The Markets As expected… The U.S. Federal Reserve left rates unchanged last week and markets celebrated. Across the globe, national stock market indices finished the week higher. In the United States, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and NASDAQ gained more than 1 percent. Not everyone was thrilled with the decision, however. Three Federal Reserve presidents cast dissenting votes. All believed interest rates should move higher. That’s the most dissents since December 2014 when even the dissenters were divided about what should happen. Proceeding with caution is the right approach, according to Barron’s: “A rate hike is usually aimed at

FED WAITS TO RAISE INTEREST RATES Federal Reserve officials decided against a rate hike last week, but two details in the central bank’s latest policy statement suggested an upward move was near. One, the Federal Open Market Committee voted 7-3 against raising the federal funds rate – an unusually close margin. Two, the Fed’s new dot-plot forecast showed consensus for a rate increase before the end of 2016. “Our decision [to wait] does not reflect a lack of confidence in the economy,” Fed chair Janet Yellen told the media after the announcement. “We’re generally pleased with how the U.S. economy

Life Insurance

Too many Americans have no life insurance. Their loved ones may pay dearly for that choice. September is National Life Insurance Awareness Month – a good time to think about the value and importance of insuring yourself. According to a recent Bankrate survey, 42% of Americans have no life insurance at all. They may not know that life insurance coverage has become much more affordable than it once was.1 Many people ask if life insurance is really worth the cost; maybe you are among them. The simple answer to that question is yes. It can be stunningly cheap: a healthy,

Can You Determine Your Ideal Retirement Income by Formula? Retirement income formulas can serve as a starting point or simple estimation of the amount of money you may need per month or year, but other factors may influence those needs as well. Some articles state that you need to live on 70% or 80% of your end salary in retirement, but such rules of thumb may prove simplistic. Claims that you need to amass a certain amount to retire comfortably today can also gloss over some key retirement planning variables. For example, when and where do you think you will

Weekly Market Commentary 9-21-2016

The Markets If it’s not one thing, it may be another. Economic data released last week will factor into this week’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) decision on whether to push interest rates higher in the United States. Some of the August data supports the idea economic growth was soft. For example, August retail sales fell more than expected, down 0.3 percent from July. Other data was as expected: U.S. producer prices were flat, which was in line with expectations. However, the kicker may be inflation. It increased during August, “…offering fresh evidence that U.S. inflation may be firming after

RETAIL SALES DECREASE SLIGHTLY Shoppers bought 0.3% less goods and services in August, according to the latest monthly report from the Department of Commerce – but minus auto sales, the decline was just 0.1%. Retail sales were still up 1.9% from year-ago levels, with online sales rising 10.9% in 12 months.1    CONSUMER COSTS RISE IN AUGUST The Consumer Price Index rose 0.2% after a flat July, with the core CPI up 0.3%. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected the headline and core CPI to respectively advance 0.1% and 0.2%. August brought no change whatsoever in the Producer Price Index, which

SERVICE SECTOR SEES WEAKEST GROWTH SINCE 2010 The Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing purchasing manager index came in at a disappointing 51.4 in August, 4.1 points below its July level. While American service industries expanded for a 79th consecutive month, the pace of expansion was the slowest since February 2010, and the monthly drop in the ISM index was the largest recorded since November 2008.1     BEIGE BOOK SHOWS LITTLE WAGE PRESSURE If the economy is near full employment, it is not seeing the strong wage and inflation gains usually linked with that situation. The Federal Reserve’s latest summation of economic

september-2016

THE MONTH IN BRIEF How calm was August? Very. At the close on August 31, the S&P 500 had not moved 1% up or down in a trading session since July 8. The latest round of U.S. economic indicators showed a healthy labor market, solid consumer spending, decent consumer confidence, and bearable consumer inflation. The numbers were encouraging – so encouraging that Federal Reserve officials began to suggest the possibility of a fall interest rate move. The latest home sales figures were mixed. Oil rallied, while gold retreated. There was good news about growth in the emerging markets, and it

Weekly Market Commentary 9-12-2016

The Markets Blame it on the central banks! After 44 consecutive sleepy, summer days when Barron’s reported the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index opened and closed without a 1 percent move in either direction, the index tumbled last week – and so did indices in other markets around the world. What roused investors from complacency? Some experts pointed their fingers at central banks: “Three central banks announced their monetary policy decisions during the week and all three maintained the status quo and did not change policy. The news disappointed the markets – they were looking for more stimulus. And, in

MODEST JOB GROWTH IN AUGUST Payrolls expanded with 151,000 net new jobs last month, according to the Department of Labor’s latest report. The jobless rate was unchanged at 4.9%, and the U-6 rate tracking underemployment remained at 9.7%. After the release of the data, Wall Street traders saw only a 21% chance of a September interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve and a 55% chance of a rate increase by the end of 2016.1     FACTORY SECTOR CONTRACTS Taking a surprisingly steep drop, the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing purchasing manager index fell down to 49.4 in August, indicating a

Weekly Market Commentary 9-6-2016

The Markets “We can never know about the days to come, but we think about them anyway…” –Carly Simon Economists and market analysts have been thinking a lot about the Federal Reserve and the actions it may take before the end of 2016. Friday’s employment numbers helped fan the speculative fire. The U.S. Labor Department reported the unemployment rate remained at 4.9 percent with 151,000 jobs added during August. The broad market consensus was 180,000 jobs would be created, according to MarketWatch. The publication cited a source as saying the report, “…wasn’t strong enough to force the Fed to raise