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Weekly Market Commentary (January 11, 2016)

Weekly Market Commentary

January 11, 2016

The Markets

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) started the New Year with a downward currency adjustment and fireworks followed.

Last week, three distinct issues affected China’s stock market. First, the PBOC’s devaluation of the yuan (a.k.a. the renminbi), along with the knowledge the central bank had been spending heavily to prop up its currency in recent months, led many analysts and investors to the conclusion China’s economy might not be as robust as official reports indicated, according to the Financial Times.

Not everyone was surprised by this revelation. During the fourth quarter of 2015, The Conference Board’s working paper entitled Global Growth Projections for The Conference Board Global Economic Outlook 2016 reported:

“China’s economy grew much slower than the official estimates suggest in the recent years. During the last five years, our estimates suggest an average growth of 4.3 percent, which is substantially lower than the official estimate of 7.8 percent. In 2015, we project China to see an average growth of 3.7 percent, which is indeed lower than the official target of 7 percent.”

Second, state-run media made it clear the Chinese government would not step in to spur growth. Allowing market forces to play out is a requirement of the reforms international investors have been demanding of China, according to Barron’s. The publicationsuggested Chinese President Xi Jinping is the victim of a Catch-22. The Chinese government took steps toward reform and international investors responded by selling shares in a panic:

“Weaning China off excessive credit, investment and import-led growth in favor of services means slower growth. Markedly slower, in fact, than the 6.5 percent Beijing is gunning for this year. But Monday’s 7 percent stock rout shows international investors want it both ways. The rapid growth, innovation, and disruptive forces that capitalism produces? Yes. The downturns and volatility that come with it? Not so much.”

The third factor was China’s new and very strict stock market circuit breakers, which were introduced on January 4. The circuit breakers were intended to calm overheated markets, but they sparked panicked selling instead. When the Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 Index falls 5 percent, Chinese stock trading stops for 15 minutes. When the index is down 7 percent, trading stops for the day. A similar mechanism is employed in U.S. markets, which are far less volatile. However, trading is not delayed until the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has fallen by 7 percent, and it does not stop until the index is down by 20 percent. Last week, China’s stock markets closed twice as investors, who were worried the circuit breakers might kick in, rushed to sell shares.

China suspended its circuit breakers on Thursday, and the PBOC set the value of the yuan at a higher level. That helped China’s stock markets, and others around the world, settle. China’s markets gained ground on Friday, although U.S. markets finished the week lower. Markets may continue to be jittery next week as “a tsunami of negative psychology driven by China” works its way through the system, reported Reuters.


Data as of 1/8/16

1-Week

Y-T-D

1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks)

-6.0%

-6.0%

-6.8%

9.7%

8.7%

4.1%

Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.

-6.1

-6.1

-11.1

-2.6

-2.0

-0.5

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

2.1

NA

2.3

1.9

3.3

4.4

Gold (per ounce)

3.7

3.7

-9.4

-12.7

-4.2

7.4

Bloomberg Commodity Index

-2.3

-2.3

-26.0

-17.8

-13.5

-7.6

DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index

-3.0

-3.0

-4.6

8.8

11.1

6.5

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods. Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.  Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

fourth quarter, a look back…

The Federal Reserve pulled the trigger. At the December Federal Open Market Committee meeting, the Fed finally acted, tightening monetary policy by raising the funds rate from 0.25 percent to 0.50 percent. It’s important to remember the Fed doesn’t actually set interest rates. It takes actions designed to influence financial behaviors. The Fed has given rates a push, it remains to be seen whether its efforts will bear fruit.

 

The European Central Bank (ECB) acted, too. Although, its monetary policy moved in a different direction, offering additional stimulus measures to support European economies.  Investors were enthusiastic when the ECB announced its intentions; however, markets were underwhelmed when the economic measures delivered were less stimulative than many had expected.

China’s currency gained status. The International Monetary Fund decided to add the Chinese yuan (a.k.a. the renminbi) to its Special Drawing Rights basket, effective October 1, 2016. After the renminbi is added, the U.S. dollar will comprise 42 percent of the basket, the euro will be 31 percent, the renminbi will be 11 percent, the Japanese yen will be 8 percent, and the British pound will also be 8 percent.

Congress tweaked Social Security. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA) averted a U.S. default and deferred further discussion of U.S. debt and spending levels until after 2016’s presidential and congressional elections. It also did away with two popular social security claiming strategies. The restricted application strategy was discontinued at the end of 2015, and file and suspend strategies will be unavailable after May 1, 2016.

Medicare premiums go up, but not for everyone. The BBA also limited increases in Medicare premiums. About 14 percent of Medicare beneficiaries will pay higher premiums in 2016. The new premium will be $121.80, up from $104.90 in 2015. Original proposals suggested the premium amount increase to $159.30.

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”

--Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher

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 (January , 2016)

Weekly Market Commentary

 

January 4, 2016

The Markets

Investing in U.S. stock markets during 2015 was a bit like riding a mechanical bull. Markets jolted up and down but, once the year ended, investors were almost where they had started.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (S&P 500) entered 2015 at about 2,058. It rose as high as 2,130 during May and fell to about 1,867 in August. As the year ended, the index was almost at 2,044. It would have finished in negative territory if it weren’t for dividends. With dividends included, the S&P 500 was up 1.4 percent for the year, according to Barron’s. Without dividends, it was down 0.7 percent.

Market performance left plenty of room for speculation about what the future may hold. Barron’s explained:

“The problem isn’t just that the S&P 500 finished flat but that it finished trendless…So, as 2016 begins, it’s very easy to impose whatever narratives we want on the market. For the bears, the fact that the market hasn’t been able to hit a new high, and that small caps have underperformed large, is a sign that the market is peaking…Still, there’s enough good news to keep the bulls heartened…The price of oil, which pulled down S&P 500 earnings in 2015, might be stabilizing…And, remember, Congress just passed a spending bill that could pick up the stimulus baton from the Federal Reserve.”

Regardless of whether you lean toward bullishness or bearishness, the performance of the S&P 500 during 2015 reinforced the value of dividends. When it comes to investing in stocks, there are basically two ways to make money. First, the value of a company can increase and investors can earn capital gains. Second, investors may receive dividends, which are a portion of a company’s earnings its board of directors chooses to distribute to shareholders.

During the past several years, as interest rates have remained persistently low, dividends have become important to many investors as a source of income. They also are a critical component of total return. From 1926 through 2014, dividends accounted for more than 40 percent of the total returns generated by the S&P 500.


Data as of 12/31/15

1-Week

Y-T-D

1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks)

-0.8%

-0.7%

-0.7%

12.8%

10.2%

4.9%

Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.

-0.5

-6.6

-6.6

0.0

-1.0

0.4

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

2.3

NA

2.2

1.8

3.3

4.4

Gold (per ounce)

-0.9

-11.4

-11.4

-13.9

-5.5

7.2

Bloomberg Commodity Index

0.1

-24.7

-24.7

-17.3

-13.5

-7.5

DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index

0.2

2.8

2.8

10.6

11.7

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.

You may have received a gift from congress. Our elected leaders did some re-gifting during 2015. They restored tax cuts that had been allowed to expire and made them retroactive for 2015. Kiplinger’s reported, “In an important twist to the habitual year-end gamesmanship, however, this time Congress actually made many of [the tax cuts] permanent and even improved a few.” The tax law changes help people who:

·         Commute to work: During 2016, employees who drive can pay for parking with up to $255 of pre-tax salary, and people who rely on mass transit to get to work can spend the same amount of pre-tax salary on transportation. (Slide 3)

·         Have children in college: The American Opportunity College Credit, a $2,500 tax credit for families with qualifying college students, was made permanent, although the credit phases out at higher income levels. (Slide 4)

·         Live in states with no or low income tax: The choice about whether to deduct state income tax or state sales tax paid during the year on a federal tax return was renewed. It expired at the end of 2014, and now applies retroactively to 2015. (Slide 6)

·         Want to make charitable contributions using required minimum distributions (RMDs): Once again, IRA owners who are age 70½ or older can donate up to $100,000 of their traditional IRAs directly to charity, tax-free, using all or part of their RMDs. It’s now a permanent tax break. (Slide 7)

·         Own businesses: The $500,000 “expensing” cap was restored for 2015, and will be permanent going forward. Bonus depreciation also was extended. (Slide 12)

These are just a few of the tax cuts Congress passed. Give us a call to discuss how these tax changes, and others, may benefit you.

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.”

--Rainer Maria Rilke, Austrian poet

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, 2015)

Weekly Market Commentary

December 28, 2015

The Markets

It was a short week, but it wasn’t quiet.

Oil prices moved higher, according to The Wall Street Journal, after the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported crude-oil inventories fell unexpectedly last year. Analysts had predicted oil supplies would rise.

One expert cited by The Wall Street Journal suggested the stockpile decline and subsequent oil price rally owed much to Gulf Coast refiners reducing inventories “to mitigate state ad valorem taxes on year-end crude stocks.” If that’s the case, the oil price increase may not be sustained.

Regardless, improving oil prices gave U.S. stock markets a boost. In particular, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (S&P 500) benefitted from improving performance in the energy sector:

“Of 80 U.S. listed oil and gas producers, all but one – a bankrupt company – rose on the day, with nearly half of the companies up more than 10 percent. Energy shares were the biggest gainers Wednesday in the S&P 500, up 3.8 percent and helped the S&P 500 on the whole gain 1.2 percent in late-afternoon trading.”

Barron’s reported energy stocks had gained 5 percent for the week, but were still off by about 22 percent for the year.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) released its World Oil Outlook last week. BBC reported OPEC anticipates oil prices will begin to rise in 2016, although its producers’ share of the market is expected to shrink by 2020 as rival oil-producers proved to be more resilient in the face of low oil prices than had been expected.


Data as of 12/24/15

1-Week

Y-T-D

1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks)

2.8%

0.1%

-1.0%

13.1%

10.4%

5.1%

Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.

1.9

-6.2

-6.6

0.3

-0.7

0.7

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

2.2

NA

2.2

1.8

3.4

4.3

Gold (per ounce)

0.9

-10.6

-8.9

-13.6

-4.9

7.5

Bloomberg Commodity Index

1.3

-24.8

-26.1

-17.3

-13.2

-7.4

DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index

2.0

2.6

1.7

10.6

11.8

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.

looking back… Each week,‘The Economist Explains’ blogexpounds on subjects ranging from current events to economics, from philosophical or scientific issues to everyday oddities. Let’s take a quick look at a few of its headlines during 2015:

1.      Why the Swiss unpegged the Swiss franc (January 18, 2015). Remember when the Swiss National Bank removed its currency peg last January? The Swiss franc realized double-digit gains in value and the Swiss stock market dropped.

2.      Everything you want to know about falling oil prices (March 18, 2015). “The main reason for falling prices is increased supply from America thanks to its fracking boom, which has reduced its demand for oil imports. Other countries, notably Saudi Arabia, have been loth to curb supply lest they lose their share of the global oil market.”

3.      Why so many Dutch people work part time (May 11, 2015). More than one-half of the working population in Netherlands is employed part-time – a higher percentage than anywhere else in the world. “This is partly a relic of prevailing Christian attitudes which said that mothers should be home for tea time and partly down to the wide availability of well-paid “first tier” part-time jobs.”

4.      What Greece must do to receive a new bail-out (July 14, 2015). After challenging negotiations, Greece and its European creditors cut a deal, allowing the country to remain in the euro area.

5.      China’s botched stock market rescue(July 30, 2015). Chinese stocks lost nearly a third of their value last summer. China’s authorities “resorted to heavy-handed measures to prop up swooning share prices, from pressuring banks to buy stocks to blocking big investors from selling theirs.”

6.      Why is the Nobel prize in chemistry given for things that are not chemistry (October 7, 2015)? Apparently, five of the last 10 Nobel chemistry prizes have been awarded for pursuits that might better be described as biology. A possible explanation is “the diversity of chemistry prizes reflects the fact that chemistry is found everywhere…”

7.      How the Fed will raise interest rates (December 14, 2015). Just as the Fed employed unconventional monetary tools to stimulate the economy, it is using new policy tools to try to increase the Fed funds rate.

We hope 2015 has been a memorable and rewarding year for you, and we look forward to working with you in the New Year.

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“It is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to use it well.”

--Rene Descartes, French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist

Best regards,

 

Lee Barczak

President

 

* These views are those of Peak Advisor Alliance, and not the presenting Representative or the Representative’s Broker/Dealer, and should not be construed as investment advice. * This newsletter was prepared by Peak Advisor Alliance. Peak Advisor Alliance is not affiliated with the named broker/dealer. * 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 21, 2015)

THE MARKETS

After a level of hype that would have exhausted even the most dedicated Star Wars fans, the Federal Reserve finally began to tighten monetary policy last week, raising the funds rate from 0.25 percent to 0.50 percent.

Although financial markets appeared sanguine when the rate hike was announced, the calm dissipated quickly. The Standard & Poor’s 500, Dow Jones Industrial, and NASDAQ indices finished the week lower. International markets fared better. Most finished the week higher.

The last five times the Fed has begun to raise rates, the U.S. dollar has remained stable and stock prices have risen, on average, in the months immediately following the hike, according to The Economist.

While tightening monetary policy (and talk of tightening monetary policy) often affects financial markets immediately, economic change happens at a more measured pace. The Economist explained:

“The impact of changes in interest rates is not usually felt on announcement…The response of the real economy also comes with a delay. Most reckon it takes time for monetary policy to shift spending habits, and one rate rise is more an easing of the accelerator than a U-turn. Unemployment continued to fall in each of the past five tightening episodes. That will probably happen again...The most uncertain variable is inflation. This fell rapidly following rate rises in 1983 and 1988 as the Fed established its hawkish credentials. Yet in 2016, the most likely direction for inflation is up (the rate rise is aimed at restraining its ascent).”

Another factor affecting the U.S. and global economies is the price of oil. Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported oil prices declined to a new six-year low. Falling oil prices have contributed to deflationary pressures in Europe, stunting the region’s economic recovery. They have had a mixed affect on the U.S. economy, helping consumers and hurting the energy industry.


Data as of 12/18/15

1-Week

Y-T-D

1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks)

-0.3%

-2.6%

-2.7%

11.5%

10.0%

4.8%

Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.

0.4

-8.0

-7.6

-0.4

-0.8

0.5

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

2.2

NA

2.2

1.8

3.4

4.4

Gold (per ounce)

-0.9

-11.4

-11.4

-14.4

-5.1

7.6

Bloomberg Commodity Index

-1.2

-25.8

-28.6

-18.0

-13.2

-7.8

DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index

1.6

0.6

0.8

10.3

11.9

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.

Second guessing the fed is an age old American pasttime. Americans have been speculating about the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy choices – rate hikes, rate declines, quantitative easing, etc. – for a long time. It’s clear when you take a look at a few modern Fed Chairs and the Fed’s activities under their leadership.

Paul Volcker (1979-1987) took over an economic quagmire known as The Great Inflation. In the early 1980s, U.S. inflation was 14 percent and unemployment reached 9.7 percent. Volcker unexpectedly raised the Fed funds rate by 4 percent in a single month, following a secret and unscheduled Federal Open Market Committee meeting. His policies initially sent the country into recession. The St. Louis Fed reported "Wanted" posters targeted Volcker for "killing" so many small businesses. By the mid-1980s, employment and inflation reached targeted levels.

Alan Greenspan (1987-2006) was in charge through two U.S. recessions, the Asian financial crisis, and the September 11 terrorist attacks. Regardless, he oversaw the country’s longest peacetime expansion. In the late 1990s, when financial markets were bubbly, critics suggested, “…Mr. Greenspan’s monetary policies spawned an era of booms and busts, culminating in the 2008 financial crisis.”

Ben Bernanke (2006-2014) took the helm of the Fed just before the financial crisis and Great Recession. When economic growth collapsed in 2007, the Fed lowered rates and adopted unconventional monetary policy (quantitative easing) in an effort to stimulate economic growth. In 2012, economist Paul Krugman called Bernanke out in The New York Times, “…the fact is that the Fed isn’t doing the job many economists expected it to do, and a result is mass suffering for American workers.”

Janet Yellen (2014-present) is the current Chairwoman of the Fed. Under Yellen’s leadership, after providing abundant guidance, the Fed raised rates for the first time in seven years. The International Business Times reported several prominent economists think the increase was premature, in part, because there are few signs of inflation in the U.S. economy.

In many cases, it’s difficult to gauge the achievements and/or failures of a leader – Fed Chairperson, President, Congressman, or Congresswoman – until the economic or political dust settles. Sometimes, that’s long after they’ve left office.

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“We are too prone to judge ourselves by our ideals and other people by their acts. All of us are entitled to be judged by both.”

--Dwight Morrow, former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico

 

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, 2015)

Weekly Market Commentary
December 14, 2015
 
It’s not like it’s a surprise!
 
Last week, investors didn’t appear to be thrilled with the possibility the Federal Reserve might raise rates this week. They also weren’t too impressed by another drop in oil prices. There was red ink everywhere as markets from Australia to Hong Kong, across the Eurozone, and throughout the Americas moved lower last week.
 
Bloomberg reported there was a 74 percent probability of a Fed rate hike at the December Federal Open Market Committee meeting. The Wall Street Journal’s survey of business and academic economists put the chance at 97 percent. More than 80 percent of those surveyed said the Fed would lose credibility if it doesn’t act in December.
 
It’s important to remember the Fed doesn’t actually set interest rates. It takes actions designed to influence financial behaviors. Even if the Fed does push to increase interest rates, it remains to be seen whether its efforts will bear fruit. The Financial Times wrote:
 
“...As “lift-off” has drawn closer some analysts have begun to highlight just how experimental this interest rate rise will be. The Fed’s bloated balance sheet - swelled by its quantitative easing program - prevents it from using its traditional interest rate tools, so it has unveiled and has been testing new ones. The main new levers are known as the “interest on overnight reserves” and the “overnight reverse repo program,” and central bank officials are confident that they will be able to lift the Fed funds rate, which is the main target. But some analysts caution that it could be a choppy take-off.”
 
If the Fed acts and interest rates don’t respond, there may be further volatility. The Financial Times reported markets almost certainly have priced in a rate hike at this point. We’ll find out next week.
 

Data as of 12/11/15
1-Week
Y-T-D
1-Year
3-Year
5-Year
10-Year
Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks)
-3.8%
-2.3%
-1.1%
12.1%
10.2%
4.8%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.
-3.1
-8.3
-8.4
-0.1
-1.1
0.6
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)
2.1
NA
2.2
1.7
3.3
4.6
Gold (per ounce)
-0.6
-10.6
-11.8
-14.4
-5.2
7.2
Bloomberg Commodity Index
-4.0
-24.8
-29.2
-17.7
-12.9
-7.9
DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index
-2.0
-1.0
-0.3
9.9
11.6
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.
 
next year, China’s renminbi (A.K.A. yuan) will join the U.S. dollar, euro, yen, andpound,when it is added to the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket - a supplementary foreign exchange reserve asset that is defined and maintained by the IMF. It will become the third weightiest currency in the basket. After the renminbi is added, the U.S. dollar will comprise 42 percent of the basket (unchanged from 2010). The euro will be 31 percent (down from 37 percent in 2010). The renminbi will be 11 percent. The Japanese yen will be 8 percent (down from 9 percent in 2010). The British pound will be 8 percent (down from 11 percent).
 
Managing Director of the IMF Christine Lagarde said:
 
“The Executive Board's decision to include the RMB in the SDR basket is an important milestone in the integration of the Chinese economy into the global financial system. It is also a recognition of the progress that the Chinese authorities have made in the past years in reforming China’s monetary and financial systems. The continuation and deepening of these efforts will bring about a more robust international monetary and financial system, which in turn will support the growth and stability of China and the global economy.”
 
So, is the renminbi likely to give the U.S. dollar a run for its money? Not any time soon, according to economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal. Over the next 50 years, they gave China about a 34 percent chance of challenging the dollar. One said, “To match the dollar’s appeal, China will need markets as deep as those in the U.S. and to produce economic indicators that are trustworthy.”
 
Weekly Focus - Think About It
 
“Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.”
--Mahatma Gandhi, Former leader of the Indian independence movement
 
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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Morgan Kenwood Advisors, LLC
5130 West Loomis Road
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Phone: (414) 423-4020
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