THE WEEK ON WALL STREET
Stocks rallied last week on receding fears of a widening banking crisis, led by resurging investor interest in technology and communication services names. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 3.22%, while the S&P 500 added 3.48%. The Nasdaq Composite index rose 3.37% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, advanced by 3.34%.
FACT OF THE WEEK
On April 3, 1860, the first Pony Express mail, traveling by horse and rider relay teams, simultaneously leaves St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. Ten days later, on April 13, the westbound rider and mail packet completed the approximately 1,800-mile journey and arrived in Sacramento, beating the eastbound packet’s arrival in St. Joseph by two days and setting a new standard for speedy mail delivery. Although ultimately short-lived and unprofitable, the Pony Express captivated America’s imagination and helped win federal aid for a more economical overland postal system. It also contributed to the economy of the towns on its route and served the mail-service needs of the American West in the days before the telegraph or an efficient transcontinental railroad.
The Pony Express debuted at a time before radios and telephones, when California, which achieved statehood in 1850, was still largely cut off from the eastern part of the country. Letters sent from New York to the West Coast traveled by ship, which typically took at least a month, or by stagecoach on the recently established Butterfield Express overland route, which could take from three weeks to many months to arrive. Compared to the snail’s pace of the existing delivery methods, the Pony Express’ average delivery time of 10 days seemed like lightning speed.
The initial cost of Pony Express delivery was $5 for every half-ounce of mail. The company began as a private enterprise and its owners hoped to gain a profitable delivery contract from the U.S. government, but that never happened. With the advent of the first transcontinental telegraph line in October 1861, the Pony Express ceased most of its operations. However, the legend of the lone Pony Express rider galloping across the Old West frontier to deliver the mail lives on today.
Tech Leads Rally
An absence of further bad news in the banking sector made for a good week, with high-quality technology and communication services stocks leading the market. While easing banking worries laid the groundwork for the week’s positive gains, growing conviction that Fed rate hikes were ending and positive inflation data out of Europe helped support the renewed enthusiasm for stocks. Encouraging inflation data on the domestic front on Friday also added to the gathering optimism, igniting further gains to cap a satisfying week for investors.
Inflation Grinds Lower
In an otherwise news-light week, Friday saw the release of February’s personal income and outlays report, which provides insight into inflation and consumer expenditures, the dominant contributor to economic growth. The Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index (PCE), the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation, rose 0.3% for the month, below market expectations and below the prior month’s 0.6% jump. The year-over-year increase of 5.0% improved from January’s rise of 5.3%. Energy prices declined, partially offsetting increases in food, goods, and services. Personal income rose 0.3%, while consumer spending increased 0.2%.
FINANCIAL STRATEGY OF THE WEEK
No one likes paying taxes, but most of us realize it’s a necessary and important part of a functioning society. When we pay our taxes, we do our part.
That said, there are ways to ensure you’re not paying more than your fair share. A key component of that calculation is your adjusted gross income (AGI), the figure used to determine how much tax you owe. If you decrease your AGI, you likely will pay less in taxes.
These three tactics may help you reduce your AGI and, potentially, your tax bill.
Contribute to a Traditional IRA
When you contribute to a Traditional IRA, you are allowed to take the amount contributed (up to certain maximums) as a tax deduction, lowering your AGI. With this strategy, you potentially lower your tax bill and save more for your future retirement.
Make Charitable Contributions
Many rules and restrictions apply, but if this year is one where you have made large donations to legitimate charities, you may find itemizing your deductions and taking full advantage of the charitable contribution deduction may help lower your tax bill.
Consider Itemized Deductions
When you have a host of expenses that the IRS allows as tax deductions, you may find that itemizing your return instead of taking the standard deduction makes more sense. Itemized deductions include uncovered medical and dental expenses exceeding 7.5% of your AGI, mortgage interest on up to $750,000 of secured home mortgage debt, and uninsured natural disaster or theft losses in federally declared disaster areas. Your tax professional can help you determine if itemized deductions make more sense.
Once you and your tax professional have filed your taxes, keep us posted. We play a role in your financial plan regardless of the outcome. If you owe, we can help you figure out where those extra dollars can come from. Or if you’re due a refund, we can help you review options to invest your returns.
As always, we’re here to answer any questions or help with anything you or your family needs.