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Weekly Market Commentary (October 21, 2020)

The Markets
  
It was a turbulent week for investors.
 
Waves of positive and negative news buffeted financial markets last week:
 
The financial sector delivered upbeat earnings news
Currently, many financial companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index have reported third quarter earnings and have done better than expected. Despite upbeat earnings, some companies' shares declined because of uncertainty about the path of economic recovery. If recovery continues, some banks may have excess reserves; however, if recovery falters and a double-dip recession occurs, banks may need to add to reserves, reported Barron's.
 
Coronavirus cases surged across the United States and Europe
A rapid rise in the number of COVID-19 cases worried investors at home and in Europe. New restrictions intended to slow the spread of the virus were implemented in France and the United Kingdom. A source cited by Financial Times reported, "...economists and investors had not expected governments to allow the virus to reach the point it has now."
 
Two treatment and vaccine trials paused
The surge of new cases was compounded by setbacks in the search for effective coronavirus treatments and vaccines. Two COVID-19 trials, one for a treatment and one for a vaccine, were temporarily put on hold because of safety concerns.
 
Retail sales were strong, but manufacturing and industrial production weren't
Last week, economic data provided a mixed picture of the economy. On the plus side, September's retail sales were stronger than expected despite the tapering of unemployment benefits. On the negative side, U.S. manufacturing and industrial production both came in below expectations, reported Financial Times.
 
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits increased
The number of people filing for first-time unemployment benefits was higher than expected, and higher than it had been for the past two weeks, even though California had temporarily stopped processing new claims. Almost 3 million people filed for extended benefits, meaning they'd been unemployed for 26 weeks or more­­­. Overall, more than 25 million people relied on unemployment benefits last week.
 
Major U.S. stock indices eked out gains last week.
 

Data as of 10/16/20
1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks) 0.2% 7.8% 16.5% 10.9% 11.4% 11.4%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. -1.0 -4.4 2.4 -1.0 2.9 1.6
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 0.7 NA 1.8 2.3 2.2 2.5
Gold (per ounce) -1.0 25.1 28.3 13.5 10.0 3.4
Bloomberg Commodity Index 0.2 -9.3 -6.3 -5.2 -4.0 -6.6
S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.
Sources: Yahoo! Finance, MarketWatch, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.
 
One dollar is a lot like another, isn't it? In theory, we think of all money in the same way. In practice, we don't.
 
Money is fungible. That means one dollar has the same value as another dollar or four quarters or ten dimes or 100 pennies. If you are buying something valued at $1.00, you can purchase it with $1.00 in bills or coins.
 
However, when making financial decisions, people tend to engage in something called mental accounting. One aspect of mental accounting is assigning labels that identify the intended purpose of money. Sometimes this decision-making shortcut can improve financial choices. Other times, it can produce a financial setback.
 
Mental accounting often guides spending and saving decisions
A common mental shortcut is budgeting. People and companies rely on budgets to help them make sound financial decisions. Typically, budgets allot specific amounts of income to spending and saving. For an individual:
 
  • Spendable money may go to housing, food, utilities, clothing, entertainment, and other expenses.
  • Saved money may go into emergency, vacation, retirement, or other savings accounts.
 
When people categorize money, they are reluctant to spend it on other things. Behavioral Economics reported, "When a resource [in this case, money] is divided into smaller units...consumers encounter additional decision points - a psychological hurdle encouraging them to stop and think...opening a partitioned pool of resources incurs a psychological transgression cost, such as feelings of guilt."
 
In other words, your brain will be reluctant to spend your retirement savings on a vacation.
 
Some shortcuts lead to irrational financial decisions
Mental accounting is a double-edged sword. If people do not think flexibly then mental accounting can cost them. For instance, focusing too intensely on labels can result in decisions that hurt your financial position rather than help it. Kiplinger's provided an example:
 
"Mental accounting leads us to hoard money in a savings account that earns 0.3 percent interest while keeping a high balance on a 15 percent-interest credit card. We like the psychological comfort we get from having money in the bank, even though transferring cash from savings to pay off a credit-card balance can essentially 'earn' us a quick 14.7 percent."
 
Like many things, mental accounting can be helpful or hurtful, depending on how it's applied.
 
Weekly Focus - Think About It
 
"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides.  Time makes more converts than reason."
                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           --Thomas Paine, Author of 'Common Sense'
 
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 (October 13, 2020)

The Markets
  
Yes. No. Maybe?
 
Markets were sharply focused on the status of stimulus last week. First, it was on. Then, it was off. Then, it might be on. Then, it was off again. There was a big bill. There was a smaller bill. There were stand-alone options.
 
'Maybe' was enough for investors
Major U.S. stock indices finished the week higher, per Barron's, and global indices were bullish on Friday because of U.S. stimulus talks, reported Financial Times.
 
"Markets are dizzy from all the talk on both sides about what they want from a deal but believe that something will inevitably happen anyway...Markets are essentially drunk on massive government spending just as they are inebriated from all the Fed quantitative easing and zero-interest rate policy," said an advisory group chief investment officer cited by Financial Times.
 
Earnings season is upon us
Another factor that influences investors is earnings season, which begins this week. During earnings season, companies communicate how profitable they were during the previous quarter.
 
Third-quarter earnings estimates for companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index remain subdued. John Butters of FactSet reported, "For Q3 2020, the estimated earnings decline for the S& P 500 is -20.5 percent."
 
While that is a significant decline, it is an improvement on -25.3 percent, which was the June 2020 estimate for third quarter earnings. It is also an improvement on second quarter's -31.9 percent.
 
Some companies haven't provided guidance
It's notable one of four companies in the S&P 500 did not provide earnings per share (EPS) guidance for 2020 or 2021. (Guidance is a forward-looking statement that tells investors what the company expects will happen in the near future.) "Almost all of these companies cited the uncertainty of the future economic impacts of COVID-19 as the reason for not providing or withdrawing EPS guidance for the full year," reported FactSet.
 
Certainty about earnings may improve when a treatment or vaccine for the virus becomes available. The Milken Institute reported there are 318 treatments for COVID-19 and 213 vaccines in the works. Thirty-five of the vaccines are in clinical trials.
 

Data as of 10/9/20
1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks) 3.8% 7.6% 19.1% 11.0% 11.5% 11.6%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. 3.3 -3.4 6.6 -0.1 3.2 1.8
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 0.8 NA 1.6 2.4 2.1 2.4
Gold (per ounce) 1.1 26.3 27.6 14.6 10.8 3.6
Bloomberg Commodity Index 4.9 -9.4 -6.0 -4.5 -4.3 -6.6
S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.
Sources: Yahoo! Finance, MarketWatch, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.
 
Where is everyone going? You may have read Americans are moving out of cities to escape the coronavirus or violent protests. During the past few months, pundits have said things like, "...the coronavirus pandemic has shifted attitudes about city living, altering the dynamics of the real estate market for years ahead."
 
Marie Patino of Bloomberg CityLab decided to look at the data and see if it was true. She gathered information from moving companies, real estate aggregators, and real estate consultants.
 
As it turns out, people are leaving cities - two cities in particular.
 
Patino wrote, "According to [moving company] data, between May and August 2020, move requests out of New York City to any destination were up 45 percent, and in San Francisco, up 23 percent, compared to the same time last year."
 
Where were people moving?
 
Some were moving to other cities, continuing trends that had been identified before the pandemic arrived. For instance, San Franciscans began to migrate to Seattle before 2020. Other top destinations for San Franciscans this year have included:
 
  • Austin, TX
  • Chicago, IL
  • New York, NY
  • Boston, MA
 
Likewise, New Yorkers had been moving to Los Angeles and the west coast prior to 2020. This year, they also have favored:
 
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL
  • West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, FL
  • Orlando, FL
 
One real estate aggregator's 2020 Urban-Suburban Market Report found, "Both urban homes and suburban homes are selling more quickly now than they were in February, and the percent change in time on market has been nearly equal for both classifications. The share of homes selling above their list price in suburban areas vs. urban areas exhibit the same trend nationally."
 
Weekly Focus - Think About It
 
"Information is the oil of the 21st century, and analytics is the combustion engine."
                                                                 --Peter Sondergaard, Business executive
 
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 (October 7, 2020)

The Markets
  
Last week, the third quarter of 2020 came to an end - and the fourth quarter delivered a doozy of an October surprise.
 
President Trump has the coronavirus
On Friday Americans awoke to the news President Trump had contracted COVID-19. Financial markets responded with relative equanimity. After a brief sell-off on Friday, major U.S. indices finished the week, and the third quarter, higher.
 
Market enthusiasm cooled in September
U.S. stock markets moved higher in July and August. Then, in early September, investors became skittish and major U.S. indices recorded losses for several weeks. The surge of uncertainty may have resulted from changing vaccine expectations, concerns about earnings, fears of a disputed election, and lack of new stimulus, reported Ben Levisohn of Barron's.
 
The Federal Reserve committed to low rates for a long time
The Federal Reserve's changing policies may have had an influence on markets, as well. The Fed intends to keep interest rates near zero for the foreseeable future. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) statement provided a big picture explanation, "The path of the economy will depend significantly on the course of the virus. The ongoing public health crisis will continue to weigh on economic activity, employment, and inflation in the near term, and poses considerable risks to the economic outlook over the medium term."
 
Yields on 10-year U.S. Treasuries moved in a narrow range during the quarter, finishing near where they started.
 
Stimulus talks resumed last week
Treasury yields rose and stock markets perked last week when Congress resumed stimulus talks. Investors expect $1.3 to $1.5 trillion in new stimulus, according to BCA Research cited by Kiplinger's.
 
Additional stimulus measures were expected early in the third quarter, after CARES Act provisions ran dry in July. However, better-than-expected economic data and a reluctance to increase the burgeoning budget deficit made some in Congress adopt a wait-and-see approach, reported Victor Reklaitis of MarketWatch.
 
By last Friday, stimulus negotiations appeared to have stalled again. However, there were new calls for action over the weekend, following Friday's weaker-than-expected employment report, according to Jacob Pramuk of CNBC.
 
The pace of recovery may be slowing
Throughout the third quarter, employment improved steadily. In July it was 10.2 percent. By September, it had fallen to 7.9 percent. While continued improvement is important, the pace of jobs creation slowed last month. Consensus estimates for September suggested the economy would produce 850,000 new jobs. It came up short at 661,000. That could be a sign economic growth is slowing.
 
Economic growth improved during the third quarter
During the second quarter (April through June), the U.S. economy shrank by about a third (-31.7 percent). Data for third quarter economic growth is not yet available, but it is expected to show a significant improvement. The Atlanta Federal Reserve's GDPNow estimates third quarter growth could be as high as 34.6 percent.
 
While a double-digit rebound would be welcome news, Aaron Weitzman of The Bond Buyer pointed out a 34.6 percent rebound does not offset a 31.7 percent contraction. The economy needs to grow by 46 percent to get back to even.
 
Volatility is likely to continue
Global markets may be volatile through the end of 2020.
 

Data as of 10/2/20
1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks) 1.5% 3.6% 16.0% 9.8% 11.4% 11.4%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. 1.6 -6.5 3.5 -1.0 3.6 1.8
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 0.7 NA 1.6 2.3 2.0 2.5
Gold (per ounce) 2.3 25.0 27.5 14.3 10.8 3.8
Bloomberg Commodity Index -1.3 -13.7 -10.0 -5.9 -4.5 -6.6
S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.
Sources: Yahoo! Finance, MarketWatch, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.
 
THE VERY BEST WRONG TEST ANSWERS. Almost everyone has come across a test question they couldn't answer. Some ingenious souls provide their teachers with some humor instead. British author Richard Benson asked teachers to share their favorite wrong test answers, and he shared a few with Business Insider:
 
Q: When did the founding fathers draft the Constitution?
 
A: It was a second round pick, right after LeBron James.
 
Q: Describe what is meant by "forgetting."
 
A: I can't remember.
 
Q: What is a nitrate?
 
A: It is much cheaper than a day rate.
 
Q: Upon ascending to the throne, the first thing Queen Elizabeth II did was to...
 
A: Sit down.
 
Q: Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?
 
A: At the bottom.
 
Weekly Focus - Think About It
 
"You pay a very high price for a cheery consensus. It won't be the economy that will do in investors; it will be the investors themselves. Uncertainty is actually the friend of the buyer of long-term values."
                                                                     Warren Buffett, Investor and philanthropist
 
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 (October 2, 2020)

The Markets
 
For four weeks, the U.S. stock market has sparked and sputtered like a campfire in light rain.
 
Today, pandemic-driven demand is providing fuel for the investors. The need for certain types of products and services has accelerated and innovation is creating new opportunities. Consider:
  • Technology. Today, digital technologies support nearly all group interactions, which has accelerated innovation. Traditional video communications platforms are in high demand, and multi-person virtual platforms are emerging. Robotics innovations are racing ahead, too. Robotic dogs enforce social distancing in Singaporean parks, reported Accenture. Other types of robots sanitize streets and facilitate contactless delivery around the globe.
  • Consumer products and services. COVID-19 increased demand for staples, cleaning, and personal hygiene products. The virus may have inspired deeper and longer-lasting changes in consumer behavior, too. Accenture reported people are favoring healthier lifestyles, consuming goods more conscientiously, and showing a preference for locally-sourced goods.
  • Healthcare, drug development/delivery, and medical equipment. Last Friday, 316 COVID-19 treatments and 212 vaccines were in development around the world, reported the Milliken Institute. In some places, humans are collaborating with artificial intelligence to streamline drug discovery processes. Demand for telehealth services has increased dramatically. So has demand for personal protective equipment, reported Pankaj Singh of Plastics Today.
 
Throughout 2020, investors' enthusiasm has pushed markets higher. However, concerns about a variety of issues have dampened enthusiasm in recent weeks. Last Friday, Ben Levisohn of Barron's reported:
 
"In a week filled with headlines about government stimulus (or the lack thereof), Supreme Court nominations, the election, the gain in the Nasdaq...suggests that it was the fear of another COVID-19 wave that really got the market down. And for good reason. The week began with the U.K. talking about a second shutdown and ended with all of Europe facing down a second wave of infection...In the U.S., the number of cases is rising and the death toll passed 200,000 midweek..."
 
Many of these concerns aren't likely to dissipate soon, and volatility is likely to continue.
 
Last week, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index and Dow Jones Industrial Average lost value, while the Nasdaq Composite gained value.
 

Data as of 9/25/20
1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks) -0.6% 2.1% 10.5% 9.7% 11.8% 11.2%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. -4.2 -7.9 -0.2 -1.5 3.5 1.7
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 0.7 NA 1.7 2.2 2.2 2.5
Gold (per ounce) -4.7 22.1 21.5 12.9 10.2 3.7
Bloomberg Commodity Index -3.2 -12.6 -10.4 -6.1 -4.4 -6.6
S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.
Sources: Yahoo! Finance, MarketWatch, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.
 
Preparing for A Pandemic Halloween. In many neighborhoods across the United States, Halloween decorations have begun to appear. If you've been wondering whether Halloween celebrations and trick-or-treating are possible when the COVID-19 virus is still spreading across the country and the world, you may be interested in the Halloween guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control:
 
Low risk activities:
  • Carving or decorating pumpkins at home and displaying them
  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
  • Decorating your house, apartment, or living space
  • Holding a virtual Halloween costume contest
  • Having a Halloween movie night at home with your family or roommates
  • Having a Halloween scavenger hunt with lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while walking outdoors, at a safe distance from other participants
  • Having a scavenger-hunt style trick-or-treat event with your household members in or around your home instead of trick-or-treating from house to house
 
Moderate risk activities:
  • Participating in one-way trick-or-treating. Individually wrapped treats are lined up for families to take while remaining at a safe social distance (end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard)
  • Small group, outdoor, open-air costume parades or parties with participants remaining at safe social distances (six feet apart)
  • Going to an open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest where appropriate mask use is enforced, and people can remain more than six feet apart (if screaming is likely, distances should be increased)
  • Having an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends with people spaced at least six feet apart (again, if screaming is likely, distances should be increased)
 
With a little planning, everyone can have a safe and fun Halloween.
 
Weekly Focus - Think About It
 
"In three words, I can sum up everything I've learned about life. It goes on. In all the confusions of today, with all our troubles...with politicians and people slinging the word fear around, all of us become discouraged...tempted to say this is the end, the finish. But life - it goes on. It always has. It always will. Don't forget that."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 --Robert Frost, Poet, on his 80th birthday in 1954
 
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.
Continue reading
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Weekly Market Commentary (September 22, 2020)

 
The Markets
 
Investors weren't happy with central banks last week.
 
After the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell confirmed the economy is recovering more quickly than anticipated:
 
"With the reopening of many businesses and factories and fewer people withdrawing from social interactions, household spending looks to have recovered about three-quarters of its earlier decline...The recovery has progressed more quickly than generally expected, and forecasts from FOMC participants for economic growth this year have been revised up since our June Summary of Economic Projections. Even so, overall activity remains well below its level before the pandemic and the path ahead remains highly uncertain...We remain committed to using our full range of tools to support the economy in this challenging time."
 
Investors weren't satisfied. Colby Smith of Financial Times reported stocks, "sold off sharply during Mr. Powell's press conference on Wednesday, and again on Thursday," because the FOMC did not provide information about "how it might adapt its balance sheet policy to generate...inflation and aid the U.S. economic recovery."
 
The Bank of England (BOE) also delivered news that unsettled markets last week. Minutes from the BOE's latest meeting noted it was studying negative interest rates. Some banks and analysts interpreted this to mean the bank intends to implement negative rates. Eva Szalay and Chris Giles of Financial Times reported, "People familiar with the matter said the preparations now under way were aimed more at fully understanding the effects of negative rates, rather than at seeking to implement them."
 
It's possible the BOE wants to better understand negative rates so it's prepared for a worst-case scenario, such as the economic impact of COVID-19 containment measures combined with failure to reach a trade agreement with the European Union (EU), reported David Goodman and Lucy Meakin of Bloomberg. The EU trade deadline is fast approaching and, currently, no deal seems likely.
 
In the face of uncertainty, markets are likely to remain volatile.
 

Data as of 9/18/20
1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks) -0.6% 2.8% 10.4% 9.9% 11.1% 11.3%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. 1.1 -4.0 3.3 -0.3 3.6 2.2
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 0.7 NA 1.8 2.2 2.1 2.7
Gold (per ounce) 0.2 28.1 29.8 14.1 11.3 4.3
Bloomberg Commodity Index 2.0 -9.8 -8.2 -5.0 -3.6 -6.3
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; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.
Sources: Yahoo! Finance, MarketWatch, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.
 
IT'S IG NOBEL TIMEOn September 17, the 30th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony was broadcast online. Here's a fun fact: The 1995 Ig Nobel Ceremony was one of the first events videocast on the Internet.
 
The Ig Nobel Prizes "celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative - and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology." The ceremony is organized by the magazine, Annals of Improbable Research, and is co-sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students and the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association.
 
This year's winning research explored ideas that make people laugh and think. The winning research included:
  • Arachnophobic Entomologists: When Two More Legs Makes a Big Difference, "for collecting evidence that many entomologists (scientists who study insects) are afraid of spiders, which are not insects."
  • A Chinese alligator in heliox: formant frequencies in a crocodilian, "for inducing a female Chinese alligator to bellow in an airtight chamber filled with helium-enriched air."
  • Eyebrows cue grandiose narcissism, "for devising a method to identify narcissists by examining their eyebrows."
  • National Income Inequality Predicts Cultural Variation in Mouth to Mouth Kissing, "for trying to quantify the relationship between different countries' national income inequality and the average amount of mouth-to-mouth kissing."
  • Misophonia: Diagnostic Criteria for a New Psychiatric Disorder, "for diagnosing a long-unrecognized medical condition: Misophonia, the distress at hearing other people make chewing sounds."
Anyone can learn more about why the researchers were exploring these ideas. Alternatively, 24/7 Ig Nobel lectures are available during which the winners explain their topics twice. First, they are asked to deliver complete technical descriptions in 24 seconds. Then, they try to offer clear summaries that anyone can understand in just seven words.
 
Weekly Focus - Think About It
 
"...I'm dejected, but only momentarily, when I can't get the fifth vote for something I think is very important. But then you go on to the next challenge and you give it your all. You know that these important issues are not going to go away. They are going to come back again and again. There'll be another time, another day."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    --Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice
 
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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