Monthly Archives: December 2017

TrumpBits#20:How to behave in church

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This is the Christmas tree at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Palm Beach, Florida, where President Trump attended Christmas Eve services.

Once upon a time, and not all that long ago, people knew how to behave in church. Now, many clearly  don’t.

For the second year in a row, President Trump received a standing ovation, cheers and applause before he and his wife Melania were seated for the Christmas Eve service at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Palm Beach on December 24, 2017.

And for the second year in a row, I’m writing to address that.

For those who don’t know any better, it is totally inappropriate to give anyone a standing ovation, cheer or applaud them when they are coming to a church as part of the congregation. Policy at Bethesda-by-the-Sea doesn’t approve of that behavior and the Christmas Eve ushers tried to stop it— all to no avail.

Throughout the decades dignitaries from around the world have attended services at Bethesda-by-the-Sea—all arriving quietly and without any hoopla.

I talked to Judy O’Hara Vetrick, who grew up in Palm Beach and attended St. Edward’s Catholic Church during the days when President Kennedy was in office and frequented that church, and asked if the congregation stood up and applauded when he was in attendance. “No,” she said almost laughing. “ He came in quietly and the only way anyone knew the president or his family were in church was by the Secret Service guys there wearing dark sun glasses.”

And that’s how it’s done right.

So for those who need a church-behavior reminder, Mr. President when coming to church you need to quietly slip into a pew and forget about doing any waving or  thumb’s up gestures. They aren’t appropriate gestures for a president in church. Period. And to those in the congregation, many of whom I’m starting to wonder if they are political plants, there will be no standing, applauding, cheering, picture or video taking at the first siting of the president.

He is, after all, only a man. And you, after all, are in church on Christmas Eve to celebrate the birth of the Christ child. Not the leader of the Republican Party.

 

 

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POCKETBOOK: Week ending Dec. 22, 2017

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  • Grinch’s tax plan

President Trump’s new tax law will make multi-millionaires and billionaires wealthier than they have been in years. Too bad that’s not the majority of us.

Top the new tax changes off with the DJIA up over 25% this year, unless the roof blows off between now and the last trading day of the year, Dow portfolios were 25% plumper as of Friday than they were at that time last year. Too bad the majority of us aren’t invested in it either.

Then again, this is a president who plays to the minority—the wealthy and those less financially fortunate who believe he really cares about them —and the tax law changes from him and his Republican party show it.

For instance, if you are a  childless family—as the vast majority of families in America are— any increase in child tax credits is meaningless to you. Putting that into perspective, in 2016 there were roughly 7 million families in our country sporting three or more children, according to Statista.com. And, 13 million families had two kids, 14.8 million had one child and 47.5 million families had no children. So that doubling of tax credits for families with kids sounds like a bigger gimme than it actually is.

Eliminating all of the interest deduction for folks in with middle and lower incomes with a home equity loan matters a lot to them. And so does totally eliminating the personal exemption of $4,050 for each member of your family as it takes the juice out of that doubling of the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for joint filers. That point never got talked about much in the press before the signing of the new tax law but the personal exemption loss is a loss and no bonus prize for any family.

The jury is still out on the impact changes in charitable giving will have to both the givers and the receivers of the gifts. And who knows what court challenges will arise after what President Trump said this is the biggest tax cut in history. For the record, it’s not.

But what may turn out to be the biggest of anything this president has done will be what the impact of the challenges Our Master’s new tax law will mean to the Little People going forward.

Happy Boxing Day.

 

  • Market Quick Glance

Last week was a merry week for index followers as all four followed here closed up for the week.

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, December 22, 2017.

DJIA +25.26% YTD up from last week’s 24.74%.

  • 1 yr Rtn +24.27% up from last week’s 24.18%

 

Another new high for the DJIA was reached on December 18, 2017 of 24,876.07. The previous high was reached on December 15, 2017 with the Dow closing at 24,688.62

On March 1, the Dow stood at 21,169.11.

 

-S&P 500 +19.85% YTD up from last week’s 19.52%.

  • 1yr Rtn +18.68% up from last week’s +18.29%

The S&P 500 reached another new high on December 18, 2017 of 2,694.97. The previous high was on December 15, 2017 of 2,679.63.

On March 1, 2017, that index stood at 2,400.98.

 

-NASDAQ +29.29% YTD up from last week’s +28.86%.

  • 1yr Rtn +27.77% up from last week’s 27.12%

 

Nasdaq reached a new high of 7,003.89 on December 18, 2017. Its previous high was reached on December 15, 2017 of 6,945.82

.On April 5, 2017 the index closed at 5,936.39.

 

-Russell 2000 +13.69%YTD up from last week’s +12.77%

1yr Rtn +13.23% way up from last week’s +12.00%

The Russell 2000 reached a new all-time high on December 4, 2017 of 1,559.61.

The previous high was reached on November 30, 2017 of 1,551.69.

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

 

-Mutual funds

A lovely jump up in the year-to-date average cumulative total reinvested returns for equity funds that fall under the broad U.S. Diversified Equity Funds heading. On Thursday, December 21, 2017, it was 18.57%, according to Lipper. That’s up from the close on Thursday of the previous week of 16.59%.

Under that heading the top three and lowest three performing fund types were:

Top Three:

-Equity Leverage Funds, average +41.50%

-Large-Cap Growth Funds, +29.89%

-Mulit-Cap Growth Funds, +28.63%

 

Bottom Three:

-Dedicated Bias Funds, -22.79%

-Alternative Equity Market Neutral Funds, +0.05%

-Small-Cap Value Funds, +9.60%

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.

 

  • Enjoy

May this last week of 2017 be a happy one for you and yours.

And may the fairy of good luck, fortune, health, friendships, humor and happiness live with you each day in the coming New Year.

Cheers to the welcoming in of 2018.

 

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POCKETBOOK: Week ending Dec. 15, 2017

 

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He’s coming.

  • Dissatisfied

If you’re a market watcher, you’ve seen the market roar in a year that early 2017 talking heads predicted everything from a down market, to one up 10-15% or one filled with risk.

With only a few trading days left in the year, it appears forecasters had it wrong as the bull that lived in 2016 was stronger and more powerful in 2017.

But just because there has been plenty of bull around, doesn’t mean everyone  reaped its rewards. Half of Americans aren’t investors and of them, one broker told me that it’s pretty much only those will millions who have made the big money.

Ain’t that always the case.

That said, if the streaming traffic into local malls is any indication of holiday spirits and gift buying, folks appear to be spending money—or creating more debt for themselves—like crazy.

If that’s a good thing, the not-so-good good thing is that a recent Willis Towers Watson employee-based survey revealed  that just over one-third, (35%), of employees interviewed were satisfied with their finances this year (2017). That’s down from the 48 percent who were happy in 2015.

I’m hoping you are one of the satisfied ones.

  • Market Quick Glance

Flyin high.

At the close of business on Friday, all the indices followed here had made positive gains. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

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, December 15, 2017.

DJIA +24.74% YTD up from last week’s 23.11%.

  • 1 yr Rtn +24.18% up from last week’s 24.03%

Oh geez..another new high for the DJIA. This time it was reached on December 15, 2017 with the Dow closing at 24,688.62

The previous was reached on December 4. On March 1, the Dow stood at 21,169.11.

 

-S&P 500 +19.52% YTD up from last week’s 18.43%.

  • 1yr Rtn +18.29% up from last week’s +18.04%

The S&P 500 reached another new high on December 15, 2017 as it closed at 2,679.63. Its previous high was reached on December 4, 2017 of 2,665.19.

On March 1, 2017, that index stood at 2,400.98.

 

-NASDAQ +28.86% YTD up from last week’s +27.07%.

  • 1yr Rtn +27.12% up from last week’s 26.26%

On December 15, 2017, Nasdaq reached another new high of 6,945.82 The previous high of of 6,914.19 oon Nov. 28, 2017.

On April 5, 2017 the index closed at 5,936.39.

 

-Russell 2000 +12.77%YTD up from last week’s +12.13%

1yr Rtn +12.00% way up from last week’s +9.76%

The Russell 2000 reached a new all-time high on December 4, 2017 of 1,559.61. The previous high was reached on November 30, 2017 of 1,551.69.

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

-Mutual funds

No change from one week to the next  in the year-to-date average cumulative total reinvested return for equity funds that fall under the broad U.S. Diversified Equity Funds heading. On Thursday, December 14, 2017, it stood at +16.59% at the close of business that day, according to Lipper. That’s the same as it was on Thursday of the previous week, 16.59%.

Looking back one year, more specifically 52 weeks,  the average return of funds under that heading was a bit lower at +15.51%. Two year ago it stood at +13%. Three years ago at +8.53%. And five years ago (12/13/12 to 12/14/17) it was +12.68%.

The point here?

Although returns might not change from week to week, stock fund performances change often. Like daily. All the time. And every year.

Remember that.

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.

 

  • Looking ahead

Like him or not, our admitted pussy-grabbing president is more popular today than he was in September, according to a brand new hot-off-the-Internet CNBC All-American Economy Survey.

Survey results show:

-42% approve of the job Trump is doing as president—that’s up 4 points from the previous survey.

-49% disapprove of the job Trump is doing as president—that’s down 3 points.

-41% expect the economy to improve next year.

–And for the first time in 11 years, over half of those questioned rated the economy as good or excellent.

Huh.

 

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POCKETBOOK: Week ending Dec. 8, 2017

 

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My Bitcoin story at bottom of this blog. (Photo from Reuters)
  • Bulls

Last week’s AAII sentiment survey reflected that bull-o-mania continued to be alive and well in investors’ minds.

And, that that sentiment continued to break records: For 153 weeks straight that positive, making-money thinking has been going on, according to Bespoke.

That’s kinda scary as most investors know first-hand that bull markets don’t last forever—-even the most fertile of bulls need to take a rest every now and then.

Time to place your bets on when this one will.

 

  • Market Quick Glance

A few cracks in year-to-date and 1-year returns with all of the 1-year returns lower than they were the previous week.

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, December 8, 2017.

DJIA +23.11% YTD up from last week’s 22.61%.

  • 1 yr Rtn +24.03% down from last week’s 26.26%

Another new high for the DJIA was reached on December 4, 2017 of 24,534.04. The previous high was hit on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017 of  24,327.82.

On March 1, the Dow stood at 21,169.11.

 

-S&P 500 +18.43% YTD up a bit from last week’s 18.02%.

  • 1yr Rtn +18.04% down from last week’s +20.59%

The S&P 500 reached another new high on December 4, 2017 of 2,665.19. Its previous high was reached on November 30, 2017 of 2,657.74.

On March 1, 2017, that index stood at 2,400.98.

 

-NASDAQ +27.07% YTD down a bit from last week’s +27.20%.

  • 1yr Rtn +26.26% down a lot from last week’s 30.40%

 

The Nasdaq reached a new all-time high of 6,914.19 oon Nov. 28, 2017. The previous high of 6,890.02 was reached on November 24, 2017.

On April 5, 2017 the index closed at 5,936.39.

 

-Russell 2000 +12.13%YTD down from last week’s +13.26%

•1yr Rtn +9.76% way down from last week’s +16.99%

The Russell 2000 reached a new all-time high on December 4, 2017 of 1,559.61. The previous high was reached on November 30, 2017 of 1,551.69.

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

 

-Mutual funds

Cracks here, too.

Last week the year-to-date average cumulative total reinvested return for equity funds that fall under the broad U.S. Diversified Equity Funds heading, was +16.59% at the close of business on Thursday, December 7, 2017, according to Lipper. That’s down from the previous week’s return of +17.37%.

Fourteen of the 25 largest (most assets) funds around had year-to-date returns of over 20%. The most rewarding? The Fidelity Contrafund at +31.06%.

The least rewarding? Two of Vanguard’s bond funds: The Vanguard Total Bond II:Investors and the Vanguard Total Bond: Admiral. Both up +3.43% and +3.53% respectively.

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.

 

 

  • Betting on Bitcoin

I’ve been watching the per share prices on the Bitcoin Investment Trust (GBTC) for the past couple of years. Over the past year I’ve seen its share price go from a low of around $60 to a high of$1,905.55. And through it all I’ve thought about kicking  myself for not buying at least a couple of shares.

The reason I didn’t pull the trigger was because of its so hugely volatile stock price. One day GBTC would spike up and a few days later fall dramatically.

But more important than deciding to buy into that trust was coming up with an answer about when to sell the  shares.

I know myself well enough to know that if I had actually purchased shares at say 100 or even 300 bucks a share, I probably would have sold those shares when/if they doubled or tripled in price.

I believe in taking profits.

Oldsters might remember Fidelity’s super-duper fund manager Peter Lynch. Stocks that doubled in share price after he’d purhased them he refered to as a double-bagger. Those that tripled, a triple-bagger. And so on.

It’s not every day of the year, or week, or month that a stock’s price moves up by two-, three-, ten-fold or more. I know that.

I also know that it would have been real easy to have purchased GTBC at $100 a share, sell it at say $300 and then wish I had held on longer.

But the name of the Wall Street game isn’t about kicking yourself for what you didn’t do: It’s about making money for what you did do re your investment choices.  Then moving on.

So not knowing how high–or low–a stock price will move over time  is what makes investing such a seductive and mysterious game. And one not everyone is equiped to handle.

That said, as  I wrote earlier, I believe in taking profits.

And then  being glad they were there to be had–no matter how big or little the reward.

 

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POCKETBOOK: Week ending Dec. 1, 2017

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  • •Wall Street’s money

Things are never as they appear. Especially when it comes to money, the stock market and proposed tax cuts.

Although anything can happen during the remaining trading days of 2017, if the strong momentum continues, this year could be a hugely rewarding for the 50% of folks who have money invested in the stock market.

That said, just because you’re an investor doesn’t mean you’ve enjoyed the same, or similar, kinds of return averages of those such as DJIA or S&P 500. Unless, of course, all of your holdings were in an index fund or ETF representing such. But not all investors are.

So, if you have been lucky enough to have returns of 15 to 20% or more this year, nothing wrong with taking some of those profits. That’s what they are there for.

As for the proposed tax cuts, Wall Streets seems to love the idea of them. But Main Street ought to think twice.

Why? First, while the deal looks almost done, it hasn’t been signed and sealed yet.

Second, if you happen to think any cut to corporate tax rates is going to translate into higher wages and more job opportunities for you and those you care about, you haven’t  been paying attention: Many corporations are now and have been sitting on hoards of money. Money that for the past couple of years could have been used to up the salaries of their employees. Or used for research and development, to build new plants, etc. But it basically hasn’t.

In other words, giving corporations tax breaks doesn’t come with any guarantees of how that fresh new cash will be used. Stock buy-backs and a boost to a company’s dividiends will probably happen way before the average Jane and Joe see their annual incomes rise by any substantial around.

  • Market Quick Glance

Up, up and away in a lot of investors’ beautiful money balloons.

Momentum is clearly still on the side of rising equity prices. So as this trend upward continues, Wall Street wisdom says don’t fight the trend.

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, December 1, 2017.

DJIA +22.61% YTD way up from last week’s 19.20%.

  • 1 yr Rtn +26.26% up from last week’s 23.45%

And yet another new high for the DJIA was reached. This time it was on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017 of 24,327.82. The previous high of 23,617.8 was reached on November 21, 2017.On March 1, the Dow stood at 21,169.11.

-S&P 500 +18.02% YTD up from last week’s 16.24%.

  • 1yr Rtn +20.59% up from last week’s +18.04%

The S&P 500 reached another new high on November 30, 2017 of 2,657.74. Its previous high was reached on November 24, 2017 of 2,604.21. On March 1, 2017, that index stood at 2,400.98.

-NASDAQ +27.20% YTD down a bit from last week’s +27.98%.

  • 1yr Rtn +30.40% up from last week’s 28.04%

The Nasdaq reached a new all-time high of 6,914.19 oon Nov. 28, 2017. The previous high of 6,890.02 was reached on November 24, 2017. On April 5, 2017 the index closed at 5,936.39.

-Russell 2000 +13.26%YTD up from last week’s +11.94%

1yr Rtn +16.99% way from last week’s +13.19%

The Russell 2000 reached a new all-time high on November 30, 2017 of 1,551.69. Its previous high of 1,524.18 was reached on November 22, 2017. On March 1, 2017 this index stood at 1,414,82.

-Mutual funds

As the stock market keeps moving upward, that same is true for equity fund average returns.

The year-to-date average cumulative total reinvested return for equity funds that fall under the broad U.S. Diversified Equity Funds heading, was +17.37% at the close of business on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, according to Lipper. That’s up from the previous week’s return of +15.55%.

Best and worst year-to-date average returns?

  • U.S Diversified Equity Funds, average 17.37%:

-Best: Equity Leverage Funds, +37.80.

-Worst:Alternative Equity Market Neutral Funds, -0.23%

 

  • Sector Equity Funds, average 10.77%:

-Best: Global Science/Technolgy Funds 44.90%

-Worst: Energy MLP Funds, -10.47%

 

  • World Equity Funds, average 26.10%:

-Best: China Region Funds, +42.84%

-Worst: Global Equity Income Funds, +15.75%

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.

 

  • From over there to over here

Looks as though our markets appeal to everybody.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that $66.4 billion has been plowed into our U.S. markets through September of this year. That’s the most since 2012.

Plenty of talking heads forecast that 2018 will be another great year. Clearly many in the  the investment world seem to be expecting that.

We shall see.

 

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