For the week of January 12, 2009
Unemployment claims rose less than anticipated in December, but the increase in the unemployment
rate from 6.8 percent in November to 7.2 percent in December exceeded economists’ predictions. The
Commerce Department reported a drop in wholesale inventories of 0.6 percent and sales down 7.1
percent for the nation’s businesses. The markets reacted with losses, although they largely avoided the
dramatic swings that characterized the early fourth quarter. The Dow ended the week with a loss of 4.73
percent to close at 8,599.18. The S&P dropped 4.39 percent to end the week at 890.35, and the
NASDAQ fell 3.71 percent to finish the week at 1,571.59.
Source: Morningstar.com. * Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indexes are unmanaged and
cannot be invested into directly. Three and five-year returns are annualized. The S&P, excluding “1 Week”
returns, is a reflection of return to an investor, by reinvesting dividends after the deduction of withholding tax.
Losing Streak – The average interest rate on a 30-year U.S. fixed-rate mortgage dropped to 5.01
percent on Jan. 8, marking a 28-year low. It was the 10th consecutive week the rate declined and the
lowest interest rate recorded by Freddie Mac since 1971.
Record High – Money market fund assets set a record for the week ended Dec. 30, according to
Informa PLC’s Money Fund Report. U.S. money market assets reached $3.759 trillion, with about $3.3
trillion in taxable funds and $492 billion in tax-free funds.
Gas Prices – The national average price of a gallon of gasoline ended calendar year 2007 at $3.05,
rose to a peak price of $4.11 on July 16, 2008, and ultimately finished 2008 at $1.62 a gallon. From
Sept. 18, 2008, to Dec. 12, 2008, (i.e., a period of 86 consecutive days, or more than 12 weeks), the
national average price of gasoline dropped each day (Source: AAA, BTN Research).
Euro Moves – The euro turned 10-years old on Jan. 4 (i.e., the currency began on Jan. 4, 1999, at
$1.17). The euro ended 2007 at $1.4603, rose to an intraday record of $1.6038 on July 15, 2008, fell to
$1.2502 on Nov. 21, 2008, before ultimately finishing 2008 at $1.3954. Sixteen European countries use
the euro (Source: BTN Research).
WEEKLY FOCUS – Applying for Social Security? Click Here.
Although the Social Security Administration has for years
offered application forms on its website, applicants still
had to sign paper documents and mail or deliver them
along with copies of W-2 forms or a birth certificate.
Last Tuesday, Social Security unveiled an online
application process that will take 15 minutes or less, on
average, for most people to apply for their retirement or
disability benefits – or 30 minutes less than it took to
complete an application in a field office.
A great service for new applicants, the online process is
also an act of self-preservation for the Social Security
Administration, which faces a baby boom generation
becoming eligible for benefits at a rate of 10,000
retirees a day for the next two decades, according to the Associated Press. Social Security
Commissioner Michael J. Astrue said the agency doesn’t have the infrastructure or manpower to handle
80 million retiring boomers the old fashioned way.
While the “how” of applying for Social Security is now considerably easier, the “when” still remains the
most important question. Americans can apply for benefits as early as 62, but receive smaller payments
than if they wait until full retirement at age 65-67, depending on their year of birth. They receive larger
payments yet for each year they delay retirement, up until age 70, when the “delayed retirement credit”
The higher payment, however, may be less beneficial than taking benefits early or at full retirement and
investing them to generate earnings. Even if you use your Social Security benefits to cover expenses,
you will draw less on other sources of retirement savings, which then have the potential for continued
compounding and growth.
We can help you review your Social Security statement along with the rest of your retirement financial
resources to determine the best age for you to file for benefits. From there, it will be just a quick 15
minutes online to apply. Call our office to schedule your review.
* The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of
the stock market in general. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted index of 30 actively traded blue-
chip stocks. NASDAQ Composite Index is an unmanaged, market-weighted index of all over-the-counter common
stocks traded on the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation System. The Morgan
Stanley Capital International Europe, Australia and Far East Index (MSCI EAFE Index) is a widely recognized
benchmark of non-U.S. stock markets. It is an unmanaged index composed of a sample of companies
representative of the market structure of 20 European and Pacific Basin countries and includes reinvestment of all
dividends. Written by Securities America. SAI# 292369
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