Stock Market Commentary
For the week of November 24, 2008
The U.S. markets halted its decline on Friday as news that President-elect Obama was likely to appoint the chief of the New York Federal Reserve, Timothy Geithner, as the next treasury secretary. The Dow, which had broken even for the day, finished 494 points higher as news of Geithner’s nomination leaked about an hour before the markets closed. For the week, the U.S markets closed down, with the Dow 5.20 percent lower finishing at 8,046.42. The S&P ended the week down 8.33 percent closing at 800.03 and the NASDAQ closed 8.74 percent lower to finish the week at 1,384.35.
Stocks And Politics – In the past 50 years (1958-2007), the S&P 500 has been up 21.3 percent per year (total return) under a Democratic President and a Republican-led Congress, more than twice the 9.5 percent annual return achieved under a Republican President and a Congress run by the Democrats. The stock index gained 11.3 percent per year when the White House and Congress was controlled by the same political party. The worst stock performance came under a split Congress (up 6.2 percent per year) regardless of which party was in command of the White House. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks that is generally considered representative of the U.S. stock market (Source: BTN Research).
Two Different Packages – The 4 trillion yuan Chinese stimulus package announced recently (worth $586 billion since one yuan was worth 14.65 cents at the end of last week) will involve massive public spending over the next two years. The $586 billion total represents an amount equal to 16 percent of the $3.7 trillion Chinese economy. The $700 billion stimulus package signed by President George Bush on Oct. 3, 2008 represents 5 percent of our $14.4 trillion economy (Source: People’s Daily Online, Fortune, BTN Research).
Tax Stat – Employer contributions for health care and health insurance premiums (made on behalf of a firm’s employees) are tax-free to the employees but are tax-deductible for the employer. The economic value of these contributions for the employees, i.e., the value of the tax liability that employees are not required to pay to Uncle Sam, is estimated to be $117 billion in 2008. By comparison, the deduction for interest paid on home mortgages will save U.S. taxpayers $67 billion in federal income taxes this year (Source: Joint Committee on Taxation, BTN Research).
WEEKLY FOCUS – Who Needs Your Social Security Number?
Because Social Security Numbers (SSN) are unique to each individual, many businesses have made them the method of choice for establishing identity on customer accounts. That’s why having your SSN makes it so easy for an identity thief to set up bogus accounts in your name – and why you should push back on businesses who demand it from you.
Who really needs your SSN? Your employer and your bank or financial service company may require it to comply with federal law, and if you use Medicare or Medicaid, your doctor’s office will need your SSN to file claims for those charges. Beyond that, few others actually need your SSN. What they do need is some form of identification. A driver’s license, state-issued identification or passport is usually preferred, and some companies will ask for a second piece of ID to confirm your license. This can often take the form of a birth certificate, credit card bill, bank statement, pay stub or company security badge. Just make sure none of those documents contains your SSN.
Be prepared to offer these forms of identification when you decline to give your SSN. You may be told that you cannot conduct business with the company without divulging your SSN. Ask for a supervisor – and keep asking, on up the chain of command until you find someone who understands the importance of guarding your SSN and agrees to accept other forms of identification. If that doesn’t work, consider paying cash rather than establishing credit or billing account – or find another company to do business with.
On average, victims of identity theft spend 60 hours and $1,180 cleaning up the damage, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Take the first step in protecting yourself by giving your SSN only to those who truly – by law – need that information. If you have questions about how we use and protect your SSN or when a requirement to provide your SSN is legitimate, please feel free to contact our office at any time.
* 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# 290394