Weekly Market Commentary May 20, 2019

Fast Facts

 Prime Minister, MD- From Monday to Friday, Lotay Tshering works as prime minister of Bhutan. But on Saturdays, the elected leader of the tiny Himalayan kingdom puts on a white coat and heads to the operating room at the National Referral Hospital. Tshering, 50, who was elected in November and is regarded as one of the country’s top surgeons, says being a prime minister is much like being a doctor: in one role he tries to improve the nation’s health; in the other, the health of patients. The prime minister says he can’t imagine ever giving up surgery, which he says is a great de-stresser. “Some people play golf,” he said. “I like to operate.”

Lucky Strike- An Australian family out for a Mother’s Day walk quite literally struck gold last week. The father was with his two daughters and their dog, appropriately named Lucky, when one of the girls kicked what looked like a yellowish rock. “She then goes, ‘Dad, is this gold?’” said the father, who asked to remain anonymous. “I said, ‘I think it might be.’” They took the 20-ounce nugget to be valued and discovered it was worth more than $24,000—enough to help the family with some current financial difficulties. “It couldn’t be better timing,” said the dad.

Microbes Among Us- a new study shows that the back seats of ride-sharing cars, such as those affiliated with Uber or Lyft, carry 35,000 times as many germs as the average toilet seat, and 219 times as many as the back seat of the average licensed cab, which is required to get regular cleaning.


 Weekly Focus- Think About It

“Happiness is not an absolute value. It is a state of comparison.”
Author Zadie Smith, quoted in Elle


The Markets

Trade war trade-off.

There was some good news on trade, last week. The United States took steps to reduce trade friction with the European Union, Canada, Mexico, and Japan.

“The United States on Friday reached an agreement with Canada and Mexico to remove steel and aluminum tariffs, which had been a persistent source of friction across North America over the past year. The deal on metals came as Mr. Trump decided not to press ahead immediately with levies on EU and Japanese automotive products – despite declaring that foreign car and vehicle imports represented a threat to U.S. national security,” reported James Politi, Jude Webber, and Jim Brunsden of Financial Times.

There was some bad news, too. Trade tensions escalated between the United States and China. The United States doubled tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods and threatened tariffs on an additional $325 billion of goods. The United States imports about $539 billion worth of goods from China each year, reported the BBC.

In addition, President Trump signed an executive order preventing U.S. companies from using telecommunications equipment made by firms believed to pose a risk to national security. The move is expected to affect the ability of a large Chinese telecoms firm to conduct business in the United States, reported David Lawder and Susan Heavey of Reuters.

China currently has tariffs on $110 billion of American goods and they announced plans to hike tariffs on $60 billion of these goods. In total, China imports $120 billion worth of goods overall from the United States each year.

While the relatively small amount of American goods imported by China would seem to give the United States an advantage in a trade war, China has other means of gaining leverage. The country holds about 7 percent of U.S. debt, which is more than any other nation, reported Jeff Cox of CNBC. If China were to slow purchases of Treasuries, yields on U.S. government bonds may move higher.

A source cited by Reshma Kapadia of Barron’s suggested it is unlikely the Chinese will stop buying Treasuries. “Where would they put the trillions of dollars? Ten-year German Bunds are below Japanese 10-year yields; there aren’t a lot of options…They also don’t want their currency to appreciate, so that handcuffs them…China tends to find things to hurt adversaries without hurting themselves.”

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index finished the week lower.


Which Cities offer the best quality of life? In March, Mercer published its 21st Quality of Living Survey. The goal is to help multinational corporations with data that can help them optimize their global operations. The survey considers factors like safety, housing, recreation, economics, public transport, consumer goods, and more. For 2019, the cities offering the highest quality of life were:

  1. Vienna, Austria
  2. Zurich, Switzerland
  3. Vancouver, Canada
  4. Munich, Germany
  5. Auckland, New Zealand
  6. Düsseldorf, Germany
  7. Frankfurt, Germany
  8. Copenhagen, Denmark
  9. Geneva, Switzerland
  10. Basel, Switzerland

Thirteen of the world’s top-20 cities were in Europe. The safest cities in Europe were Luxembourg, Basel, Bern, Helsinki, and Zurich. The least safe, as far as personal safety goes, were Moscow and St. Petersburg.

In North America, Canadian cities generally did better than U.S. cities. The highest ranked city in the United States was San Francisco, which came in at 34th. Boston ranked 36th and Honolulu 37th. The safest cities in North America were Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, and Calgary.

Dubai offers the best quality of life in the Middle East. Dubai and Abu Dhabi were the safest cities, while Damascus was the least safe – in the Middle East and the world.

Singapore, Tokyo, and Kobe had the highest quality of life rankings among Asian cities. Cities in Australia and New Zealand also did quite well, overall.

Best regards,


John Klevens, CFP


Sources: The Week Magazine, CNN.com, Elle.com
Portions of this newsletter has been prepared by Peak Advisor