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Weekly Market Commentary (June 6, 2016)

Statistics means never having to say your certain, and that was certainly true last week.

The employment report, which was released on Friday, was a bit short on jobs. Analysts had predicted employers would add about 162,000 new jobs during May, according to CNBC. Instead, a paltry 38,000 jobs added to payrolls.

The United States Department of Labor focused on the fact the United States has experienced 75 consecutive months of private-sector jobs growth, as well as the significant decline in unemployment. The unemployment rate fell from 5.0 percent to 4.7 percent – but it was largely attributed to Americans leaving the labor force.

United States Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez commented, “At this point in a recovery, we expect to see trade-offs between job growth and strong wage growth. Earnings growth in May was encouraging. So far this year, average hourly earnings for private employees have increased 3.2 percent at an annual rate.”

The anemic employment report triggered concern that U.S. economic recovery may be slowing. That, in turn, means the Federal Reserve may not implement measures designed to push interest rates higher during its June meeting. CNBC reported the probability of a Fed rate hike dropped from 21 percent to 4 percent after the employment report.

U.S. markets were nonplussed. Barron’s reported the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index finished the week flat. The Dow Jones Industrial Index moved slightly lower, and the NASDAQ showed a slight gain.


Data as of 6/3/16

1-Week

Y-T-D

1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks)

0.0%

2.7%

-0.7%

8.6%

10.1%

5.2%

Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.

0.7

0.0

-12.6

-1.0

-1.5

-0.3

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

1.7

NA

2.4

2.1

3.0

5.0

Gold (per ounce)

2.0

16.8

4.2

-4.0

-4.2

6.8

Bloomberg Commodity Index

1.9

10.9

-13.7

-12.9

-12.1

-6.9

DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index

1.0

7.6

13.7

10.2

11.3

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; 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.

what are your wages worth? We’ve written about The Economist’s Big Mac Index, which is a lighthearted way to gauge whether countries’ currencies are at the correct levels – just compare the price of a hamburger in each country. At the start of the year, you could buy a Big Mac pretty cheaply in Russia ($1.53), Hong Kong ($2.48), or Taiwan ($2.08).

There are differences in how much things cost from state-to-state, too. Pew Research Center used federal wage data to determine which regions of the United States had the lowest and highest wages after adjusting for differences in cost-of-living:

“As we’ve noted before, prices for everything from housing to groceries vary widely from place to place, with the result being that a given income can mean very different things in New York, New Orleans, or New Bern, North Carolina. To get a handle on those variations, one can use the “regional price parities,” or RPPs, developed by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. The RPPs measure local price levels in each of the nation’s 381 metropolitan statistical areas, as well as the nonmetropolitan portions of states, relative to the overall national price level.”

The highest weekly wages for 3rd Quarter 2015, after adjusting for cost-of-living, were found in: 1) San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California, 2) California-Lexington Park, Maryland, 3) San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California, and 4) Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington.

The lowest wages, after adjustment, were paid in: 1) Yakima, Washington, 2) Wenatchee, Washington, 3) Logan, Utah-Idaho, and 4) Grants Pass, Oregon.

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“The best fishermen I know try not to make the same mistakes over and over again; instead they strive to make new and interesting mistakes and to remember what they learned from them.”

--John Gierach, American author (and fisherman)

* 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. * Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.

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Weekly Market Commentary (May 31, 2016)

Everyone makes mistakes. Some people learn from them.

In GMO’s March 2016 white paper, James Montier and Philip Pilkington continued to explore the Federal Reserve’s influence on the stock market. It was a process they’d begun in 2015 as they sought “…to understand why our forecast for the S&P 500 had been too pessimistic over the last two decades or so.” Inspired by research done at the New York Federal Reserve, they found:

“…sometime around 1985 the market really started to react to FOMC [Federal Open Market Committee] days. Like the Fed economists, we found that for the past 30 or so years these announcement days have had a major, and increasing, impact on the stock market…In fact, FOMC days account for 25 percent of the total real returns we have witnessed since 1984!”

Upon further examination, they realized the Fed’s influence on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (S&P 500) wasn’t caused by monetary policy decisions. Markets moved just because the committee was meeting. Investor sentiment was driving market action.

Last week, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen commented, “It's appropriate, and I've said this in the past, I think for the Fed to gradually and cautiously increase our overnight interest rate over time and probably in the coming months, such a move would be appropriate.” Her comments did not inspire ‘animal spirits,’ which is how economist John Maynard Keynes described the emotions that motivate people to act.

At the end of the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were higher on solid economic data that included an upward revision of first quarter’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate. GDP is the value of all goods and services produced in the United States during a given period.

The next FOMC meeting is June 14-15.


Data as of 5/27/16

1-Week

Y-T-D

1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks)

2.3%

2.7%

-1.2%

8.1%

9.5%

5.2%

Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.

2.1

-0.7

-13.8

-1.7

-1.6

-0.3

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

1.9

NA

2.1

2.1

3.1

5.1

Gold (per ounce)

-3.0

14.5

2.6

-4.0

-4.5

6.3

Bloomberg Commodity Index

0.7

8.8

-14.5

-14.0

-12.4

-7.1

DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index

2.0

6.6

10.0

8.4

10.7

7.3

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.

chief executive officer compensation is down. no, it’s up. You better judge for yourself. The New York Times reported the 200 most-highly-paid CEOs in the United States collectively experienced a pay cut last year! CEOs’ average compensation – all CEOs compensation added together and then divided by 200 – fell by 15 percent from 2014 to 2015.

Of course, you know what they say about lies and statistics.

Equilar, the company responsible for the study, reported CEO pay grew modestly in 2015. They looked at median CEO pay – the number in the middle. It was $16.6 million for fiscal 2015. That’s up 5 percent from the previous year.

No matter how you interpret the results, not one CEO earned more than $100 million. CEOs in the technology industry had the highest median pay while those in basic materials (which includes oil and gas companies) had the lowest, according to Equilar.

Many people have argued company performance should inform CEO pay, but there wasn’t much evidence this was the case. Although there may have been a basis for CEO pay changes, there was no clear correlation to shareholder returns or company revenues. For instance:

·         A 702 percent increase in pay was awarded when total shareholder return was down 5 percent, and company revenues were down 1 percent.

·         A 286 percent increase in pay was awarded when total shareholder return was up 16 percent, and company revenues were up 9 percent.

·         A 48 percent reduction in pay occurred when total shareholder return was up 25 percent, and company revenues were up 4 percent.

The portion of 2015 corporate budgets allotted to pay hikes for employees increased by 2.8 percent, on average, according to Mercer. The report said, “…the highest-performing employees received average base pay increases of 4.8 percent in 2015 compared to 2.7 percent for average performers and 0.2 percent for the lowest performers…”

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it's a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from.”

--Al Franken, U.S. Senator and comedian

 

* 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.  nvesting involves risk, including loss of principal. * You cannot invest directly in an index. * Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision. * Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.

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Weekly Market Commentary (May 23, 2016)

A mobile trivia game maker recently assessed the playing habits of Americans and identified the most popular topics by state. As it turns out, Alabamians like college football questions, Alaskans like queries about U.S. states, Rhode Island natives prefer inquiries about the human body, and Wisconsinites love their Green Bay Packers.

We think markets, finance, and economics offer fine fodder for quiz trivia. Test your knowledge with these questions about recent and pending market events:

·         What is ‘Brexit?’ The United Kingdom will hold a referendum in June to decide whether it should remain in the European Union. According to the BBC, opinion polls say the public is pretty evenly divided on the issue. ‘Brexit’ stands for ‘British exit.’

·         How likely is a stock market swoon during the next six months? A lot less likely than most investors think, according to a three-decade study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research and cited by Barron’s. The study asked participants how likely it was the market would lose significant value – as much as it did during the worst one-day drops in history (down 22.6 percent and down 12.8 percent) – during the next six months:

“On average over the last three decades, respondents believed there to be a 19 percent risk of such a daily plunge in the subsequent six months…Given that there have been more than 32,000 trading sessions since then, the judgment of at least this swath of history is that in any given six-month period there is a 0.79 percent chance of a daily crash that severe."

·         Which country is the biggest foreign buyer of U.S. residential real estate? Here’s a hint:It starts with the letter ‘C.’ If you guessed Canada, you are incorrect. Barron’s reported China surpassed Canada as the biggest buyer of U.S. residential real estate in 2015. U.S. commercial real estate is pretty popular with the Chinese, too.

Here’s another question analysts and economists have been pondering: Will the Federal Open Market Committee raise rates in June? The probability jumped from 4 percent two weeks ago to 30 percent last week, according to CNBC.


Data as of 5/20/16

1-Week

Y-T-D

1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks)

0.3%

0.4%

-3.5%

7.2%

9.0%

5.0%

Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.

-0.1

-2.7

-16.6

-3.4

-2.0

-0.4

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

1.9

NA

2.3

2.0

3.2

5.0

Gold (per ounce)

-0.9

18.1

3.6

-2.5

-3.5

6.8

Bloomberg Commodity Index

0.5

8.0

-17.6

-13.8

-12.2

-7.0

DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index

-2.5

4.5

7.6

6.1

10.6

7.2

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.

as you approach three score years and ten, don’t forget about required minimum distributions. Upon the occasion of his 70th birthday party, Mark Twain (a.k.a. Samuel Clemens) commented, “We have no permanent habits until we are forty. Then they begin to harden, presently they petrify…”

Whether Twain was right or not, the federal government demands most IRA owners develop a new habit at age 70. They must begin taking required minimum distributions, or RMDs, which are the minimum amount that must be withdrawn from most types of IRAs the year the owner reaches age 70½, and every year thereafter. Account owners can take more than the minimum, if they choose. Regardless of how much is distributed, the amount usually will be treated as ordinary income for tax purposes.

According to Kiplinger’s, “…you have until April 1 of the year after you turn age 70½ for the first withdrawal, then you must take required withdrawals by December 31 every year after that.”

The exception to the rule is the Roth IRA. RMDs are not required with Roth IRAs; however, designated Roth accounts, which hold Roth contributions made to 401(k), 403(b), and 457(b) plans, are subject to RMDs.

It’s important to calculate RMDs carefully. There are several variables to consider, including the age of your beneficiaries. The consequences of a miscalculation can be expensive. Failing to take an RMD, or taking too small an RMD, can result in a 50 percent penalty tax.

If you would like assistance determining the amount of your RMD, please contact your financial professional.

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”

--Franklin D. Roosevelt, U.S. 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. * Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.

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Weekly Market Commentary (May 16, 2016)

When is a door not a door?

The answer, of course, is: When it’s ajar.

Investors and analysts were trying to find the answer to a different riddle last week: When are strong retail sales not strong retail sales?

The answer is: When the retailers are department stores.

Consumers spent more in April than they have in more than a year. Commerce Department data showed April’s retail sales improved by 1.3 percent month-to-month and 3.0 percent year-to-year. Yet, several large department stores reported poor first quarter earnings and weren’t optimistic about the future, according to Barron’s.

The Wall Street Journal pointed out Internet and mobile app purchasing increased by 2.4 percent in April and was up 10.2 percent for the past 12 months, while purchases made in department stores fell by 1.7 percent for the last 12 months. The Journal said there is no easy explanation for lagging department store sales:

“Executives at traditional large retailers struggled to explain the slump, which for some companies was their worst since the recession. Some pointed to a decrease in mall traffic, while others said shoppers were spending more on items their stores don’t sell such as entertainment, travel, and food.”

The Journal also said strong consumer spending focused some economists’ attention on the Federal Reserve and the likelihood it will take actions intended to increase interest rates in mid-June. However, CNBC reported the probability of a rate increase in June remained low.


Data as of 5/13/16

1-Week

Y-T-D

1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks)

-0.5%

0.1%

-2.5%

7.8%

8.9%

4.7%

Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.

-0.6

-2.6

-16.1

-3.2

-2.0

-0.9

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

1.7

NA

2.3

1.9

3.2

5.2

Gold (per ounce)

-1.8

19.2

4.6

-4.0

-3.4

6.3

Bloomberg Commodity Index

1.3

7.5

-19.5

-13.9

-12.0

-7.3

DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index

-1.3

7.2

12.6

7.6

11.2

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.

which country has the world’s fastest growing economy? We all know China’s growth is slowing. Last week, China's Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli indicated the country is on pace to match its growth target of 6.5 percent to 7.0 percent for 2016. As we’ve mentioned before, the Conference Board believes Chinese government growth numbers are inflated. It estimates China’s true growth rate at 3.7 percent for 2016, which is unchanged from 2015. That’s still a lot faster than the 2.0 percent growth projected for the world’s advanced economies by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Advanced countries may be lagging, but there are countries in the world with economies that are growing apace. According to the WEF, countries that will deliver the strongest economic growth during 2016 include:

·         Myanmar (8.6 percent)

·         Ivory Coast (8.5 percent)

·         Bhutan (8.4 percent)

·         India (7.5 percent)

·         Laos (7.4 percent)

·         Iraq (7.2 percent)

·         Cambodia (7.0 percent)

·         Tanzania (6.9 percent)

·         Bangladesh (6.6 percent)

·         Senegal (6.6 percent)

These projections reflect gross domestic product growth, which is the total of all goods and services produced in a nation, and offer little insight to issues such as well-being and quality of life.

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“I hope it is true that a man can die and yet not only live in others but give them life, and not only life, but that great consciousness of life.”

--Jack Kerouac, American novelist

 

* International investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and political instability and may not be suitable for all investors.  These risks are often heightened for investments in emerging markets. * 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. * Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.

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Weekly Market Commentary

Reading economic portents can be tricky.

For example, do signs that economic growth is slowing – like last week’s employment report, which was anemic relative to consensus forecasts, and first quarter’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth – mean the economy is headed for trouble? Or, does it mean the economy is going to continue to grow slowly?

It all depends on whom you ask.

Some see current lackluster economic data as a harbinger of trouble. Last week, Barron’s cited an expert who was concerned about employment data. “…It could be a sign of trouble...Specifically, falling profit margins will put pressure to trim costs and head counts later this year and into 2017, which would slow consumer-spending growth.”

Others believe the United States is destined to experience a persistent period of slow growth. In 2013, Barron’s suggested the enviable pace of growth in the United States since World War II was likely to decline, along with the size of its working-age population and gains in worker productivity. The new era:

“…could have broad repercussions that will affect not only the pugilists in Washington but businesses and investors. Weaker growth will make it harder for companies to improve earnings, fatten dividends, or garner better stock returns. It also threatens to fan social inequality and class tensions and limit the ability of government to fund various entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security. Tax revenues also are likely to fall short of projected levels.”

Of course, a lot depends on how you gauge growth. A 2009 discussion in a Harvard Business School blog asked whether slower growth, as measured by current indicators, was meaningful since, as this commentary mentioned last week, gross domestic product (GDP) is a flawed indicator. “Further, in an age of concern about the environment, questions are raised about whether certain forms of growth – let alone incorrect measures – serve a very good purpose.”

Investors expressed their opinions last week. They weren’t thrilled by mixed economic data or the possibility of slower growth. Reuters suggested markets’ downward shift indicated a reduced appetite for risk.


Data as of 5/6/16

1-Week

Y-T-D

1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks)

-0.4%

0.7%

-1.5%

8.3%

9.0%

4.5%

Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.

-3.7

-2.1

-14.6

-2.9

-2.3

-1.2

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

1.8

NA

2.3

1.8

3.2

5.1

Gold (per ounce)

0.3

21.4

7.9

-3.7

-2.8

6.7

Bloomberg Commodity Index

-2.5

6.2

-20.3

-14.4

-12.2

-7.3

DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index

4.3

8.6

15.0

8.3

11.5

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; 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.

it probably won’t surprise you to learn russia was on top. In countries around the world, crony capitalism has thrived during the past two decades. The net worth of wealthy business folk, who worked closely with their governments, was almost $2 trillion in 2014, an increase of about 385 percent from 2004. That is about one-third of the total wealth of billionaires around the world.

The National Review defined crony capitalism as “…an insidious system in which businesses’ success is based on a close relationship with government and, specifically, with the people in power who dispense favors, subsidies, bailouts, and other forms of special treatment.”

The Economist offered some specific examples. “As commodity and property prices soared, so did the value of permits to dig mines in China or build offices in São Paulo. Telecoms spectrum doled out by Indian officials created instant billionaires. Implicit state guarantees let casino banking thrive on Wall Street and beyond.”

In an effort to measure the influence of crony capitalism on wealth, The Economist developed an index. The publication took Forbes’ annual lists of the world’s billionaires, designated each billionaire as crony or not-crony (as determined by the industry in which he or she had accumulated wealth), sorted them by country, and then calculated wealth as a percent of their country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Russia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Ukraine topped the 22-country index in 2016. Germany, Poland, South Korea, Japan, and France were at the bottom. The United States was 15th on the list. U.S. billionaires’ wealth is equivalent to about 13 percent of GDP, but wealth earned through crony capitalism accounts for just 2 percent of that amount.

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”

--Vince Lombardi, Past Coach of the Green Bay Packers

 

* 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. * Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.

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