The Markets U.S. stock markets finished last week in heady territory. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 18,003. Its all-time closing high is 18,312. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was less than 1 percent below its intraday trading record, which was set last year. Despite strong stock market performance, optimism was in short supply. Barron’s latest Big Money poll showed money managers are less bullish than they were last fall. Just 38 percent were bullish or very bullish about the prospects for stocks in coming months, 46 percent were neutral, and 16 percent were bearish. Their outlook varied

Economic Update

HOME SALES REBOUND Bouncing back from a drop of 7.3% in February, existing home sales improved 5.1% last month. In its March report, the National Association of Realtors announced a median sale price of $222,700, 5.7% higher than a year ago.1,2 BUILDERS BREAK GROUND ON FEWER PROJECTS While home sales increased last month, the pace of both housing starts and building permits declined. Census Bureau data shows an 8.8% reduction in groundbreaking for March. Building permits were down 7.7% for the month.1,2 OIL PRICES RISE FOR A THIRD STRAIGHT WEEK WTI crude settled at $43.73 on the NYMEX Friday. Expectations

Economic Update

HOW WEAK WAS FIRST-QUARTER GROWTH? Economists have reason to wonder given the latest retail sales, industrial output, and inflation figures. Overall retail purchases fell 0.3% in March, though they rose 0.2% minus auto buying; analysts polled by MarketWatch expected a 0.1% gain for the headline number and a 0.5% gain for the core number. Industrial production slipped 0.6% in March, matching the retreat in February. The Consumer Price Index rose only 0.1% last month while the Producer Price Index declined 0.1%.1 CONSUMERS A BIT LESS UPBEAT The preliminary April consumer sentiment index from the University of Michigan came in at

Weekly Market Commentary 4-18-2016

The Markets Isn’t it remarkable that China’s growth is so consistent? A columnist from The Washington Post once opined that China “produces an astonishing number of astonishing numbers.” Last week’s GDP announcement, which helped push markets higher, may fall into that category. China’s official statistics agency reported the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 6.7 percent during the first quarter of 2016. That didn’t come as a big surprise because it’s smack-dab-in-the-middle of the official Chinese government target of 6.5 to 7.0 percent GDP growth. The target was set last year when the government adopted its most recent five-year

MONTHLY NEWS AND INFORMATION FOR CURRENT AND FUTURE RETIREES COPING WITH SUDDEN RETIREMENT Many of us may retire earlier than we anticipate. In fact, a recent Voya Financial survey found this to be true for 60% of Americans. The reasons for a forced retirement varied from health issues (16% of respondents) and job loss (11% of respondents) to becoming a caregiver to a loved one (3% of respondents). If it happens to you, how should you respond? One, look for a part-time job you can still perform; less physically demanding work, or work you can do at home without a

Economic Update

FED: APRIL MIGHT BE TOO SOON FOR A RATE HIKE That was the message Wall Street gleaned from the Federal Reserve’s March policy meeting minutes. Several Fed officials, the minutes stated, felt that “raising the target range as soon as April would signal a sense of urgency” that would be untimely. Another passage noted broad support for “a lower path of the federal funds rate relative to December” (in other words, a shallower ascent for the benchmark interest rate across 2016). Still, some officials saw merit in an April rate move should economic indicators show significant upside.1 PACE OF GROWTH

The Markets We all learned a thing or two about Panama last week. The country is not the home of the Panama hat, which is made in Ecuador. However, it is the only place in the world where you can watch the sun rise on the Pacific Ocean and set on the Atlantic Ocean. It’s also home to a lot of offshore companies, according to the millions of records leaked from the world’s fourth largest offshore law firm. The Guardian reported 12 national leaders were among 143 politicians, athletes, and wealthy individuals (including family members and associates) who were participating

Quartlery Economic Update

A review of 1st Quarter 2016 THE QUARTER IN BRIEF In investing, patience is often a virtue. For an illustration of why it matters, simply look at the opening quarter of 2016. Stocks plunged in January and fell further in early February, and a bear market seemed a possibility. Then, Wall Street turned around. The Dow staged its greatest quarterly comeback in 83 years, rising more than 7% in March alone and ending March slightly positive YTD. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite each gained more than 6.5% in March. It was a quarter marked by rebounds; in stock indexes,

Wall Street has the potential to recover quickly from geopolitical shocks. In the past few months, the world has seen several high-profile terrorist attacks. Incidents in the U.S., Belgium, Pakistan, Lebanon, Russia, and France have claimed more than 500 lives and injured approximately 1,000 people. Beyond these incidents, many other deaths and injuries have been caused by terrorist bombings that garnered less media attention.1,2 As an anxious world worries about the ongoing threat posed by ISIS, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and other terror groups, there is also concern about the effect of such incidents on global financial markets. Wall

What financial factors deserve attention? Some of us will marry again in retirement. How many of us will thoroughly understand the financial implications that may come with tying the knot later in life? Many baby boomers and seniors will consider financial factors as they enter into marriage, but that consideration may be all too brief.  There are significant money issues to keep in mind when marrying after 50, and they may be important enough to warrant a chat with a financial professional. You might consider a prenuptial agreement. A prenup may not be the most romantic gesture, but it could

THE MONTH IN BRIEF The bulls ran back to Wall Street in March; the Dow, Nasdaq, and S&P 500 all gained more than 6% for the month, with the Dow and S&P returning to positive territory for the year. Oil prices continued to recover. The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged, and it also sent investors a dovish signal about raising rates across the rest of 2016. Though terrorist attacks in Belgium unnerved investors around the world, financial markets held up in their wake. Hiring and consumer confidence were strong, manufacturing grew stronger, and the economic news out of Europe

Economic Update

Here is a PDF of Weekly Economic Update 4-4-2016. ANOTHER SOLID JOBS REPORT The latest Labor Department employment report shows net job gains of 215,000 for March. Labor force participation increased last month, and the jobless rate consequently ticked up to 5.0% (the broader U-6 rate edged up to 9.8%). Mean hourly wages rose 7 cents to $25.43, up 2.3% year-over-year. Payrolls expanded by an average of 209,000 hires per month during the first quarter.1 MANUFACTURING SECTOR GROWS Rising to a March reading of 51.8, the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing PMI indicated sector expansion once again. In February, the

Here is a PDF of Weekly Market Commentary 04-04-2016. The Markets It’s like déjà vu all over again! This wasn’t the first quarter, or even the first year, that bond markets have not performed in the way Wall Street strategists have expected. During 2014, bond yields were expected to rise. They did not. During 2015, bonds were predicted to finish the year yielding about 2.8 percent to 3.3 percent. On December 31, they were at about 2.3 percent. During the first quarter of 2016, despite persistent predictions yields would move higher after the Federal Reserve’s rate hike, yields fell and

Social Security

Just how gloomy does its future look? Will Social Security run out of money in the 2030s? For years, Americans have been warned about that possibility. Those warnings, however, assume that no action will be taken to address Social Security’s financial challenges. Social Security is being strained by a giant demographic shift. In 2030, more than 20% of the U.S. population will be 65 or older. In 2010, only 13% of the nation was that old. In 1970, less than 10% of Americans were in that age group.1 Demand for Social Security benefits has increased, and the ratio of retirees

It may be the best retirement planning tool you have. Do you have a million dollars? At the moment, probably not. But if you invest and save diligently and let your assets compound, who knows? You may be a millionaire someday. In fact, you may need to be a millionaire someday. If you stay retired for twenty or thirty years, it could take well over $1 million to fund that retirement. In fact, Andrés Cardenal, CFA and financial analyst, recommends $1.25 million if you plan to match inflation over a three-decade retirement. This is one reason why you should contribute