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March 2021
Market Update
(all values as of 04.30.2021)

Stock Indices:

Dow Jones 33,874
S&P 500 4,181
Nasdaq 13,962

Bond Sector Yields:

2 Yr Treasury 0.16%
10 Yr Treasury 1.65%
10 Yr Municipal 0.98%
High Yield 4.20%

YTD Market Returns:

Dow Jones 10.68%
S&P 500 11.32%
Nasdaq 8.34%
MSCI-EAFE 5.63%
MSCI-Europe 7.77%
MSCI-Pacific 2.03%
MSCI-Emg Mkt 4.36%
 
US Agg Bond -2.61%
US Corp Bond -3.59%
US Gov’t Bond -3.44%

Commodity Prices:

Gold 1,767
Silver 25.90
Oil (WTI) 63.52

Currencies:

Dollar / Euro 1.21
Dollar / Pound 1.39
Yen / Dollar 108.83
Dollar / Canadian 0.81
 

Macro Overview

Stimulus payments from the second pandemic relief package were received in January and February, lifting economic activity and increasing personal incomes and expenditures. Some economists, however, believe that the rise in incomes and expenditures are short-lived. An anticipated third round of stimulus payments is expected to produce additional consumer activity throughout the economy. In addition to stimulus cash payments, extended unemployment benefits as well as revised funding for small businesses are planned.

Continued optimism regarding vaccinations and stimulus funds reaching consumers propelled growth estimates higher, along with inflationary expectations. Inflation has become a key concern among economists and market analysts as interest rates and food prices rise. Historically, rising interest rates have been indicative of improving economic activity, while higher prices for goods and services are considered inflationary.

Over 72.8 million Americans received a COVID-19 vaccination as of the end of February, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those who were vaccinated with a first dose made up 14.6% of the U.S. population as of February 27th, with 7.1% having received a second dose. The recent approval of a single-dose vaccination may help speed up the vaccination process for millions of Americans over the next few months.

The IRS began accepting and processing tax returns for tax year 2020 in February, later than usual because of delays related to pandemic relief programs executed in December. Taxpayers, eager to receive delayed tax refunds, have filed returns at a higher-than-average rate thus far.

Stocks influenced by rapid communication by online users and traders, also referred to as “meme stocks,” fluctuated in price dramatically in February as speculation drove trading high volume. Traditional investors largely scrutinized the recent phenomenon as a fad induced by speculative behavior.

Pentagon officials reported that roughly a third of all U.S. troops that who were been offered the COVID-19 vaccination have declined it. Vaccinations are still voluntary for military personnel, but may eventually become mandatory as the FDA approves additional vaccines.

Rising rates in February affected mortgage and various consumer loans as the yield on the 10- year Treasury bond surpassed 1.5%, nearly three times the yield from its low of 0.52% in August 2020. The 10-year Treasury bond yield is closely followed by markets as a gauge for economic expansion and inflation expectations. (Sources: CDC, defense.gov, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Treasury, Federal Reserve)

 
10 Year Treasury yield of 1.60% in February traded above yield on S&P 500 of 1.53%

Yields Approach An Inflection Point – Equity Overview

Despite a sell-off in equity markets toward the end of February, equity indices managed to post a gain for the month, with energy and commodities leading.

A rapid rise in interest rates over the past few weeks elevated the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond to 1.60% in February, eclipsing the yield on the S&P 500 Index of 1.53%. When the yield on the 10-year Treasury surpasses that of the S&P 500 Index, it is regarded as an inflection point that negatively affects demand for stocks. (Sources: Treasury, Federal Reserve, Bloomberg)

Fed Continues To Stabilize Interest Rates By Buying Bonds – Fixed Income Overview

The Federal Reserve signaled that it would continue its ambitious program of buying $120 billion of treasury and mortgage bonds each month. The bond buying is intended to provide economic stimulus and stabilize interest rates.

Bond analysts note that the Fed is distorting bond yields and prices with its ambitious buying of Treasury and mortgage bonds in the markets. Some argue that bond yields and inflationary expectations may actually be higher without the Federal Reserve’s supportive purchases of bonds. For this reason, markets are carefully monitoring Fed comments regarding continued bond purchases.

Mortgage rates and consumer loan rates rose in February as the yield on the 10-year Treasury bond reached 1.60% in trading during February. The rapid rise in yields has affected other sectors of the bond market including municipals, corporate, and mortgage backed securities. (Sources: Federal Reserve, U.S. Treasury)

How Stimulus Payments Are Treated For Tax Purposes & What To Do If You Didn’t Get One – Tax Planning

With over 160 million stimulus payments sent with the first round of pandemic relief efforts, many recipients of the payments are asking whether or not the payments are taxable. The IRS has clearly stated that stimulus payments, regardless of income or status, are not taxable.

Those individuals and households that did not receive a stimulus payment in 2020, but believe that they were due one, may file for the Recovery Rebate Credit. In essence, anyone who didn’t get a check can request a tax credit for the amount owed. A tax credit is typically more advantageous than a tax deduction since a tax credit directly credits, or reduces, taxes owed. For example, if someone was due a $600 stimulus payment and never received it, then they can claim the full $600 as a credit against any taxes owed. In order to calculate and determine eligibility for the credit, the IRS has created a Recovery Rebate Credit page available at https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/recovery-rebate-credit. (Source: IRS.gov)

 

 

 
There are 25 states that are raising minimum wage rates in 2021

The Number of Jobs Earning Minimum Wage is Decreasing – Labor Market Overview

Data from the U.S. Department of Labor covering 38 years show that the average annual percentage of workers earning minimum wage is 6%. The data reveals that the trend is a decreasing percentage of workers earning minimum wage, with the most recent data show that only 2.3% of all workers were earning minimum wage, about a third of the 38-year average.

For over 82 years, workers in the United States have been legally entitled to a minimum hourly wage for their labor. The initial attempt to establish a minimum level for wages occurred in 1933, when a depression-era mandate set a wage minimum at 25 cents per hour ($5.03 in 2021 dollars). The National Industrial Recovery Act, which established the initial wage, was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1935.

25 states are raising minimum wage rates in 2021, with some effective on January 1, 2021 and others effective later in the year. Current congressional deliberations are considering raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, more than double the current rate of $7.25 per hour. (Source: U.S. Department of Labor)

Taxpayer Scam During Tax Time – Consumer Tax Awareness

The IRS issued an alert regarding scam phone calls directly to taxpayers nationwide. The calls may come from an actual person or via ‘robocalls’. Scammers claim that delinquent taxes are owed and that payment must be made or the taxpayer’s social security number will be suspended or canceled. The IRS advises that, when in doubt, immediately hang up and ignore the call.

Taxpayers should not disclose any sensitive information to unknown callers, including social security numbers, bank accounts, age, birthdate, or full legal name. The IRS and its authorized private collection agencies will never:

-Call to demand immediate payment via debit card, gift card, or wire transfer

-Ask for payments to be made to an entity other than the U.S. Treasury

-Threaten to inform local police or law enforcement to have taxpayers arrested for not paying

-Demand taxes paid with no opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed

For information regarding any taxes owed as or to confirm the authenticity of a tax-related call, the IRS recommends you call them directly at 800-829-1040. (Source: IRS.gov)

 
food Prices are projected to increase 2-3% in 2021

Food Prices On The Rise – Consumer Inflation

The price of food, from oranges to eggs to meat, increased at an annual rate of 3.9% in 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Prices are projected to increase 2-3% in 2021, as forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The 20-year historical average increase is 2.4% per year.

Of the various food items seeing higher prices, meat has experienced the greatest increase. The jump in meat prices was caused primarily by packing plant disruptions due to the pandemic.

COVID-19 has upended global food supply chains with delayed transportation and workers that have fallen ill to COVID-19. Rising commodity prices for agricultural products like corn and wheat have added to higher feed costs for cattle, chickens and hogs, three of the most prominent meat products. Severe weather on various continents has devastated feed crops and created shortages, in addition to pandemic related challenges. (Sources: UN Food & Agriculture Organization, U.S.D.A., BLS, U.S. department of Agriculture)

Where Has The Flu Gone This Season – Health Awareness

With the focus on COVID-19 and the daily updates regarding the case count for the coronavirus, many have forgotten about the traditional flu, also known as the influenza virus. Surprisingly enough, the flu nearly vanished this flu season, with reports of flu cases the lowest in decades. February saw one of the lowest case counts of flu cases ever, despite the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that February has historically been the peak of almost all prior flu seasons.

Medical experts believe that measures put in place to fend off the coronavirus may have also fended off the flu virus. Mask wearing, social distancing, working from home, and virtual schooling all may have helped prevent the spread of influenza. Flu cases are at record low levels globally, including in China, Europe, South Africa and Australia.

The CDC estimates that of the 190 million flu vaccines distributed this season, the infection rates are so low that it makes it very difficult to determine which flu strains are actually circulating and infecting people. Data for the 2020-2021 flu season have not been compiled yet by the CDC due to the lack of flu-related cases. (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)