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Weekly Market Commentary, February 24, 2021

 

The Markets
 
It’s a contrarian’s dream come true.
 
Contrarian investors like to buck the trend. They buy when other investors are selling and sell when others are buying.
 
Last week, Bank of America (BofA) delivered a contrarian’s dream. BofA’s monthly survey of 225 global asset managers, who are responsible for $645 billion in assets under management, showed the managers were almost fully invested, according to CNBC.
 
The survey showed asset managers’, “…cash levels at the lowest since March 2013, global equity allocations at a 10-year high, and a record number of respondents reporting taking a ‘higher than normal’ level of risk,” reported Randall Forsyth of Barron’s.
 
Asset managers’ optimism reflects central banks’ monetary policies, governments’ fiscal stimulus programs, and positive signs of economic recovery.
 
  •  Central bank actions are supporting low interest rates. Low interest rates encourage economic growth by making money inexpensive for companies and individuals to borrow. In the United States, the real (adjusted for inflation) 10-year Treasury yield finished last week at -0.80 percent, according to the U.S. Treasury.
 
  • Government stimulus is flooding world markets with cash. “Although percentage cash levels held by investment managers are falling, they are not falling fast enough to keep up the rapid expansion of money still flooding the system…U.S. household savings at the end of 2020 were still almost $1 trillion above pre-COVID levels…,” reported Mike Dolan of Reuters.
 
  • Economic recovery is gaining steam. While the virus continues to be a risk, last week much of the economic data in the United States was positive, with retail sales exceeding expectations and manufacturing holding steady, reported Nicholas Jasinski of Barron’s. Economic growth is forecast to be about 6 percent in 2021, reported Reuters.
 
Last week, yields on 10-year Treasuries moved higher and the Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and Nasdaq Composite both finished the week lower.
 
 
It’s black history month. Throughout the month of February, people in the United States celebrate the achievements of Black Americans. President Gerald Ford started the tradition in 1976 to “…seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Test your knowledge by taking this brief quiz.
 
1.   In 1972, the first Black woman elected to Congress launched a campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination with the slogan: Unbought and Unbossed. She once said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” What was her name?
a.   Yvonne Brathwaite Burke
b.   Shirley Chisholm
c.    Barbara Jordan
d.   Gwen Moore
 
2.   Eugene Bullard was the first African American pilot to serve in the Armed Forces. He worked as an air gunner for the French Army and served in two American wars. Which wars did he serve in?
a.   World War I and World War II
b.   World War II and Korean War
c.    Korean War and Vietnam War
d.   Vietnam War and Grenada
 
3.   One Black American author, who has won the National Book Award, the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, the MacArthur Genius Grant, and many other awards, described the work this way, “When you write, it's like braiding your hair. Taking a handful of coarse unruly strands and attempting to bring them unity.” What is the author’s name?
a.   Candace Carty-Williams
b.   Marlon James
c.    Edwidge Danticat
d.   Ta-Nehisi Coates
 
4.   Alabamian Percy Julian didn’t attend high school, but he earned a PhD from DePauw University. Julian graduated Phi Beta Kappa at the top of his class. Historically, he is regarded as one the most influential leaders in his field. What was his field of study?
a.   Law
b.   Medicine
c.    Chemistry
d.   History
 
Quiz Answers:
1.   B – Shirley Chisholm.
2.   A – World War I and World War II.
3.   C – Edwidge Danticat.
4.   C – Chemistry.
 
Weekly Focus – Think About It
 
“No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.”
--Alice Walker, American novelist and 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, February 18, 2021

The Markets
 
Way back, when radio disk jockeys played 45-rpm vinyl singles, the A-side of a disk was the song the record company was promoting and the other side – the flip side – held a song that sometimes had an equal or greater impact. For instance, the flip side of Queen’s We Are the Champions was We Will Rock You.
 
When it comes to the economy and financial markets, flip sides can have significant impact, too. For example:
 
  • Stock market performance. Last week, major stock indices in the United States – the Standard & Poor’s 500, the Dow Jones Industrial, and the Nasdaq Composite – finished at record highs. That was happy news for investors.
 
The flip side: Concern that share prices may not be sustainable. “The long, long bull market since 2009 has finally matured into a fully-fledged epic bubble. Featuring extreme overvaluation, explosive price increases, frenzied issuance, and hysterically speculative investor behavior…this bubble will burst in due time…,” wrote asset manager Jeremy Grantham of GMO in January 2021.
 
  • Vaccination acceleration. The pace of COVID-19 vaccinations has accelerated. Vaccinations are important to economic recovery because they are expected to restore confidence and increase economic activity, reported Janet Alvarez of CNBC.
 
The flip side: Vaccines may not be as effective as many anticipate for two reasons: 1) Some Americans are reluctant to be vaccinated, and 2) Vaccines may not be effective against all strains of the virus.
 
  • Additional stimulus. A $1.9 trillion stimulus package is in the works, which could “…prevent unnecessary financial hardship and mitigate future economic risks,” according to Morning Consult economist John Leer.
 
That seems particularly important since employment gains have slowed. Last week, Carleton English of Barron’s reported, “All told there were 20.4 million workers receiving benefits under programs for the week ending January 23, a 2.6 million increase from the prior week. At this time last year, there were 2.2 million workers receiving benefits.”
 
The flip side: Too much stimulus could cause the economy to overheat, lead to inflation, and cause the Federal Reserve to raise rates. The bond market has already been pushing rates higher. Last week, the yield on 30-year U.S. Treasuries rose above 2 percent for the first time since February 2020.
 
  •  Infrastructure spending. Work has begun on a $2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan that is intended to create jobs and rebuild U.S. transportation networks, reported Ian Duncan of The Washington Post.
 
The flip side: While many agree U.S. infrastructure needs repair, the cost may be paid through higher taxes. There is ongoing debate about whether tax increases impede or accelerate economic growth, according to Jim Tankersley of The New York Times. In addition, government spending of this type is another form of stimulus, which could heat up economic growth.
 
Last week, Colby Smith of Financial Times reported numerous economists have increased U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) growth estimates for 2021. Estimates ranged from 5.9 percent to 6.3 percent.
 
 
Innovations can be difficult to value. Throughout history, inventions and new ways of doing things have changed the world:
 
  • The magnetic compass, which was invented in the 12th century, helped people navigate the world.
  • The printing press, which was invented in the 1400s, made it possible to mass produce books, democratizing knowledge.
  • Electricity and electric lights changed the rhythms of everyday life in the late 1800s.
  • Currency, which was first used in the ninth century, eventually led to monetary systems, banking, and credit cards.
 
It would have been difficult to understand or estimate the long-term value of these innovations. It’s possible some of today’s innovations could have similar impact. One is machine learning. Machine learning uses algorithms to turn a data set into a model that can improve our understanding of a topic. For example, machine learning is being applied to:
 
  • Scientific research. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) “…have now developed a machine-learning algorithm that helps them identify multiple possible structures that a protein can take…The researchers are now using this technique to study the coronavirus spike protein, which is the viral protein that binds to receptors on human cells and allows them to enter cells,” reported Anne Trafton of MIT News.
 
  • Smart cities. Data-collecting technologies are being deployed in a number of cities. Kim Hart and Aïda Amer of Axios reported these technologies include location beacons (which track smartphones), smart tolls, drone cameras, smart landfills, security cameras, streetlight sensors, and smart grids. While expectations for smart cities are high, public skepticism has slowed the pace of these projects.
 
  • You, your friends, and your family. “Much of the most privacy-sensitive data analysis today – such as search algorithms, recommendation engines, and adtech networks – are driven by machine learning and decisions by algorithms. As artificial intelligence evolves, it magnifies the ability to use personal information in ways that can intrude on privacy interests…,” explained Cameron Kerry of Brookings.
 
Weekly Focus – Think About It
 
“There is no recipe, there is no one way to do things – there is only your way. And, if you can recognize that in yourself and accept and appreciate that in others, you can make magic.”
--Ara Katz, Entrepreneur
 
 
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, February 8, 2021

The Markets
 
 
It’s not a black diamond ski run yet, but the yield curve for U.S. Treasuries is steeper than it has been in a while.
 
A yield curve is the line on a graph showing yields for different maturities of bonds. Yield curves provide insight to bond investors’ perceptions about the economy. There are four basic types of yield curves:
 
  • Normal: The slope is upward because short-term bond yields are lower than long-term bond yields. A normal curve for U.S. Treasuries has a yield gap of about 2.3 percent between 30-year Treasury bonds and 3-year Treasury bills, according to Fidelity. On Friday, the difference was 1.78 percent.
  • Steep. The upward curve is unusually steep. This may occur when an economic expansion is underway, demand for capital pushes interest rates higher, and inflation rises.
  • Flat: There is no curve because short- and long-term bonds have similar yields. Flattening yield curves can be a precursor of economic slowdown and lower interest rates.
  • Inverted: The curve slopes down. Long-term bond yields are lower than short-term bond yields. Some believe an inverted yield curve is a signal that recession is ahead.
 
Right now, the steepening of the U.S. Treasury yield curve is positive news, according to a source cited by Ben Levisohn of Barron’s:
 
“Historically, [a steepening yield curve is a] good sign for both the economy and
stock markets…But it is also an early warning sign that the clock is ticking on how
long the Fed will remain on hold, or easy, before beginning to hike rates and
tighten financial conditions to combat the threat of runaway inflation.”
 
Inflation concerns were part of last week’s debate over the size of the pending stimulus. If stimulus is too small, economic growth and jobs recovery may falter. If it’s too big, the economy may overheat and inflation could become an issue, according to economist Lawrence Summers in The Washington Post.
 
Judging by January’s anemic jobs report, it could be a while before the economy runs too hot.
 
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 49,000 jobs were created last month. At that rate, it would take a very long time for the economy to recover the jobs lost in 2020. The pace of hiring is expected to accelerate as more Americans get vaccinated and new stimulus is distributed, reported Matthew Klein of Barron’s.
 
Major U.S. stock indices finished the week higher.
 
 
 
Bits and Bobs. Investors are always looking for news that might lead them to new trends in the market. Here are a few fascinating tidbits from last week:
 
  • Currency competition. China would really like the yuan to replace the U.S. dollar as the world’s favored currency. Reuters reported, “…the global system for financial messaging and cross-border payments, has set up a joint venture with the Chinese central bank’s digital currency research institute and clearing centre, a move some see as a sign that China wants to explore global use of its planned digital yuan.”
 
  • Putting a price tag on nature. The Treasury of the United Kingdom commissioned an expert panel to evaluate the contributions of species and ecosystems to the size and growth of economies and evaluate how loss of biodiversity will affect economies in the future. The 600-page Dasgupta Review reports that sustaining the world’s current level of economic growth and standards of living (a.k.a. “global demand for the biosphere’s goods and services and the biosphere’s current capacity to supply them on a sustainable basis”) will require 1.6 Earths.
 
  • Veggies telling tales. Scientists are finding ways to help plants monitor the environment and communicate their findings. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) embedded nanotubes in spinach plants to look for chemical compounds found in explosives, like landmines. MIT News explained, “When one of these chemicals is present in the groundwater sampled naturally by the plant, carbon nanotubes embedded in the plant leaves emit a fluorescent signal that can be read with an infrared camera. The camera can be attached to a small computer similar to a smartphone, which then sends an email to the user.”
 
Weekly Focus – Think About It
 
“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently…Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And, while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
--Rob Siltanen, Advertising marketer
 
 
 
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, February 2, 2021

The Markets
 
They say people watching the same event often see different things. That seems to have been the case last week when share prices of a few companies experienced tremendous volatility.
 
Some cast the events as a David vs. Goliath morality tale, however, Michael Mackenzie of Financial Times saw it differently. He wrote, “…a speculative surge from retail investors using borrowed money…has in the past signaled a frothy market top.” (In financial lingo, a market is ‘frothy’ when investors drive asset prices higher while ignoring underlying fundamentals.)
 
No matter how you characterize it, the events of last week were unusual. Felix Salmon of Axios explained, “Almost never does a stock trade more than twice its market value in a single day…It has happened 7 times this week already, and 20 times this month…What we've seen in the past month, and especially the past week, is certain companies becoming little more than vehicles for short-term gambling.”
 
While the social-media-driven trading spectacle was fascinating, it overshadowed other substantive news that may affect more companies over a longer period of time:
 
  •  The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged near zero. Fed Chair Jerome Powell indicated rates will remain low until jobs have recovered, even if inflation moves beyond the Fed’s target rate, reported Joy Wiltermuth and Andrea Riquier of MarketWatch.
 
  • The economy continued to grow during the fourth quarter of 2020. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported gross domestic product (GDP), which is the value of all goods and services produced, increased from the third to the fourth quarter of 2020. The pace of growth slowed significantly from the third quarter as the coronavirus continued to interfere with economic activity.
 
  •   A highly anticipated vaccine proved less effective than anticipated. Markets responded negatively to the news that a single-shot vaccine was 66 percent effective globally. The value of the vaccine is greater than the statistic suggests, according to experts cited by Ben Levisohn of Barron’s. The shot, “…prevented severe symptoms in 85 percent of patients, meaning that even those who caught the virus had cough, sniffles, and fevers but avoided the worst outcomes…”
 
  •  Company earnings in the fourth quarter were better-than-expected. On Friday, John Butters of FactSet wrote, “Overall, 37 percent of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported actual results for Q4 2020 to date. Of these companies, 82 percent have reported actual EPS [earnings-per-share] above estimates…”
 
Last week, major U.S. stock market indices finished lower.
 
 
What’s new? In January, the Merriam Webster Dictionary added 520 words to its pages. The additions include new words that have found their way into common use, as well as expanded definitions for words that were already well-established. Here is a sampling of the new entries:
 
  • Hygge: A cozy quality that makes a person feel content and comfortable
 
  •  Pod: A small group of people who interact closely while minimizing outside contact to avoid exposure to a contagious disease
 
  • Hard pass: A firm refusal or rejection
 
  • Cancel culture: The practice of engaging in mass canceling as a way of expressing disapproval and applying social pressure
 
  • Crowdfunding: Obtaining needed funding by asking a large number of people, usually members of an online community, for contributions
 
  • Gig worker: A person who works temporary jobs as an independent contractor or freelancer
 
  • Second gentleman: The husband or male partner of a vice president or second in command of a country or jurisdiction
 
As new words become common or expand their meanings, other words become obsolete. What are some words that explained the world when you were younger and have fallen out of use? Britches, floppy disk, icebox, and yuppie come to mind.
 
Weekly Focus – Think About It
 
“For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.”
--T.S. Eliot, Poet, editor, playwright
 
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 26, 2021

The Markets
 
Last week, as COVID-19 vaccination efforts continued, there was speculation about stock market corrections and asset bubbles.
 
On Sunday morning, Bloomberg reported 63 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine had been administered across 56 countries. In the United States, 21.1 million shots have been delivered – about 51 percent of the vaccinations that were sent to states. At that point, the pace of vaccination in the United States was just over one million doses a day.
 
Improvements in the pace of vaccinations could lift market optimism, according to Ben Levisohn of Barron’s, but a market correction is still a possibility:
 
“…the S&P 500 has been following a pattern typical of recessions since 1990, one
that sees the recovery occur in three phases: an initial recovery, a period of consolidation, and a second rebound. The initial recovery has lasted an average of 10 months, with an average return of 48 percent. That was followed by a period of consolidation that lasted from two to seven months and saw stocks sink an average of 17 percent. That was then followed by another rally…The current bounce from the March lows has lasted about 10 months and produced gains of just over 71 percent. If the market follows the historical pattern, it should pull back by spring – but that will be a buying opportunity.”
 
A survey from Deutsche Bank sparked talk about the possibility of asset bubbles. In a CNBC interview, Jim Reid, who heads global credit strategy at Deutsche Bank, shared results of the company’s January survey. Of the 627 market professionals who participated, the vast majority of respondents (89 percent) saw some asset bubbles in markets. Reid explained central bank policies and stay-at-home trading were responsible, in part, for rising asset prices.
 
Solid fourth quarter 2020 earnings may be supporting asset prices, too. So far, 13 percent of companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index have reported results. John Butters of FactSet wrote, “At this point in time, more S&P 500 companies are beating EPS [earnings-per-share] estimates for the fourth quarter than average, and beating EPS estimates by a wider margin than average.”
 
Last week, major U.S. stock indices moved higher. The Nasdaq Composite gained 4.2 percent, which was its biggest gain since November 2020.
 
How important is financial literacy? At the end of 2020, the FINRA Investor Education Foundation published a report that found, “…financial literacy has significant predictive power for future financial outcomes, even after controlling for baseline financial characteristics and a wide set of demographic and individual characteristics that influence financial decision making.”
 
In fact, financial literacy may be more important today than it has ever been. That’s because the responsibility for saving, investing, and generating income for retirement has shifted from companies (that managed defined benefit plan assets) to individuals (who manage 401(k), 403(b), and other defined contribution plan assets).
 
The researchers administered a quiz at the beginning and end of the research period (six years). The quiz included questions that were a lot like these, which are derived from questions asked by the National Financial Capability Study:
 
1.   Suppose you have $100 in a savings account and it is earning 2 percent a year. After five years, how much money will be in the account?
a.   More than $102
b.   Exactly $102
c.    Less than $102
d.   I don’t know
 
2.   Now, suppose the interest rate on your savings account is 1 percent a year and inflation is 2 percent a year. After one year, will the money in the account buy more than it does today, exactly the same as it does today, or less than it does today?
a.   More
b.   Same
c.    Less
d.   I don’t know
 
3.   When interest rates increase, what typically happens to bond prices? Do they rise, fall, or stay the same? Or is there no relationship between interest rates and bond prices?
a.   Rise
b.   Fall
c.    Stay the same
d.   No relationship
e.   I don’t know
 
4.   Suppose you owe $1,000 on a loan and the interest rate you are paying is 20 percent per year, compounded annually. If you don't pay anything on the loan, how many years will it take for the amount you owe to double?
a.   Less than two years
b.   Two to four years
c.    Five to nine years
d.   Ten or more years
e.   I don’t know
 
If these answers generate questions for you, please give us a call.
 
Answers:
1.   A – More than $102.
2.   C – Less.
3.   B – Fall.
4.   B – Two to four years.
 
Weekly Focus – Think About It
 
“I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn’t know.”
--Mark Twain, American writer, humorist, and lecturer
 
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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Contact Details

Morgan Kenwood Advisors, LLC
5130 West Loomis Road
Greendale, WI 53129-1424
Phone: (414) 423-4020
Fax: (414) 423-4023
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.