THE WEEK ON WALL STREET
Stocks ended the week roughly where they began as investors digested a mixed set of new economic data. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.12%, while the S&P 500 slipped 0.16%. The Nasdaq Composite index fell 0.39% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, added 1.23%.
FACT OF THE WEEK
It started with an offhand remark made by Bob Dylan during his performance at Live Aid, the massive fundraising concert held at Wembley Stadium, London, and JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, in the early summer of 1985. As television viewers around the world phoned in donations in support of African famine relief, Dylan said from the stage, “I hope that some of the money…maybe they can just take a little bit of it, maybe…one or two million, maybe…and use it, say, to pay the mortgages on some of the farms and, the farmers here, owe to the banks.” Dylan would come under harsh criticism from Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof for his remarks (“It was a crass, stupid and nationalistic thing to say,” Geldof would later write), but he planted a seed with several fellow musicians who shared his concern over the state of the American family farm. Less than one month later, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellencamp announced plans for “Farm Aid,” a benefit concert for America’s farmers held in Champaign, Illinois, on September 22, 1985.
As one might have expected of a concert staged to “raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farm families on their land,” Farm Aid featured a number of performers from the worlds of country, folk, and rootsy rock music. There were the three main organizers and the instigator Bob Dylan, for instance, along with Hoyt Axton, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, Joni Mitchell, and Charley Pride. But the first Farm Aid, more than any of the annual Farm Aid concerts since, was a bit of a stylistic free-for-all, featuring artists united only by their interest in supporting a good cause.
“As soon as I read in the paper that there was gonna be such a thing,” Sammy Hagar told MTV’s cameras on the day of the show, “I called my manager and said, ‘I wanna do it.’ And he said, ‘It’s all country.’ I said, ‘I don’t care. It’s America. I wanna do it.’ If there was anything more surprising than hearing Hagar perform his hard-rock anthem “I Can’t Drive 55″ on the same stage that had earlier featured the quiet folk of Arlo Guthrie, it was hearing Lou Reed perform “Walk On The Wild Side” on a stage that had featured John Denver.
Over the years since its first charity concert on this day in 1985, the Farm Aid organization has raised tens of millions of dollars to support small farmers, promote sustainable farming practices, and encourage the consumption of “good food from family farms.”
Stocks Struggle For Direction
Stocks traded around the flatline without any catalyst in either direction. On Thursday, investors welcomed the European Central Bank, signaling its rate-hiking campaign may be nearing its conclusion and a successful IPO that revived optimism in the capital markets. Investors also cheered a stronger-than-forecast retail sales report and a modest increase in core producer prices, overlooking a higher-than-expected headline number. But sentiment quickly reversed on Friday as a drop in consumer confidence, troubling news in the semiconductor space, and a labor strike at the nation’s major automakers dented Thursday’s optimism, sending major averages to a mixed close for the week.
Inflation Progress Stalls
Surging gasoline prices drove August’s inflation rate to its highest monthly rate this year, rising 0.6%, while the year-over-year Consumer Price Index posted a 3.7% increase, up from July’s 3.2% annual rate. Core inflation (excludes energy and food) was more encouraging, rising 4.3%-- down from July’s reading of 4.7%. Producer prices also came in higher than expected, rising 0.7% in August, above the estimate of a 0.4% increase and the biggest monthly gain since June 2022. The year-over-year increase was a more modest 1.6%. Gasoline prices significantly contributed to the month’s jump; excluding food and energy, prices aligned with forecasts, ticking up 0.2% in August.
FINANCIAL STRATEGY OF THE WEEK
Hello Fall! Though the summer heat may still be holding on, cooler days will be here before you know it. The autumnal equinox on the 23rd of this month marks when the days will start to become shorter than nights, and the calendar officially shifts to fall. This is an ideal time to start tackling projects around the house in preparation for colder months ahead.
Below are some ways you can winterize your home now to potentially save yourself money (or a headache) later.
- Consider upgrading your furnace if it’s older than 15 years. Even if it still seems to be working fine, energy efficiency technology improves every year, and a replacement furnace may not only be better for the environment but ultimately save you money.
- Clean out any debris or build-up in your gutters to help keep rain or snow from damaging your roof.
- Make sure your home is well-insulated. Check on insulation weatherstripping around doors and windows to ensure it’s in top shape and seal any air leaks in the attic.
- Trim bushes and trees to help prevent property damage from fallen branches during harsh winter storms.
- Have your carpeting professionally cleaned. Clean carpets can help maintain good indoor air quality and potentially prevent illnesses.