Weekly Market Commentary March 26, 2019

Fast Facts

No Bull! –  A French bull who apparently thinks he’s a horse has become a show-jumping sensation. Sabine Rouas, a horse trainer from Strasbourg, adopted Aston as a calf from a dairy farm five years ago. She soon found him eagerly watching her practice sessions with a pony named Samy. So she trained the 1.3-ton horned male cow to trot, gallop, go backward, turn on command, and leap over 4-foot-high obstacles. She even rides him. “He’s very proud when he feels that he’s made me happy,” said Rouas, who now delights fans across Europe with Aston’s tricks.

Read the Fine Print – A Georgia woman won $10,000 simply for reading the fine print in a travel insurance policy, said Allison Klein in The Washington Post. Donelan Andrews recently purchased the travel insurance before a trip with friends to England. Unlike most people, she actually sat down to read it. On page 7, she encountered a paragraph header that said, “Pays to Read.” It stated that fewer than 1 percent of travelers actually read all the policy information, and the first person to email the company about the contest would receive $10,000. So she emailed, and it turned out the contest was no joke. The insurance company, Squaremouth, had quietly started it a day earlier, sending 73 policies out before Andrews emailed. A Squaremouth spokesperson says the company really does want people to read policies to know exactly what’s covered. “It makes everybody’s life a lot easier.”

Everything is Bigger in Texas – Austin has the hottest job market in the U.S., according to a ranking of 53 metro areas with more than 1 million people. Austin had a 3 percent unemployment rate and 3.5 percent job growth in 2018. Other top cities included Orlando, which had the nation’s fastest job growth (4 percent), and Seattle, with the highest wage growth (9.5 percent). Chicago and New York City, both with shrinking labor forces, fall near the bottom


Weekly Focus – Think About It

“The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.”
–Mark Twain, American author


The Markets

Wonder what the Federal Reserve’s 40-yard dash time is?

On Wednesday, the Fed juked like an NFL running back and left investors wondering whether they should buy or sell. Heather Long of The Washington Post reported the U.S. central bank:

  1. Lowered its 2019 estimate for U.S. economic growth to 2.1 percent
  2. Announced its intention not to raise rates in 2019
  3. Indicated it will stop shrinking its balance sheet in September

Fed Chair Jerome Powell explained, “My colleagues and I have one overarching goal: to sustain the economic expansion with a strong job market and stable prices for the benefit of the American people. The U.S. economy is in a good place and we will continue to use our monetary policy tools to keep it there…We continue to expect that the American economy will grow at solid pace in 2019, although slower than the very strong pace of 2018.”

The Fed’s decision to adopt a looser monetary policy was informed by a variety of factors, including slower economic growth in the United States, China, and Europe, as well as unresolved policy issues like Brexit and ongoing trade negotiations.

Investors weren’t sure what to make of the Fed’s moves. Initially, major U.S. stock indices trended higher as investors celebrated the benefits of accommodative monetary policy. By the end of the week, though, many investors had changed their minds and fled to ‘safe haven’ investments, pushing long-term Treasury rates lower. Alexandra Scaggs of Barron’s reported:

“When short-term yields rise above long-term yields, it’s known as an inverted yield curve, which is seen even by central bankers as a sign that an economic contraction could be on the way…Benchmark 10-year Treasuries rallied Friday morning, driving their yields below those of the three-month U.S. Treasury.”

So, is recession imminent in the United States? It’s possible but unlikely. According to a source cited by Barron’s, the last six times the yield curve inverted for 10 days or longer, recession occurred within the next two years.

No matter how the economy and/or markets perform, it may not be a good idea to make sudden portfolio changes. If you’re feeling uncertain, give us a call. We can discuss changes you may want to make to your portfolio.

Scandinavia Sweeps Again. The 2019 United Nation’s World Happiness Report was published last week. The Finns remain the happiest people in the world. In fact, happiness in Finland has been trending higher since 2014.

People in Denmark and Norway also are happier than they were previously. The average score for the Danes increased by more than the average score for the Norwegians, so Denmark is now second and Norway third.

The report’s authors explained, “…the top countries tend to have high values for most of the key variables that have been found to support well-being: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust, and generosity.”

The 10 happiest countries in the world, according to the report, which aggregated data on 156 countries from Gallup World Polls, are:

  1. Finland (7.769)
  2. Denmark (7.600)
  3. Norway (7.554)
  4. Iceland (7.494)
  5. Netherlands (7.488)
  6. Switzerland (7.480)
  7. Sweden (7.343)
  8. New Zealand (7.307)
  9. Canada (7.278)
  10. Austria (7.246)

Since the report began, happiness has increased most dramatically in Benin (#102), Nicaragua (#45), Bulgaria (#97), Latvia (#53), and Togo (#139).

The United States came in at #19. Overall, happiness levels in the U.S. have declined by almost 0.5 since the report was first issued. The report stated:

“Several credible explanations have been posited to explain the decline in happiness among adult Americans, including declines in social capital and social support (Sachs, 2017) and increases in obesity and substance abuse (Sachs, 2018)…I suggest another, complementary explanation: that Americans are less happy due to fundamental shifts in how they spend their leisure time…the way adolescents socialize has fundamentally shifted, moving toward online activities and away from face-to-face social interaction.”


Best regards,


John Klevens, CFP


Sources: The Week Magazine, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal
Portions of this newsletter has been prepared by Peak Advisor