Last week was a relatively quiet time in the domestic markets. We did not receive a tremendous amount of economic data, and trading halted Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday. Nonetheless, all 3 of the major domestic indexes experienced sizable gains in only 4 trading days. By Friday, the S&P 500 added 0.91% and closed above 2,600 for the first time in its history. The Dow was also up 0.86%, and the NASDAQ gained 1.57%. International stocks in the MSCI EAFE had a 5-day trading week and grew by 1.85%.
FACT OF THE WEEK
Start with a dollar. Double it every day. In 48 days you'll own every financial asset that exists on the planet - about $200 trillion.
A variety of factors contributed to this week's performance - from growth in the tech sector to increasing crude oil prices. But a specific event also helped push stocks higher: Black Friday.
The Black Friday Effect
What happened on Black Friday this year?
In the U.S., Black Friday is big business. The day after Thanksgiving is typically the year's biggest shopping day and jump-starts the holiday season with enticing deals. The financial markets even close early because trading activity is traditionally so slow.
This year, a combination of low unemployment and healthy consumer confidence may help the retail industry. Many retailers saw lines forming outside their locations on Thanksgiving, while digital shopping also picked up. Shoppers spent $1.52 billion online by 5 p.m. ET on Thursday. And the next morning they made $640 million in online purchases by 10 a.m. - 18.4% higher than at that time last year.
Why does holiday shopping matter?
Black Friday may not have the same urgency it once did, as fewer people fight for deals in person. Even without huge crowds at brick-and-mortar shops, many retailers declared the day a success - and posted stock gains on Friday.
Overall, industry experts predict holiday sales may grow by as much as 4.5% compared to last year. This growth matters because strong consumer spending is good for the economy. In fact, consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of gross domestic product. If spending is flat, so is economic growth. Thus, solid purchasing can help drive our economy to pick up speed.
We were pleased to see the markets experience a positive Black Friday effect, and we'll continue to review this year's spending data and stock performance. In the meantime, if you have any questions about where our economy stands or what lies ahead, please contact us.
THE #1 THING THAT SCARES AMERICANS ABOUT RETIREMENT
Adequately preparing for retirement takes a lot of diligence. Where will you live? How much do you plan to travel? What will your annual expenses be?
But as much as you prepare, it's hard to anticipate certain expenses leading up to and during retirement. Chief among these is the cost of health care, which Americans says is their No. 1 fear about saving enough for their golden years, according to new data from Northwestern Mutual's 2017 Planning & Progress Study.
The number of Americans who see health care costs as the top obstacle to financial security in retirement rose to 58 percent this year. That's up from 45 percent in 2016.
Longer lifespans, government debate around the future of health care and Social Security and continued economic uncertainty all add another layer of unpredictability to the already challenging task of retirement planning.
Although the future of both health care and Social Security will remain political and economic variables, individuals can still take steps to prepare themselves. That starts with a well-padded retirement fund. The simplest way to prepare is to begin socking away as much as you can as early as you can, even if it means prioritizing your own future over other financial goals.
FINANCIAL STRATEGY OF THE WEEK
DONATE STOCK TO CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS
Charitably inclined individuals with a significant amount of money in investments may choose to donate some of their stock to a charitable organization and avoid paying capital-gains taxes on the stock gains.
They may get what's called a "fair market value deduction," which means if they paid $10,000 for stock that's now worth $50,000, they could get a tax deduction on the higher figure (although this is subject to the percentage of an individual's adjusted gross income that it represents).
Please contact us if you would like to discuss advantageous methods to fund your charitable gifts.