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Inflation Moderated, Earnings Rolling In, and Solutions for Plastic

After the new year started with volatility, investors have been calmed by words from the Federal Reserve and hope surrounding U.S.-China trade discussions.  There is still plenty to worry about including the continued government shutdown, Brexit, and potential fallout from the Mueller investigation.  But for the last week, investors were embracing the positive.

Please share The Friday Buzz with anyone who may have interest.  Thank you for your time and enjoy the articles!

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Positive Fed and China Trade Talk News Propels Stock Markets to Strong 2019 Start

Two important developments have boosted stock markets in the new year. First, the Fed has adopted a more dovish tone relative to additional rate increases in 2019. Second, negotiations between the U.S. and China have apparently been successful in narrowing the trade differences. The relief felt by equity investors is palpable. Perceived risk may have fallen but lurks near the surface of investing waters. Caution is warranted. 

  • Powell’s Do-Over: Fed Chairman Powell softened his tone on future rate increases in a recent speech, realizing that the Fed needs to project more flexibility. With inflation in check, we see no reason why the Fed needs to engineer a recession with unnecessary rate hikes at a sensitive time.

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Factors in 2019 for Investors, 2019 Retirement Saving Limits, and the World is Getting Better, Really…

We are starting the new year, much how we ended the last - with stock market volatility and uncertainties surrounding global economic growth, Fed rates, tariffs, and the government shutdown.  Most of the current challenges are self-inflicted and controllable to an extent. One does not want to be Pollyannaish, but these challenges can be resolved.  What happens in January may go a long way in determining if they will be resolved or continue to be a thorn in investor's sides.

Thank you for taking a few minutes of your time to read and share The Friday Buzz.      

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Positive Economic Fundamentals vs. Negative Investor Emotions

Concerns about the slowing global economy and increasing short term interest rates are valid. However, the fear that likely drove the substantial December stock sell-off appears disproportional to the actual risks to the economy and earnings. Slower economic growth does not equate to a near term recession. What might have been a relatively mild correction was unquestionably exacerbated by a general sense of Washington instability. The massive gain in the U.S. stock market, this past Wednesday, may reflect the perception that the market is oversold, but it is too soon to have any degree of conviction. Given the market volatility and the holidays, the notes this week are few in number and market focused.

  • Economy Is Strong. Leadership Is Shaky: This NYT article makes the case that leadership missteps are part of the problem. We agree. The global and U.S. economies are slowing but do not appear to be imminent danger of going into a recession.

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The Fed Raises Rates, Europe Ends QE Purchases, and Champagnes for the New Year

There is an old axiom in the investment world, "Don't Fight the Fed."  It means if the Federal Reserve is using monetary policy to grow the economy, then don't fight the growth, and vice versa.  The investment world paused on Wednesday to listen to Jay Powell, the Federal Reserve Chairman.  This was probably the most anticipated Fed meeting of the last few years.  The whole investment world was listening, because who wants to fight the Fed?

Thank you for taking a few minutes of your time to read and share The Friday Buzz

  • The Fed Raises Short-term Interest Rates:  On Wednesday, the Fed announced it was raising the short-term federal-funds rate a quarter of a percent to a range of 2.25% - 2.5%.  This marks the ninth time the Fed has raised the benchmark since December 2015.  The Fed also felt they would not need to raise short-term rates more than two times next year and the path of future increases was uncertain.  In their released economic projections, the Fed stated they expected core inflation of 2.0% over the next three years, down slightly from 2.1%, and GDP growth of 2.3% in 2019, down slightly from their previous expectation of 2.5% They also expect unemployment to remain low and their long-term growth projection for the U.S. economy remained in the range of 1.8% - 2.0%.  

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The Flipping Yield Curve, Recessions, Healthcare (and More!)

In these notes, we reward those of you who have been clamoring for more on the yield curve. Ok, that’s a lame attempt at economic humor - it’s entirely possible that no one has ever clamored for more on the yield curve. But the yield curve is back in the news and is quite important to understanding financial markets and potentially recessions, so we dig into it again. Since reading about the yield curve can be a slog, in a word, we’ll reward our readers by taking a break from talking about China and trade. The news on that topic tends to go up and down by the week, and I expect that we’ll return to it soon as it’s a market mover.

  • Back to the Yield Curve Future: An inverted yield curve, meaning that short term interest rates have moved higher than long term rates, has been a reasonably reliable predictor of a coming recession. Within the last week, the 2 Year Note yield edged higher than the 5 Year Note yield, causing some consternation. As I write this, the yield on a 2 Year Treasury Note is the same as the yield on a 5 Year Treasury Note at 2.77%. We believe, however, that the appropriate yield curve comparison is the 3 Month Treasury Bill rate at @2.4% to the 10 Year Treasury yield at @2.9%, still a healthy positive slope. This San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank paper explains why.

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Market Unease, U.S./China Trade & Remembering 41

One word to describe the current market environment is uneasy. There are a lot of uncertainties about U.S. and China trade, economic growth, and the direction of Fed interest rates. All of those issues are intertwined and impacting the economy and markets. Almost lost in the noise this week is the Mueller investigation which also hangs in the air. And that looks like it will soon move to the forefront. But the nation took a pause from the headlines mid-week to remember President George H.W. Bush.

Thank you for taking a few minutes of your time to read and share The Friday Buzz.

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Fed Gives Guidance, China and G20, U.S. Economy (and more)

With the Fed signaling that it may slow the pace of interest rate increases, the stock market is getting some good news. Concerns like trade conflicts and Brexit remain but knowing that the Fed is flexible when it comes to pushing rates up bolsters the positive case for equities.

Thanks to all who read these notes. We enjoy writing them and endeavor to make them worthy of a modest time commitment on your part.

  • Powell Boosts Markets: Fed Chairman Powell indicates that rates are slightly below a "neutral" level. In lay speak, this means that current rates are close to the point that they neither encourage nor discourage economic growth. It signals less tightening in the form of rate hikes for the foreseeable future. We anticipated this “signal” but are still reassured to hear a public statement, given the headwinds facing the stock market. 

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7 Year-End Tax Planning Strategies for Executives

As we approach year-end, many executives and professionals will have the opportunity to make some financial decisions that can have a big impact.  Many of these decisions will have tax implications.  Here is a look at a few of these issues and seven strategies that can help. 

The strategies covered in this article: 

  1. Tax Loss Harvesting
  2. Exercising Options
  3. How to Handle Restricted Stock
  4. Tax Bracket Management
  5. Donating Appreciated Securities
  6. Bunching Charitable Donations and Using a Donor-Advised Fund
  7. College 529 Contributions & Gifting

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Trade Summits, Black Friday Optimism, and Practicing Gratitude

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving meal and time with friends and family.  The Smith household always has a nice relaxing day for this holiday.  But the markets this week were anything but relaxed.  Previously high-flying tech stocks have borne the brunt of the last month's volatility, dragging down the overall market.  This is against a backdrop of solid, albeit slowing, economic data.   The volatility will probably continue until there is a catalyst to change sentiment and momentum.  So, enjoy this week's edition of The Friday Buzz, along with those leftovers from Thursday! 

  • U.S. and China Tussle at APEC:  Twenty-one nations representing 60 percent of the global economy met in New Guinea at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit.  At the summit the U.S. and China did anything but "cooperate."  Both dug in their heels and restated their current positions. There was not even agreement on a joint statement for all the countries, which has occurred at every other summit since 1989.  This does not bode well for when President Trump and President Xi are supposed to meet at the G20 Summit in Argentina late next week.

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