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Weekly Market Commentary (August 10, 2015)

Weekly Market Commentary

August 10, 2015

 

The Markets

Back to school…back to higher interest rates?

After a solid July jobs report arrived on Friday – 215,000 new jobs were created and unemployment remained at 5.3 percent – analysts were pretty confident there would be ample support for a Federal Reserve rate increase (a.k.a. liftoff) in September. Bloomberg reported the odds of a September liftoff shot from 38 percent to 52 percent just last week.

The pending rate increase was not a surprise, but investors were ruffled and U.S. stock markets moved lower. According to Barron’s, the Dow Jones Industrial Index has lost value for seven days – its longest losing streak in four years.

However, nobody was reaching for a panic button:

“…The decline in U.S. stocks has raised few alarms in part because it’s been gradual and doesn’t seem tied to any fundamental flaws in the economy. The natural drift of the market now is lower because, frankly, there are few obvious catalysts to lift stocks higher. Large-company U.S. stocks fetch valuations well above their historical averages and their earnings aren’t growing. Paying more for these stocks ahead of a Fed rate increase equates to “fighting the Fed,” a prospect investors look upon almost as favorably as sticking their fingers in an electrical outlet.”

The Fed rate increase is expected to be slow and gradual, but no one is certain what will happen after it begins. Russ Koesterich, Chief Global Investment Strategist at BlackRock, expects, “Short-term bonds will be most affected by higher rates, while longer-term bond yields should inch up at a gentler pace. High-dividend stocks that have served as “bond market proxies” are also likely to suffer, but overall, stocks’ reaction to liftoff should be relatively tempered.”


Data as of 8/7/15

1-Week

Y-T-D

1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks)

-1.3%

0.9%

8.8%

14.0%

13.0%

5.4%

Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.

-0.8

1.6

-4.7

5.7

2.8

2.5

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

2.2

NA

2.4

1.6

2.8

4.4

Gold (per ounce)

-0.5

-8.8

-16.7

-12.1

-1.9

9.6

Bloomberg Commodity Index

-1.4

-13.3

-29.2

-14.3

-7.7

-5.7

DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index

0.0

-0.9

9.3

10.2

12.5

7.7

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.

are you overwhelmed at work?Last year, the most popular chapter in Deloitte University Press’ Global Human Capital Trends 2014 report was titled, “the overwhelmed employee.” It’s not all that hard to understand when you consider just these facts from the 2015 report:

  • 100 billion emails are exchanged every day.
  • About 14 percent of those emails are vitally important.
  • One-fourth of the average workday is spent reading and answering email.
  • We check mobile phones 150 plus times each day, on average, for work/personal information.

In addition to technology and round-the-clock work demands, the complexity of workplace practices, processes, and jobs contribute to employee inundation. According to Deloitte, approximately three-fourths of survey participants said their workplaces were complex or highly complex.

Now, a new wind is blowing. It’s simplification. The Global Human Capital Trends 2015 report found 10 percent of companies surveyed have programs in place to simplify work practices and another 44 percent plan to put these programs in place.

It’s a trend that could have an effect on companies that aren’t taking action. The bottom line, according to the report:

“Technology, globalization, and compliance needs continuously add complexity to work. Left unaddressed, this can lead to an organizational environment that damages employee engagement, lowers quality, and reduces innovation and customer service.”

Companies that are reducing complexity and focusing on what really matters may gain a competitive edge, said Deloitte.

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“In the 20th century, the United States endured two world wars and other traumatic and expensive military conflicts; the Depression; a dozen or so recessions and financial panics; oil shocks; a flu epidemic; and the resignation of a disgraced president. Yet the Dow rose from 66 to 11,497.”

--Warren Buffett, legendary investor

 

Best regards,

Lee R 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.

Continue reading
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Weekly Market Commentary (August 3, 2015)

Weekly Market Commentary

August 3, 2015

 

The Markets

The market is flat.

That’s right. It’s a rare occurrence – something that has happened just 12 times since 1926, according to Fortune – but the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (S&P 500) has remained in a narrow trading range for seven months. For every sector that has delivered performance gains (for instance, healthcare, software, and consumer discretionary), there has been one with losses that have offset those gains (for instance, energy, materials, and industrials).

The S&P 500’s unremarkable gains year-to-date are owed to just a handful of stocks, which Barron’s said means the market has bad breadth. That’s not a good sign, but it’s not a bad sign, either. Less breadth doesn’t always signal the end of a bull market:

“Big downturns are almost always preceded by a lack of breadth, which is one reason some folks are preparing for the end. There’s only one problem: Declining breadth doesn’t always signal the end of a bull market. From September 4 to October 13 of last year, the S&P 500 outperformed the equal-weighted version of the index by more than 1.5 percentage points [a measure indicating lack of breadth], leading to similar calls that it was time to bail. The S&P 500 gained 8.5 percent during the next three months.”

Fortune’s analyst reviewed the historical data for the dozen years that offered similar market performance during the first seven months of the year and found thata range of outcomes is possible. The S&P 500 Index could:

a) Remain relatively flat: It happened in 1994.

b) Deliver a loss over the full year: It happened in 1930, 1941, and 1990.

c) Deliver a gain over the full year: It happened during the remaining eight years.

The median return for the twelve years was 6 percent.

Reading stock market tea leaves is no easy task. That’s why it’s important to remain focused on your financial goals and the strategies you’ve selected to help pursue them.

 


Data as of 7/31/15

1-Week

Y-T-D

1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks)

1.2%

2.2%

9.0%

15.1%

13.3%

5.5%

Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.

0.5

2.4

-6.1

6.8

3.1

2.7

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

2.2

NA

2.6

1.5

3.0

4.3

Gold (per ounce)

1.6

-8.4

-14.5

-12.2

-1.6

9.8

Bloomberg Commodity Index

-1.6

-12.0

-28.3

-14.0

-7.5

-5.5

DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index

1.0

-0.9

9.1

9.9

12.4

6.8

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.

if you sleep more, you may earn more money. Researchers were trying to evaluate the importance of sleep so they focused on two American cities in a single time zone: Huntsville, Alabama (on the eastern edge of the central time zone) and Amarillo, Texas (on the western edge of the same time zone). The sun sets an hour later in Amarillo, so the assumption was made that people get less sleep in Amarillo than they do in Huntsville.

The findings reported in Time Use and Productivity: The Wage Returns to Sleep, by Matthew Gibson of Williams College and Jeffrey Shrader of the University of California-San Diego, were people who get one hour less shuteye, over a long period of time, earn about 4.5 percent less.

From an economic perspective, the idea may seem counterintuitive. After all, when you’re snoozing you’re not producing. However, from a psychological point of view, it makes a lot more sense. A British study of 21,000 employees found those who slept six hours or less each night were less productive than employees who slept for seven or eight hours.

Of course, sleep wasn’t the only issue that lowered productivity. According to the study, physical inactivity, financial worries, mental health issues, musculoskeletal issues, bullying, impossible deadlines, and unpaid caregiving all negatively affected workers’ output.

Sleep issues, however, may become more important as we become attached to devices like tablets, laptops, and smart phones. Research described in Scientific American found two hours of tablet use before bedtime suppressed melatonin release. Melatonin is a hormone that lets us know it’s time to sleep.

So, if you’re having trouble getting to sleep and use a smart phone or tablet before bed, you may want to turn down the brightness of your glowing screens before bed – or switch back to good old-fashioned books.

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success… such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.”

--Nikola Tesla, Inventor of the Tesla Coil

Best regards,

Lee R 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.

Continue reading
784 Hits

The Market (July 27, 2015)

Weekly Market Commentary

July 27, 2015

 

The Markets

 

There was a spate of bad news last week, and it drove U.S. markets lower.

 

China’s wild ride isn’t over yet. The Purchasing Managers’ Index, a private measure of Chinese manufacturing, came in below expectations at 48.2, according to BloombergBusiness. Results below 50 indicate the sector is contracting. That doesn’t bode well for growth in China, which is the biggest global consumer of metals, grains, and energy, or the rest of the world.

 

Things weren’t rosy in the United States either. Sales of new homes in June came in below expectations, and the median new home price fell from a year ago. That news was a U-turn from recent data indicating strength in the housing market.

 

Earnings news was also less than stellar. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index is kind of pricey, according to Reuters, and second quarter earnings for companies in the index were mixed. Seventy-four percent of companies beat earnings expectations but not nearly as many delivered on expected revenues.

 

Earnings weren’t the only issue on investors’ minds. Last week, the Federal Reserve has signaled a September rate hike was a possibility. This week it inadvertently released a confidential staff forecast that included estimates for inflation, unemployment, economic growth, and the fed funds rate. The Washington Post reported:

 

“Currently, the fed funds rate is between 0 and 0.25 percent, the same level it has been since the financial crisis hit in 2008… The staff prediction is that the prevailing fed funds rate during the fourth quarter will be 0.35 percent. Though there is no reference to exactly when or how that could happen, analysts say the most likely way is for the central bank to raise its target rate in September.”

 

Experts cited by Barron’s cautioned, “…it’s not the first rate hike that’s important. It is what comes after that.” Stay tuned.

 


Data as of 7/24/15

1-Week

Y-T-D

1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks)

-2.2%

1.0%

4.6%

15.8%

13.3%

5.4%

Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.

-2.0

1.9

-8.4

8.3

3.5

2.8

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

2.3

NA

2.5

1.4

3.0

4.3

Gold (per ounce)

-4.6

-9.9

-16.4

-12.0

-1.8

9.8

Bloomberg Commodity Index

-4.4

-10.6

-27.7

-13.1

-6.4

-5.0

DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index

-0.5

-1.9

5.8

10.4

12.7

6.9

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.

 

a high school degree. Companies often take an interest in education. Some involve themselves in community outreach efforts, sending employees to teach financial literacy or educate students about careers that demand knowledge of a particular field of study. Others have foundations that provide financial support to school districts.

 

Recently, a new model of assistance was introduced. Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-Tech) were the brainchild of New York City, City University of New York, and a large technology company. The schools offer a six-year educational program that combines public high school, community college courses, and paid work experience. Students graduate with an associate degree and it doesn’t cost them a penny of tuition.

 

The first six students graduated from P-Tech – two years early – in June 2015. All received job offers from the technology company. Three accepted and three decided to go on to college. The Economist described one graduate, who opted for employment:

 

“He applies his programming and technical skills to a digital platform that provides market research to his colleagues. It is a good job: he makes $50,000 a year, has a health-care package, and a pension plan. Mr. Saddler is 18 years old. He earned his high-school diploma last month. A few weeks before finishing school, he also received an associate degree in computer systems technology.”

 

Experts cited by U.S. News & World Report explained early college high schools help bridge the gap for students from low-income families who sometimes struggle with the transition from high school to college or university.

 

Since about 30 percent of the companies in the United States cannot fill open positions, P-Tech is an idea that’s gaining traction. More than 70 small and large companies are collaborating with high schools and colleges to promote the concept. Twenty-seven schools have been introduced in New York, Connecticut, and Illinois, to date. Colorado is expected to be the next state to follow suit.

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It

 

“Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.”

--Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the United States

 

 

Best regards,

Lee R 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.

Continue reading
878 Hits

The Markets (July 20, 2015)

Weekly Market Commentary

July 20, 2015

 

The Markets

 

Investors around the world breathed a sigh of relief last week.

It wafted many markets higher. The NASDAQ jumped by more than 4 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 2.4 percent. France’s national benchmark index rose 4.5 percent, Germany’s was up 3.2 percent, Italy’s increased by 3.6 percent, and China’s Shanghai Composite was up 2.1 percent. So, what happened? 

Global markets stabilized.

First, the Chinese stock market staunched its wounds and recovered some value, which eased investors’ worries. According to Barron’s, by the end of the week, the Shanghai Composite Index was up 13 percent from its early July low. The market’s recovery owed much to Chinese government intervention. BloombergBusiness explained:

“Chinese policy makers have gone to unprecedented lengths to put a floor under the market as they seek to bolster consumer confidence and prevent soured loans backed by equities from infecting the financial system. Over the past few weeks, they’ve banned large shareholders from selling stakes, ordered state-run institutions to buy shares, and let more than half of the companies on mainland exchanges halt trading.”

Investors also were appreciative when Greece reached an agreement with its creditors. It accepted austerity measures, which voters had soundly rejected with a ‘no’ vote on July 5 to forge a bailout agreement with European Union (EU) leaders.

That doesn’t mean the Greek debt debacle is over. Late last week, the International Monetary Fund issued a memo indicating it would not support a bailout for Greece unless significant debt relief was involved. Neither the EU nor the European Central Bank is interested in forgiving Greek debt. In fact, that was one of the main reasons negotiations with creditors failed the first time around.


Data as of 7/17/15

1-Week

Y-T-D

1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks)

2.4%

3.3%

8.6%

16.0%

14.7%

5.7%

Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.

1.7

3.9

-5.3

8.1

4.7

3.1

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

2.4

NA

2.5

1.5

3.0

4.2

Gold (per ounce)

-2.3

-5.5

-13.0

-10.6

-0.8

10.4

Bloomberg Commodity Index

-1.8

-6.5

-25.0

-11.6

-5.1

-4.7

DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index

0.9

-1.4

7.5

9.3

14.5

7.1

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 you missing out on a possible triple tax advantage? If you have a high deductible health insuranceplan and you’re not contributing the maximum to a health savings account (HSA), then you may be missing out. A study cited by The Washington Post found just one in 20 people with HSAs take full advantage of the opportunity.

In general, HSAs offer three tax benefits:

  1. Contributions are federally tax-deductible up to certain limits ($3,350 for a single person and $6,650 for a family in 2015; add $1,000 to those limits if you’re age 55 or older).
  2. Any interest earned on money in an HSA grows tax-deferred.
  3. Withdrawals used to pay qualified medical expenses are income tax free.

Tax advantages aren’t the only reason to open an HSA. Money set aside in these accounts can be used to pay health insurance deductibles as well as qualified medical expenses. Although, according to The New York Times, determining which products can be purchased with HSA savings can be confusing:

“Under a change enacted with the Affordable Care Act, most over-the-counter drugs, like common allergy medications or pain relievers, are HSA-eligible only if you get a prescription for them from your doctor. On the other hand, items like sunscreen and contact lens solution are eligible for purchase – without a prescription – with your HSA funds.”

 HSA assets also can be used to pay health insurance premiums (if workers are receiving unemployment benefits) and long-term care premiums.

It’s important to make sure HSA funds are used for qualified expenses because any money withdrawn for non-qualified expenses is taxed as ordinary income, plus a 20 percent penalty tax is assessed if the account holder is younger than age 65.

That brings us to another advantage provided by HSAs. Kiplinger.com explained money not spent during the contribution year remains in the account. Any earnings grow tax-deferred and the savings that accumulate may be used for qualified medical expenses in the future or, once the account holder reaches age 65, for living expenses. In the latter case, withdrawals may be taxed as ordinary income.

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”

--Yogi Berra, American baseball player

 

Best regards,

Lee R 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.

Continue reading
1020 Hits

The Markets (July 13, 2015)

It’s a cautionary tale…

 

Many Chinese investors were so optimistic about the prospects for Chinese stock markets they bought on margin, meaning they borrowed money to buy stocks. Borrowing to invest has been so popular that the amount of margin loans doubled in just six months to about $320 billion, according to Barron’s. Experts cited in the article said, “…margin financing in China is equal in size to Indonesia’s entire stock market valuation and as high a portion as it has been in any market at any time…”

 

The problem with buying on margin is repaying the loan if stocks move in the wrong direction. Since the middle of June, Chinese stock markets have lost more than $3 trillion, reported CNN.com. Barron’s explained how margin works:

 

“In China, a typical investor can borrow $1.25 for every dollar of cash she has, giving her what China calls a “guarantee ratio” of 180 percent, or $2.25 (cash and stock bought on margin) divided by $1.25 (loan value). But, as her stock loses value, the guarantee ratio also falls. At 150 percent, the broker will start to issue margin calls. When the ratio hits 130 percent, the brokerage will force the liquidation of the position to meet the loan.”

 

About 80 percent of the investors in China’s markets live in China. Many have suffered significant losses as markets have moved lower.

 

The BBC reported China’s market regulator responded to the market downturn by making it even easier for people to borrow money to invest. Apparently, the hope is small investors will put more money in stocks. Regulators also banned investors who hold 5 percent or more of a company’s stock from selling their shares for six months.

 

By the middle of last week, Chinese markets had stopped losing value. Only time will tell whether they have truly stabilized.

 

Closer to home, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) suffered a computer glitch that halted trading for several hours last week. The NYSE tweeted, “The issue we are experiencing is an internal technical issue and is not the result of a cyber breach.”

 


Data as of 7/10/15

1-Week

Y-T-D

1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks)

0.0%

0.9%

5.7%

15.7%

14.0%

5.5%

Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.

-1.5

2.2

-6.7

7.5

4.3

3.0

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

2.4

NA

2.5

1.5

3.1

4.1

Gold (per ounce)

-0.7

-3.3

-13.5

-10.1

-0.8

10.6

Bloomberg Commodity Index

-2.5

-4.8

-24.3

-10.3

-4.6

-4.5

DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index

1.8

-2.3

6.8

10.1

14.2

6.9

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.

 

Big data is making the news. A well-known search engine company has introduced a cloud-based big data service and a news laboratory which provides data about trends to journalists. During 2014 and 2015, it provided:

 

  • The Economist with information about the employers and industry sectors that were most popular with American job seekers.
  • TIME with five of the top trending people and topics for 2014: Ebola, the Ice Bucket Challenge, Ferguson [Missouri], Vladimir Putin, and Dilma Rousseff.
  • The New York Times with a state-by-state assessment of popular Thanksgiving foods. In California they like persimmon bread; in Texas it was sopapilla cheesecake; in Minnesota they were searching for wild rice casserole; and in New York the favorite was stuffed artichokes.
  • The Washington Post with data on depression, pain, anxiety, stress, and fatigue, so it could create a daily misery index for the year.
  • Buzzfeed and Vocativ with British and American political data, including the most searched candidate names and questions most frequently asked of candidates.

 

The search engine also tracks what we don’t know or can’t remember. For instance, it has created a cocktail tool to provide instructions for making the drinks most frequently sought in online searches and a nutrition comparison tool to facilitate food smack downs (mashed potatoes beat sweet potatoes for sugar, but sweet potatoes win when it comes to Vitamin A, potassium, and calcium).

 

Always remember: When you go online and use certain search engines, your data is being stored and sorted. It’s important to know.

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It

 

“We think too small, like the frog at the bottom of the well. He thinks the sky is only as big as the top of the well. If he surfaced, he would have an entirely different view.”

--Mao Zedong, Former Chairman of the Communist Party of China

 

 

Best regards,

Lee R 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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