Market volatility continues. Stocks slid on Friday, April 13, but still held on to gains for the week. The S&P 500 increased 1.99%, the Dow added 1.79%, and the NASDAQ was up 2.77%. International stocks in the MSCI EAFE also rose, gaining 1.45%.
FACT OF THE WEEK
"Tax Freedom Day" is the day, based on total taxes collected, when you stop working for the Government and work for yourself. In 2017 Tax Freedom Day was April 23rd. In 2018, Tax Freedom Day is April 19th, several days earlier than last year due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Similar to recent weeks, international events continued to sway markets: Concerns about trade disputes affected investor behavior. Meanwhile, escalating conflict in Syria may have weighed on people's minds.
As we track these developments, we want to share insight about another important occurrence from last week: the beginning of corporate earnings season.
1st Quarter Corporate Earnings Season
1. Expectations remain very high
Analysts anticipate a particularly strong earnings season. Thomson Reuters data predicts that S&P 500 companies' profits were 18.6% higher in the 1st quarter of 2018 than in 2017. If accurate, this increase would be the largest since 2011.
So far, data seems on track. According to The Earnings Scout, 1st-quarter earnings growth is currently at 26.8%.
2. Banks outperform but stocks drop
On Friday, 3 major banks released their reports - and each beat projections for earnings and revenue. Despite this positive news, however, their stocks experienced sizable declines that contributed to overall market losses.
Why would strong quarterly results create stocks losses?
The markets anticipated this positive performance and had already priced it into the shares. As a result, any less-than-ideal news seemed to outweigh the expected earnings and revenue increases. In particular, 2 facts drove losses:
- 1 bank may have to pay a $1 billion penalty
- All 3 banks experienced slow loan growth
We are in the early stages of earnings season, and many major corporations still need to release their reports. In the coming weeks, we'll continue monitoring these developments to better understand our economy. As always, please contact us if you have questions about how the data affects your finances and life.
DOES WEALTH AFFECT HEALTH?
A new list of the country's healthiest counties, published recently by finance technology company SmartAsset, mirrors U.S. Census Bureau lists of the wealthiest counties in the nation.
Los Alamos County, N.M., topped SmartAsset's second annual list of the healthiest; it ranks fifth on the Census Bureau's most recent list of counties with the highest median household incomes.
SmartAsset's top 10 healthiest counties are Los Alamos, plus Howard County, Md., Montgomery County, Md., Santa Clara County, Calif., Douglas County, Colo., Boulder County, Colo., San Mateo County, Calif., Marin County, Calif., Summit County, Utah, and Fairfax County, Va.
The 10 healthiest counties in the study include five of the 10 wealthiest in the country, according to the Census Bureau, and eight of the top 20 wealthiest.
SmartAsset looked at three factors to determine their healthiest list: length of life, health behaviors and health care access. To create the health behaviors index, the study measured the premature death rate in 2,764 American counties, the adult smokers rate and the rate of adults that report binge or heavy drinking, along with adult obesity rates.
Although wealth and health seem to mirror each other, it has not been determined if wealth leads directly to improved health, good health leads to wealth, or if the two develop in tandem as a result of good decision making.
FINANCIAL STRATEGY OF THE WEEK
STRESS TEST YOUR FINANCIAL PLAN
The Super Rich (those with a net worth of $500 million or more) who have family offices typically engage a sizable lineup of professional advisors to help them create and implement financial plans. To help ensure those plans are both state-of-the-art as well as in line with their needs and wants, many of them regularly "stress test" these plans.
Here's why you should join them in that effort - even if you're not nearly as wealthy.
Ask "What if?"
At heart, stress testing is when you ask, "What if ...?" about a variety of areas of a financial plan you have or are considering. When it comes to estate planning, for instance, a wealthy individual might ask questions like:
What will actually happen to my assets when I pass on?
- How will my family be affected, precisely?
- Who will be tracking the hard assets such as artwork and jewelry to make sure they go to the designated heirs - as opposed to vanishing?
- Who is going to make sure my estate plan is being executed as it's supposed to be?
To be effective and informative, stress testing should be done in a systematic manner. While there are some variations, the basic process starts by determining your goals. Your goals, any problems to be addressed and opportunities to benefit should be the driving forces behind the financial and legal solutions you employ.
The end result of the process: recommendations. Based on those recommendations, there are five courses of action to consider taking:
- Stay the course - solutions are on target and of high quality.
- Choose different solutions - financial techniques and products are not going to achieve the desired results.
- Modify the approach - solutions can be made more powerful with only slight modifications.
- Choose a different professional - solutions are appropriate but the professionals involved are not up to the task of implementing them, switch to more capable and/or cost-effective experts.
- Continue stress testing - the stress test process should continue throughout your life to ensure the plan is constantly up to date and effective.
Frequently, stress tests uncover flaws in financial plans as well as better ways to achieve desired outcomes. For those reasons, stress tests typically benefit a great number of people who want to ensure financial success.