Markets ended the holiday week on an upbeat note, giving stocks their best week since late November.
For the week, the S&P 500 gained 2.76%, the Dow Jones grew 2.47%, and the NASDAQ rose 2.55%.
On the economic front, final data on third-quarter economic growth showed that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew 2.0%, down from the previous estimate of 2.1%. The report showed that a slew of global issues cut into demand for U.S. goods abroad; on the positive side, what growth we had was driven by domestic demand.
As the holiday shopping season fades, data shows that retailers are struggling to meet even modest sales goals. The last Saturday before Christmas can often make or break the season with last-minute shoppers flooding stores. However, this year’s sales were tepid, and forecasts predict holiday sales to grow 3.1% over last year, down from 4.1% growth in 2014.
The data also shows that shopping trends are shifting away from brick and mortar stores toward online retailers. Sales at physical stores dropped 5.8% over last year while traffic fell 8.0% between early November and mid-December. In contrast, online sales rose 11.8% between late November and late December. The increased online volume strained supply chains, causing some popular retailers, like Eddie Bauer [EBHI] to miss Christmas shipping deadlines.
The week ahead, sandwiched between two trading holidays, has historically been slow, though surprises are always possible. On the calendar are reports about housing and consumer confidence, which investors are hoping will show that rising fortunes in the labor market continue to translate into spending.
As we enter the final week of 2015, we’re confronted by the fact that markets may close out the year flat. While that’s frustrating for investors who were hoping to see the continued recovery translate into strong stock returns, it’s important to consider the many headwinds markets had to contend with this year: global economic weakness, historic highs, terrorism, and declining commodity prices. Stay tuned for next week’s update where we review 2015 and discuss expectations for the year to come.
Thank you for making 2015 an amazing year for us. We are honored and humbled by the trust you have placed in us as clients, and we look forward to serving you and your loved ones in 2016.
Monday: Dallas Fed Mfg. Survey
Tuesday: International Trade in Goods, S&P Case-Shiller HPI, Consumer Confidence
Wednesday: Pending Home Sales Index, EIA Petroleum Status Report
Thursday: Jobless Claims, Chicago PMI
Friday: U.S. Markets Closed for New Year’s Day
- Consumer sentiment rises to five-month high. Consumers regained their optimism about the U.S. economy at the end of December, pushing a measure of sentiment to the highest level since July.
- Durable goods orders flat in November. Orders for long-lasting manufactured goods were flat in November and a measure of business investment fell, indicating that demand remains weak.
- Weekly jobless claims close to four-decade low. The number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits fell to a near-42-year low. Though seasonal factors may be affecting the data, the drop is another sign indicating that the labor market continues to improve.
- Personal income rises for eighth straight month. Solid wage gains pushed up income in November for the eighth month in a row, raising hopes that consumer spending and economic growth should increase next year.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, be fortified by it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.” – Herman Hesse
RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Salmon with Bok Choy
This is a perfect meal for a busy night.
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper or hot sauce
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 lemon, quartered
4 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets
1 pound baby bok choy (2-3 bunches), rinsed and quartered
Cook the rice according to the instructions on the package. Typically, long-grain rice is cooked with 2 cups of water to 1 cup of rice. Heat the water to boiling and add the rice. Cover and reduce heat to low, cooking for about 20 minutes or until the water has been absorbed and the rice is fluffy.
Steam the bok choy quarters for about 10 minutes or until tender. Dress with the lemon juice and sesame seeds just before serving.
Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with foil and broil the salmon about 6-10 inches from the heating element for about 8-10 minutes until the salmon is opaque. While the salmon is broiling, combine the soy sauce, honey, and red pepper flakes. Baste the salmon with the mixture for the last couple of minutes.
Plate the salmon and bok choy over the rice.
Recipe adapted from Charlyne Mattox | RealSimple.com
TAX TIP: Charitable IRA Distributions Now Permanent
Taxpayers who are 70-1/2 or older can now make tax-free distributions from their Individual Retirement Accounts directly to a qualified charity. These qualified charitable distributions (QCDs) allow donations of some or all or part of your IRA distributions (up to $100,000 per taxpayer per year) to be made to eligible charities while excluding them from your taxable income. The QCD will count toward your annual RMD for 2015 and is retroactive, meaning that any direct distribution made to a qualified charity this year will count on your taxes.
To qualify, distributions must be made to IRS-eligible charities and must be paid directly to the charity by the IRA administrator. Simply note the donation as a QCD when you file your taxes; if you exclude the amount from your income, you cannot also deduct it on Schedule A of your tax return.
For more information about QCDs, contact a qualified tax specialist
Tip courtesy of MarketWatch
GOLF TIP: Hit a Home-Run
When setting up to a long drive, many amateur golfers position their heads too far ahead of the ball, causing them to swing down onto the ball. Being in front of the golf ball with your head prevents you from bringing full power to bear and will rob your drive of distance and accuracy.
To improve your drive, think about how batters set up for a home run: They strike the ball with their head behind the bat and the ball. At address, set up so that your head is 6-8 inches behind the ball. At impact, you still want your head to be behind the ball so that you can hit athletically and achieve an angle of attack that’s slightly upward.
Tip courtesy of Jeff Yurkiewicz | Golf Tips Mag
HEALTHY LIFESTYLE: Take a Breath Before Responding
Whether its sports, values, or politics, disagreements over important topics can send your blood pressure through the roof. With communication at our fingertips, a hasty reply can reverberate throughout your life very quickly.
The next time a comment, tweet, article, or conversation makes you boil, slow down and take a few deep breaths to get your emotions under control. Your mental, physical, and emotional health will thank you. Ask yourself: Will responding actually change anything? What do I want to get out of this interaction? Before replying, wait a minute or even five to consider your response. You may find that you’ve misheard or are overreacting. Whether you decide to respond or not, you’ll reduce your risk of responding in a way that you regret.
Tip courtesy of AARP
GREEN LIVING: Don’t Idle
When the temperature drops, conventional wisdom says that you need to warm up the engine by turning on the car and letting it idle. However, doing so not only wastes gas and contributes to air pollution, it actually doesn’t do much to improve the efficiency of your engine. Cars warm up faster just by being driven. Don’t let your car idle for more than 30 seconds or so, even when the weather is cold. If you’re going to be stopped at a train crossing or other barrier for more than 30 seconds, turn your engine off to avoid wasting gas.
Tip courtesy of Seattle PI
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Diversification does not guarantee profit nor is it guaranteed to protect assets.
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 average of 30 significant stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ. The DJIA was invented by Charles Dow back in 1896.
The Nasdaq Composite is an index of the common stocks and similar securities listed on the NASDAQ stock market and is considered a broad indicator of the performance of stocks of technology companies and growth companies.
The MSCI EAFE Index was created by Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) that serves as a benchmark of the performance in major international equity markets as represented by 21 major MSCI indexes from Europe, Australia and Southeast Asia.
The Dow Jones Corporate Bond Index is a 96-bond index designed to represent the market performance, on a total-return basis, of investment-grade bonds issued by leading U.S. companies. Bonds are equally weighted by maturity cell, industry sector, and the overall index.
The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices are the leading measures of U.S. residential real estate prices, tracking changes in the value of residential real estate. The index is made up of measures of real estate prices in 20 cities and weighted to produce the index.
The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market.
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