Volatility continued last week as markets posted their 1st weekly loss in 3 weeks. Despite some recovery on Friday, the S&P 500 dropped 2.04%, the NASDAQ slipped 1.12%, and the Dow lost 3.05% for the week. Internationally, the MSCI EAFE fell 2.91%.
FACT OF THE WEEK
Prior to 150 B.C., March was the first month of the year! According to the oldest Roman calendars, one year was ten months long, beginning in March and ending in December. So, what about January and February? They were just two nameless months called "winter".
Last week's ups-and-downs began with continued questions over whether the Fed will raise interest rates. By the week's end, however, rumors of an international trade war dominated the attention of investors.
Fed Suggests Raising Interest Rates
New Fed Chair Jerome Powell testified on Tuesday that inflation and a strong economy may lead to interest rate hikes sooner than expected. Whether the Fed will impose a 4th hike this year caused investor uncertainty and led to mid-week market drops. Powell noted, however, that increased market volatility will not influence the Fed's decisions regarding rate increases.
Trump Announces Tariffs on Imports
Investor attention shifted on Thursday as President Trump announced plans to impose a 25% tariff on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum imports. While the move could protect American metal workers, some analysts worry it may also trigger a possible trade war.
Countries around the world reacted to the news, with some announcing their own plans for U.S. tariffs in response. Over the weekend, the President reacted by noting possible tariffs on imported autos, where the U.S. has a deficit. Some analysts worry this could further hurt an already negative trade gap in our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Signs of Strength
Despite the developments with tariffs and rising interest rates, we did receive encouraging economic reports:
- Strong Consumer Sentiment: Last month's consumer sentiment report hit its 2nd highest recording in over 10 years. Upon the approved tax bill, companies gave nearly $30 billion in bonuses, boosting consumer incomes and attitudes.
- Outstanding Jobless Claims: Last week's reported jobless claims were the lowest in 49 years. A healthy demand for labor and few layoffs have helped keep unemployment numbers low.
Expect more market volatility going forward as investors follow the Fed's interest rate plans to keep potential inflation in check. The President has also promised to announce specific details concerning the proposed new tariffs this week. If you have questions concerning how these developing economic policies may impact your financial life, we are always here to help.
SOCIAL SECURITY EMPLOYEES ARE FAILING RETIREES
According to a new report by the Social Security Administration's (SSA) Office of Inspector General, an estimated 9,224 widows and widowers age 70 and older could have received an additional $131.8 million in Social Security benefits had they been told they could delay filing for retirement benefits until reaching age 70. The report also estimates that another 1,899 survivor beneficiaries younger than 70 will be underpaid by about $9.8 million annually, beginning in the year they turn 70.
The problem occurs during the original enrollment process to receive benefits. According to the report, SSA employees should do more to inform applicants for survivor benefits that they can put off the start of their retirement benefits and that it might be financially advantageous to do so.
Widows and widowers can claim survivor benefits beginning at 60, as well as their own Social Security retirement benefits once they turn 62 or older. Survivor benefits are fixed and based on the earnings of the person who died, but they can vary depending on whether that individual had started taking Social Security retirement payments, as well as the surviving spouse's age.
For those eligible, Social Security retirement benefits increase about 8 percent annually every year they are delayed until age 70. But for those widows and widowers who are claiming survivor benefits, it usually makes financial sense to hold off claiming retirement benefits until full retirement age or older, particularly if the survivor's benefits are greater - advice the SSA failed to disclose to beneficiaries.
Please contact our office if you would like to review your Social Security options before your appointment to claim benefits.
FINANCIAL STRATEGY OF THE WEEK
DON'T FALL FOR THE DOOR-TO-DOOR IRS AGENT SCAM
The IRS is warning taxpayers of potential scammers posing as representatives of the taxing agency in person, on the phone, and by email.
Before opening the door, first read these 5 facts about how or when the IRS makes in-person contacts.
- The agency initiates most of its taxpayer contacts by regular mail.
- The IRS will only visit your home or business when you have an overdue tax bill, when the agency must secure a delinquent tax return or employment tax payment, to tour a business as part of an audit, or to conduct a criminal investigation.
- IRS revenue officers carry 2 forms of identification with serial numbers.
- Private collection agencies contracted by the IRS to collect a debt will never visit your home or business.
- The IRS will not ask you to make payments to anyone except the U.S. Department of Treasury.
If you believe you've been visited by someone impersonating an IRS agent, visit IRS.gov for information about reporting the incident.