Weekly Stock Market Commentary 11 17 2008


Stock Market Commentary
For the week of November 17, 2008

The Market
Wall Street continued its dramatic swings last week. The Dow charted its third-largest single session point gain Thursday with a 550-point rally. Hedge fund selling accounted for some of the downturn, as funds liquidated assets to meet the 45-day notice for investor withdrawal requests by year-end. The Dow closed the week down 4.87 percent to 8.497.31. The S&P lost 6.11 percent to close the week at 873.29, and the NASDAQ fell 7.92 percent to finish the week at 1,516.85.

Weekly Stock Market Commentary 11 17 2008
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.

Trade Deficit Drop – The U.S. trade deficit dropped by 4.4 percent in September to $56.5 billion, its lowest amount since October 2007. With a drop in crude oil prices of more than $12 a barrel, the volume of petroleum import shipments dropped 15.7 percent, a five-year low, according to the Commerce Department Report.

A Year From Now – Alan Greenspan was nominated to be the Fed Chairman by Republican Ronald Reagan in 1987, and then he was re-nominated in 1992 by Republican George H. W. Bush, then again in
1996 and 2000 by Democrat Bill Clinton, and for the final time in 2004 by Republican George W. Bush. Current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s initial 4-year term runs until Jan. 31, 2010, at which time Democratic President Barack Obama will decide whether or not to re-nominate Bernanke for a second four-year term (Source: Federal Reserve, BTN Research).

Big Bucks For The Fifth Grader – The average cost for one year of college education at an in-state public college is $14,333 for the 2008-09 school-year (cost includes tuition, fees, room and board). The total one-year cost has increased 6.5 percent per year over the past 30 years. If that same annual inflation rate continues into the future, then a 5th grader today will ultimately pay $105,000 for his/her four years of education at an in-state public college during the years 2016-20 (Source: College Board, BTN Research).

Tax Stats – In 1980, the top 1 percent of U.S. taxpayers earned at least $81,000 in adjusted gross income (AGI), accounted for 8 percent of all AGI nationwide and paid 19 percent of all federal income tax. In 2006 (the most recent year for which data is available), the top 1 percent of U.S. taxpayers earned at least $389,000 in AGI, accounted for 22 percent of all AGI nationwide and paid 40 percent of all federal income tax (Source: Internal Revenue Service, BTN Research).

WEEKLY FOCUS – Dividing Assets in a Divorce

Few times of change require immediate, clear-headed financial thinking like a divorce. From the time of the split to the signing of the life settlement, both parties will face making those decisions in a whole new context – alone. In even the most amicable split, the decisions about who gets what come with emotional baggage. If you, or a loved one, face a divorce the following information may be helpful.

Knowledge, as Sir Francis Bacon wrote in the 16th century, is power, so arm yourself by gathering every scrap of information on your finances. Request your credit report – you are entitled to one free copy a year from the three major reporting agencies – and check what you and your spouse owe. Open individual bank, credit card and brokerage accounts. Close all joint accounts – a sometimes tricky task if those accounts are sizable. Your attorney can help make sure you get your share of liquid assets.

At some point, one or both of you will leave the family home. This can be the most agonizing split because of the emotional bonds the home represents. Remember that home ownership involves a great deal more financial obligation than just a mortgage payment. The partner who gets the house also gets the taxes, the utilities, the upkeep and the payments to the spouse being bought out – all on one salary instead of two, or on no salary at all if the spouse has stayed at home.

If your assets as a couple include a business or items like antiques or collectibles, you’ll need a clear view of their value as well as any hidden costs. You may need the help of an appraiser or forensic accountant to ensure that what looks fair on paper will be fair when the settlement is finalized and, down the road, when assets are liquidated.

There’s no single best way to split assets during a divorce. Your best defenses are to be informed about your assets and liabilities and to select a team of trusted professionals to help you weigh the pros and cons of different options for splitting those assets and liabilities. Take a long-term view of self preservation, not a short-term view of retribution or least conflict. Once the divorce has been settled, you won’t get a chance to ask the judge to reconsider if you find you’ve made the wrong choices.

If you or a loved one faces a divorce, our office can assist in evaluating investments and making adjustments for the future. We will gladly work with attorneys and accountants to ensure you or your loved one has the information you need. Call our office to schedule an appointment.

* 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# 290164