Do Your Elders Need Your Help?

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Ambro

Image courtesy of
FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Ambro

As they get older, Americans face complicated decisions about long-term care, estate strategies, and their finances, while potentially struggling with diminished capacity to manage their affairs. At some point, your parents and other loved ones may need your help handling their finances. One study found that between five and ten percent of Americans over 65 need help with financial matters1 and another reported that 68 percent of elders suffer cognitive impairment or experience difficulty with daily tasks.2

 

Many children and relatives find themselves suddenly thrust into caregiving and financial guardianship roles with very little notice. Some advanced preparation can smooth the process and help ensure that your elders are cared for properly.

 

Get your legal ducks in a row. One of the first things we recommend to our clients is to make sure that they (and their elders) have durable powers of attorney, medical directives, and other legal documents in place. Naming an agent who can pay bills, file taxes, and take over their finances, can help reduce family stress down the line. It’s important to get the advice of a qualified attorney when developing these legal documents; if you are not currently working with an attorney, we’d be happy to recommend one from our professional network. We also advise you to meet with your elder’s financial team and provide them with emergency contact information. In many cases, financial professionals are among the first to become aware of emerging problems.

 

Keep tabs on your elders’ ability to handle common financial tasks. Sometimes, elders need help with budgeting or managing their day-to-day financial affairs. If you notice unpaid bills, excessive late fees, or a desk that’s in disarray, it may be time to get involved and help them with bill paying and other common tasks. If possible, ensure that they have a list of bills and financial accounts, and know the location of critical documents, so that you can help them stay organized.

 

Stay close to help protect them from fraud. A sad reality of today’s world is that many elders become targets of financial fraud and elder abuse. One of the biggest risk factors to becoming the victim of fraud is isolation and lack of support. By staying close to your loved ones and helping them manage their financial matters, you may be able to help them avoid becoming a victim. The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse lists these warning signs as potential evidence of abuse:3

 

  • Unpaid bills or unusual bank activity that your elder can’t or won’t explain.
  • New “best friends” who suddenly appear and become involved in their finances.
  • Absence of important legal documents or documents outlining arrangements the elder is unable or unwilling to explain.
  • Caregivers or relatives who express too much interest in the elder’s estate or their share of an inheritance.

 

If you notice any of these warning signs, reach out to other family members or outside professionals about your concerns. If you suspect that your loved one is being neglected or targeted for fraud, call the national Eldercare hotline at 1-800-677-1116 for information about resources in your area.

 

Broach financial subjects gently. Talking to elders about their finances can be challenging, but failing to bring up these concerns could leave you all in a difficult situation if problems arise. Many elders are reluctant to discuss financial topics because they fear losing independence or worry children and relatives only care about getting their inheritance. We recommend approaching the subject delicately and using current events or articles in the news to highlight issues like healthcare and estates. It’s also wise to focus on how their decisions will affect the family and to help them understand that preparing in advance is best for everyone.

 

We also want to offer ourselves as a resource to you and your family. We have a great deal of experience helping elders with financial matters and we may be able to provide insight and a valuable outside opinion on issues around aging. If we can be of service to your loved ones, please contact us. We’re always happy to listen.

 

Markets Fall on Ukraine Fears, Still End Positive Weekly Update – August 18, 2014

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Salvatore Vuono

Image courtesy of
FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Salvatore Vuono

Despite a late-week selloff due to renewed concerns about the situation in Ukraine, the major indices ended the week on a positive note. For the week, the S&P 500 gained 1.22%, the Dow grew 0.66%, and the Nasdaq added 2.15%.1

Geopolitical tensions in Europe ratcheted up when Ukrainian forces engaged an armored Russian column that crossed the border. Russia denies that any military vehicles entered Ukraine and that the mission was humanitarian. Although the full picture has yet to emerge, investors are worried that the engagement may cause further escalation of tensions.2

Retail sales slumped in July as consumers took a break from buying automobiles. However, with employment growth on a steady upward trend, economists think that sales will likely rebound later in the quarter.3 The weak retail data begs the question: How are U.S. retailers doing? Not so well, it turns out. Overall, many retailers are suffering from low consumer demand and low margins in an intensely competitive promotional environment. Online retailers like Amazon have forced competitors to lower prices and offer special discounts, eroding margins and hurting earnings.4

Low-cost retailers like Wal-Mart (WMT) and Family Dollar are also struggling, mirroring the economic struggles of their largely working-class customers. Many low-income consumers have yet to fully recover from the financial crisis and stagnant wage growth is limiting their buying power. Though its overall Q2 earnings were respectable, Wal-Mart slashed its forward guidance, indicating that the giant is mired in a nationwide slowdown.5

This week, investors will be focusing on the release of the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meeting minutes on Wednesday, as well as a major gathering of central bank leaders in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Fed chair Janet Yellen and embattled European Central Bank President Mario Draghi will both speak at the meeting.6 Given Europe’s weak Q2 economic results, investors will be waiting to see whether Draghi has the stomach to step in with stronger quantitative easing strategies.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

 

Monday: Housing Market Index

Tuesday: Consumer Price Index, Housing Starts

Wednesday: EIA Petroleum Status Report, FOMC Minutes

Thursday: Jobless Claims, PMI Manufacturing Index Flash, Philadelphia Fed Survey, Existing Home Sales

CaptureHEADLINES:

Jobless claims tick upward to six-week high. Applications for unemployment benefits climbed slightly last week, interrupting the positive trend we’ve seen the last few weeks, though most economists still think employment trends are moving in the right direction. Weekly data is often noisy, and economists prefer to look at longer-term trends.7

EU economic growth fades. Economic activity in the Eurozone slowed in the second quarter as Germany’s economy slid into reverse and France stagnated. Economists’ worry that sanctions against Russia will damage the fragile EU recovery, putting more pressure on Europe’s economic recovery.8

Low doc loans return. So-called “stated income” mortgages are returning as lenders chase applications that they can no longer afford to ignore. These mortgages, which allow applicants to show bank statements instead of pay stubs or tax returns may help expand the pool of mortgage applicants as lending volume falls.9

Consumer sentiment falls, but the news isn’t all bad. Sentiment among U.S. consumers fell to its lowest level since last November, but a gauge of current economic conditions remains positive. While lowered sentiment could threaten demand, economists believe consumer spending could still grow this year.10

Markets Fired Up Weekly Update – August 11, 2014

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/jscreationzs

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/jscreationzs

Markets regained steam and ended the first full week of August on a strong note. Solid jobs data and hopes that Russia may be de-escalating the Ukrainian conflict contributed to the gains. For the week, the S&P 500 gained 0.33%, the Dow grew 0.37%, and the Nasdaq added 0.42%.1

The labor market continues to gain ground and weekly unemployment claims tumbled. The four-week moving average, a less-volatile measure of unemployment, fell to the lowest level since 2006. Even better, measures of long-term unemployment are also improving as steady hiring improves conditions for jobseekers.2

Global security worries continued to dog investors when President Obama announced strikes in Iraq against Islamic State militants. While it’s too soon to know whether U.S. intervention will escalate or reduce tensions, markets reacted nervously to fears that the U.S. may be dragged back into Iraq. On the other hand, Russia announced an end to military operations on the Ukrainian border, giving us hope that Russia may be interested in turning down the heat on the conflict.3 Overall, the geopolitical situation hasn’t changed drastically, and we can expect continued volatility as markets weigh risks.

The bulk of earnings season is behind us, and we’re comfortable saying that Q2 was very positive for businesses. Growth rates are up, companies are beating their estimates, and demand is coming back. As of Friday morning, total earnings for the 453 S&P 500 companies that reported in are up 8.7% from second quarter 2013 on revenue growth of 4.6%.4

Forward guidance about the third quarter is also cautiously optimistic, with some firms talking up their business outlook. While low guidance is still the norm – firms prefer to set a low bar and then try to exceed it – the number of firms reducing their earnings guidance is down from last year. All told, it sounds like business leaders are feeling much better about their chances.5

Looking ahead at this week, investors will be looking carefully at retail sales and consumer sentiment data to gauge how strong economic activity is likely to be in the third quarter. The back-to-school season is upon us and will be a major test for retailers battling low store traffic and bargain-hunting shoppers. The back-to-school season is second only to the holiday shopping season in importance and is also a key indicator of consumer spending.6

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

 

Tuesday: Treasury Budget

Wednesday: Retail Sales, Business Inventories, EIA Petroleum Status Report

Thursday: Jobless Claims, Import and Export Prices

Friday: PPI-FD, Empire State Mfg. Survey, Treasury International Capital, Industrial Production, Consumer Sentiment

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HEADLINES:

U.S. trade deficit narrows on oil production boom. The gap between imports and exports narrowed as increased domestic oil production has reduced America’s reliance on foreign oil imports. These better-than-expected numbers could lead to a higher estimate of Q2 Gross Domestic Product.7

U.S. services sector is booming. The pace of economic activity in the services sector – comprising businesses like restaurants, retailers, entertainment, and financial firms – grew at a rapid rate in July. Growth blew past economists’ expectations and reached its highest level in over eight years.8

Mortgage volume still low. Mortgage applications are still sliding, as fewer Americans refinance or buy new houses. Refinances are down 39% and purchase applications are down 14% from a year ago.9

ECB says EU economy threatened by Ukraine. The European Central Bank continued to keep interest rates artificially low, citing the economic threat from Ukrainian instability and economic sanctions against Russia. ECB leadership verbally committed to additional quantitative easing measures if the EU’s recovery weakens further.10

August 2014 Monthly Market Update

Markets Tumble on Fed Fears Weekly Update – August 4, 2014

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/cooldesign

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/cooldesign

Caution was the name of the game last week as equities tumbled, marking the worst weekly loss for the S&P 500 in two years. Though the week was packed with market moving events, most of the week’s losses can be attributed to worries that the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates sooner than expected. For the week, the S&P 500 lost 2.69%, the Dow fell 2.75%, and the Nasdaq slid 2.18%.1

Friday’s July jobs report showed 209,000 new jobs created during the month, well under the hoped-for 233,000 jobs. The headline unemployment rate also ticked upward to 6.2% from 6.1% in June.2 On the other hand, the low numbers came with some good news: Most of the new jobs were full-time, which is great news for workers trapped in low-paying or part-time jobs. It’s also potentially good news for future consumer spending.3

Investors also got their first look at second quarter Gross Domestic Product, which clocked in at a blistering 4.0% annualized growth, completely shattering even the most optimistic estimates.4 Let’s keep in mind that economic growth estimates are frequently updated as fresh data comes in, and we are likely to see that number change in future updates. Underpinning the surge in economic activity is a significant increase in consumer spending in Q2, which accounts for approximately 70% of economic activity in the U.S. With the labor market on the move, we can hope for greater consumer spending in the third and fourth quarters.5

The Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee voted to continue tapering quantitative easing, noting that the economy is on a much firmer footing. Markets reacted negatively to the news, fearing an end to easy money. If you recall, investors were also spooked last year at the prospect of an end to the Fed’s lavish quantitative easing policies. Now that the end is nigh, markets are grappling with the reality that the Fed’s low rates are moving into the rearview mirror. Many analysts are calling it another case of “good news is getting to be bad news,” rather than signs of impending doom.6

Looking ahead, we can expect more volatility as earnings season continues and investors digest piles of economic data. It’s very possible that stocks will rebound from last week’s loss as investors “buy the dip,” but markets could also experience further losses. Let’s keep in mind that there are very few negative fundamentals underpinning last week’s decline: The economy is doing very well, the labor market is making great strides, and corporate earnings are up. Psychologically, market expectations have been pushed so high for so long that a pullback is natural. While we can’t predict market movements, we think that there is still plenty of possible upside this year.

If you have any questions about how recent events may be affecting your investments, please give us a call.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

 

Tuesday: Factory Orders, ISM Non-Mfg. Index

Wednesday: International Trade, EIA Petroleum Status Report

Thursday: Jobless Claims

Friday: Productivity and Costs

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HEADLINES:

U.S., EU back more sanctions against Russia. In a bid to halt Russia’s arming of Ukrainian separatists (and in response to the downing of flight MH17), western nations unveiled a third round of more severe sanctions targeting Russian finance, weapons, and energy industries.7

Argentina defaults on bond payments. Credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s declared Argentina in default after the government missed a $539 million payment to bondholders. Though long-term consequences of the default are unknown, they will likely result in higher interest rates on Argentinean debt and reduced access to international credit markets.8

Islamic State seizes fifth Iraqi oil field. Insurgents continued their offensive, seizing another oil field and Iraq’s largest dam. The Sunni militant group represents a serious threat to Iraq’s stability; however, since Iraq’s oilfields are concentrated far from the fighting, crude oil production remains largely unaffected.910

Consumer spending dips in July. Consumers felt less optimistic about jobs and income growth, pushing a measure of consumer expectations down for the third straight month. Despite recent improvements in the labor market, consumers are still concerned about their economic prospects.11

Mixed Growth Expectations Stoke Volatility Weekly Update – July 28, 2014

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/suphakit73

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/suphakit73

Markets ended another volatile week mixed, pummeled by concerns about global growth but buoyed by better-than-expected earnings results. For the week, the S&P 500 ended flat, the Dow lost 0.82%, and the Nasdaq gained 0.39%.1

As of last Friday, just under half the S&P 500 companies had reported earnings, and the vast majority (69% and 63%, respectively) had beaten both earnings and revenue expectations.2 Though there were some high profile-earnings misses, the overall picture seems to be one of redemption and resilience. The percentage of better-than-expected results are up from the first quarter, meaning company growth likely accelerated; it’s also a good sign for future expectations, given that the economy is doing much better overall than it did earlier in the year.

That being said, some red flags about economic growth were raised last week. Mixed business spending data – a core component of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) calculations – may erode Q2 economic growth. While businesses spent more on core capital goods like computer equipment and automobiles, the value of shipments declined for the third month in a row, which led the International Monetary Fund to cut its 2014 U.S. growth forecast.3 On the other hand, durable goods inventories rose 0.4%, which is a great improvement over the slow inventory growth that contributed to the Q1 economic contraction.4 We’ll know more after this week’s official GDP report.

The week ahead may be the busiest of the summer, with over 140 S&P 500 companies releasing earnings.5 The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meets on Tuesday and Wednesday to ponder next steps in monetary policy. Will they announce another $10 million taper to bond purchases? Probably. But, their comments will tell us a lot about how they feel about the economy.

The economic calendar is also full of major reports. Traders will get their first look at official Q2 GDP numbers on Wednesday as well as the July Employment Situation report on Friday. Given global worries about economic growth, we can expect some volatility as traders hedge their bets ahead of the data.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

 

Monday: Pending Home Sales Index, Dallas Fed Mfg. Survey

Tuesday: S&P Case-Shiller HPI, Consumer Confidence

Wednesday: ADP Employment Report, GDP, EIA Petroleum Status Report, FOMC Meeting Announcement

Thursday: Jobless Claims, Employment Cost Index, Chicago PMI

Friday: Motor Vehicle Sales, Employment Situation, Personal Income and Outlays, PMI Manufacturing Index, Consumer Sentiment, ISM Mfg. Index, Construction Spending

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HEADLINES:

Stiffer sanctions rattle Europe. The prospect of new sanctions against Russia over the crisis in Ukraine is shaking European confidence over economic growth. Europe is Russia’s biggest trading partner, and sanctions could bite deeply into European growth.6

New home sales drop sharply. Sales of new single-family homes fell 8.1% in June to the lowest level since June 2013; May numbers were also revised downward, suggesting that the housing market is still losing steam.7

Nationwide, layoffs are rarer. Improving economic prospects and confidence among employers is translating to fewer layoffs, as evidenced by the lowest levels of new unemployment applications seen since 2006. Will this be a turning point in the labor market recovery?8

Consumer inflation rises. Consumer prices, a measure of inflation, rose in June with skyrocketing gasoline prices. However, core inflation, which excludes volatile categories like food and fuel, remained consistent with a gradual increase due to healthy economic expansion.9

Markets Shake Off Global Worries Weekly Update – July 21, 2014

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Vlado

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Vlado

Despite a tumultuous week that had it all – earnings, volatility, geopolitical shock, and monetary policy news – markets were still able to chalk up a win. For the week, the S&P 500 gained 0.54%, the Dow grew 0.90%, and the Nasdaq added 0.30%.1

Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen gave semi-annual speeches on monetary policy before the House and Senate. She confirmed that quantitative easing would end after the October Federal Open Market Committee meeting if the economic outlook continues to look good. However, she dodged a key question about the timing of interest increases, indicating that the Fed is not yet ready to commit to a formal plan. Yellen cautioned that economic signals are somewhat mixed and predictions are never certain; however, she believes that underlying economic trends are largely positive.2

International events took center stage when a civilian airplane carrying several hundred passengers was shot down over Ukraine, allegedly by pro-Russian separatists with possible military support from Russia.3  International condemnation of the shocking event was swift, but it’s hard to know what will happen next. On the one hand, international outrage over the civilian deaths may ratchet up the sanctions on Russia. On the other hand, the importance of Russian trade ties with Europe argue for a more cautious approach, given how fragile the EU’s economy is right now. In the Middle East, the Israeli Defense Force moved ground troops into Gaza in an effort to quell the rocket attacks from Hamas. Despite international diplomatic efforts, hostilities between the two sides are escalating, fueling fears about instability in the Middle East.4

These global worries caused stocks to dive on Thursday, but better-than-expected earnings boosted investor sentiment, pushing stocks higher on Friday. So far, second quarter earnings are off to a good start, though it’s too soon to draw conclusions about the whole season. Thus far, we’ve heard from 45 S&P 500 companies, mostly in the Finance sector; overall, earnings are up 5.2% from Q2 2013, on 2.8% higher revenues.5  Again, while we can’t use these data points to predict earnings results from other companies, it’s a sign that investors’ optimism about the second quarter might be rewarded.

This week, earnings data and news from Ukraine and Israel will likely dominate market headlines, potentially stoking more volatility. On the earnings calendar this week will be reports from heavyweights like AT&T (T), Microsoft (MSFT), Starbucks (SBUX), and Apple (AAPL).

 

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

 

Tuesday: Consumer Price Index, Existing Home Sales

Wednesday: EIA Petroleum Status Report

Thursday: Jobless Claims, New Home Sales

Friday: Durable Goods Orders

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HEADLINES:

Retail sales disappoint. June retail sales ticked up just 0.2%, held back by drops in restaurant, auto, and building sales. The anemic numbers suggest that consumers are still cautious about opening their wallets, which may hold back spending this year.6

Jobless claims fall unexpectedly. The number of Americans filing new claims dropped more than expected last week, showing that the labor market continues to improve. The number of people receiving continuing unemployment support is also at a seven-year low.7

Consumer sentiment dips. A preliminary reading of July consumer sentiment showed that consumer optimism about the future is faltering. While attitudes about current conditions are stable, low expectations may curb future spending.8

Home builder optimism surges. A key measure of home builder sentiment jumped in July, indicating that the nation’s builders are feeling more confident about their prospects. Respondents think improvements in the labor market and low housing supply will boost demand.9

5 Critical Financial Issues in Remarriages

Many Americans are in their second and third marriages. In fact, statistics from a 2012 book, The Remarriage Blueprint, suggest that nearly 40 percent of new marriages include at least one previously married spouse. Remarrying later in life can produce a number of complex financial, legal, and emotional matters that should be addressed as soon as possible. If you or someone you love is part of a blended family, we urge you to think about these important issues.

Be candid about your financial situation. Couples who are remarrying frequently have significant financial baggage. Being open and honest with each other about assets, debts, and obligations from a previous marriage can help avoid problems later on.

Consider the following questions:

  • What financial obligations are you bringing to the marriage?
  • How will you split living expenses and contribute to savings?
  • Do you plan to pool your finances?
  • Where will you live and who will own the house?
  • Who is on the mortgage?
  • How will your marriage affect college financial aid for your children?
  • What will you do if you need to financially support an adult child or elderly parent?

It’s very important to be able to have these conversations early and often in your marriage. If you find that you’re not on the same page or are worried about bringing up complicated issues, ask your financial advisor to help mediate your discussion and provide a neutral perspective.

Update life insurance, medical directives, and beneficiary designations. It’s unbelievably common for couples to forget to update important documents when they remarry. If you or your spouse dies without changing beneficiaries on a retirement account or life insurance policy, a significant part of the estate could go directly to a previous spouse, with no legal recourse. If you and your spouse have living wills, healthcare powers of attorney, or medical directives (and you should), review them with your attorney to make sure that these documents reflect your current wishes. If you don’t currently have an attorney, we can introduce you to one from our professional network.

Think about how remarriage affects your retirement planning. Some divorce settlements require retirement benefits to be split with an ex-spouse, which could reduce your income in retirement. In the event of your death, your current spouse might have to split survivor benefits with your ex-partner. Social Security benefits can also be affected. For example, if you are entitled to spousal or survivor’s Social Security benefits from a previous marriage, getting remarried might affect how much you are entitled to collect. Discuss these issues with your spouse and financial advisor to make sure that your retirement takes into consideration your change in financial circumstances.

Consider drafting a prenuptial (or postnuptial) agreement. While most Americans get married without a prenup, we believe that they are essential in a remarriage situation. In many cases, one or both spouses will have children from a previous marriage or have significant debts and assets. When developed by an experienced attorney, a financial agreement can help you protect yourselves and your heirs from the financial fallout of a divorce.

Discuss estate planning with your investment advisor and attorney. Estate planning can be emotionally and logistically complex in blended families, and it’s important to make sure that you and your spouse update your estate plans. It’s essential to discuss your estate plans if you want to make sure your children inherit rather than your current spouse or your spouse’s children.

Conclusions

Remarrying later in life is wonderful, but a new marriage can introduce many complex financial considerations. We strongly recommend discussing these issues with your spouse as early as possible to ensure that your financial health is protected and to help lay the groundwork for future conversations about money.

It’s also a good idea to speak with your investment advisor and attorney so that they can help you understand how your finances and legal situation will be affected by your marriage. If you have any questions about marital finances or any other issues surrounding blended families, please give us a call. We’re always happy to be a resource to you and those you love.

Markets Slump As Investors Wait for Earnings Weekly Update – July 14, 2014

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/renjith krishnan

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/renjith krishnan

Stocks checked their advance last week as investors weighed earnings reports and waited for more news. Worries at one of Portugal’s largest banks also contributed to mid-week losses. For the week, the S&P 500 lost 0.90%, the Dow fell 0.73%, and the Nasdaq dropped 1.57%.1

Markets took a dive in the middle of the week on news that one of Portugal’s largest banks may be in trouble. Investor concerns about a possible domino effect in the EU’s financial system were soothed by statements from European Central Bank officials, who claimed that only one bank was affected by financial irregularities.2 However, investors still used the opportunity to take some profits off the table.

Expectations about second quarter performance also set the tone for markets last week. While investors were willing to shrug off negative news in the first quarter because of the poor weather, their optimism has raised expectations for Q2 earnings and economic performance. So far, we haven’t seen enough data to draw any conclusions, but total Q2 earnings for S&P 500 firms are expected to be up about 3.00%.3

Economic news was scarce last week, but weekly jobless claims fell to one of the lowest levels since the last recession. While weekly numbers are always volatile, the four-week moving average also dropped to the second-lowest reading since August 2007.4 All told, it was a pretty good week for the labor market.

Earnings season kicks into high gear this week and reports will likely affect markets as investors discover whether their high hopes for second quarter performance bear out. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will also deliver her second semi-annual remarks on monetary policy before the House and Senate.5 Though we don’t expect any surprises, analysts will be digging into her comments for hints about when the Fed might raise interest rates.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

 

Tuesday: Retail Sales, Empire State Mfg. Survey, Import and Export Prices, Business Inventories, Janet Yellen Speaks 10:00 AM ET

Wednesday: PPI-FD, Treasury International Capital, Industrial Production, Housing Market Index, Janet Yellen Speaks 10:00 AM ET, EIA Petroleum Status Report, Beige Book

Thursday: Housing Starts, Jobless Claims, Philadelphia Fed Survey

Friday: Consumer Sentiment

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HEADLINES:

Wholesale inventories jump in May. Business inventories surged 0.50% from April as firms stocked up on autos, machinery, and lumber. Inventories are a key component of GDP calculations and gains in this area indicate that businesses could be restocking to cope with rising demand.6

Percentage of uninsured Americans drops. A recent Gallup poll shows that only 13.40% of Americans lack health insurance, a significant drop from mid-2013, when 18.00% of Americans were uninsured. This could be good news for the healthcare sector, which might see increased demand from the newly insured.7

Retail sector in a funk? Several retail chains have blamed weak earnings on sluggish demand, indicating that lower- and middle-income consumers may not be reaping the benefits of a growing economy.8

U.S. refineries struggle to keep up with oil production boom. Rapid increases in oil extraction means America is in the upper strata of global oil producers. However, limited refinery capacity is keeping domestic gas prices high.9

July 2014 Monthly Market Update