Monthly Archives: July 2013

Where Did Inflation Go?

Where Did Inflation Go?
Shouldn’t it be rising with all this bond buying?

BY GREG OLIVER

Consumer inflation just hit a 50-year low. So indicates the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge – the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index maintained by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.1

Besides tracking consumer inflation, the PCE price index measures household purchases, a major factor in GDP growth. The core PCE index does the same thing without including volatile food and energy prices. The broad PCE index hit 0.74% in May, with core PCE at 1.05% – a new all-time low, breaking the 1.06% measured in March 1963.1,2

Why isn’t QE3 generating more inflation? The Fed is still “printing money” to the tune of $85 billion a month, but the headline PCE index has fallen since last year (it approached 2.0% in early 2012). The Consumer Price Index only advanced 1.1% between May 2012 and May 2013, and that was the smallest annualized gain in the CPI since November 2010; the core CPI only rose 1.7% in that period.1,3,4

What is keeping inflation in check? Chalk it up to extraordinary circumstances – and the perception that they will continue. Short-term interest rates are nil and the Fed has told the world that our benchmark interest rate will be at rock-bottom levels until our jobless rate dips below 6.5% or inflation tops 2.5%.4

QE1 and QE2 did boost inflation in the short-term; in fact, one of the things that prompted QE2 was the Fed’s concern about deflation in 2010. Yet inflation has lessened since QE3 started.4

Three factors may be encouraging disinflation. One, the Fed has repeatedly emphasized that QE3 will not stoke inflation; it has not implied, hinted or communicated that it will let inflation get out of hand or exceed its present 2.0% target. Two, economists, analysts and investors seem to have widespread faith that the Fed can capably fight sudden spikes in the PCE index or the CPI and keep things under control. Three, total government spending (as a percentage of potential nominal gross domestic product) fell about 3% from Q2 2010 to Q1 2013 – and that’s not even taking sequestration into account. That implies reduced demand in the economy.4

Psychologically, there is little or no fear of runaway inflation and the prevalent expectation is that there will be low inflation for some time. This psychology may be influencing the current disinflation as well.

Also, while the Fed creates money and purchases bonds from banks via its ongoing stimulus, the bulk of that money has turned into bank reserves. Lenders are conservatively sitting on these reserves as they pay interest. Should the Fed boost the interest it pays on them, it will give these banks more reason to maintain them.4

When might inflation expectations change? If the Fed were to raise its inflation target, they would change greatly. No one sees that happening anytime soon.

Will the Fed taper sooner, or later? With such mild inflation, it might be later. On June 10, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard argued for sustaining an “aggressive” stimulus given the “surprisingly low inflation readings” of recent months, markedly below the central bank’s target.5

“Inflation in the U.S. has surprised to the downside,” Bullard commented at the International Economic Forum of the Americas in Montreal, later adding that “it hasn’t moved back at all. I am still waiting for that to happen and I am getting a little bit nervous.”5

As former Richmond Fed economist Ward McCarthy noted to Bloomberg, “This is an inopportune time to be talking about curtailing [QE3]. They are missing on the inflation mandate.”5

GREG OLIVER 09210973902749023749037429304

Citations. OLIVER 98273827832OHIO
1 – advisorperspectives.com/dshort/updates/PCE-Price-Index.php [5/31/13]
2 – bea.gov/faq/index.cfm?faq_id=518 [6/13/13]
3 – bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm [5/16/13]
4 – theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/06/the-biggest-economic-mystery-of-2013-whats-up-with-inflation/276772/ [6/12/13]
5 – bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-10/fed-s-bullard-says-low-inflation-may-warrant-longer-qe.html [6/10/13]

How Financial Planning Has Changed for Same-Sex Couples

How Financial Planning Has Changed for Same-Sex Couples
Retirement & estate planning strategies are being greatly altered.

By Greg OLIVER

2013 july 4th 1255
When the Supreme Court affirmed the legality of same-sex marriage in June, its ruling profoundly altered the financial planning landscape for gay and lesbian couples – resulting in some “night and day” differences.

Yet in looking at the financial “before and after,” same-sex spouses and their advisors must also consider the “when and where” – because the Supreme Court ruling only applies to the 13 states that allow same-sex marriage (and the District of Columbia). Gay and lesbian spouses are still waiting to see if financial benefits will be granted in all 50 states.1,2,3

Here is how the landscape has changed for married gay and lesbian couples in states recognizing same-sex marriage.

Income taxes. When DOMA was in effect, same-sex spouses couldn’t file joint federal tax returns. Now they can. Filing jointly does not always result in a tax savings; for an extremely high-earning married couple, it can be a bad idea. Right now, single tax filers can earn up to $400,000 before entering the 39.6% tax bracket; a married couple will enter it when their combined incomes surpass $450,000. Still, same-sex couples are welcoming the option.4

Previous to the ruling, married same-sex couples faced a kind of “un-marriage penalty” in states without community property laws when one spouse far outearned another. In such cases, their federal tax bills were often higher than those of married straight couples. Qualifying for head-of-household status was difficult, as the higher-income spouse had to try to claim the other as a dependent. This was a no-go in community property states, in which the lesser-earning spouse’s gross income stood little chance of falling below under the dependent exemption amount.5

The federal government often doubles or significantly raises the AGI threshold on tax law benefits for joint filers – benefits such as the Child Tax Credit, the qualified student loan interest deduction, and the taxable income exclusion of the gain on the sale of a primary residence. In addition to these benefits, a spouse in a same-sex marriage now gains the ability to deduct medical expenses and qualified tuition expenses incurred by the other spouse.5

Now that the chance to file jointly is available, could married same-sex couples get a federal tax refund by filing amended 1040s for the past three years of returns? It may be worth consulting an accountant to find out.

Social Security. Low-income spouses in same-sex marriages (think stay-at-home moms and dads) now have the chance to claim Social Security spousal benefits. If the other spouse passes away, being able to receive his or her larger Social Security payments could make a significant income difference. Another implication from the Supreme Court ruling: surviving spouses in a same-sex marriage could also be able to collect a deceased spouse’s federal or military pension.1,4

Estate & gift taxes. Before the repeal of DOMA, life insurance was a core estate planning tool for wealthier same-sex couples. Sometimes an irrevocable life insurance trust containing a “Crummey provision” was created. Now, married gay and lesbian couples may want to reevaluate such insurance coverage because surviving spouses in same-sex marriages won’t have to pay federal estate tax on any inherited assets.2,5

A spouse in a same-sex marriage can now make unlimited tax-free gifts to the other that will not count against the $5.25 million lifetime gift tax exclusion, as long as the spouse receiving the gifts is a U.S. citizen. Same-sex married couples are now able to gift $28,000 worth of property tax-free, per year, per recipient, just as straight marrieds can; previously, spouses in same-sex marriages were looking at the individual limit of $14,000. (This is not to be confused with estate taxes some individual states require from their residents.)6

IRAs & 401(k)s. A surviving spouse in a same-sex marriage can now roll inherited IRA assets into their own IRA (provided they are named sole beneficiary of those assets). This opens the door for stretch IRA strategies among same-sex married couples. With federal recognition of gay and lesbian marriages, a surviving gay or lesbian spouse will have the ability to automatically inherit a 401(k) account unless that default beneficiary choice has been declined in writing by the accountholder.1,2,4,7,8

Workplace health benefits. Gay and lesbian couples are in line to save some tax dollars in 13 states and possibly others. Couples had to pay taxes on these benefits when DOMA was in place, even in states that recognized the legality of their marriages. Same-sex couples may wish to “shop around” and determine which employer offers a better or cheaper health plan.4

Greg OLIVER -08]-08]-08]-08]-8]-08 3452435246345
Citations.
1 – foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/06/27/doma-and-financial-planning/ [6/27/13]
2 – newsok.com/a-financial-checklist-for-same-sex-couples/article/feed/562121/ [7/3/13]
3 – articles.latimes.com/2013/jul/06/nation/la-na-adv-gay-marriage-benefits-20130706 [7/6/13]
4 – business.time.com/2013/06/27/how-the-doma-ruling-will-affect-gay-couples-finances/ [6/27/13]
5 – fpanet.org/journal/FinancialPlanningRoadmapforNontraditionalCouples/ [7/18/13]
6 – nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/reduce-estate-tax-by-gifts-30095.html [7/18/13]
7 – nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/naming-non-spouse-beneficiary-retirement-accounts.html [2/6/13]
8 – schwab.com/cms/P-1625576 [2010]

What Marriage Equality Means Financially

What Marriage Equality Means Financially
The Supreme Court decision has brought significant change.

BY GREG OLIVER

When the Supreme Court voted to repeal Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on June 26, it opened financial doors previously closed to same-sex couples. Unfortunately, not all of these doors may open in certain states. A major complication must be resolved: while the high court’s opinion stated a legal principle, it didn’t say exactly how it should be applied.1

Will the SCOTUS ruling apply in all 50 states? Gay and lesbian couples can now access marriage-based federal benefits in the 12 states permitting same-sex marriage (plus the District of Columbia). That is clear. Can these couples receive these benefits in the 38 states barring same-sex marriage? That is unclear. The SCOTUS ruling did not instruct these states to recognize the legality of gay and lesbian marriages performed elsewhere.1,2,3

To complicate matters further, not all federal agencies define a lawful marriage using the same criteria. They look to state laws. Some determine the legality of a marriage by the “place of celebration” – that is, the state in which the marriage occurred. Others go by the state of current residence, in which a same-sex marriage may not be legal.1

So will the Obama administration tell the IRS, the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs to use the “place of celebration” marriage standard with regard to all federal benefits? It remains to be seen. Here is what is changing as a result of the ruling in 12 states and possibly others.

Same-sex couples in 12 states can now file joint federal tax returns. Both married couples and partners may now file jointly. This move may not always produce a tax savings, but it sure is nice to have the option.2

In these 12 states, same-sex couples may now access federal benefits. In terms of Social Security, a surviving spouse in a same-sex marriage now has the option to switch to a deceased spouse’s benefits if they are greater. Gay and lesbian spouses may now plan Social Security
strategies that can potentially increase retirement income, such as one spouse claiming Social Security early and later switching to spousal benefits. Same-sex couples living in states that recognize gay marriage are now eligible for federal government employee spousal pension benefits as well, and have equal access to the Family and Medical Leave Act. The federal Office of Personnel Management said on June 28 that it would give equal health and pension benefits to “all legally married same-sex spouses” regardless of where they live.1,2,4

Assets may pass to a surviving spouse without risk of estate tax. The SCOTUS ruling paves the way for one spouse in a same-sex marriage to leave an unlimited amount of assets to a surviving spouse. Prior to the ruling, a surviving spouse faced the possibility of paying federal estate taxes on inherited assets from a spouse if they exceeded $5.25 million. High net worth gay and lesbian couples commonly bought life insurance to address the possibility of this estate tax burden. Now, they may need less insurance coverage.4

No taxation of employer-sponsored health benefits. Thanks to DOMA, same-sex spouses had to pay taxes on these benefits – a cost averaging c. $1,000 year. The June 26 Supreme Court decision announced an end to all that. It also mandated that employees married to same-sex spouses receive COBRA coverage.4,5

Businesses face question marks. Employers have been given a mission – the benefit plans they sponsor now must comply with the change in federal law. The largest employers have the toughest assignment here, as what is now legal in one state may not be in another. They are anxiously awaiting guidance from the IRS, the DOL and the White House, but who knows how quickly it will arrive. It should be noted that roughly 62% of Fortune 500 firms offer same-sex domestic partner health benefits; that percentage may soon increase.5

Beyond health benefits, the SCOTUS decision also affects retirement plans like 401(k)s, 403(b)s, pensions, and IRAs. Under federal law, heterosexual spouses inherited such retirement accounts by default unless the beneficiary form signed by the deceased spouse dictated otherwise. Now surviving gay and lesbian spouses will be able to count on the same thing.4,6

Are gay & lesbian couples eligible for retroactive tax treatment? Here is another unresolved question. It is possible that married same-sex couples can pursue tax breaks in tax years that are still open (2010-12)?2

Now is a good time for same-sex couples to revisit their financial and estate plans, with the hope that the federal government acts quickly to resolve the legal ambiguities.

GREG OLIVER 09283940[`[735940[]54283
Citations.
1 – articles.latimes.com/2013/jul/06/nation/la-na-adv-gay-marriage-benefits-20130706 [7/6/13]
2 – investmentnews.com/article/20130626/FREE/130629951 [7/3/13]
3 – latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-doma-repeal-could-change-financial-landscape-20130626,0,5214701.story [6/26/13]
4 – investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/062813/financial-fallout-doma-repeal-samesex-couples.asp [6/28/13]
5 – foxnews.com/politics/2013/07/05/supreme-court-same-sex-ruling-has-employers-scrambling-to-ensure-benefits/ [7/5/13]
6 – online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323689204578569971412031396.html [6/26/13]

How Much Health Care Reform Will We See By 2014?

How Much Health Care Reform Will We See By 2014?
Can the federal government follow through on its ambitions?

BY GREG OLIVER

In 2014, we were supposed to see profound health care reform per the 2011 Affordable Care Act – but how much of that reform will roll out on time?

The federal government has already conceded that it can’t enforce the employer mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act by 2014. On July 2, the Obama administration gave businesses with 50 or more employees a 1-year reprieve from having to provide affordable health insurance to full-time employees (people working 30 or more hours weekly).1,2

So how about the state health insurance exchanges that are scheduled to be up and running by October 1? How about the planned expansion of Medicaid? Will these reforms also be delayed? The House of Representatives has scheduled a mid-July vote to attempt to do just that. Lastly, do small businesses have any enthusiasm about health care reform?3

What’s the progress on the state exchanges? The progress report isn’t good. As the Wall Street Journal noted last month, even the Government Accountability Office thinks that a “timely and smooth implementation of the exchanges by October 2013 cannot yet be determined.”4

Small businesses and the self-employed are supposed to be able to find affordable coverage through these online marketplaces. The small business exchange rollout has already encountered glitches. In some states, only one insurance carrier has shown interest in them; the state of Washington is simply postponing its exchange because no carrier wanted to provide small business plans statewide. In 2014, businesses will be asked to select and offer one insurance plan from the exchanges to their workers. In the initial conception, they could elect to offer employees multiple insurance options. The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are overseeing the implementation of the individual exchanges in 33 states; 17 other states and the District of Columbia are setting up their own exchanges.4

Individual exchanges in 34 states will be created via the federal government – but on July 5, it quietly granted another concession. The Department of Health and Human Services relaxed a requirement for the 16 other states and the District of Columbia to verify the income and health coverage status of applicants to those individual exchanges. These 17 exchanges will only check the income eligibility of applicants at random next year, and they will wait until 2015 to check if applicants are getting employer-sponsored health benefits.5

The WSJ learned that states running their own exchanges had missed, on average, 44% of the interim deadlines for these projects through the end of March. Still, DHHS chief technology officer Todd Park told CNBC that the state exchanges are “on track” and will allow open enrollment beginning October 1.4,6

Where do things stand state-by-state with the Medicaid expansion? Just 23 states and the District of Columbia have signed up for it. (You’ll recall that the Supreme Court allowed states to opt out of it when it ruled that the ACA was constitutional in 2012.) In these states and in Washington D.C., those with earnings of up to 138% of the federal poverty level may qualify for Medicaid (that works out to earnings of $15,856 for an individual and $32,499 for a family of four). The expansion of Medicaid in these states doesn’t require the federal government to recreate the wheel, but delays could happen in other ways. In Michigan, for example, state legislators have passed their own version of a Medicaid expansion requiring a 90-day federal review process, which will put Michigan weeks behind in enrolling participants in expanded Medicaid coverage.6,7

Do employers even care about the ACA’s incentives? The ACA opens the door for employers to markedly increase the percentage of employee benefits represented by wellness incentives. Yet in a survey of 1,000+ employers conducted by Virgin HealthMiles and Workforce Magazine, just 25.8% of companies surveyed said they intended to draw on wellness provisions of the ACA to enhance employee health benefit offerings. A lack of information about such incentives may be a factor here for both employers and employees. In fact, the survey also polled almost 10,000 workers at these companies and found that while 87.2% looked at health and wellness packages when considering a job, half of the respondents said they were “not aware of, or need to know more about, health and wellness programs offered by employers.”8

Frankly, what’s to get excited about? An analysis from insurance consulting firm Millman says that individual premiums could grow 25-40% costlier due to the ACA with small market group premiums rising 6-12%. On the other hand, Humana estimates that by renewing individual and group health plans before 2014, a workplace with predominantly younger and healthier employees could see rates rise by 15% or less. Unsurprisingly, a number of major carriers are expected to offer early renewals.9

President Obama noted the possibility of “glitches and bumps” along the way to the ACA’s full implementation. They are evident now.

Citations. OLIVER 0289374-093571-89741 ///GREG OLIVER 902390e
1 – kansascity.com/2013/07/03/4328512/qa-on-impact-of-health-law-delay.html [7/3/13]
2 – money.cnn.com/2013/07/03/smallbusiness/obamacare-employer-mandate/index.html [7/3/13]
3 – abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/07/house-to-vote-next-week-to-delay-individual-mandate/ [7/11/13]
4 – online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324520904578553871314315986.html [6/19/13]
5 – reuters.com/article/2013/07/08/us-usa-healthcare-obamacare-idUSBRE96700R20130708 [7/8/13]
6 – webmd.com/health-insurance/news/20130711/is-us-health-care-reform-on-track-for-2014 [7/11/13]
7 – lansingstatejournal.com/article/20130707/NEWS04/307070073/Clock-ticking-Michigan-Medicaid-expansion [7/7/13]
8 – benefitspro.com/2013/06/03/employers-ignoring-ppaca-wellness-incentives [6/3/13]
9 – benefitspro.com/2013/05/31/putting-off-ppaca-with-early-plan-renewals#.UdQRNFW13Vk.email [5/31/13]

Statistically, women are poised to outlive men. If a woman has a male partner or spouse, her retirement plan should recognize that possibility.

MONTHLY ECONOMIC UPDATE
BY GREG OLIVER

MONTHLY QUOTE

“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.”

– B.B. King

MONTHLY TIP

Statistically, women are poised to outlive men. If a woman has a male partner or spouse, her retirement plan should recognize that possibility.

MONTHLY RIDDLE

What part of a sparrow has the most feathers?

Last month’s riddle:
A petri dish sits before you, hosting a large colony of bacteria that began with one cell at 8:00am. Once a minute, every bacterium divides into two. It is now exactly 8:25am and the petri dish is half full. When will it be full?

Last month’s answer:
In one minute.
July 2013
THE MONTH IN BRIEF
Sometimes the direction of the stock market can change on a few sentences, even a few words. That was certainly the case on June 19, when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke mentioned the possible end of QE3 in 2014 and the prospect of reducing the central bank’s monthly bond purchases later in 2013. A global selloff occurred after his remarks, and the S&P 500 lost 1.50% for June. Still, the major U.S. indices fared pretty well compared to foreign benchmarks. It was a miserable month for commodities, particularly gold. You could find plenty of positives in the housing sector, even with home loan rates ascending. While stocks retreated last month, most investors remained confident in the bull market’s strength.1,2

DOMESTIC ECONOMIC HEALTH
June brought a lot of good news about the economy, even as Wall Street groaned about the prospect of the Fed tapering QE3. The Institute for Supply Management’s June manufacturing PMI jumped north 1.9 points to 50.9, indicating renewed expansion. The latest Labor Department jobs report had employers adding 175,000 new jobs in May, although the unemployment rate crept up to 7.6%. Consumer spending had improved in May (up 0.3% with household incomes rising 0.5%), and consumer confidence rose in June– the month’s final survey from the University of Michigan came in at 84.1, approaching a six-year peak, while the Conference Board’s June poll rose to 81.4, its best mark since January 2008. Retail sales grew 0.6% in May.3,4,5,6,7

Inflation was again trivial: the Consumer Price Index had advanced just 0.1% for May and but 1.4% in a year. Producer prices, on the other hand, went north 0.5% in May. Durable goods orders jumped 3.6% in May.8,9,10

Judicial rulings, legislative inaction and commentary from opinion leaders also made economic news last month. The Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (which had stopped same-sex marriages from being federally recognized), paving the way for gay and lesbian couples to file joint federal tax returns and access partner health insurance benefits, and gain eligibility for Social Security survivorship benefits. Congress did not find a solution to prevent interest rates on federally funded student loans from doubling to 6.8% on July 1, translating to a $2,600 average hit to a student borrower. (Capitol Hill legislators were talking about a retroactive fix, however.) The International Monetary Fund publicly urged the Federal Reserve to maintain QE3 at current levels at least until the end of 2013 while cutting its 2014 forecast for U.S. growth to 2.7%. Standard & Poor’s upgraded America’s credit outlook to “stable” from “negative”, significantly reducing the chance of another U.S. credit rating downgrade like the one it issued in 2011.9,11,12,13

GLOBAL ECONOMIC HEALTH
Eurozone unemployment reached a new all-time high last month at 12.1%; eurozone consumer inflation hit 1.6% in June, compared with 1.4% in May and 1.2% in April. Germany was the bright spot – its jobless rate was down at 5.3% in June. The eurozone Markit PMI rose half a point to 48.8 in June – not good, but a 16-month peak. Ireland and Spain had manufacturing PMIs of 50 or better; those of Italy, Germany and France were all under 50 (meaning sector contraction).14,15

China has recently coped with a dangerous “shadow” banking system: high-interest, off-balance-sheet loans linked to real estate and stock speculation. In June, the Chinese government tried to discourage such informal lending by allowing cash conditions to tighten, while instructing the nation’s banks to depend less on short-term borrowing and improve their capital ratios. The People’s Bank of China let short-term interest rates surpass 7% at one point in June. This led to a four-year low for Chinese stocks and fears of a credit freeze. The central bank intervened and provided cash infusions to ward off that last threat, but still maintained its stance. China’s Markit PMI declined to a 9-month low of 48.2, while the government’s “official” PMI slipped to 50.1, a 4-month low. Markit manufacturing PMIs showed expansion in India (50.3) and Indonesia (51.0) and contraction in Taiwan (49.5) and South Korea (49.4).16,17,18

WORLD MARKETS
Name a consequential stock index, and you will name an index that pulled back in June. The S&P 500’s loss wasn’t so bad next to these others: FTSE 100, -8.08%; DAX, -6.15%; CAC 40, -7.69%; Micex, -4.76%; FTSE Eurofirst 300, -7.56%; Nikkei 225, -4.43%; KOSPI, -6.19%; Sensex, -3.79%, Hang Seng, -9.25%; Shanghai Composite, -14.74%; TSX Composite, -4.87%; Bovespa, -15.31%; MSCI Emerging Markets Index, -6.79%; MSCI World Index, -2.61%.19,20

COMMODITIES MARKETS
A strengthening dollar, some sentences from Ben Bernanke and anxieties about demand in China and other emerging markets made June a rough month for commodity futures. The June gains: oil, +1.54%; soybeans, +4.21%; cotton, +5.15%. In the loss column: copper, -7.87%; silver, -11.94%; platinum, -8.37%; gold, -10.79%; wheat, -5.66%; cocoa, -1.54%; coffee, -5.02%; sugar, -2.65%; natural gas, -14.42%. NYMEX crude ended June at $96.56; gold sank to a two-and-a-half-year low on the month’s last COMEX trading day, settling at $1,211.60. Even the U.S. Dollar Index lost some ground in June – 0.29%, to be precise.21,22

REAL ESTATE
The National Association of Realtors said existing home sales rose 4.2% for May, with the median price at $208,000 (15.4% better than a year before). NAR also said that pending home sales had climbed 6.7% in May to the highest level since December 2006. As for new home buying, the Commerce Department reported a third straight monthly gain – 2.1%. April’s edition of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index showed a 12.1% annualized increase in home prices across 20 metro markets, which was the index’s best yearly gain since March 2006. U.S. housing starts were up 6.8% in June while building permits were down 3.1%.5,10,23,24

Was the door closing on the days of cheap mortgages? On June 27, Freddie Mac announced that the average rate on the 30-year FRM was at 4.46%, up from 3.81% on May 30. Other home loan types also showed major interest rate increases during that interval. The average rate on the 15-year FRM rose from 2.98% to 3.50%, rates on the 5/1-year ARM averaged 3.08% compared to 2.66%, and rates on the 1-year ARM went from 2.54% to 2.66%.25

LOOKING BACK…LOOKING FORWARD
Even with June’s losses, the Dow racked up its best first half of a year since 1999. The S&P 500 advanced more in the year’s opening half than it had in 15 years. The Russell 2000’s June loss wasn’t so bad – just 0.68%. Note the (once again) positive real yield on the 10-year TIPS.2

% CHANGE YTD 1-MO CHG 1-YR CHG 10-YR AVG
DJIA +13.78 -1.36 +18.31 +6.59
NASDAQ +12.71 -1.52 +19.43 +10.94
S&P 500 +12.63 -1.50 +20.86 +6.45
REAL YIELD 6/28 RATE 1 YR AGO 5 YRS AGO 10 YRS AGO
10 YR TIPS 0.53% -0.48% 1.48% 1.90%

Sources: cnbc.com, bigcharts.com, treasury.gov – 6/28/132,26,27
Indices are unmanaged, do not incur fees or expenses, and cannot be invested into directly.
These returns do not include dividends.

While the Fed will taper its easing effort at some point and eventually wrap it up, it is still buying $85 billion of bonds per month in the near term and a fair amount of faith remains in the current bull market’s longevity. A recent USA TODAY article cited some interesting data from Ned Davis Research Group (NDR): since 1963, it has taken bear markets an average of 24 months to arrive after the Fed has tightened. In the year after such policy moves, the broad U.S. stock market was up 73% of the time, and up 3.4% on average. Of course, the stock market has violated all kinds of historical “norms” in the past decade, and few bears would have imagined all-time peaks for the Dow and S&P 500 just four years after stocks lost half their value. Optimism may be muted in the wake of the Fed’s inevitable decision, but it hasn’t disappeared.1,10

UPCOMING ECONOMIC RELEASES: Here are the key economic news items scheduled for July: the ISM May non-manufacturing index, the June ADP employment report and the June Challenger job-cut report (7/3), the Labor Department’s June jobs report (7/5), the June 19 Fed policy meeting minutes and data on May wholesale inventories (7/10), the June PPI and the University of Michigan’s initial July consumer sentiment survey (7/12), June retail sales and May business inventories (7/15), June’s CPI and NAHB housing market index (7/16), June housing starts and building permits and a new Fed Beige Book (7/17), the Conference Board’s June index of leading indicators (7/18), June existing home sales (7/22), the May FHFA housing price index (7/23), June new home sales (7/24), June durable goods orders (7/25), the final University of Michigan consumer sentiment poll for July (7/26), June pending home sales (7/29), May’s Case-Shiller home price index and the Conference Board’s July consumer confidence survey (7/30), and then on July 31, a Federal Reserve policy announcement, the initial estimate of Q2 GDP and the comparatively early arrival of the July ADP employment report. The numbers on June consumer spending will appear on August 2.

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GREG OLIVER /// oliver // corp// 903457ur9340u5rt10934tior4
to34i

Citations.
1 – usatoday.com/story/money/markets/2013/06/19/stocks-wednesday/2437101/ [6/19/13]
2 – cnbc.com/id/100852152 [6/28/13]
3 – reuters.com/article/2013/07/01/us-usa-economy-manufacturing-idUSBRE9600MU20130701 [7/1/13]
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6 – reuters.com/article/2013/06/28/us-usa-economy-sentiment-idUSBRE95R0MA20130628 [6/28/13]
7 – stltoday.com/business/local/u-s-retail-sales-jump-percent-in-may-on-autos/article_33200d05-0de6-5d75-a666-5d422d700c76.html [6/13/13]
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9 – nasdaq.com/article/midday-update-stocks-sliding-after-imf-cuts-us-growth-forecast-consumer-sentiment-dips-cm253273 [6/14/13]
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18 – finfacts.ie/irishfinancenews/article_1026211.shtml [7/2/13]
19 – markets.on.nytimes.com/research/markets/worldmarkets/worldmarkets.asp [6/28/13]
20 – mscibarra.com/products/indices/international_equity_indices/gimi/stdindex/performance.html [6/28/13]
21 – money.cnn.com/data/commodities/ [6/28/13]
22 – online.wsj.com/mdc/public/npage/2_3050.html?mod=mdc_curr_dtabnk&symb=DXY [6/30/13]
23 – usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/06/20/may-existing-home-sales/2440693/ [6/20/13]
24 – census.gov/construction/nrc/pdf/newresconst.pdf [6/18/13]
25 – freddiemac.com/pmms/ [7/1/13]
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26 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=COMP&closeDate=6%2F28%2F12&x=0&y=0 [6/28/13]
26 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=SPX&closeDate=6%2F28%2F12&x=0&y=0 [6/28/13]
26 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=DJIA&closeDate=6%2F27%2F03&x=0&y=0 [6/28/13]
26 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=COMP&closeDate=6%2F27%2F03&x=0&y=0 [6/28/13]
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27 – treasury.gov/resource-center/data-chart-center/interest-rates/Pages/TextView.aspx?data=realyieldAll [7/1/13]