Stock Market Commentary
For the week of May 12, 2008
Lingering concerns about the impact of the credit market fallout along with rising oil prices combined to take the major indexes lower for the week. AIG, the world’s largest insurer, reported a loss of $7.81 billion, its second consecutive quarterly loss. Oil prices reached a record price of nearly $126 per barrel, a one-week jump of $10. For the week, the Dow fell 2.28 percent to close at 12,745.88. The S&P dropped 1.73 percent to finish the week at 1,388.28, and the NASDAQ lost 1.27 percent to end the week at 2,445.52.
Post Up – The cost of a first-class postage stamp goes up one cent today to 42 cents. The U.S. Postal Service has printed 1.5 billion one-cent stamps in anticipation of demand. Forever Stamps purchased before today will remain valid. However, Forever Stamps purchase beginning today will cost 42 cents. Since their introduction last year, more than 6 billion Forever Stamps have been sold.
Productivity Rises – The Labor Department reported last week that the amount of output per hour for American workers rose 2.2 percent in the first quarter, exceeding the 1.5 percent increase analysts had expected. Labor costs rose at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the first quarter, down from the 2.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007. While rising labor costs can contribute to inflation, increases in productivity help employers control the costs of their products and services.
To Do List – Forty-one percent of Americans making at least $100,000 indicate their #1 financial priority is saving for their retirement, greater than the 27 percent of this group who consider paying off credit card debt as their top objective or the 14 percent who say paying off their home mortgage is most important (Source: Transamerica Retirement Survey, BTN Research).
Either One or the Other – Based upon the past 75 years (1933-2007), the S&P 500 is as likely to gain at least 26 percent (total return) in any single calendar year as it is to have a negative total return for the year. Both events have occurred 19 separate times over the 75-year period. 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).
WEEKLY FOCUS – The Cost of Health Record Errors
Recently Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt announced a five-year demonstration project that will encourage small to medium-sized physician practices to adopt electronic health records (EHRs). The demonstration is designed to show that streamlining health care management with electronic health records will reduce medical errors and improve quality of care for 3.6 million Americans.
These records may also help reduce mistakes on your medical billing, which can have disastrous results on your insurance premiums and coverage. Medical Billing Advocates of America estimates eight out of every 10 hospital bills contain multiple errors.
Unfortunately, obtaining those records and rectifying any errors can be much more complex and time consuming than cleaning up your credit reports. You’ll need to request your records from all of the doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and other health care providers you’ve used in the past seven years. You’ll also need a report from the Medical Information Bureau if you’ve ever sought individual medical insurance.
When you’ve received all of your records, review them for conditions you never had, diagnosis more serious than you remember and anything that has changed or been treated, like smoking or high cholesterol. If you find errors, you’ll need to contact all of the health care providers whose records contain the error.
Depending on the number of providers and your health condition, reviewing and requesting corrections can be a monumental task. A professional claims assistant can help you with both steps. When you have confirmation that all errors have been corrected, you may be in a position to revisit your insurance premiums and coverage.
If you need help or referrals for claims assistance, please call our office. We can help you locate the resources and professionals you need. We can also help you review your financial big picture in light of any premium or coverage changes that result.
* 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# 277092