiday budgets in stores and $892 online.
 
The Deloitte survey identified four types of holiday shoppers:
 
  •   The Festive Shopper: “These shoppers are all about buying gifts for others, keeping up with conventional shopping routines. They also outspend other types of shoppers.”
  • The Conscious Shopper: “These shoppers care about society and are willing to ‘put their money where their mouth is’ by paying more for socially responsible products.”
  •  The Deal-Seeker: These shoppers “…enjoy the search for the right gift at the right price and will spend weeks shopping. [They’re] up for browsing and sifting through digital platforms, including social media, for attractive options.”
  • The Efficient Shopper: These shoppers “…aren’t in the mood to browse or get caught up in time-sucking events, like Black Friday. Shopping is a task and they’ll seek out the easiest way to get it done.”
 
Do you recognize yourself in any of these descriptions?
 
Weekly Focus – Think About It
 
Beware the investment activity that produces applause; the great moves are usually greeted by yawns.”
--Warren Buffett, Investor
 
Best regards,
 
Lee Barczak
President
 
* Government bonds and Treasury Bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value. However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate. *Corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds but normally offer a higher yield and are subject to market, interest rate and credit risk as well as additional risks based on the quality of issuer coupon rate, price, yield, maturity, and redemption features. * The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. You cannot invest directly in this index. * The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged index. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment. * The Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. Index covers approximately 95% of the market capitalization of the 45 developed and emerging countries included in the Index. * The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market. * Gold represents the afternoon gold price as reported by the London Bullion Market Association. The gold price is set twice daily by the London Gold Fixing Company at 10:30 and 15:00 and is expressed in U.S. dollars per fine troy ounce. * The Bloomberg Commodity Index is designed to be a highly liquid and diversified benchmark for the commodity futures market. The Index is composed of futures contracts on 19 physical commodities and was launched on July 14, 1998. * The DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index measures the total return performance of the equity subcategory of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry as calculated by Dow Jones. * Yahoo! Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods. * Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance. * Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful. * Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investing involves risk, including loss of principal. * You cannot invest directly in an index. * Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.
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Weekly Market Commentary, December 9, 2020

The Markets
 
When is bad news good news? Take a look at last week.
 
Major stock indices in the United States hit all-time highs on Friday, despite a lackluster employment report and a surge in COVID-19 cases, reported Lewis Krauskopf of Reuters. During the week, we saw: 
 
  • The slowest jobs growth since the economic recovery began. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 245,000 jobs were created in November. “…a key sign of holiday enthusiasm – the hiring of thousands of workers to help with the holiday retail rush – simply didn’t happen this year. Some of those workers – but clearly not enough – are helping with online shopping duties, filling warehouses around the country, or driving vans from house to house,” reported Avi Salzman of Barron’s.
 
  • New unemployment claims remain steady. More than one million people a week are filing first time jobless claims, reported Dion Rabouin of Axios. On November 14, more than 20 million Americans were receiving unemployment assistance.
 
It’s difficult to know how much weight to give this data since the Government
Accountability Office shared weekly unemployment insurance estimates issued by the
Department of Labor “… have potentially both overestimated and underestimated the
total number of individuals actually claiming unemployment insurance…due to state
backlogs in processing claims and other data issues…”
 
COVID-19 cases spiked across the United States. Coronavirus-related deaths hit a one-day record last week, and “…hospitalizations surpassed 100,000 for the first time this week, leaving hospitals in some regions of the country without enough beds in intensive-care units to meet their patients’ needs,” reported Melanie Evans of The Wall Street Journal. This is undermining consumer confidence and depressing economic activity.
 
In light of this news, why were markets bullish?
 
Signs the economic recovery is faltering create a strong incentive for Congress to pass a stimulus bill in 2020 instead of delaying until next year, reported Barron’s. An analyst cited by the publication said, “Under the circumstances, it is hard to be a seller of any risk asset as long as there is a good possibility of getting a deal done…”
 
During the next few months, markets may be quite volatile. Hang tight and keep your eyes on your long-term financial goals.
 
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; 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, MarketWatch, 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.
 
What does it take to be middle class in the united States? The not-so-simple answer is it depends on how you define ‘middle class.’
 
In a 2018 report, Pew Research Center defined middle class as middle income. “In our analysis, “middle-income” Americans are adults whose annual household income is two-thirds to double the national median, after incomes have been adjusted for household size. In 2016, the national middle-income range was about $45,200 to $135,600 annually for a household of three.”
 
In November, USA Today shared an analysis by Michael Sauter that adopted a different standard. It considered U.S. family income from “…the lower boundary of the second quintile and the upper boundary of the fourth quintile [of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey], representing in total 60 percent of American families…The analysis made some cost-of-living adjustments and found, “…the range of income that could be considered middle class in a given state.”
 
In the states with the highest median (the number in the middle of the list) family incomes, middle-class income ranged from:
 
  • Massachusetts:    $35,233 to $188,259
  • New Jersey:         $39,920 to $197,868
 
States in the middle of the pack for median family income had these middle-class income ranges:
 
  • Wyoming:             $25,760 to $111,422
  •  Kansas:                $24,741 to $105,573
  • Iowa:                    $24,663 to $101,008
 
In the states with the lowest median family incomes, the middle-class income range was:
 
  •  West Virginia:       $17,452 to $85,516
  • Mississippi:           $15,165 to $81,480
 
It’s interesting to note the 2020 federal poverty threshold set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which determines eligibility for various federal programs, was $26,200 for a family of four.
 
Not everyone uses income to define the middle class. Richard V. Reeves, Katherine Guyot, and Eleanor Krause of Brookings explored the question, asking:
 
“Is middle-class status a reflection of economic resources, especially income or wealth? Or is it denoted more clearly by occupational status and/or educational attainment? Is it, rather, a state of mind, a set of aspirations, or revealed through behavior, cultural tastes, or by certain kinds of consumption? Is it a question of how we define ourselves?”
 
What do you think?
 
Weekly Focus – Think About It
 
“I wasn't going to be an actor. I was going to be a lawyer. I came from a family just above working class, just below middle class, a great family of wonderful values. The idea of me having a chance for a law degree was enticing. Enticing to me but also very enticing to my family.
--Gerard Butler, Actor
 
Best regards,
 
Lee Barczak
President
 
* Government bonds and Treasury Bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value. However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate. *Corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds but normally offer a higher yield and are subject to market, interest rate and credit risk as well as additional risks based on the quality of issuer coupon rate, price, yield, maturity, and redemption features. * The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. You cannot invest directly in this index. * The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged index. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment. * The Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. Index covers approximately 95% of the market capitalization of the 45 developed and emerging countries included in the Index. * The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market. * Gold represents the afternoon gold price as reported by the London Bullion Market Association. The gold price is set twice daily by the London Gold Fixing Company at 10:30 and 15:00 and is expressed in U.S. dollars per fine troy ounce. * The Bloomberg Commodity Index is designed to be a highly liquid and diversified benchmark for the commodity futures market. The Index is composed of futures contracts on 19 physical commodities and was launched on July 14, 1998. * The DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index measures the total return performance of the equity subcategory of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry as calculated by Dow Jones. * Yahoo! Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods. * Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance. * Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful. * Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investing involves risk, including loss of principal. * You cannot invest directly in an index. * Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.
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Contact Details

Morgan Kenwood Advisors, LLC
5130 West Loomis Road
Greendale, WI 53129-1424
Phone: (414) 423-4020
Fax: (414) 423-4023
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.