STOCK MARKET COMMENTARY
For the week of January 14, 2008
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank stands poised to take action at its next meeting to cut interest rates to help stabilize the nation’s economy. Bernanke said the Fed does not believe a recession is forthcoming in 2008. A half-percentage-point cut at the two-day meeting ending Jan. 30 would take the federal funds rate down to 3.75 percent. In other news, the Labor Department reported that import prices were unchanged in December, good news for those worried about inflation. For the week, the Dow lost 1.46 percent to end at 12,606.30. The S&P dropped 0.70 percent to close at 1,401.02 and the NASDAQ fell 2.58 percent to finish at 2,439.94.
Mid-Cap Performance – Mid-cap stocks (as measured by the S&P 400 Mid-cap index) reached 33 all-time closing highs in 2007 but finished up only 8 percent (total return) for the year. The index peaked on July 13, 2007. The S&P 400 Mid-cap is an unmanaged index consisting of 400 domestic stocks chosen for market size, liquidity and industry group representation. Investing in mid-cap stocks involves riskier investments based upon price volatility, less liquidity and the threat of competition (Source: S&P, BTN Research).
Retirement Savings in 2008 – The maximum elective employee deferral into an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan in 2008 is $15,500, the same amount as in 2007. This is the first year since 2001 that the amount has not been adjusted upward from the previous year. The $15,500 amount does not include the $5,000 in “catch-up” deferrals that an individual age 50 or greater can contribute (Source: IRS, BTN Research).
New Jersey Beats Hawaii – After ranking second to Hawaii for the past two years, New Jersey has surpassed the island state to claim the largest percent of millionaires to total households. According to the Phoenix Affluent Marketing Service, New Jersey has 7.12 percent millionaire households, up from 6.5 percent in 2006. Maryland placed second and Connecticut third. Hawaii, unchanged at 6.7 percent, was fourth for 2007. The survey defined millionaire households as those with $1 million or more in investable or liquid assets.
Clueless – At the close of business on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2002, the S&P 500 bottomed at 777 before beginning a bull market run that gained 101 percent to peak at 1,565 on Oct. 09, 2007, exactly five years to the day after the bear market bottom. The headline in the business section of USA Today on Thursday morning, Oct. 10, 2002, was “Where’s the Bottom, No End in Sight” (Source: USA Today, BTN Research).
WEEKLY FOCUS – Stick to Your Financial Plan
The past year has sent the stock markets smashing through record high after record high, with some gut-wrenching drops in between, like the Dow’s 416-point slide in February 2007. That roller coaster ride has tested even the most stoic of investors, but those with a professionally prepared, long-term financial plan most likely have fared better than most do-it-yourself investors. Studies in the emerging science of neuroeconomics have found that your brain’s survival wiring, which makes you seek reward and avoid risk or pain, has stronger grounding than your logical wiring. Put to the test, your desire to avoid pain will usually win over logic.
A financial plan can bolster your logic when your emotions want to take over. Your financial plan was developed based on your personal situation, including your goals, your age, your assets and income, your liabilities and your tolerance for risk. Faced with volatility and the emotional desire to flee the pain of market losses or increase the euphoria of market gains, go back to your plan: Has anything changed about your personal situation as a result of the market? If not, there may be no reason to change the plan. You should review your plan at least annually and whenever you face a life-changing event, such as marriage, birth of a child, an empty nest, retirement, divorce or widowhood, illness or disability, or death of a spouse, parent or child.
Market swings make headlines because they reflect change – one of journalism’s criteria for news making. As we’ve seen this year, daily market swings don’t necessarily reflect a trend of any significance. Trying to guess which way it will go on a given day, week, month or even year is a fool’s game that plays to your emotions.
Your financial plan, on the other hand, plays to your logic. As you reach milestones in your life, you can look at your plan and say, “Ah, yes. We talked about this, and we prepared for it.” That applies to market volatility as well; your financial plan takes into consideration the affect of market volatility and uses diversification, asset allocation and rebalancing, among other strategies, to offset those risks.
Will your account balance at times show a drop in value? Absolutely. No one can guarantee you will never lose money on an investment. Consulting your financial plan and talking to us when you have concerns can give your logic the boost it needs to keep your emotions from running roughshod over your financial goals. If you would like to schedule an appointment to create a financial plan or review your existing plan, please call our office.
* 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. WMCSAI# 265715