Robert Krueger

Alexander Randolph Advisory Inc.

8200 Greensboro Drive, Suite 1125

McLean, VA 22102

703.734.1507

www.alexanderrandolph.com

July 2019
Market Update
(all values as of 02.29.2024)

Stock Indices:

Dow Jones 38,996
S&P 500 5,096
Nasdaq 16,091

Bond Sector Yields:

2 Yr Treasury 4.64%
10 Yr Treasury 4.25%
10 Yr Municipal 2.53%
High Yield 7.63%

YTD Market Returns:

Dow Jones 3.47%
S&P 500 6.84%
Nasdaq 7.20%
MSCI-EAFE 2.23%
MSCI-Europe 1.23%
MSCI-Pacific 3.98%
MSCI-Emg Mkt -0.27%
 
US Agg Bond -1.68%
US Corp Bond -1.67%
US Gov’t Bond -1.59%

Commodity Prices:

Gold 2,051
Silver 22.87
Oil (WTI) 78.25

Currencies:

Dollar / Euro 1.08
Dollar / Pound 1.26
Yen / Dollar 150.63
Canadian /Dollar 0.73
 

Macro Overview

Stocks and bonds rose in June as lower rates drove equities higher and international diplomatic tensions elevated bond prices. Indications by the Fed that there may be a rate cut later in the year helped sustain stock prices near record levels.

The G20 met in Osaka, Japan, at the end of June where trade tensions between the U.S. and China were on the forefront of global concerns. The U.S. and China reached a temporary truce over the trade war as the leaders from both countries agreed to re-start negotiations that had fallen apart earlier on. The de-escalation of trade tensions between the two countries led to heightened optimism surrounding global economic growth. Central banks from around the world will weigh as to how much a trade truce or settlement might impact other economies globally.

The 10-year Treasury bond yield fell to 2.00% at the end of June, with several bond analysts expecting it to fall below the psychological 2.00% level. Yields dropped lower in Europe with Austria issuing 100-year government bonds with a yield of 1.17%. Highly rated, positive yielding government bonds are in enormous demand globally as investors seek income from viable and reliable sources.

Mortgage rates dropped again in June to 3.73% on a 30-year fixed conforming loan, helping to sustain the housing market. The low rate environment has also fostered an inexpensive source of capital for U.S. and international companies, allowing for expansion and hiring as demand reappears.

Commodity prices including oil, gold, and iron ore all elevated in the first half of 2019, with most of the gains occurring in June. Rather than a traditional sign of inflation, falling inventories of oil and iron ore have pushed prices higher as demand has remained constant.

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis found that the current economic expansion is the longest on record since 1945. The economic expansion that began in June 2009, following the depths of the financial crisis, has now lasted 121 months as of the end of June. The second longest economic expansion lasted 120 months, running from March 1992 until March 2001 when the dot-com bubble burst. There have been 12 economic expansion periods since the end of World War II in 1945 lasting 12 months or longer. (Sources: BEA, Freddie Mac, U.S.Treasury, g20.org, Bloomberg, Federal Reserve)

 
equities have the best first half of the year since 1997

Stocks Rebound In June – Equity Overview

Stocks and bonds registered the first half of the year with formidable gains propelled by an expected rate cut by the Fed later in the year. It was the best first half of the year since 1997 for equities, with the Dow Jones Industrial Index, S&P 500 Index, and the Nasdaq nearing new highs.  Equities were also driven higher in June by a relief in trade tensions between the U.S. and China as the expectation that the Fed will eventually cut rates sometime this year. Historically, a low-rate environment is favorable for equities in the form of inexpensive capital for expansion and loans.

The rebound in stock prices in the first half of 2019 from the turmoil that hindered markets in December 2018 has been one of the strongest rebounds in decades. The Federal Reserve gave large U.S. banks the approval to repurchase their own shares and lift dividends, part of the Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review process set in place by the Fed. Large money center banks as well as smaller regional banks were restricted from buying back their own shares as well as increasing dividends in order to fortify bank balance sheets following the financial crisis. (Sources: Federal Reserve, Dow Jones, S&P, Bloomberg, Reuters)

Yields Drop Further In June – Fixed Income Update

The 10-year Treasury bond yield dropped below 2% for the first time since November 2016. The 10-year Treasury continues to trade at a lower yield than the 3-month Treasury bill, signaling an inversion, which is when shorter term maturity bonds yield more than longer term bonds. The Federal Reserve communicated its confidence with the labor market and rising wages for lower paid workers as positive for the U.S. economy, but noted that inflation is still mundane and below expectations. Its concern is slowing global growth with anemic economic expansion in other parts of the world. Such concerns may lead to dismal expansion with the need to eventually reduce rates to help prop up economic growth. (Sources: U.S. Treasury, Federal Reserve)

Unemployment Falls to 50 year low at 3.6% – Labor Market Update

A tight labor market with a voracious demand for skilled workers has brought the unemployment rate down to a 50 year low. The 3.6% rate is the lowest on record since 1969, when U.S. companies were eagerly hiring workers and paying higher wages. Yet this time it has been different as noted by the Department of Labor, whereas higher wages haven’t prevailed as they were expected to. Suppressed wages are one of the factors that inflation has remained relatively tame and in-turn preventing the Fed from raising rates any time soon. The drop in unemployment from 3.8% to 3.6% is also representative of a smaller workforce, where a growing number of baby boomers retire, leaving companies with minimal if any qualified workers to replace them. That dynamic is tracked by the participation rate, which has fallen to 62.8% as of April 2019, from a high of 67.3% in 2000. This means that there are fewer people willing and able to work even as companies can’t fill open positions. (Sources: Dept. of Labor)

 

 

 
When to take social security benefits

Deciding When To Take Social Security – Retirement Planning

Deciding when to take Social Security benefits is one of the most important decisions one will make for retirement. You may either base the decision strictly on monetary benefits, or your decision may be more personally based. The important question is when to start taking benefits, at age 62 or postponing benefits until age 66, or even later. The answer is different for everyone, as it depends on various factors such as health, lifestyle, and marital status. The amount of your monthly benefit depends on two variables, when you elect to start receiving them, and how much you’ve earned during your working years. Interestingly enough, how many years you’ve contributed to Social Security can’t be changed, yet the option as to when you start taking the actual benefit payments is all up to you. To determine how much you’ve earned, the Social Security Administration adds up the income subject to Social Security tax adjusted for inflation during your 35 highest-earning years. It then divides that total by 420, the number of months in 35 years. This figure arrives at your average indexed monthly earnings. The higher this is, the higher your benefits will be.

The Social Security Administration designs the benefit formula based on an average, so the same amount of lifetime benefits is calculated irrespective of when you begin receiving payments. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) explains this in a report on social security retirement saying “the Social Security benefit formula adjusts monthly payments so that someone living to average life expectancy should receive about the same amount of benefits over their lifetime regardless of which age they claim”.

When it comes to deciding as to what age to start taking benefit payments, various strategies and philosophies come into play. The calculated benefit amount per the Social Security Administration is known as the “full benefit”, in essence providing 100% of the calculated benefit due. The caveat is that you need to be at least 66 years of age to take the full benefit amount. For workers retiring in 2014, the full retirement age is currently 66. However, if you elect to receive them earlier, then your monthly benefit is reduced for each month short of your 66th birthday. If you begin receiving them at age 62 for example, then your benefit will be reduced by 25%. Conversely, if you wait until turning 70, then you’re entitled to delayed retirement credits, which increase your benefits by 8% for each year of deferment, capping out at a total of 32%.

So how do you determine the optimal age to take benefits and whether or not waiting may be worthwhile? A break-even analysis can be done, thus calculating how much more in benefits you may get, either by waiting for a higher benefit say age 70, or taking a lower benefit at a younger age such as 62. Essentially, if you decide to wait, then you lose out on payments you could have been receiving since age 62. If you wait, yes the benefit payment will be higher, but you may end up receiving less overall benefit payments if you die sooner than expected. This is when you need to consider your personal factors, since a break-even analysis tells you nothing about these relevant and important facts. Important personal factors to consider include health, family life expectancy, marital status, immediate financial needs, and quality of life. For example, if you have health ailments and suffer from medical conditions that may prohibit you from enjoying a lasting quality of life, take the benefits at an earlier age. If you’re married and about to become eligible for benefits, then perhaps one should take the benefit first, with the second postponing benefits until an older age. The postponement of the second would yield a higher payment when benefits would begin.

Regardless of what your factors might be, careful review of all of your options from a financial and personal viewpoint are prudent in order to arrive at the best decision for you. (Sources: Social Security Administration, GAO)

 

 

 

 
Identity theft is on the rise

Here’s What The U.S. Buys The Most Of From China – Trade Overview

In the past twenty-plus years, China has evolved from a heavy equipment machinery exporter to a prominent leader in technology product exports. Large international conglomerates have established an enormous manufacturing presence throughout China, utilizing its cheap labor and quick turnaround times. China’s manufacturing plants are among the most modern in the world, producing large capacities almost entirely for export

As the world’s appetite for electronic devices has grown, so has China’s ability to manufacture and export these devices. As a product exporter, China is able to manufacture and export finished products worldwide. In addition, China is also an exporter of components, which may be used in the manufacture and assembly of products in other countries, such as the United States. By exporting components in addition to finished products, China is able to hedge against tariff issues and labor costs should they become a factor. (Sources: WTO, IMF, U.S. Dept. of Commerce)

IRS Scams – Consumer Awareness

Identity theft and stolen funds are becoming a growing risk as thieves have devised clever methods of masking IRS communications. Various government entities have identified some of the most prevalent scams.

Refund Scam: Fraudulent emails, appearing to come from the IRS, notify you that you are eligible for a tax refund, but need to provide sensitive bank details in order to receive the funds.

Fund Scam: Inherited Funds, Lottery Winnings, & Cash Consignment Scams. 

Email Scam: Emails claiming to come from the U.S. Department of Treasury, notify you that you will receive millions of dollars if you follow the instructions in the email. 

SS Scam: An identity thief could use your social security number to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund.  You could be completely unaware that your identity has been stolen until your return is rejected for e-filing or you get a notice or letter from the IRS.

Rejected e-File: An electronically filed return is rejected because the social security number belonging to you, your spouse, or a dependent has already been used on a tax return.

Suspicious IRS Items: You receive a fraudulent notice from the IRS stating that more than one return was filed in your name for the year.

You have a balance due, refund offset, or initiation of collection action for a year when you did not file. 

IRS records indicate that you received wages from an employer you didn’t work for.

You should respond immediately to the name and phone number printed on the IRS notice or letter.  You should also complete Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. (Source: IRS.gov, consumer.ftc.gov, treasury.gov)