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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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Weekly Market Commentary (December 7, 2015)

 Market Commentary
December 7, 2015
 
The Markets
 
Anyone looking at U.S. stock market performance last week might assume it was a pretty quiet week. They would be wrong. It was a very bouncy week. U.S. stock markets moved lower on Monday, rebounded on Tuesday, and then appeared to suffer a one-two punch mid-week that knocked indices lower.
 
On Wednesday, the benchmark U.S. oil price sank below $40 a barrel as supply continued to exceed demand, according to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Analysts had expected stockpiles of crude oil, gasoline, and other fuels to decline. Instead, stores increased to more than 1.3 billion barrels. The glut of fuel drove energy stock values down and energy stocks led the broader market lower, according to WSJ.
 
Performance did not improve on Thursday. In part, this was because the European Central Bank (ECB) underwhelmed markets when it delivered economic measures that were less stimulative than many had expected. The Financial Times reported the ECB reduced rates and pledged to extend quantitative easing for six additional months, but it did not increase the amount of its bond purchases, which disappointed investors. Stock markets in Europe and the United States lost value on the news.
 
On Friday, a strong jobs report restored investors’ enthusiasm and markets regained losses suffered earlier in the week, according to ABC News. The Department of Labor announced 211,000 jobs were added in November, which was more than analysts had expected. Strong employment numbers made the possibility of a Federal Reserve rate hike seem more certain and investors welcomed certainty. The ECB jumped into the good-news pool on Friday, too, announcing it would expand stimulus measures, if necessary.
 
The Standard & Poor’s 500, Dow Jones Industrial, and NASDAQ indices were all up for the week.
 

Data as of 12/4/15
1-Week
Y-T-D
1-Year
3-Year
5-Year
10-Year
Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks)
0.1%
1.6%
1.0%
14.1%
11.3%
5.2%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.
-0.7
-5.4
-7.7
1.4
-0.2
1.0
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)
2.3
NA
2.3
1.6
2.9
4.6
Gold (per ounce)
2.1
-10.0
-10.7
-14.0
-5.3
7.9
Bloomberg Commodity Index
0.7
-21.7
-27.2
-16.9
-11.9
-7.3
DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index
-1.2
1.0
2.2
11.1
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.
 
it’s that time of the year. No, not the holidays. It’s the time when investors begin to consider pundits’ forecasts for the coming year. Here are a few of those forecasts:
 
“Flat is the new up,” was the catch phrase for Goldman Sachs’ analysts last August, and their outlook doesn’t appear to have changed for the United States. In Outlook 2016, they predicted U.S. stocks will have limited upside next year and expressed concern that positive economic news may bring additional Fed tightening. Goldman expects global growth to stabilize during 2016 as emerging markets rebound, and Europe and Japan may experience improvement.
 
Jeremy Grantham of GMO, who is known for gloomy outlooks, is not concerned about the Federal Reserve raising rates, according to Financial Times (FT). FT quoted Grantham as saying, “We might have a wobbly few weeks...but I’m sure the Fed will stroke us like you wouldn’t believe and the markets will settle down, and most probably go to a new high.” Grantham expects the high to be followed by a low. He has been predicting global markets will experience a major decline in 2016 for a couple years, and he anticipates the downturn could be accompanied by global bankruptcies.
 
PWC’s Trendsetter Barometer offered a business outlook after surveying corporate executives. After the third quarter of 2015, it found, “U.S. economic fundamentals remain strong, but markets and executives like predictability, and that’s not what we’ve been getting lately... Trendsetter growth forecasts are down, so are plans for [capital expenditure] spending, hiring, and more. It doesn’t help that we’ve entered a contentious 2016 election season...”
The Economist had this advice for investors who are reviewing economic forecasts, “Economic forecasting is an art, not a science. Of course, we have to make some guess. The average citizen would be well advised, however, to treat all forecasts with a bucket (not just a pinch) of salt.”
 
Weekly Focus - Think About It
 
“Weather forecast for tonight: dark.”
--George Carlin, American comedian
 
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 (November 30, 2015)

Weekly Market Commentary

November 30, 2015

The Markets

American markets were relatively quiet during Thanksgiving week but there were fireworks in China’s markets.

Late in the week, media outlets reported the China Securities Regulatory Commission was conducting inquiries into several securities firms as part of an anti-corruption crackdown triggered by last summer’s wild market gyrations. The news sizzled through China’s stock markets. The Financial Times wrote:

“It's like a trip down memory lane… if memory lane was vertical… The Shanghai Composite was down by as much as 6.1 percent in late trade, with the tech-focused Shenzhen Composite following suit, down by as much as 6.8 percent. It would be Shanghai's biggest one-day fall since August 25, when the benchmark slumped by 7.7 percent, writes Peter Wells in Hong Kong.”

U.S. markets were sanguine, in part, because there was little activity on Friday, according to The Wall Street Journal. It also may have something to do with an upward revision in third quarter’s gross domestic product (GDP), which measures the value of all goods and services produced in the United States. On Tuesday, the U.S. Commerce Department reported GDP increased at an annual rate of 2.1 percent during the third quarter, an improvement over the initial estimate of 1.5 percent.

Next week may be a doozy. The European Central Bank is expected to introduce additional monetary easing measures, while the U.S. Federal Reserve provides additional clues about the timing of its monetary tightening measures, said The Wall Street Journal. We’ll also get news about U.S. home sales, automobile sales, chain store sales, factory orders, and employment. It’s likely to be an interesting week.


Data as of 11/27/15

1-Week

Y-T-D

1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks)

0.1%

1.5%

1.1%

14.3%

12.0%

5.2%

Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.

-0.8

-4.7

-7.9

2.2

0.8

1.3

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

2.2

NA

2.2

1.7

2.8

4.4

Gold (per ounce)

-2.3

-11.8

-11.5

-15.4

-4.9

7.9

Bloomberg Commodity Index

-0.4

-22.3

-28.2

-17.4

-11.2

-6.8

DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index

0.9

2.2

3.5

12.0

12.4

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.

it seems that shopping has joined food, football, and family as a favorite pastime on Thanksgiving Day.

Did you log on and do a little holiday shopping last Thursday while your holiday feast was cooking? If so, you are not alone. MarketWatch reported consumers spent $1.1 billion between midnight and 5:00 p.m. eastern time on Thanksgiving Day. That was a 22 percent increase over the year before.

After taking a break to give thanks, gorge on Thanksgiving delicacies, and enjoy family time, consumers fired up their devices again – more than one-third of sales were made via smart phone or tablet – for round two in the online shopping arena. On Friday, between midnight and 11:00 a.m. eastern time, they spent another $822 million. That’s 15 percent more than last year. In total, Black Friday sales were expected to be about $2.6 billion.

By Friday morning, out-of-stock rates were reported to be double the level they normally reach this time of year. So, prepare for the possibility shoppers may be rabidly seeking more than one extremely popular gift item as we head deeper into the holiday shopping season.

That’s a more welcome turn of events than 1953’s glut of unsold turkeys. The Fiscal Times reported Swanson got started in the frozen dinner manufacturing business when it finished Thanksgiving with 260 tons of extra turkeys. Its solution was to package sliced turkey with trimmings on aluminum trays. In 1954, the company sold 10 million frozen turkey dinners and a new industry was born.

Since investors were concerned about weaker than expected retail sales just a couple of weeks ago, if retail spending continues to be strong in coming weeks, it could affect investors’ confidence and outlook.

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“My first rule of consumerism is never to buy anything you can’t make your children carry.”

--Bill Bryson, American author

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 (November 23, 2015)

Weekly Market Commentary

November 23, 2015 

The Markets

Financial markets were remarkably calm last week.

Many stock markets in the United States, Europe, and Asia moved higher as investors chose to focus their attention on the minutes of the October 27-28, 2015 Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, which were released on Wednesday, rather than recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Lebanon, Mali, and against Russia.

The FOMC minutes captured attention because they suggested even if the Federal Reserve does begin to tighten monetary policy in December, rate increases may be incremental and the target rate may not be as high as many imagined. Bloomberg reported:

“Fed officials received a staff briefing on the equilibrium real interest rate, or the policy rate that would keep the economy running at full employment with stable prices, according to the minutes. Fed officials discussed the possibility that the short-run equilibrium rate “would likely remain below levels that were normal during previous business cycle expansions,” the minutes said.”

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has written about the equilibrium real interest rate on his blog. The point he makes is the equilibrium rate – not the Fed – determines interest rates. The Fed uses its influence to move interest rates toward levels that are consistent with its estimate of the equilibrium rate. If the Fed pushes for rates that are too high, the economy may slow. If it pushes for rates that are too low, the economy may overheat. Not everyone agrees on this point, and that has led to debate between Mr. Bernanke and Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers.

While the Fed is expected to begin tightening U.S. monetary policy, the European Central Bank (ECB) is expected to further loosen monetary policy in December. The Wall Street Journal reported the ECB is “prepared to deploy its full range of stimulus measures to fight low inflation…” The news was welcome. CNBC reported European markets closed the week at three-month highs.


Data as of 11/20/15

1-Week

Y-T-D

1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks)

3.3%

1.5%

1.8%

14.6%

11.8%

5.2%

Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.

2.5

-3.9

-6.4

3.1

0.2

1.5

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

2.3

NA

2.3

1.7

2.8

4.5

Gold (per ounce)

0.0

-9.8

-9.1

-14.5

-4.4

8.3

Bloomberg Commodity Index

-1.2

-22.0

-31.0

-17.1

-10.9

-6.8

DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index

3.8

1.3

5.2

11.8

12.4

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.

if there were a “Page Six” for finance and economics, emerging markets would be splashed across it.

Remember the saying, “Buy low and sell high?” Well, emerging markets have not performed well for quite a long time, and that has a lot of people speculating about what may happen in the next few years.  

Analysts at BlackRock opined, “Emerging-market (EM) equities are fighting an uphill battle, held back by an appreciating U.S. dollar, falling commodity prices, and flagging exports. These only add to their other medium-term struggles, such as dwindling corporate profits, declining productivity, and a dispirited investor base. With valuations of EM equities trading at the largest discount to their developed-market peers in 12 years, some opportunities are beginning to emerge.”

In fact, several economists and asset managers have begun to compare and contrast the attributes of various emerging markets. Some say China is a better bet than Latin America. Others like the opportunities in Southeast Asia. A Goldman Sachs analyst cited by Bloomberg cautioned, “…Colombia, South Africa, Turkey, and Malaysia still need to tackle their current-account imbalances; Russia, India, and Poland are among nations that have improved enough for their assets to rally…”

The point is there is a buzz building around emerging markets. Sometimes, when analysts begin to emphasize the potential of an asset class, investors are tempted to pile in. While emerging markets investments can be a valuable part of a well allocated and diversified portfolio, it’s a good idea to remember there are distinct risks which are not suitable for all investors associated with investing in emerging markets.

If you have questions about your financial strategy, please give contact your financial advisor.

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.”

--Mark Twain

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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