Stock Market Commentary
For the week of August 24, 2009
A strong month for sales of existing homes and positive, yet prudent, comments from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke took the markets higher last week. The National Association of Realtors reported Friday that sales of previously occupied homes rose 7.2 percent in July, its fourth consecutive monthly increase and the highest level in two years. A tax credit for first time home buyers, set to expire this fall, contributed to the increase. For the week, the Dow gained 2.16 percent to close at 9,505.96. The S&P rose 2.27 percent to end the week at 1,026.13, and the NASDAQ climbed 1.78 percent to finish the week at 2,020.90.
Top Five Percent – To rank in the top 5 percent of all U.S. taxpayers required an adjusted gross income (AGI) level of at least $160,000 based upon calendar year 2007 tax data. This group earned 37 percent of all AGI nationwide and paid 61 percent of all federal income tax in the country (Source: Internal Revenue Service, Tax Foundation, BTN Research).
Saving More – The personal savings rates in the U.S. at the end of June 2009 was 4.6 percent. The nation’s personal savings rate was 0.2 percent as of March 31, 2008 (Source: Commerce Department, BTN Research).
Rapid Rise – The fastest that the S&P 500 has bounced back with a 50 percent gain from a bear market closing low in the past 50 years took place in 1983 and required seven months to achieve. The return calculation was based upon the change of the raw index and does not include the impact of reinvested dividends (Source: BTN Research).
2037 or 2043? – The Social Security Board of Trustees announced on May 12, 2009, that the trust fund backing the payment of Social Security benefits would be zero in 2037 and that the payment of benefits would drop to 76 percent of their originally promised levels. On Aug. 7, 2009, the Congressional Budget Office calculated that the trust fund would be zero in 2043 and that the payment of SSI benefits table would drop to 83 percent of their originally promised levels (Source: Social Security Administration, Congressional Budget Office, BTN Research).
WEEKLY FOCUS – Picking Pockets By Phone
The Federal Trade Commission receives more than 100,000 complaints per month pertaining to the National Do Not Call Registry, which is meant to prevent telemarketing firms from contacting people who have placed their name on the list. Several states that operate their own, stricter do-not-call lists have reported increases in complaints, and many state officials point to the economic downturn as a major cause.
Law enforcement agencies have long held that when the economy goes down, property theft and financial crimes go up, particularly as unemployment increases. A hundred years ago, that might have meant more pickpockets and petty larcenists. Today, it means more criminals trying to get information they can use to create credit. To them, it’s a numbers game – as in bank account, credit card and Social Security numbers.
It doesn’t take a data breach at a major retailer or government office for your numbers to fall into the wrong hands. According to SpendonLife.com, low-tech methods like stealing wallets or physical documents account for 43 percent of identity theft. And thieves often don’t use credit or debit cards for an immediate shopping spree before the card is deactivated. Instead, they use the information to open new lines of credit – a practice that impacted 67 percent of identity theft victims in 2008.
Phone scams involve what’s known as “phishing” – attempts by the caller to get you to divulge your credit card, bank account or Social Security number. These callers usually present themselves as a representative of a financial business or a government agency and often ask for you to verify information. They may even read you a phony account number, expecting you to give them the correct one. Don’t fall for it! Your financial institution will not contact you by phone and then ask for your account number, and the same is true of the Social Security administration or the Internal Revenue Service. If those entities are calling you, they will already have your numbers.
Identity theft doesn’t mean someone stealing your documents so they can pose as you. It means stealing your confidential information to access your money, investments or line of credit. Desperate times push thieves to desperate measures and easy marks. Protect your accounts and Social Security number as you would the cash in your wallet – because sometimes that pickpocket is just a phone call away.
If you’d like more information about how to prevent identity theft and protecting your confidential information, please contact 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. Written by Securities America. SAI# 299765