In investment news, stocks closed down again Fridayahead of the long holiday weekend after disappointing earnings, more China worries, and plunging oil prices added to fears about slowing global growth. For the week, the S&P 500 dropped 2.17%, the Dow fell 2.19%, and the NASDAQ lost 3.34%. Persistent lows in oil prices due to the combination of a supply glut and slowing global demand for oil. After plummeting for more than a year, oil prices have now hit 12-year lows below $30/barrel. Cheap oil is a boon to consumers who pay less at the pump, but it hits oil producers and ancillary sectors hard. A Chinese economy in transition from a manufacturing and export-led high-growth period to a more stable, mature model based on services and domestic consumption. We’ve never seen a hybrid economy quite like it – halfway between Communism and Capitalism – undergo such a shift. The issues at stake are serious: Can Chinese leaders usher in a new period of growth without sending the economy into recession? Can China’s immature financial sector keep up? Answers will come eventually, but we can expect a lot of uncertainty along the way. We should also keep in mind that markets have enjoyed multiple years of fairly reasonable volatility. Since volatility events tend to occur in clusters, it’s not so surprising that we’re seeing back-to-back events in financial markets. Have stocks hit bottom? We can’t know for sure. This week, we’ll probably see more poor data out of China that could continue to rattle markets. However, it’s possible that earnings season may help turn the tide. While Q4 profits are expected to be down on lower revenues, the bar may already be set so low that earnings surprises could give stocks a boost. When negativity is already baked into stock prices, even small surprises can shift investor sentiment. Bottom line: Market corrections happen. They can be stressful and can test your resolve as an investor, but they are normal and healthy. We don’t know how long this correction will last or how low markets will go, but we are continually monitoring markets and will suggest prudent changes to investing strategies as necessary. If you have questions or concerns about your portfolio, please reach out to us, we’d love to hear from you.
ECONOMIC CALENDAR:Monday: U.S. Markets Closed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Tuesday: Housing Market Index, Treasury International Capital Wednesday: Consumer Price Index, Housing Starts Thursday: Jobless Claims, EIA Petroleum Status Report, Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey Friday: PMI Manufacturing Index Flash, Existing Home Sales
- Gasoline prices drop below $1 per gallon. Residents in some parts of Michigan officially became the first Americans to buy gas for less than a dollar in over a decade. High oil supplies and low demand may lead to more cheap gas this year.
- Retail sales disappoint. December retail sales slumped unexpectedly as warmer weather cut into sales of winter gear and cheap gasoline weighed on service station business. After a 0.4% rise in November, sales dipped by 0.1% in December.
- Consumer sentiment ticks upward. Despite stock market pullbacks and global worries, Americans’ view of the economy and their financial prospects improved slightly in January. Hopefully, that optimism will translate into more spending this quarter.
- Business inventories fall. U.S. businesses sold through their stockpiles rather than replenishing as sales slipped. The decline in inventories could weigh on economic growth in the fourth quarter.
Quote Of The Week
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Recipe Of The Week: Easy Dark Chocolate TrufflesMake these luxurious treats at home with this easy recipe. Makes about 24 Ingredients: 8 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate 1 tablespoon unsalted butter ½ cup heavy cream, warmed for 25 seconds in the microwave ¼ teaspoon kosher salt ¾ cup chocolate sprinkles Chef’s Tip: Try variations on the recipe by: Simmering 1 tablespoon of crushed cardamom pods or cinnamon stick in the cream then pouring it through a sieve before adding it to the melted chocolate. Adding 1 tablespoon of espresso or instant coffee powder to the chocolate. Rolling the truffles in cocoa powder and sugar, coconut flakes, or crushed nuts. Directions: Make a double boiler by boiling one inch of water in a pot and setting a metal or heatproof boil over top, making sure the bottom doesn’t come into contact with the water. Melt the chocolate chunks and butter in the bowl while stirring gently. Mix in the cream and salt until fully incorporated with the melted chocolate. Seal the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm for at least 4 hours and up to 48. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Use a tablespoon or ice cream scoop to scoop out the chocolate. Use your hands to quickly roll the chocolate into a ball and set it on the baking sheet. Dip your hands in cold water to keep them cool and prevent the truffles from melting too much in your hands. Pour the sprinkles or other coating into a small bowl and roll each truffle until coated. Refrigerate them on the sheet until firm and then move them to a sealed container for up to a week. Serve them at room temperature. Recipe adapted from Samantha Seneviratne | RealSimple.com
Tax Tips: Know Your Rights with the IRSThe IRS created the Taxpayer Bill of Rights to make it simple for taxpayers to know their rights when dealing with the IRS. If you have a tax issue, you are guaranteed assistance through the Taxpayer Advocate Service, a department whose job it is to ensure that every taxpayer is treated fairly. For more information about the Taxpayer Bill of Rights or Taxpayer Advocate Service, read Publication 1, “Your Rights as a Taxpayer,” or contact a qualified tax expert. Tip courtesy of IRS.gov
Golf Tip: Bend the Ball with Your BodyIf you find yourself close enough to an obstacle that you need to curve the ball around it, a good setup is critical to get out of trouble and cut your stroke count. Start by pointing your feet, knees, and shoulders where you want the ball to start. Typically, this will be pointing slightly away from the obstacle. Then, aim your clubface toward your ball target-where you want the ball to land. Finally, swing along the line of your body and watch the ball curve around the obstacle and (hopefully) end up at the target. Don’t try and aim the ball with your arms; instead, use the line of your body to guide the swing. Tip courtesy of Rick Sessinghaus | Golf Tips Mag
Healthy Lifestyle: Check Before Splitting That PillPrescription medication can be expensive, and savvy healthcare shoppers have learned that you can stretch pills by splitting a higher dose. However, not all pills are safe to split. Here are some tips:
- Check with your physician and pharmacist before splitting any pills.
- Look for FDA approval for splitting on the prescription insert.
- Check for scoring along the pill; usually, that means it is designed for safe splitting.
- Pills that have outer coatings or extended-release formulas typically are not safe to split.