Markets closed out another solid week of gains on the back of higher oil prices and some positive economic data. For the week, the S&P 500 increased 1.58%, the Dow grew 1.51%, and the NASDAQ added 1.91%.
Investors got their second look at fourth-quarter 2015 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) last week. The latest data shows that the economy grew 1.0% last quarter versus the 0.7% originally reported. Economists had forecast a drop in GDP growth to 0.4%, so the increase was a welcome surprise and helped tamp down recession worries.
In another positive sign, consumer spending rose steadily in January and inflation increased closer to the Federal Reserve target of 2.0%. These encouraging indicators could support another rate hike since they bolster the growth picture for this year. Though the Fed could technically raise rates at the next meeting in March, most economists don’t expect to see higher rates until June at the earliest.
Though we expect volatility to continue over the next weeks and months, one contributor to volatility may be losing its grip. Over the last few months, U.S. equities have followed Chinese stocks over the edge, responding to worries about the health of the world’s second-largest economy. However, last week, though Chinese equities tumbled again, American stocks closed out the week positive. The divergence is a relief because it could indicate that the short-term connection between U.S. and Chinese markets is breaking down as investors return to fundamentals.
Does this mean that what happens in China will cease to affect American investors? Probably not, but we can hope that investors stop worrying about every little twitch in China’s markets.
The week ahead holds more economic data, the highlight being the February jobs report that comes out on Friday. Based on the weekly gains reported so far, we’re expecting a solid showing and hoping for continued increases in wages, which could help boost consumer spending this year. Investors will be looking for signs that the domestic economy can withstand trouble abroad and hoping for signs of increased economic activity in the first quarter of 2016. Election-year politicking may add uncertainty when votes are tallied on Super Tuesday this year.
Monday: Chicago PMI, Pending Home Sales Index, Dallas Fed Mfg. Survey
Tuesday: Motor Vehicle Sales, PMI Manufacturing Index, ISM Mfg. Index, Construction Spending
Wednesday: ADP Employment Report, EIA Petroleum Status Report, Beige Book
Thursday: Jobless Claims, Productivity and Costs, Factory Orders, ISM Non-Mfg. Index
Friday: Employment Situation, International Trade
- New home sales fall sharply. Sales of newly built homes plummeted from a 10-month high in January. However, the fall seems to be largely because of unusually low activity in the West and the overall housing market appears to be healthy.
- Consumer confidence declines in February. A measure of how Americans feel about the economy fell last month as consumers grew more pessimistic about their financial prospects.
- Durable goods orders rise. New orders for long-lasting manufactured goods like electronics, appliances, and vehicles rose in January by the most in 10 months. The uptick in demand is a positive sign for the manufacturing sector this quarter.
- Jobless claims rise, but remain stable. The number of Americans filing claims for new unemployment benefits rose last week, but the overall trend remains positive. Continuing claims also fell, indicating that workers are finding jobs and moving off benefits.
Quote Of The Week
“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” – Henry Ford
Recipe Of The Week
Serve this light frozen treat at a dinner party.
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
3/4 cup heavy cream
Heat a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium low heat. In the pot, whisk together the lemon juice, egg yolks, and sugar. Stir the mixture for 5 to 6 minutes until it thickens.
Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine sieve to remove any lumps.
Add the butter and stir the pieces into the warm mixture until melted and incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and press the plastic against the mixture. Refrigerate until completely chilled – about 30 minutes.
While the lemon mixture is chilling, beat the heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks. Carefully fold the whipped cream into the cold lemon mixture until combined but still airy. Divide the mousse into ramekins or small cups and freeze for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Recipe adapted from Darienne Sutton | RealSimple.com
Do You Know the Difference Between Taxable and Nontaxable Income?
All income you receive is taxable unless the rules explicitly state that it isn’t. According to the IRS, taxable income includes earned income like wages as well as any income earned by bartering or the exchange of property or services. Rental income is taxable as are other forms of unearned income like interest and dividends or Social Security.
Some income is not taxable unless certain conditions are met. For example, life insurance proceeds are usually not taxable to the beneficiary unless you redeem a life insurance policy for cash. Any amount you receive above the cost of the policy is taxable. State and local income tax refunds may be taxable and should be reported on your federal taxes.
There are also some forms of income that are usually not taxable, like:
- Gifts and inheritances.
- Child support payments.
- Welfare benefits.
- Damage awards for physical injury or sickness.
- Cash rebates from a dealer or manufacturer for an item you buy.
- Reimbursements for qualified adoption expenses.
For more information about taxable and nontaxable income, consult a qualified tax expert or see Publication 525, “Taxable and Nontaxable Income.”
Tip courtesy of IRS.gov 
Check Your Lie Angles
If you haven’t checked the lie angle on your clubs – the angle of the shaft relative to the ground when the bottom of the club is flat on the ground – your golf game may be suffering. Clubs with steeper angles are good for taller players with an upright swing. A flatter or lower angle is a good choice for shorter players or those who have problems with hooking the ball.
Normal wear and tear can also cause the lie angle of a club to change and make your swings inconsistent. One way to check is by looking at the impact spot on your ball. If you are consistently hitting the ball close to the toe, your lie angle might be too flat. If you strike with the heel of the club, the angle might be too steep and your club too upright.
Adjusting the lie angle on a club is something a club fitter or pro shop can handle for you.
Tip courtesy of Andrew Getson, PGA, | Golf Tips Mag
Scientists Announce Pancreatic Cancer Breakthrough
Scientists studying pancreatic cancer, one of the forms of cancer with the lowest survival rate, recently announced a reclassification of the disease into four distinct subtypes. Breaking the disease down into categories will help develop targeted treatments that may have better outcomes than current therapies. Doctors hope to develop personalized treatment methods customized to each patient’s distinct type of cancer.
Tip courtesy of CNBC
Cut Out the Formaldehyde
Formaldehyde, a chemical irritant known to lead to cancer with long exposure, is commonly found in building materials and fabrics. At room temperature, the volatile compound off-gasses into the air and contributes to indoor air pollution. Whenever possible, avoid products that are known to contain high levels of formaldehyde or that contain warning labels about use and exposure.
These common household items often contain formaldehyde:
- Plywood, particle board, and laminated paneling.
- Foam insulation.
- Wallpaper and indoor paints.
- Some synthetic fabrics.
Tip courtesy of Seattle PI
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