Monthly Archives: November 2017

Still Time to Voice Your Tax Reform Opinion

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Opinions matter. So do calls to your state’s Congress person to voice your “vote yes” or “vote no” on the proposed Tax Cut and Jobs Act.

To contact your Senator’s office, call The U.S. Capital Switchboard at 202-224-3121. The operator will direct your call to the requested Senator of your state.

If you’re still on the fence and either don’t know which way to vote, or, think that this Act –if passed– won’t impact you personally think again.

Below I’ve excerpted some tidbits from a most excellent column published today, November 29, 2017, in The Palm Beach Post written by Frank Cerabino, titled “Know your tax plan: Take our quiz to deduce the winners”.

In a nutshell, here’s a look at some of the points made in that piece:

  • Teachers spend on average, somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 each year out of their own pockets on supplies. Under current tax codes, teachers can deduct $250 a year from their taxes for doing so. In the new tax reform bill, that deduction would be ELIMINATED. But, tax deductions for corporate tax deduction for office supplies, remains in place.
  • Fetuses—as in an unborn child—would be allowed to have 529 Education Savings Plans opened while the Adoption Tax Credit would be eliminated.  (My thoughts, not Frank Cerabinos: Not only is that insane but if the tax reform bill passes, I will be the first in line to get a 529 plan for my unborn children including a couple for my pregnant dog. Who—or how—is anyone  gonna check?)
  • And, the American worker who takes a job that requires him/her to move will no longer be able to deduct the costs involved in their moving expenses, as they currently can. But, the new law would allow corporations to deduct moving expense for workers whose jobs are shipped overseas.

Chew on those points for a while. Then phone your Senator.

Read Cerabino’s column at:

http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/know-your-tax-plan-take-the-quiz-and-deduce-who-the-big-winners-are/zEyHef5497aWIWJAPZ4PHO/

 

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POCKETBOOK: Week ending Nov. 24, 2017

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Could there be a bear in Wall Street’s future? The Vanguard Group thinks that there is now a 70 percent of a stock market correction.(Photo from CNBC)
  • Wal-Mart

If you’re looking for low-wage work, Wal-Mart is the place to apply. Why? For one, it’s the largest employer across America with over 1.5 million employees. And two, it’s the largest employer in nearly half of our nation’s 50 states—actually 22 states out of our 50.

Guess that helps to explain why so many people across our nation are financially challenged: low wage jobs don’t translate into financial security.

While that’s the way it is today, low-wage jobs from mega-corporations such as Wal-Mart haven’t always been in vogue.

Once upon a time working for big companies was in and came with substantial salaries and attractive benefits. Even for those without a high-school diploma or a college degree.

According to MyBudget360.com, looking back to the mid-1950s, when America was building cars, car parts and the fuel that made them run, the biggest employers were GM, Chrysler, U.S. Steel, Standard Oil of New Jersey, Amoco, Goodyear and Firestone.

It was good-paying jobs at companies like those, and those in other industries,  that created a growing and prosperous middle-class.

Now that’s all changed. As the middle-class dwindles and the numbers of low-wage jobs have increased along with  stagnant wages , workers struggle to pay their bills and get ahead.

That said, this holiday season is projected to be a big one for retailers. Like Wal-Mart.

Go figure.

 

  • Market Quick Glance

Last week was a short week with pretty good results.

 But before going there, Vanguard is telling its investors not to expect more than a 4 to 6 percent annual return from the stock market going forward for the next five years.

“It’s unreasonable to expect rates of returns, which exceeded our own bullish forecast from 2010, to continue,” said Joe Davis, Vanguard’s chief economist.

Makes sense to me.

Below are the weekly and 1-year index performance results for four major indices— including the dates each reached new highs—according to CNBC.com based on prices at the close of business on Friday, November 24, 2017.

DJIA +19.20% YTD up from last week’s 18.19%.

  • 1 yr Rtn +23.45% down from last week’s 23.56%

Another new high for the DJIA of 23,617.8 was reached on November 21, 2017.

The previous high of 23,602.12 was reached on November 7, 2017. On March 1, the Dow stood at 21,169.11.

 

-S&P 500 +16.24% YTD up from last week’s 15.19%.

  • 1yr Rtn +18.04% up from last week’s +17.91%

The S&P 500 reached another new high on November 24, 2017 of 2,604.21.

Its previous high of 2,597.02 was reached on November 7, 2017. On March 1, 2017, that index stood at 2,400.98.

 

-NASDAQ +27.98% YTD up from last week’s +26.00%.

  • 1yr Rtn +28.04% up from last week’s 27.16%

The Nasdaq reached a new all-time high of 6,890.02 on November 24, 2017.

Its previous high of 6,806.67 was reached on November 16, 2017. On April 5, 2017 the index closed at 5,936.39.

 

-Russell 2000 +11.94%YTD up from last week’s +10.00%

1yr Rtn +13.19% down from last week’s +14.00%

The Russell 2000 reached a new all-time high of 1,524.18 on November 22, 2017.

Its previous high of 1,514.94 was reached on October 5, 2017. On March 1, 2017 this index stood at 1,414,82.

 

-Mutual funds

Last week provided a solid  move upward in the year-to-date average cumulative total reinvested return for equity funds. Under the broad U.S. Diversified Equity Funds heading, the average fund was +15.55% at the close of business on Wednesday, November 22, 2017, according to Lipper. That’s up from the previous week’s return of +14.34%.

Leaving equity fund types aside, here are the year-to-date cumulative total reinvested returns for various fixed-income funds:

  • The average Ultra-Short Obligation Fund, + 11.28%.
  • Short/Intermediate Govt. & Treasury Funds,  +1.67%
  • Short /Intermediate Investment Grade Funds, +2.95%
  • General Domestic Taxable Fixed-Income Funds, +4.81%
  • And World Income Funds up7.19%.

Looking at the entire fixed-income group the average year-to-date return was +4.48% through11/22/17.

Visit www.allaboutfunds.com for more information about how various equity and fixed-income funds have rewarded investors over the short-and long-term, based upon Lipper data. Short-term meaning weekly and monthly performance returns; longer-term includes quarterly, year-to-date, 1-yr, 2-yr, 3-yr and 5-yr returns.

 

  • Forget cybershopping. Be fiscally wise. Use cash.

I was at J.Jill the other day purchasing myself a few holiday items. (The first person on my gift list is me, isn’t it you on yours?)

When it came time to pay my most excellent sales woman asked if I wanted to open a J.Jill credit card. She said that doing so would save me an additional 10% on my purchases that day and come with a bunch of other savings opportunities in the future. I declined. The last thing I need is another credit card. So I paid in cash.

Yes, cash. It’s still accepted at retailers you know,  but apparently is a bit of an oddity.

After I handed her the required cash, she commented that usually most people pay with credit cards but that the majority of those she had waited on this day were paying in cash.

I smiled and thought to myself about the benefits of paying with cash: No worries about somebody stealing my credit card number or hacking my bank accounts,  retailers don’t  have  to pay any fees to  credit card companies for using the cards, and best of all I don’t overspend.

And then there are the health benefits: Paying with cash gets you out of the house, moving and  socializing.

Cash: Looks like a win-win for everyone.

Try it.

 

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POCKETBOOK: Week ending Nov. 17, 2017

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Happy Thanksgiving from my family’s table to yours.
  • One more time: We don’t need tax reform

More than anything in the world, the Republican party wants to make sure that they accomplish something during the first 300-and-some days since the President Trump has been in office.

Doing something is a good idea. Tax reform, or whatever it winds up being called, isn’t.

Here’s the main reason why I think that is so: When taxes are cut, somebody or something has to pay in one way or another to cover the government coffer shortfalls the tax cuts create.

Any decrease in monies flowing in will translate into an increase in America’s defecit and could make unwelcomed changes to things such as our Vet’s programs,  Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP and other much needed government funded impacts-people programs.

Plus, while 800-to-1200 bucks a year in savings for the average person amounts to something,  the cuts will more than likely cost middle and lower-income people more than that with respect to their annual  health care costs and deductions allowed on their tax returns depending upon the state in which they live.

And, history has shown that the trickle-down talk of how tax reforms/cuts translate into more jobs and higher wages is just that—talk. The same kind of poppycock talk similar to the election promises Trump made to the coal miners telling them that their coal jobs would be coming back.

Or the Paul Ryan talk about how America has been in a horrible mess ever since the Great Recession began. Someone must not have shown him a chart showing  that GDP growth has been being improving since that recession or one showing  the roaring returns that the stock market has provided investors. Or the one with a snapshot of how corporations already have tons of money on their balance sheets available for spending should they desire to spend it.

If the party in power wants to make a positive impact, why not pass a bill that creates jobs focused on improving our country’s roads, bridges and all around infrastructure? Or one that limits the types and number of guns individuals can own? Or requires background checks for anyone purchasing a gun at a trade show, or online? Or provides health care for all without strings attached?

Those kinds of changes would make a big everyday difference in the lives of most Americans.

Tax cuts not so much.

But no matter how you feel, why call your state Senator’s office today and voice your “yeah” or “nay” on the subject.

 

  • Market Quick Glance

A bit of a downer last week. But if history is any guide, Thanksgiving week is more often than not a good week for stocks in the S&P 500.

According to the fine folks at the Bespoke Investment Group, the S&P 500 has averaged a gain of 0.65% during the four-day Thanksgiving week. “And in years when the S&P is up 10%+ YTD heading into Thanksgiving week (as it is this year), returns during the week are even stronger.”

We shall see….

Below are the weekly and 1-year index performance results for four major indices— including the dates each reached new highs—according to CNBC.com based on prices at the close of business on Friday, November 17, 2017.

DJIA +18.19% YTD down from last week’s 18.52%.

  • 1 yr Rtn +23.56% down from last week’s 24.27%

 

The DJIA most recent all-time high of 23,602.12 was reached on November 7, 2017.

Its previous high of 23,557.06 was reached November 3, 2017. On March 1, the Dow stood at 21,169.11.

 

-S&P 500 +15.19% YTD down from last week’s 15.34%.

  • 1yr Rtn +17.91% down from last week’s +19.31%

The S&P 500 reached its most recent new high on November 7, 2017 of 2,597.02

Its previous high of 2,588.42 was reached on November 3, 2017. On March 1, 2017, that index stood at 2,400.98.

 

-NASDAQ +26.00% YTD up from last week’s +25.66%.

  • 1yr Rtn +27.16% down from last week’s 28.91%

The Nasdaq reached a new all-time high of 6,806.67 on November 16, 2017.

Its previous high of 6,795.52 was reached on November 7, 2017. On April 5, 2017 the index closed at 5,936.39.

 

-Russell 2000 +10.00%YTD up from last week’s +8.71%

1yr Rtn +14.00% down from last week’s +15.04%

The Russell 2000 reached a new all-time high of 1,514.94 on October 5, 2017. On March 1, 2017 this index stood at 1,414,82.

 

-Mutual funds

Moving up a tiny bit.

The year-to-date average cumulative total reinvested return for equity funds falling under the broad U.S. Diversified Equity Funds was +14.34% at the close of business on Thursday, November 16, 2017, according to Lipper. That’s up from the previous week’s return of +14.24%.

  • The highest and lowest average y-t-date returns under the U.S. Diversified Equity Funds heading were:

-Highest: Equity Leverage Funds, +33.72%

-Lowest: Alternative Equity Market Neutral Funds, -0.18%

The average return for funds under this heading was +14.34%.

 

  • The highest and lowest average y-t-date returns under the Sector Equity Funds heading were:

-Highest: Global Science/Technology Funds, +46.84%

-Lowest: Energy MPL Funds, -11.68%

The average return for funds under this heading was +9.76%%.

 

  • The highest and lowest average y-t-date returns under the World Equity Funds heading were:

-Highest: China Region Funds, +43.84%

-Lowest: Global Equity Income Funds, +13.62%

The average return for funds under this heading was 24.72%.

 

  • The highest and lowest average y-t-date returns under the Mixed Asset Funds heading were:

-Highest: Mixed-Asset Target 2055+Funds, +17.54%

-Lowest: Alternative Multi-Strategy Funds, +3.26%

The average return for funds under this heading was 11.28%.

Visit www.allaboutfunds.com for more information about how various equity and fixed-income funds have rewarded investors over the short-and long-term, based upon Lipper data. Short-term meaning weekly and monthly performance returns; longer-term includes quarterly, year-to-date, 1-yr, 2-yr, 3-yr and 5-yr returns.

 

  • What’s up for 2018?

There’s already been lots of speculation going on about how the markets will perform in 2018 and Jack Bogle, founder of Vanguard, is one of them forecasting.

Bogle, who is now retired, is predicting that going forward into the New Year and beyond that the U.S.  market will be a better bet than global markets; average returns on stocks are going to be much lower—as in the 4% annual return area—over the next 10 years; and bond portfolios will increase into the +3% average annual 10-year returns.

More than one experienced talking head agrees.

Wishing you plenty to be thankful for and a happy thanksgiving week.

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pbTrumpBits#19: A Presidential If…Than…

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My yesterday’s tweet: “If an ethics committee decides Senator Al Franken has to go because of his behavior before he was an elected US public servant, then President Trump is due the boot too.”

By now we have all seen the Al Franken boob-groping photo snapped in the early 2000s. Don’t know if more women, or photos, will surface. We shall see.

But, in case you have forgotten, prior to his being elected President of the United States, at least 15 women had accused Donald Trump of a number of sexually related no-no’s including, sexual assault, sexual harassment, non-consensual kissing or groping and oh-my even “violent assault” by his first wife Ivana. All of this according to one of President Trump’s favorite resources, Wikipedia.

Trump has claimed that the women who have made those claims were liars. Franken has apologized to the woman  for his behavior.

POCKETBOOK: Week ending Nov 10, 2017

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From CNNMoney.com
  • Income levels not so hot

If a picture is worth 1000 words, than a chart has got to be worth more. Right?

A recent Federal Reserve study revealed that the wealth gap is growing—but we already knew that; that unemployment has hit a 17-year low—we knew that too; and that the top 1% holds 38.6% of the nation’s wealth up from 33.7% in 2007—and we kinda sorta knew that as well.

But perhaps what we didn’t know was how the racial gap of low-income families had changed—-especially for white people.

From a CNNMoney.com story titled, “Included: Poor white Americans are getting poorer: what diversity numbers don’t say”, posted November 10, 2017, comes this: “The wealth of low-income white people was cut almost in half since the recession while the wealth of black and Hispanic families in the same bracket  remained stable.”

Move levels up a notch and things change.

“The median white family is worth nearly ten times as much as the median black family and about 8 times as much as the median Hispanic family, “ says CNNMoney’s Lydia DePillis.

(Full story at: http://cnnmon.ie/2zLiluY )

 

  • Market Quick Glance

The CBOE Volatility Index, VIX, is worth looking at because of its  performance: Although the indices followed below have had a heck of a positive performance year, the VIX’s year-to-date and  1-year returns are down around 20%. Or down at -19.59% and -20.32% respectively at the close of business on Friday, November 10, 2017.

As for the DJIA, S&P 500, Nasdaq and Russell 2000, last we they  all lost ground.

That’s not to say there is a bear preparing to tear up Wall Street. But, when you combine market volatility, inflation, rising interests rates along with disappointing earnings and policy promises that don’t come true from Washington, that clawing creature can’t be far away.

Below are the weekly and 1-year index performance results for four major indices— including the dates each reached new highs—according to CNBC.com based on prices at the close of business on Friday, November 10, 2017.

DJIA +18.52% YTD down from last week’s 19.11%.

  • 1 yr Rtn +24.27% way down from last week’s 31.28%

Another new all-time high of 23,602.12 was reached on November 7, 2017.

The previous high of 23,557.06 was reached November 3, 2017. On March 1, the Dow stood at 21,169.11.

 

-S&P 500 +15.34% YTD down a bit from last week’s 15.59%.

  • 1yr Rtn +19.31% down considerably from last week’s +23.90%

The S&P 500 reached another new high on November 7, 2017 of 2,597.02

The previous high of 2,588.42 was reached on November 3, 2017. On March 1, 2017, that index stood at 2,400.98.

 

-NASDAQ +25.66% YTD down from last week’s +25.66%.

  • 1yr Rtn +28.91% down a lot from last week’s 33.73%

The Nasdaq reached a new all-time high of 6,795.52 on November 7, 2017.

A previous high of 6,765.14 was reached on November 3, 2017. On April 5, 2017 the index closed at 5,936.39.

 

-Russell 2000 +8.71%YTD down from last week’s +10.15%

1yr Rtn +15.04% down from last week’s +29.22%

The Russell 2000 reached a new all-time high of 1,514.94 on October 05, 2017. On March 1, 2017 this index stood at 1,414,82.

 

-Mutual funds

Investors are still lapping up shares of mutual funds and ETFs.

According to data from Thomson Reuters Lipper, in the week ending November 8, 2017, investors purchased $17.5 billion in fund assets.

Equity funds picked up$4.7 billion; taxable bond funds $1.6 billion, money market funds $10.8 billion and municipal bond funds $463 million.

Exchange Traded Funds, ETFs, saw inflows of more that $5.0 billion.

More specifically, the year-to-date average cumulative total reinvested return for equity funds falling under the broad U.S. Diversified Equity Funds moved downward as the close of business on Thursday, November 2, 2017, according to Lipper. The average return was +13.90%. That’s down from the previous week’s return of +14.24%.

Visit www.allaboutfunds.com for more information about how various equity and fixed-income funds have rewarded investors over the short-and long-term, based upon Lipper data. Short-term meaning weekly and monthly performance returns; longer-term includes quarterly, year-to-date, 1-yr, 2-yr, 3-yr and 5-yr returns.

 

  • Great Gift Cards

Depending upon whom you ask, gift cards are either great gifts or aren’t worth purchasing because they aren’t used.

Most people like getting them with stats showing somewhere between 6 and 10% of them go unredeemed.

But the  trick in getting someone to use their card is the same as the challenge of picking out a present you know they will love: You have to know what they like/don’t like or use/won’t use.

WalletHub recently conducted a survey asking about gift card use. Here are some of the results:

-Last year’s Most Popular Gift Cards—Amazon Gift Card and Visa Gift Card were each ranked #1; Walmart Gift Card ranked #3; iTunes Gift Card ranked #4 and American Express Gift Card ranked #5.

-Gift cards with the biggest increase in popularity over the past year was Trader Joe’s.

-Gift cards with the biggest drop in popularity were those from the Apple Store and H&M.

Happy shopping.

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pbTrumpBits#18: Mar-a-Lago still hiring

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It’s been nearly two months since the ad for various Mar-a-Lago workers first appeared in Jobs section of the The Palm Beach Post under the “ food services/hospitality” heading.  That’s a long time for any ad to run.

What might be even longer is that the box showing the job opportunities at Mar-a-Lago has a typo in it that’s never been corrected.

I’ve heard that our president isn’t much of a reader but that’s no excuse for those who write the ads, or place them and didn’t see or correct the obvious error.

As you can see in the photo of the ad above the mistake has to do with the missing letter “i” in the word “qualifed”

Kind of a funny typo given the size of President Trump’s ego.

The private club will be opening soon and apparently is still seeking beach club servers, pastry cooks and valets. Hourly pay varies but is dollars better than Florida’s minimum wage of $8.10 an hour ( it’s going up to $8.25 in 2018).  And,  I’ve heard that tips for the valets can be quite generous. Even is they aren’t,  it’s gotta be a trip to drive the club’s members’ cars.

That said, anyone who would like to work in the Winter White House can either pick up an application at the gate house of the club/estate, or send their resume to: HR@maralagoclub.com.

Good luck.

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POCKETBOOK: Week ending Nov 3, 2017

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  • Pennies for peons

Amazing for me to  listen to House Speaker Paul Ryan, (who reminds me of Eddie Munster every time I see him), talk about the tax rewards for low-income American families during his repsentation of the new Republican tax reform proposal.

He made a tax savings of under 1200 bucks a year—or roughly $3.23 a day—sound like a big deal. Something great. Something terrific. Something that would make a big difference in their lives. Poppycock.

And all this from a guy who like other members of Congress are paid six-figure incomes — and many of whom are millionaires. Pennies for the peons is how it all sounded to me.

More slight-of-mounth that kinda sorta was made to sound like it was news had to do with the number of Americans who would have no federal income taxes to pay under the suggested Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017. Also, poppycock.

Millions of people, low-income and otherwise, now pay no federal taxes each year.

According to data from the Tax Policy Center, in 2015 over 45% of Americans –or roughly 77.5 million—paid no federal income tax. If this new Act now means there will be millions more, who is going to pay for services and things we expect like our military, roads, park services, Medicare, SNAP programs, paying down our national debt, etc.?

As you know, I’m no fan of this tax proposal and see it as hurting more than serving the vast majority of the American public. Unless, of course, you are hugely wealthy.

I’m not. Are you?

 

  • Market Quick Glance

Once again it was mostly up, up and way in some kind of beautiful balloon for the major indices followed here as last week came to a close. I say mostly because once again, the year-to-date performances of the DJIA, S&P 500 and Nasdaq all rewarded their index investors while the Russell 2000 slipped backward.

How sustainable these high-flying markets will go continues to make money minds wonder.

Below are the weekly and 1-year index performance results for four major indices— including the dates each reached new highs—according to CNBC.com based on prices at the close of business on Friday, November 3, 2017.

DJIA +19.11% YTD up from last week’s 18.58%.

  • 1 yr Rtn +31.28% up from last week’s 28.97%

 

Another new all-time high was reached on November 3, 2017 of 23,557.06 on the DJIA.

The previous high was reached on October 24, 2017. On March 1, the Dow stood at 21,169.11.

 

-S&P 500 +15.59% YTD up from last week’s 15.29%.

  • 1yr Rtn +23.90% up from last week’s +21.00%

The S&P 500 reached another new high on November 3, 2017 of 2,588.42.

It’s previous high was reached on October 27, 2017. On March 1, 2017, that index stood at 2,400.98.

 

-NASDAQ +25.66% YTD up from last week’s +24.49%.

  • 1yr Rtn +33.73% up a chunk from last week’s 28.48%

The Nasdaq reached a new all-time high of 6,765.14 on November 3, 2017.

The previous high was reached on October 27, 2017. On April 5, 2017 the index closed at 5,936.39.

 

-Russell 2000 +10.15% YTD down from last week’s +11.14%.

  • 1yr Rtn +29.22% up considerably from last week’s +26.75%

The Russell 2000 reached a new all-time high of 1,514.94 on October 05, 2017.

On March 1, 2017 this index stood at 1,414,82.

 

-Mutual funds

The year-to-date average cumulative total reinvested return for equity funds falling under the broad U.S. Diversified Equity Funds had moved up a bit when posted at the close of business on Thursday, November 2, 2017, according to Lipper. The average return was +14.24%. Two weeks before it was 13.75.

That’s not too shabby given the average total return for Sector Funds over that same time frame was 9.41%. On the other hand, the average World Equity Fund had a return of 25.25%.

Throw in some bond influence and the average Mixed Asset Fund was up 11.52%; Domestic L-T Fixed Income Funds up 3.815 and World Income Funds up 8.14%

Visit www.allaboutfunds.com for more information about how various equity and fixed-income funds have rewarded investors over the short-and long-term, based upon Lipper data. Short-term meaning weekly and monthly performance returns; longer-term includes quarterly, year-to-date, 1-yr, 2-yr, 3-yr and 5-yr returns.

 

  • November

CORRECTION: Target will not be closed for the entire day on Thanksgiving. It will open its store doors at 6 p.m. Apologies for the error. DV

I have to hand it to Target for deciding not to begin displaying their Christmas holiday merchandise until after Thanksgiving—hope they mean it. And, for the number of retail stores electing to be closed on that holiday meant for giving thanks. There are dozens of them from Ace Hardware to West Marine.

Re the stock market as represented by the DJIA, the month of November has a history of pretty much being thankful.

According to research from the Bespoke Investment Group comes this:

-Over the past 100 years, the DJIA has been up 60% of the time and gained an average of 0.75% during the month of November.

-Over the last 50 years the DJIA has been up 66% of the time and gained 1.67%.

-And over the past 20 years that index has been up 70% of the time sporting a gain during that month of 1.93%.

Gobble. Gobble.

 

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