The Week on Wall Street
News of a COVID-19 vaccine ignited a rally in economically sensitive stocks and a broad retreat in technology companies last week. However, enthusiasm was cut short by reports of rising new infections and fresh lockdowns.
FACT OF THE WEEK
On November 16, 1920, the first postage mail was dispatched by a Pitney Bowes commercial postage meter machine. In response to a need from the U.S. Postal Service, Arthur Pitney and Walter Bowes formed the Pitney-Bowes Postage Meter Company, and through collaboration, created the metered mail industry. After 100 years of innovation, Pitney Bowes machinery can be found in the offices of 1.5 million of its clients worldwide, including 90 percent of the Fortune 500.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 4.08%, while the S&P 500 rose 2.16%. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.55% for the week. The MSCI EAFE Index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, jumped 4.01%.
Reports of an effective COVID-19 vaccine sent stocks soaring on Monday as the end to economic uncertainty appeared to be in sight. Stocks that had been injured by economic lockdowns surged on the news, while the stay-at-home stocks suffered steep declines.
Bond yields and oil prices both moved higher on expectations of increased economic activity. However, market enthusiasm evaporated in the days that followed, as higher COVID-19 infections, new lockdowns, and low expectations for a new fiscal stimulus package dampened the optimism brought on by the pending vaccine.
Stocks closed the week on a higher note, with cyclical stocks adding to their gains and technology companies shaving part of their losses.
Clouds Over Chinese Capitalism?
Last week, the market was caught by surprise when Chinese regulatory authorities issued draft guidelines to address concerns over abusive monopolistic practices.
Shares in some of the biggest Chinese technology companies dropped on the news, following the prior week’s suspension of an extensive initial public offering listing for one of the country’s leading fintech companies. It’s difficult to say whether Chinese regulators are acting on concerns that western nations have with the dominance of Big Tech companies or if they are attempting to rein in the power and influence of privately owned corporations.
An answer may not be clear anytime soon, but investors will be watching.
FINANCIAL STRATEGY OF THE WEEK
YEAR-END CHARITABLE GIFTING AND YOU
Are you making charitable donations at the year's end?
If so, you should know about some of the financial "fine print" involved, as the right moves could potentially bring more of a benefit to both you and your chosen charity.
Evaluate the Impact
How can you maximize the impact of your gifts? First, consider giving to a qualified charity with 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. Also, visit GiveWell.org, CharityNavigator.org, or CharityWatch.org to evaluate a charity and learn how effectively it utilizes donations. If you plan to or are considering to give a large donation, it is often wise to ask the charity involved how it will use your gift.
If you're still working, you may want to check with your employer. Some companies match charitable contributions made by their employees, an often-overlooked opportunity to give back.
Itemize to Optimize
To deduct charitable donations, you must itemize them on your IRS Schedule A. You'll need to log each donation you make. Ideally, the charity will provide you with a form to document proof of your contribution. Alternative documentation can also include a receipt, a credit or debit card statement, a bank statement, or a canceled check.
The IRS may want to know three things: 1) the name of the charity, 2) the gifted amount, and 3) the date of your gift. Itemized deductions may only have tax benefits when they exceed the standard income tax deduction, so be sure to check on the standard deduction amount for your tax filing year.
Show Your Appreciation
Many charities welcome non-cash donations. Donating an appreciated asset can be a tax-savvy move. You may wish to explore a gift of highly appreciated securities. Selling securities can lead to a taxable event. As an alternative, you or a financial professional can write a letter of instruction to a bank or brokerage, facilitating a transfer of shares to a charity.
Share transfers can accomplish three things:
• You can manage to pay the tax you would usually pay upon selling the shares.
• You may be able to take a current-year tax deduction for the shares' full fair market value.
• The charity gets the full value of the shares, not their after-tax net value.
A Policy of Giving Back
Do you have a life insurance policy? If you make an irrevocable gift of that policy to a qualified charity, you can get a current-year income tax deduction. If you keep paying the policy premiums, each payment may become a deductible charitable donation. (Deduction limits can apply.)
If you pay premiums for at least three years after the gift, that could reduce the size of your taxable estate. The death benefit may transfer out of your taxable estate, in any case. It will help if you consider determining whether you are insurable before implementing a strategy involving life insurance. Any guarantees associated with a policy depend on the ability of the issuing insurance company to continue making claim payments.
Several factors will affect the cost and availability of life insurance, including age, health, and the type and amount of insurance purchased. Life insurance policies have expenses, including mortality and other charges. If a policy surrender is premature, the policyholder also may pay surrender charges and have income tax implications. Whatever your situation, advice from a tax or financial professional can help you give wisely as the year comes to a close.
As always, we're here to help find a strategy that works for your situation. Please contact my office with any questions or financial concerns you may have.