Big Bill- The 35-day federal government shutdown cost the U.S. economy $11 billion, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office. With federal workers returning to their jobs, much of that damage will be reversed, but an estimated $3 billion of economic activity is permanently lost.
Volunteers?- A Pennsylvania police department was inundated with volunteers after offering to get people drunk to help train officers in how to conduct field sobriety tests. The Kutztown Borough Police Department posted a Facebook ad seeking three volunteers “willing to drink hard liquor to the point of inebriation.” Cops said the ad sparked “an overwhelming response,” including 1,100 comments. One inquired whether participating would “count as credit for my community service?” while another asked if there would be a “spectator area” for the event.
Math Emergency- a 911 dispatcher in Indiana helped a desperate schoolboy with his math homework. Dispatcher Antonia Bundy talked the boy through how to add fractions, and the relieved boy thanked her and apologized for calling 911.
Weekly Focus – Think About It
“The fact is that my brain goes out to play. That’s what creativity is – intelligence having fun.” –Joey Reiman, American businessman
And, U.S. stock markets celebrated.
Last week, the Federal Reserve put itself on hold. The Federal Open Market Committee met on Wednesday, January 30, 2019, to discuss the state of the economy and determine policy. After the meeting, Fed Chair Jerome Powell offered a positive assessment of U.S. economic strength that was leavened with a few concerns.
“We continue to expect that the American economy will grow at a solid pace in 2019, although likely slower than the very strong pace of 2018…Despite this positive outlook…Growth has slowed in some major foreign economies, particularly China and Europe. There is elevated uncertainty around several unresolved government policy issues, including Brexit, ongoing trade negotiations, and the effects from the partial government shutdown in the United States…We are now facing a somewhat contradictory picture of generally strong U.S. macroeconomic performance, alongside growing evidence of cross-currents. At such times, common sense risk management suggests patiently awaiting greater clarity…”
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (S&P 500) welcomed the news and delivered its best January performance since 1987, reported Reuters.
Earnings may have helped. Through the end of last week, almost one-half of companies in the S&P 500 had shared fourth quarter 2018 earnings. FactSet reported the blended year-over-year earnings growth – which includes earnings for companies that have reported and earnings estimates for companies that have not yet reported – was 12.4 percent. That’s lower than the 20-plus percent growth companies have delivered since late 2017, and it’s the fifth straight quarter of double-digit earnings growth.
There was good news to close the week, too. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported far more jobs were created in January than analysts had anticipated, although unemployment ticked higher for the month because of the government shutdown, reported Bloomberg.
Here they are: Some of The Best Inventions of 2018. Time Magazine asked its editors and correspondents to nominate inventions that are making the world smarter and more fun. The magazine whittled down the suggestions to 50 inventions it considers to be the very best. They include:
- Off-the-rack bespoke clothing. If you have ever found yourself between two sizes or have had difficulty figuring out women’s swimsuit sizing, you’ll appreciate an innovation offered by a Japanese retailer. All you have to do is put on one of the company’s “…stretchy black bodysuits…covered in white dots, which enables consumers to make a ‘3-D scan’ of their bodies in the comfort of their own home, via a companion mobile app.” Once you’ve completed the scan, you can order custom-fit clothing. Next up: custom shoes.
- Blankets that ease anxiety. Science suggests there is a connection between insomnia and anxiety – and we all know how important sleep is. Weighted blankets offer gentle pressure that may help soothe the nervous system and improve sleep, according to Time. Retailers suggest consumers opt for blankets with a weigh equal to 10 percent of body weight. Be forewarned. The blankets come with a hefty price tag.
- A gravity-defying toolbox. If you’re looking for the perfect Valentine’s gift for a friend or family member who uses tools in tough environments, this might be a good choice. A former F-16 aircraft mechanic designed a flexible toolbox that stays on curved surfaces without slipping.
- A compass that points to friends and family. If you stress over the possibility of a child or pet getting lost at a crowded event or in an unfamiliar place, you may appreciate these paired compasses. They use GPS technology, in tandem with long-wave radio frequencies, to help people keep track of each other.
Just for fun, check out the other inventions at Time.com.
John Klevens, CFP
Sources: The Week Magazine, WashingtonPost.com
Portions of this newsletter has been prepared by Peak Advisor