Weekly Market Commentary September 9, 2019

Fast Facts

Good Samaritan- Seth Craven was sure he’d miss his son’s birth. The National Guard sergeant had flown from Afghanistan to Philadelphia, but his connecting flight to Charleston, W. Va., was canceled because of a storm, and all the rental cars were sold out. His wife, Julie, was due to have a C-section the next day. Then Charlene Vickers, another stranded flyer, heard his story and offered Craven a seat in her car. They drove for eight hours, and Craven, 26, arrived just in time to see baby Cooper born. “If it wasn’t for Charlene,” he said, “I never would have made it.”

Ponytailed Pitcher- Maddy Freking was the only girl in this year’s Little League World Series, and only the 19th to play in its 72-year history. But it was the 12-year-old’s talent, not gender, that grabbed the most attention. Normally a second baseman, Maddy pitched during her Coon Rapids–Andover, Minn., team’s game against Virginia’s Loudoun South American, and with the bases loaded struck out a batter, then threw out a base runner to end the inning. Though her team ultimately lost, Maddy made a lot of new fans. “The last time I saw that much blond hair throwing that hard,” said Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, “it was [the Mets’ Noah] Syndergaard.”

Mad Scientist! – A Maryland man spent a year eating food past its expiration date in an effort to prove that those dates are arbitrary. Scott Nash’s diet included year-old tortillas, nine-month-old yogurt, meats numerous weeks past their expiration dates, heavy cream that exceeded its “best-use” date by months, and butter so old it grew mold. He concluded that “some stuff really does go bad,” but still thinks the “sell-by” dates result in a lot of wasted food. “Most of the food that gets discarded,” Nash said, “is due to these arbitrary and confusing dates.”

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“Etiquette is all human social behavior. If you’re a hermit on a mountain, you don’t have to worry about etiquette; if somebody comes up the mountain, then you’ve got a problem. It matters because we want to live in reasonably harmonious communities.”
  –Judith Martin (a.k.a. Miss Manners)

The Markets

Remember the movie Groundhog Day?

Bill Murray’s character is a crotchety newsman who lives the same day over and over again. After exhausting other options, he chooses self-improvement and eventually escapes the cycle.

The movie came to mind last week when the United States and China headed to the negotiating table. Again.

Global stocks rallied on the news. Again.

The U.S.-China trade war has had a significant impact on stock market performance during the past two years. Since the trade war began, U.S. stock markets have rallied when trade talks are announced and retreated when trade talks fail. In 2018, MarketWatch reported:

“Trade issues have been at the center of Wall Street’s concerns because they have the potential to ripple into every other issue that has been besieging investors, if [the trade war] escalates. That includes the growth outlook for U.S. corporations, an economic slowdown in China, the pace of rate hikes, and the health of the U.S. economy and stock market…”

Last week, Fox News pointed out U.S. companies and consumers are feeling the effects of tariffs and that could be detrimental to U.S. economic growth, especially if consumer spending slows.

Regardless, major U.S. indices posted gains last week after the United States and China agreed to a new round of trade talks. Ben Levisohn of Barron’s explained:

“Why did the market soar? Not because of the economic data, which still paints the picture of a decelerating U.S. economy. August’s payrolls report came in light, and would have been even worse if not for a big boost from census hiring. The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index fell below 50, signaling a full-blown contraction in industrial activity. But the United States and China finally set a date to go back to the bargaining table on trade – and that was more than enough good news to last the week.”

Maybe, this time around, trade talks will deliver a trade agreement.

If not, be prepared for more possible volatility.

GROUP OUTINGS? GIFT REQUESTS? LET’S TALK MONEY ETIQUETTE. If you’re of the generation that believes money is a taboo topic, stop reading. If you’ve encountered some perplexing money issues and want to learn more about money-related social etiquette, read on.

Issue: The bride and groom would prefer cash to gifts. Is it okay to request cash?

Answer: It is not okay to ask invited guests to give you cash, writes Carolyn Hax of The Washington Post. “There’s no polite way to bill guests for liking you, pat their pockets for loose change, or coerce them into paying your bills. So, please don’t try. Thank you.”

Issue: You’re organizing a group gift, outing, or trip. How do you avoid money conflicts?

Answer: BuzzFeed Finance recommends avoiding group texts, which “…are a breeding ground for peer pressure and anxiety. Suddenly, everyone agrees that $50 is a reasonable birthday amount, while one person had budgeted to spend around $20 and now feels too awkward to speak up. If you’re the person organizing a joint gift, it’s worth reaching out to people separately to gauge interest and a reasonable dollar amount.”

Issue: You’re raising money for several charities. How often can you ask the same person for a donation?

Answer: It depends, say the editors at Real Simple. It’s okay to approach immediate family for every cause, but limit requests to distant relatives, friends, and acquaintances to a couple of times a year. “You’ll get better results – and keep more friends – by targeting your solicitations, rather than blasting your entire address book.”

Issue: Your girlfriend broke up with you on a peer-to-peer (P2P) payment app. All your friends saw it.

Answer: The default setting for most P2P payment apps is ‘public.’ As a result, people you know – and anyone else using the platform – can see who you paid, when you paid, and (sometimes) what you purchased. Consumer Reports suggests, “Make all your P2P settings the most private possible to ensure the least sharing of your personal data.”

When it comes to money, every generation faces unique challenges.

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