Stock Market Commentary
For the week of February 23, 2009
Fears that the federal government may need to take control of major banks Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. underscored investors’ fears that the credit crisis has not yet loosened its grip on the economy. Fourth-quarter earnings reports and 2009 forecasts from public companies have slowly sunk much of the optimism that buoyed investors in late 2008. Although President Obama signed a new economic stimulus package last week, many Americans have come to realize the bill won’t be a magic bullet for immediate recovery. The Dow lost 6.2 percent for the week to close at 7,365.67. The S&P fell 6.9 percent to finish the week at 770.05, and the NASDAQ declined 6.1 percent to end the week at 1,441.23.
No Change – Almost three out of every four employer-sponsored 401(k) plans (73 percent) do not expect to make any change to their matching contribution level during calendar year 2009 (Source: Callan Associates, BTN Research).
The Biggest – The U.S. economy, worth $14 trillion and the largest economy in the world, grew by 1.3 percent in 2008. By comparison, the Chinese economy, worth $4 trillion and the third largest economy in the world, grew by 9.0 percent in 2008. Japan’s economy is the second largest in the world. (Source: Commerce Department, Wall Street Journal, BTN Research).
Top Earners – The top 5 percent of U.S. taxpayers make at least $153,542 in adjusted gross income, pay 60 percent of all federal income tax, while receiving 37 percent of all the income in the country (Source: Tax Foundation, BTN Research).
Compared To – As of Dec. 31, 2008, the market capitalization of the U.S. stock market was $10.6 trillion, a total equal to 74 percent of the $14.3 trillion U.S. economy. When the stock market peaked in March 2000 before the beginning of a two-and-a-half-year bear market that lasted until October 2002, the total market capitalization of stocks was equal to 190 percent of the size of the U.S. economy, an all-time high for the “stock-to-economy” ratio (Source: Wilshire, Commerce Department, Fortune, BTN Research).
WEEKLY FOCUS – FICO Scores Can Be Identity Theft Alarm
Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus, announced earlier this month that it would no longer make Fair Isaac Company or FICO scores available to consumers after a partnership with Fair Isaac fell apart. FICO scores are used by about 90 percent of the nation’s 100 biggest financial institutions as the basis for making loans to consumers.
It’s important to note, however, that Experian will continue to give consumers access to their credit history and payment record, information that underlies their FICO scores. The Experian version of a mortgage applicant’s FICO scores will be available through the lender, who pays Experian and the other two major credit bureaus – TransUnion and Equifax – for the data.
Monitoring your credit score and credit history has become increasingly important with the need for identity theft protection, which threatens to become more rampant as the recession continues. A sudden change in your credit score could indicate a thief has been opening accounts using your personal information. Your credit history could then provide details about activity impacting your score. You can access your free credit reports from each of the three major bureaus once a year at no charge at http://www.ftc.gov/freereports.
As a precaution, consider canceling your paper bills and statements and setting up accounts and payments online, along with establishing e-mail alerts about large transactions on your bank and credit card accounts. According to MSN Money, people who check their accounts online tend to notice suspicious activity much faster. Going electronic may seem counterintuitive with all the headlines about lost laptops and system hackers, but of those who had their identities stolen in 2007, only 7 percent were due to data breaches. The greater risks came from lost or stolen wallets, “shoulder surfing” or thieves collecting PIN numbers by watching over the victim’s shoulder at an ATM, and information stolen by family members. In these cases, closer monitoring through on-line access and alerts can raise suspicions earlier and reduce your potential losses.
Difficult economic times can drive criminal behavior higher. Taking precautions now can help ensure you don’t become a victim of identity theft prention or other fraud. If you need assistance in monitoring your accounts or credit history, or if you believe you may have been a victim, please contact our office. We are here to assist you.
* 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# 294437