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Update on the markets and more- May 2, 2018

Income Portfolio- Call for details

 

Hello Money Matters listeners and readers,

Well the markets seem to be in some sort of limbo bouncing around 23,000/24,000 levels and although some stocks are moving up, others are moving down and some are sideways. The Dow has been basically stuck in a rut compared to the last year or so.
So what is going on?

It is hard to say but the two sell offs since February might have put some fear into investors. The ongoing Trump issues seem to hit the news wires daily and no one really knows what the heck he might do. Tax reductions are helping some families and businesses but the geopolitical events tend to slingshot the markets back and forth depending on the day. I am looking hard at inflation and therefore energy and metals and we are positioned accordingly. Consumer staple companies, the ones that make food, cleaning stuff and the like have been hit hard with other retail stocks suffering from (here is a new coined word by yours truly) “Amazonenza”, meaning the online retail juggernaut is shaking retailers worldwide as well as the old stalwarts like the ones the make the stuff in your cabinet and pantry. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is definitely a world changer. Whether you like Amazon or not, you cannot deny its effect and change in the world of how we buy things. That being said, let’s move on to some insights as to inflation, making a budget and an old favorite, dividend stocks. Read on….

 

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Inflation starting to heat up? 
Humm......

 

Are commodities waking up?

Simply put, commodities are the things that the things we might buy are made of. They include items such as certain food stuffs, energy fuels, metals and precious metals. You might assume that a booming economy would increase demand for commodities. It seems a logical conclusion but note I didn’t say a booming stock market, although a rising stock market is sometimes mistaken for a booming economy. The fact remains sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.

Look at the stock market since 2010. Although measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) which has more than tripled from late spring 2009 to where it is today, these basic items called commodities have languished. In a Feb 20th, 2017 article by Forbes entitled “Commodities have been down for so long….” author Daniel Fisher summed up the stark reality of commodities performance by saying “The U.S. Commodity Index Fund, not surprisingly, has a five-year record of negative 8.4% a year”

This would cause some to ask: why, if the market is rising for so many years, are commodities not participating in the increase?

That was a question I answered in my December 13, 2017 article entitled “Commodities- Is the rally for real” which basically put forth the argument the stock market rally might not be because of the increased demand for stuff, but rather just an increase in the demand of stock ownership.

Fast forward to today and in taking another look at commodities since that article hit the airwaves, there is indeed some signs some might argue that the bungee cord type of relationship between the stock market and commodities might finally be reaching its snap back point.

In a recent article by Greg Guenther entitled “Revealed: A New Commodity Rally has Arrived” , he makes the argument that commodities may finally be being pulled upwards by real demand by manufactures who in turn are responding to a real increase in demand by consumers buying more stuff. Energy prices have popped higher in April along with the precious metal gold whose price is stealthily approaching its January 2018 highs. The next milestone so says Mr. Guenther, is gold’s next stop of the July 2016 high of $1,377.00 an ounce. Meanwhile Guenther notes that shares of companies that mine the metal have yet to confirm an upward trend in the yellow metal of Midas and therefore commodities in general.

The industrial metal copper also plays an important part to trying to predict where things might go or so some analysts believe. Dr. Copper as copper is sometimes called for its purported relationship to future market movements, is also rising and testing its January highs. It is believed by some that copper, being used in many an industrial application, and will rise in price as industrial products become more in demand. Copper it is thought can therefore sniff out a coming rally in the stock market. Copper popped 3% on April 20th causing those that believe Dr. Copper is indeed a precursor to market movement to sit up and take notice. As indicated in my above referenced December article on the validity of the stock market rally and its relationship to commodities, I am of the opinion that if this market rally is for real, the rise in commodity pricing will eventually have to follow.

Only time will tell if Dr. Copper will continue its ascent and follow the recent rise in the energy and gold sectors, but if not, it won’t be the first convincing head fake that fools those believing in such relationships and it likely won’t be the last. Once again we realize hindsight is foresight and only in hindsight will we know if recent price increase in certain asset classes are indeed telling us which way the markets will go.

Keep in mind no one can predict future market movements with certainty and that includes Dr. Copper and its followers or any other asset class one may tend to look at.

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Take some time to make a budget!

 

Daily budgets are rarely made by families but doing so can be highly educational as it highlights what one spends and where the money is going. I don’t know of anyone that can’t benefit from a detailed budget written down on paper and then reviewed by all members of the family.  Actually sitting down and doing it seems a daunting task but biting the bullet and doing one will likely pay healthy and needed dividends.

I can almost guarantee taking the time to perform this task will be akin to finding money in your mailbox. How much you find will depend on how much you spend each month and how accurately and honest your budget is. Yes, honesty is a weird word to use here but if you think about it for a bit, you can conjure up a few instances why one might not be 100% honest on a budget. The reasons for dishonesty might run the gamut from a harmless hobby you don’t want to give up on to a more ominous reason such as feeding an addiction that consumes funds.

Whatever the details, making a budget will always yield something worthwhile and so it’s a great exercise to do. If you or your family is struggling to make ends meet, this is all the more reason you should consider doing it.

When making out your budget, its best to have your checkbook and credit card statements handy as these could highlight something your memory might fail you at. The point here is you want to list everything you spend money on, both reoccurring and the one-off expenditures. Those one-off expenditures are obviously scrutinized in hindsight since they may not reoccur. They may however illustrate whether a good decision or bad one had been made for the expenditure.

Start by listing every dollar that went out whether reoccurring or not. Do this for several months in a row if you have the fortitude to do so, otherwise a one month review is better than nothing.

After listing all your expenses, list your incomes for the family or yourself if doing this on your own. You will end up with a conclusion, of which you already may realize, of whether you’re operating in the red (spending more than you take in) or in the black which means you make more than you spend.

No matter what side of the spending aisle you fall on, the goal here is to be able to actually see and compare where your money is going.

Next determine what spending is discretionary and which is mandatory. A mandatory spending destination might be a mortgage payment (paying the minimum required) while a discretionary one might be a movie or date night. I like to list the items in order of summation meaning the largest expenditures in order to the smallest. Then list the semi-discretionary items such as cable TV, an optional data plan on your phone or fancy steaks in lieu of hamburger when you grocery shop.

First, take your monthly income and subtract the mandatory items. The remaining amount will be what is left over for discretionary and semi-discretionary spending. The first items to then review for cutting is the purely discretionary spending. This is where will you find the easiest “mailbox” money.

Do you spend a lot going out to eat, buying three pairs of shoes or going to five movies a month with candy and popcorn? It’s not rocket science to think of ways to cut. Buy your candy out (the theaters won’t like it buy hey), forego the sodas (your body will thank you) and try renting a movie at home once in a while. DVD’s are free at the library don’t ya know.

In any case, discretionary spending is usually higher than people think and once illustrated in an “in your face” spreadsheet, the “red face” of embarrassment over where your money is really going usually appears.

Don’t be embarrassed. We all get a little “frowny faced” when we see just what and where we are possibly wasting our money on.

One can also usually find money in the semi-discretionary column as well. Larger than necessary phone plans or excess luxuries like dry cleaning or cell phones for the 7 year old also can steal funds that may needed elsewhere for more basic needs.

Once in a while a mandatory large item is found to be the main culprit and a major change must be made. This might be too large of a house or car, too long of a commute or other item that may seem mandatory. But considering a onetime major overhaul in this area could significantly improve one’s financial condition and find the largest amount of money. This might include moving to a smaller house or closer to work or getting rid of the extra car.

The point is to make a budget first and worry about what’s on it once it’s made. Making a few small changes in your spending habits can make big differences over a long period of time. Look for pennies and the dollars will find you.

 

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What is a dividend?

Dividends are payments by companies to people who own their stock. When we think of a bank savings account we think of the interest they might pay us. With stocks, there can be different types of payments and dividends are one kind of payment. Think of it like a thank you note for buying a company’s stock. Some stocks and funds pay dividends and some do not.

Let’s say you buy a stock of Jack’s Warehouse (fictional). The stock is a dividend paying stock. Let’s also say you buy a share of Jill Muffin Company (fictional) and Jill’s doesn’t pay a dividend.

Jacks stock says it will pay a dollar a share annually, paying 25 cents on a certain day every three months. Over the course of a year, that amounts to a buck. Note I didn’t say a percentage but an actual dollar amount and in this case a buck.

For sake of example, say you bought both Jill’s stock and Jacks stock at 10 bucks on January first and at the end of the year both stocks are at 11 bucks. Each had the same increase in price, one dollar from ten to eleven. Both stocks made 10% for you. Jacks stock however also paid you a dividend of a dollar. Nice.

Keeping mind dividends are listed in dollar amounts and not percentages, if you buy a stock for ten bucks and get a dollar dividend you made 10 % on the dividend. However if the stock drops in price such as in a market crash, and the company keeps the dividend, the next buyer, since he buys the stock at a lower price, say 8 bucks, he still gets a dollar a share in dividends so he makes more percentage wise and in that particular case comes out to 12.5 %. One reason why if you buy dividend stocks you might make the argument you like market crashes because your yield percentage wise is greater.

Can a dividend be cut, eliminated or even increased? Absolutely. Dividends are not guaranteed. But keep this in mind. Usually company CEOS, VPS’s and board members get stock as part of their compensation. So they benefit from the dividends as well. The more shares they hold the more they make as well. The dirty little secret however is dividends can be taxed at lower rates then salaries. Single taxpayers can now make $50,600 (in 2018) and still qualify for the zero-percent tax on dividends and capital gains.  Joint filers and surviving spouses can make $101,200, and head of household filers can make $75,700.

 When you compare that to personal income statistics in the U.S., you’ll see that about 70% of taxpayers in the U.S. can qualify for the zero rate on dividends and capital gains!

Even if you make too much money to qualify for the 0% tax rate on dividends and capital gains, you can still qualify for a special low 15% rate.

So do you think company execs want to cut or eliminate your dividend when they get them too and might pay less tax than their salaries?

All in all if you like the possibility of income or just growing your nest egg, and you consider some stocks pay dividends and some don’t, which  would you rather own?

For more information feel free to contact me below.


 

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