Stock Market Commentary
For the week of May 18, 2009
With the bank stress tests complete, April economic data released and corporate earnings reports winding down, Wall Street found little to help it extend a two-month rally that saw the major indexes up over 30 percent from 12-year lows set in March. The consumer confidence index rose to an eight-month high this month. While that could indicate a growing willingness to spend, the government reported last week that retail sales fell in April. This week will see the release of reports on housing sales, housing construction and regional manufacturing. The Dow ended last week down 3.37 percent to 8,268.64. The S&P dropped 4.88 percent to close the week at 882.88, and the NASDAQ lost 3.38 percent to finish the week at 1,680.14.
Keeping the Faith – A recent Fidelity study found that 97 percent of investors continued to contribute to their 401(k) in the first quarter, with an average contribution of $1,700. With employer matching contributions, the average rises to $2,780. About 69 percent of that is going into equities, according to Fidelity.
28 Years – The Social Security trust fund reserves will last another 28 years to 2037, according to a recent report from the Social Security Board of Trustees. That’s four years earlier than last year’s forecast. After 2037, the nation’s tax income would cover about 75 percent of scheduled benefits through 2083.
Have Gas, Will Travel – An estimated 32.4 million Americans will be traveling over the Memorial Day weekend, an increase of 1.5 percent over a year ago, when gas prices over $4 a gallon kept millions of people home. Last Tuesday, gas prices across the country averaged $2.25 a gallon, about $1.47 a gallon less than the 2008 holiday. Americans have been reducing their Memorial Day travel every year since 2005, when 44 million people traveled at least 50 miles from home. From 2005 through last year, gas prices rose almost 87 percent.
Taxes – Since 1950, the highest marginal tax bracket table for individuals has ranged from a high of 92 percent (1953) to a low of 28 percent (1990). The highest individual marginal tax bracket is 35 percent today (Source: Tax Policy Center, BTN Research).
WEEKLY FOCUS – Re-evaluating Your Personal Risks
Infamous insurance giant Lloyd’s of London has issued some of the world’s most unusual insurance policies, including 1940s Hollywood pin-up Betty Grable’s famous legs at a reported $1 million each. Another policy written by Lloyd’s, according to “The People’s Almanac,” provided $100,000 if a famous photographer’s model married.
While you may not have legs like Betty Grable and your social security income may not hinge on a model’s love life, an important part of making financial decisions is evaluating your risks. For most of us, that includes the risk of losing our ability to earn income through illness or disability; the risk of losing property through disaster or theft; the risk of being held responsible for someone else’s loss; and the risk of significant health care expenses.
For your personal situation, however, those may not be the only risks to your financial security. If you have valuables in your home such as art, collectibles or a wine collection, you may need to purchase additional personal property insurance to cover their destruction or theft. If you operate a business from your home, you may need additional insurance to cover the chance of a customer having an accident there. If you have a breed of dog considered overly large or potentially dangerous, you may want insurance to cover the risk the pet hurts someone. Depending on your relationship with said dog, you may want to purchase pet health insurance to cover its health, life and disability.
We’re entering the crush of summer weddings, many of which will be held outdoors. In addition to insuring your ceremony against the vagaries of the weather, you can also insure against loss or damage to items like the bridal gown or rings, and against the failure of a vendor to provide services, including photographers and caterers. Similar coverage can be purchased for other large events, such as bar or bat mitzvahs or quinceaneras.
Your risks will change as your life changes. The photographer’s model muse did marry – but only after the policy had expired. What has changed in your life to add or remove risks to your financial well being? Call our office for a comprehensive review that includes identifying potential risks and evaluating how to protect against them.
* 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# 297623