Highlights of this Week’s Update:
- Be sure to utilize the “CSV” file to download 2014 transactions automatically into most tax software programs.
- Volatility picked up last week, with the major U.S. stock indices ending slightly lower.
- Interest rates dipped for week, while oil prices continued to fall.
- Keep a close eye on mortgage rates for refinance opportunities.
- Consumers opt for savings vs. spending of lower prices at the pump.
- Fed meets this week-may provide some insight as to future interest rate hikes.
READ ON FOR ADDITIONAL DETAILS…………………………………………………
Just a quick reminder again of the “CSV” (Excel) file that is available online for all the 2014 transactions made in taxable accounts. This file can be used to download the transactions automatically into most tax software and can save both time and money. Call us today if you or your tax preparer need any assistance.
U.S. stock indices gave up ground last week, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average off .60% and the S&P 500 down .86%. This pushed both indices into negative territory again year-to-date. (MarketWatch)
Interest rates eased from the previous week, and mortgage rates fell as well. The average rates for a 30 year fixed mortgage were between 3.625-4.125%, while rates for a 15 year fixed mortgage were 2.75-3.35%. Oil continued to slide, ending the week at $45.00 per barrel for West Texas Intermediate Crude. (CNBC, Bankrate.com)
Filled up your gas tank lately? According to the Energy Information Administration, the average U.S. price of regular gasoline has rebounded from a weekly low of $2.04 per gallon on January 26 to $2.49 on March 9. But the price remains well below the year-ago average of $3.51. Most analysts argue that a one penny drop in gasoline over one year amounts to $1 billion in savings.
While that’s probably a fair assessment (drivers spent $10.5 billion less at gasoline stations in February versus a year ago (Commerce Dept.). Many also liken falling energy prices to a tax cut for consumers.
So far, much of the evidence strongly suggests this so-called tax cut has failed to bolster spending. A survey by MasterCard in late January indicated that 75% of the savings have gone into bank accounts or to the pay down of debt (Wall Street Journal). There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not stimulating economic activity.
Notably, the personal savings rate has jumped from 4.5% in November to 5.5% in January (Bureau of Economic Analysis, or BEA), signaling the decline in outlays at the gas pump is boosting savings not spending.
Consumer behavior is slow to change, even when presented with a windfall in the form of lower gas prices. It’s possible the scars left by the recession have more permanently changed the consumer mindset.
Focus on the Fed:
With employment growth accelerating and the unemployment rate at 5.5% (Bureau of Labor Statistics), this week’s Federal Reserve meeting could bring about more signs about what central bankers are thinking regarding possible rate hikes later in the year. It’s creating some volatility in stocks, as we saw last week. A strong dollar and exceptionally low interest rates overseas may make the timing of any rate hike more difficult.
We hope you all have a great week ahead. We appreciate the privilege to serve each and every one of you and look forward to working together in the years to come.
Your TEAM at F.I.G. Financial Advisory Services, Inc.
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