15Jan

HOW DID RETAILERS FARE DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON?

There was a time when everyone went to the mall to shop. Brick and mortar was the only choice and stores were crowded as a result. When online shopping first appeared, people were skeptical and weary of providing their credit cardinformation or trusting any part of the process. Amazon was making some strides early on with gaining market share, but the appetite for the Internet and shopping had not yet caught on. Those first transactions officially began in 1994, a year before Amazon opened its doors. What prompted most of the shopping from home that year was catalog and TV shopping channel purchases over the phone. Incredibly, that year, there were 98 million consumers who purchased $60 billion of goods from home. Calling an 800-number was the first foray into shopping from home before the real concept of ecommerce exploded. The Internet was still largely a mystery to many back then

7Jan

WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH OIL PRICES?

The price of oil crashed in late 2014, prompting the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to begin a price war to regain lost market share. Besides losing market share to other countries outside its own cabal, OPEC was losing share to the United States. During November, oil prices dropped almost 22 percent, which represented the largest monthly percentage drop in 10 years. In response, OPEC may cut production. This cut could represent over a million barrels a day. Oil prices had reached a four-year high in early October. A strange thing happened on the way to the forum, or at least, between the distillery and the gas pump. The United States went from being dependent on oil from the Middle East to being the worlds largest oil producer. It happened very subtly, without much fanfare and it was mostly predictable by those who were believers in the U.S.’s

17Dec

SOME OF THE FANGS HAVE COME OUT OF THE FAANG’S

There’s a strange phenomenon in the stock market that recurs from time to time. A popular stock, that has become a megastar and is shooting for the moon, suddenly falls back to earth; at least part way. The luster becomes tarnished. This is why former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan coined the phrase “irrational exuberance.” He was speaking of the entire market, but to some degree, individual stocks inspire the same enthusiasm. They may or may not have the greatest valuations, but they are most often exciting companies that have achieved great things. Greenspan used the term in 1996 regarding the tech stock run-up, but it would take another few years before the prediction saw real consequences. And so it has been, with the prestige and reverence paid to the FAANG stocks; the high-flyers who have rewarded investors well and seemed to be on a dizzying trajectory. Who can argue that these market

3Dec

WHAT IS GOING ON WITH BREXIT NEGOTIATIONS?

“Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.” That is an old adage that has been used sarcastically when someone’s exit is mocked. Symbolically, Europe is telling Great Britain just that as fair warning to any other member of the European Union (EU) who might consider an exit. Brits voted in 2016 to make their exit from the EU amid protests and inter-regional disagreement. With the complexity of the original agreement, 45 years ago, the exit from this agreement has made Brexit a challenging event on many levels; politically, economically, socially and legally. While the United Kingdom (U.K.) remains a part of the EU for now, the timeline for negotiating a deal is drawing near. For many Brits, the European Union proved too expensive to belong to, did not offer sufficient vetting on uncontrolled immigration and was out of touch. Their discontent mounted with repeated terrorist attacks within

22Oct

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN TURKEY

Geographically, the country of Turkey stands in an interesting location, straddling two continents, with Eastern Europe at one door and Iran at the other. It has a colorful past with historic roots in the Ottoman and Byzantine empires. It shares borders with Syria, Iraq, Armenia, Georgia, Bulgaria and Greece. Most of the country is considered to be a part of Asia. The country is on the verge of economic collapse with the Turkish lira dropping 40 percent in value against the U.S. dollar. Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed his country’s problems on U.S. sanctions, but many economists blame Erdogan himself, and his zeal for big infrastructure projects with borrowed money, and his basic misunderstanding of economics, for what is largely a homemade crisis. The Erdogan government believes that a failed coup was attempted in 2016. This has resulted in the capture and jailing of a large number of

8Oct

WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH U.S. AND CHINESE TARIFFS?

The U.S. buys a lot from China. That may be the understatement of the year. The number is actually a half a trillion dollars annually. That is a very big number, even by Washington’s standards. It may seem like just about everything that we buy as American consumers is made in China and that isn’t far off base. Cell phones, computers, toys and furniture are some of the leading imports and the first two make up the biggest percentage of imports. The problem is that the Chinese government does not want to reciprocate. China imports about $15 billion annually of U.S. farm crops such as soy beans and $10.5 billion of transportation equipment such as airplanes. They also import about $7 billion annually of oil and gas products. While much of the attention in talk of a “trade war” has centered on steel and aluminum, those two products represent a

24Sep

GOLD PRICES HAVE BEEN PLUNGING; WHAT IS CAUSING IT?

When the world becomes filled with more uncertainty and markets become more volatile and geopolitical unrest is afoot, gold is considered a safe harbor. During volatile markets of the recent past, many investors have been driven to gold by putting at least a portion of their portfolios into the precious metal. In the past, it was a safe haven during times of high inflation. In the first half of August, the price of gold hit an 18-month low. That trend happened concurrently with the strengthening of the U.S. dollar. A downtrend had begun in 2013, but saw some reversal in 2014 and the first half of 2015. After peaking in 2011, when there was more uncertainty in the economy, gold prices were volatile. Decisions by the Federal Reserve also impacted gold prices during this time. Quantitative easing, which was a fed initiative in reaction to the 2008/2009 financial crisis, was

10Sep

S&P 500 – LONGEST BULL MARKET IN HISTORY

Strong economy, strong market; that seems to be the rational that can explain the market surge as of late. The S & P actually hit an all-time record high on August 24, 2018. The Nasdaq Composite followed suit. The market’s gains were broad-based. Running for the past nine and a half years, the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index has risen 325 percent. In that time, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 294 percent and the Nasdaq Composite is up 526 percent. This year, the Dow had been in correction territory for around six months and emerged from it on August 27. This was the longest stretch of days at these levels since 1961. The market had entered correction territory on February 8. On August 27, the Dow hit 26,049. There are some analysts on Wall Street who argue that the bull market of the 1990s remains the longest bull

27Aug

EMERGING MARKET’S OFF YEAR TO DATE; WHY?

The stock market has certainly rewarded investors in recent years with the Dow up 25 percent in 2017 alone. This was also the best year in four years for the Nasdaq and the S & P 500. Not all sector have enjoyed stellar performance this year though. One of the hardest hit sectors of the market recently has been emerging markets. The sector, which was up 8.8 percent in January, lost that advantage in the following five months, making the second quarter of 2018, the largest decline on record for the emerging markets sector. A couple of exchange traded funds (ETF’s) that track emerging markets have been good gauges of the sectors performance year-to-date. From the technical side, professional investors have taken notice of the iShares ETF MSCI Emerging Market fund (EEM), which in late May, showed a classic “death cross” on their charts. This is illustrated by the crossing

13Aug

OIL PRICES; WILL THERE BE CONTINUED DREAD AT THE GAS STATION?

The pain at the pump has really hit home for many Americans during the recent holidays with prices that have averaged 73 cents more than a year ago. The average price of regular gas nationwide was $2.26 a year ago. The price of gas on Independence Day was the highest in four years. A barrel of Brent crude increased by five dollars from April to May. More than one variable has been at play creating a surge in the price of oil. The OPEC member countries voted to cut back on oil production in 2016. With demand staying high, and even higher in China, the price of oil, and by extension gasoline, was impacted by the falling supply. The U.S. supplies Saudi Arabia with military weapons, including a $350 billion deal last year. The president has asked the Saudi King to increase oil production. The head of OPEC said that