16Aug

THE ECONOMY AND A NEW ADMINISTRATION

In a corporation, the CEO is beholden to the board of directors and the board is beholden to the shareholders. Both parties, recognizing that their company’s product or service must satisfy customers, also realize that the survival of the company relies on that group as well. This is the reality of business. A successful business must keep an eye on benefitting both groups and not operate to benefit the CEO and board only. Donald J. Trump is a businessman. He was never a politician. In interviews over the last twenty-plus years, when asked if he would ever run for president, he replied that it would only happen “if things got too bad.” During those years, he watched the American political machine operate as if the shareholders and customers played no part in the success of the business. He had seen enough and that state of affairs brought him to the

31Jul

THE FAANG STOCKS MAY STILL HAVE FANGS

The Internet hasn’t only changed the way people communicate, check on financial accounts or study for school projects; it has brought great wealth to certain companies and their stockholders. Whether they are in the social media realm, in entertainment, online product sales or make the devices we use to access the Internet, most have reflected the explosion in this new technology. FAANG stocks, a term presumably coined by well-known stock promoter Jim Cramer, describes five tech stocks that have had tremendous growth in recent years — Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google (Alphabet). These five stocks account for 11.9 percent of the S&P 500’s market capitalization. The stocks had all had great success since their initial offerings and continued that trajectory during the rally after the inauguration through March. Then; something happened. First, during the week of  June 5th to 9th, 2017, several of the stocks hit new highs. Call it

17Jul

FALLING OIL PRICES

Watch the bouncing ball; that may describe oil prices in recent years. With incremental changes, Americans are at the point where we might not even pay attention anymore. It’s only those trends that move the ball substantially, either up or down, that seem to catch our attention. With that in mind, oil prices have mostly trended downward in recent months, reaching a 7-month low in mid-June. The reasons are many with catalysts in various parts of the world. In May, it was partially due to increased production in Libya and an oversupply in the U.S. That last reason may be a curiosity to many compared with the status quo only five or ten years ago. But, more recently, the U.S. stockpiles have remained resilient. OPEC had cut production to bolster prices, but the move had not made a big dent in the global supply, which has kept prices in check.

19Jun

THE RECENT FRENCH ELECTION

Preventing future terrorist attacks was apparently not on the minds of the French people as they went to the polls and voted for Emmanuel Macron as the country’s next president. Macron had run on a pro-Europe, pro-EU platform, but it was his opponent who ran on the need for stricter vetting of refugees. At 39, Macron is the youngest person to hold the position since Napoleon. The French presidential election occurs in two phases and Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen were the top two finalists who survived the first round two weeks before and sought political victory in a second round that happened two weeks later. Election result projects in France gave Macron two thirds of the vote. Instead of leading another country to exit the European Union, Macron embraces the EU and campaigned on his commitment to the union. Macron’s competitor’s campaign for the presidency never had a

7Jun

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TAX REFORM PLAN

Reducing personal and corporate tax rates was a centerpiece of the new Trump tax proposal which came out April 26, 2017. The changes are meant to stimulate domestic corporate profits and hiring while giving the middle class a tax break. The other goal of the proposal is simplification of a process that has grown far too complex for the average person. With any changes to the current tax code and the way personal taxes are collected, there is substantial interest in how tax revenues might be affected and what taxpayers can expect for popular deductions. According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the structure is “a tax plan that will count partly on revenue from economic growth spurred by tax cuts and partly on revenue from limiting deductions and other tax breaks.” The White House blog states that the focus of tax reform has centered on: “job creation, economic growth, and

22May

FRENCH ELECTIONS; WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

France has had more than its share of terrorist events and that fact has crept into the country’s politics. It has propelled one of two parties competing for the presidency into prominence for the post. Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen made it through round one to fight it out in a run-off election. The first round of voting occurred on April 23, 2017 and the second round run-off will happen on May 7, 2017. Neither finalist comes from either of the country’s two leading parties. News sources characterize them both as outsiders, although Macron had worked as the Deputy Secretary General and Economy Minister for French president Hollande. The candidates from the country’s two major parties only accounted for less than 27 percent of the total vote. The voters have spoken. If this sounds like it bears a resemblance to the last U.S. presidential election, you would be right. There

9May

GEO-POLITICAL INSTABILITY; WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR MARKETS?

Investors can be nervous people. That goes double for institutional investors; the people who manage big pension funds, mutual funds, foundations or the funds in insurance companies. When you are responsible for managing billions of dollars, in some cases, you worry about a hiccup of any geopolitical nature. It can mean volatility in the market and that can mean a loss. Unfortunately for those money managers, there is always some concerns on the world stage. Whether those concerns have to do with Iran, North Korea, Russia, terrorism, the French election or Syria, it can impact the oil markets or the stock market. Uncertainty about anything is not welcome in the equity or futures markets and it can wreck havoc with many forms of investments. In times of uncertainty, many investors seek out safe havens such as gold or government bonds, as lower risk alternatives. Yet, employing a knee-jerk reaction isn’t

24Apr

TAX PREPARATION AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT FOR RETIREMENT

Taxes are much like rust; once they are allowed to erode, they just keep on eroding. As a saver or investor, both fees and taxes can erode the potential future balance of a savings or retirement account. For this reason, strategies should always include tax considerations, especially for those in higher marginal tax brackets. During a person’s working years, if they used a defined contribution plan like a 401k, they realized a tax decrease as their contributions were not currently taxed. The effect this has was generally to reduce a workers taxes. With the exception of Roth accounts, a retiree must start tapping those retirement savings, and when they do, they will pay taxes at their current tax rate. Their marginal tax rate will be higher in most cases than if they were simply paying long-term capital gains on investments. One thing that holders of a 401k plan should avoid

10Apr

NEW FED RATE HIKE; MARKET REACTION?

The past couple of years witnessed more speculation about interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve than what was the reality. Many of the pundits were convinced we would see four increases during 2016 and they were wrong. The thinking has shifted in 2017 as some of the precursors that the Fed considers are starting a align and justify action on their part. A growing economy and real growth in the job market, with the accompanying uptick in inflation, is just the formula the Fed needs to raise rates; really. On March 15, 2017, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) raised the federal funds rate again by a quarter point; the second such move in three months. They had raised the benchmark rate this past December as well. The two increases are expected to have some effect on short term lending rates. This has been a reversal of Fed policy,

13Mar

NATIONAL DEBT CEILING BEING RAISED

Can you imagine that you have run up the balances on your credit cards to their maximums and you call the issuer of each credit card and announce; “I have decided that you need to raise my spending limit.” You know the response; “We make that decision; not you.” The bank, or other institution, that issues those credit cards has an underwriting department that determines your risk and ability to pay before they determine a maximum spending limit on your card. A responsible household manages its debt and monthly spending against its income and other sources of assets. This balancing act keeps debt from getting out of hand and assists in maintaining good relations with creditors and keeps the consumer’s FICO score, and other measures of financial responsibility, high. This micro-economic example is replicated on a macro scale when you consider the same balancing act that the United States must