Weekly Market Commentary December 11, 2018

Fast Facts

For the Birds- Al Larson is the bluebirds’ best friend. Since 1978, the 96-year-old former sawmill worker has built and maintained some 350 nest boxes across southern Idaho for western and mountain bluebirds, helping the species rebound from near-extinction. He started nest building to keep himself busy in retirement, and now checks in on the rustic abodes every nine days, banding any residents. This year, he’s banded more than 900 bluebirds. “I got carried away,” Larson said. “I kept adding more boxes, and these birds responded.”

Lost and Found- Just hours after British tourist John Drennan proposed to his girlfriend, Daniella Anthony, in New York City’s Central Park, disaster struck. The pair were walking through Times Square when the diamond-and-platinum engagement ring slipped off Anthony’s finger and down a sidewalk grate. Sympathetic cops tried to help the lovebirds recover the sparkler, but the heartbroken couple eventually gave up, and left without giving police their names. Officers recovered the ring the next morning and launched a social media campaign to identify the pair, who were back in the U.K. when they discovered the ring had been rescued. It’s now being shipped across the Atlantic. “We’re absolutely ecstatic,” Drennan said.

Random Act of Kindness- Bob Wilson traveled from Los Angeles to Northern California with two suitcases full of $1,000 checks. The 89-year-old businessman was horrified when he read how wildfire had ravaged the town of Paradise and left 90 percent of its high school students homeless. Determined to help, he spent hours writing checks for each of the school’s 980 students and 105 teachers, administrators, custodians, and bus drivers. Wilson then trekked 500 miles north to the city of Chico, near Paradise, where he handed out the $1.1 million worth of checks in person. “Good intentions are just good intentions,” he said, “unless you act on them.”


Weekly Focus – Think About It

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
–Mahatma Gandhi, Leader of Indian independence movement


The Markets

We’re off to a slow start.

December is usually the best month of the year for the stock market. It has been since 1950, according to Randall Forsyth of Barron’s, but not so far this year.

Two issues made investors particularly uncomfortable last week which helped trigger a sell-off that pushed major U.S. stock indices lower.

  1. Fading optimism about an easing of trade tensions with China. It looked like the relationship between the United States and China might thaw, and Americans were feeling pretty optimistic about a trade truce. In fact, markets moved higher Monday in anticipation.

Unfortunately, on the same day that Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping shared a cordial dinner, the chief financial officer of a major Chinese telecommunications firm was arrested at the request of the United States. The Economist reported, “[The company] is a pillar of the Chinese economy – and Ms. Meng is the founder’s daughter. The fate of the trade talks could hinge on her encounter with the law.”

  1. A section of the yield curve inverted. Normally, Treasury yields are higher for longer maturities of bonds than for shorter maturities of bonds. Last week, yields on three-year and five-year bonds inverted, meaning yields for three-year bonds were higher than those for five-year bonds. Ben Levisohn of Barron’s explained:

“Usually when people talk about an inversion, they’re talking about the difference between two-year and 10-year Treasuries, or three-month and 10-year Treasuries, which have been useful, though not perfect, predictors of recessions and bear markets. Last week, though, everyone was talking about the three-year and the five-year Treasury inverting – something that usually doesn’t get much notice…And for good reason.”

Historically, these maturities have inverted seven times. In one instance, the country was already in recession. On the other six occasions, recession didn’t occur for more than two years. Barron’s reported the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained an average of 20 percent over the 24-month periods following these inversions.

Investors’ negative response to last week’s news may have been overdone. Financial Times reported European and Asian markets firmed up a bit Friday “…as buyers stepped back in after some savage falls on Thursday.”

About time and money. Elizabeth Dunn, associate psychology professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and Michael Norton, associate marketing professor at Harvard Business School, have been studying whether people should spend money differently. Their goal is to figure out how to get the most happiness for the dollars spent. In Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending, they explained their experiments:

“…We started doling out money to strangers. But there was a catch: rather than letting them spend it however they wanted, we made them spend it how we wanted…changing the way people spent their money altered their happiness over the course of the day. And we saw this effect even when people spent as little as $5…Shifting from buying stuff to buying experiences, and from spending on yourself to spending on others, can have a dramatic impact on happiness.”

In addition, buying time can improve happiness. How do you buy time? By paying someone else to do tasks you don’t like to do – cleaning, grocery shopping, home maintenance, and other tasks. This can relieve time pressure and free up time to do what you really want to do – and that can make you happier.

The authors suggest individuals ask a simple question before making any purchase: How will this purchase change the way I use my time? Make sure the answer aligns with the goal of having an abundance of time.


Best regards,

John Klevens, CFP


Sources: The Week Magazine
Portions of this newsletter has been prepared by Peak Advisor