Monday, September 24, 2018

The Number of New Jobless Claims Lowered





 The number of new jobless claims just reached its lowest level since November of 1969.  That alone is impressive, but to truly get an understanding of the tightness of today’s labor market it has to be compared to the size of the U.S. labor force. 

Indeed, the U.S. labor force has more than doubled over the last 49 years from 81,106,000 people to 161,776,000 last month.  Jobless claims adjusted for the size of the U.S. labor force, are now at the lowest level since the Department of Labor started reporting monthly jobless claims in 1967.



Wednesday, September 19, 2018

What Effect Could the Midterm Elections Have on the Markets?



With midterm elections less than two months away, a divisive political atmosphere and the aging bull market have investors particularly on edge.  The vote to be held on November 6th comes at a time of unusually high political uncertainty with both houses of Congress at stake and key economic issues such as trade and taxes in the balance.  According to the Wells Fargo Investment Institute, the S&P 500 sees an average pullback of nearly 19% in midterm-election years, based on data going back to 1962 (or 14 midterm cycles).  However, in the year after the midterms the S&P climbs more than 31%, on average.  Craig Holke, an investment strategy analyst at the Institute writes, “It does not matter which party was in charge before or after the midterm election.  The removal of uncertainty and of constant media attention allows markets to resume focusing on fundamentals.”


Monday, September 10, 2018

We've Been in a Bull Market for 9 Years



Nine years into the current bull market more and more are beginning to wonder “how much longer can it go on?” Tony Dwyer, equity strategist at Canaccord Genuity, reiterated his S&P 500 target of 3,200 for the end of this year (a nearly 11% rise from current levels), based on the strong manufacturing report this week. 

Dwyer went further and projected the index to rise to 3,360 in 2019, highlighting his view that a recession isn’t lurking “anywhere close”.  He wrote “The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) showed that the manufacturing sector remains on very solid ground.  History shows that since 1950, the ISM typically peaks well before the economy enters recession or the S&P 500 hits the cycle high, especially over the past three levered economic periods.” 

Dwyer notes that on average the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing reading peaked a median 31.5 months before the start of a recession, and that the S&P 500 usually gains about 35.4% in the subsequent two years following the peak.  While there are a couple of exceptions to his rule, Dwyer notes that the inflation and interest rate environments then were quite different from the current situation. (chart from Canaccord Genuity)


Why Are Nordic Countries at the Top of the World Happiness Report?


It’s a question Freakonomics Radio explored in August. They asked Jeff Sachs, a professor at Columbia University, who is also a special adviser to the United Nations Secretary General on the Sustainable Development Goals.

The World Happiness Report ranks 156 countries by the happiness of their citizens. The countries that top the list tend to have high scores in all six of the variables considered to measure well-being. These include income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust, and generosity.

Currently, the happiest countries in the world are:
  1.   Finland
  2. Norway
  3. Denmark
  4. Iceland
  5.  Switzerland
  6. Netherlands
  7.  Canada
  8. New Zealand
  9. Sweden
  10. Australia

The United States is ranked number 18. That has something to do with our priorities, according to the interview with Sachs. “We have the paradox that income per person rises in the United States, but happiness does not…the United States is falling behind other countries, because we are not pursuing dimensions of happiness that are extremely important: our physical health, the mental health in our community, the social support, the honesty in government.”

Helen Russell, author of The Year of Living Danishly, also participated in the interview. She offered this example to illustrate a key difference between the United States and Denmark:

“…there was a story, in New York a few years ago, of a Danish woman who was there, who left her child sleeping outside in a pram, which is what you do in Denmark, and was arrested for child neglect. And lots of people in Denmark didn’t understand why it was such a fuss, because in Denmark people trust most people. And this plays into everything. You are not anxious if you trust the people around you, you’re not scared they’re going to rob you to put food on their table.”

What makes you happy?




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