The Miller Financial Group
2013: Good to the Last Drop?

Weekly Update - December 31, 2013 

In This Issue
Stocks closed out their second week of gains despite the short trading week with the Dow and S&P 500 hovering near record highs. The S&P 500 gained 1.27%, the Dow grew 1.59%, and the Nasdaq increased 1.26%.[1]

Investors got some good economic news last week. Consumer sentiment rose in December to its highest level in five months as Americans' outlook on job prospects and the economy improved. Increased shopping plans due to retailer discounting and rising incomes among the wealthy accounted for most of the increase, leading to higher hopes for end-of-year sales.[2] Jobless claims fell last week to the lowest level in nearly a month. Though seasonal variation may be affecting results, it's still a hopeful sign for growth in the labor market.[3]

 

It's hard to know how retailers are doing during the busy holiday shopping season. The deck was stacked against retailers this year: A shortened holiday shopping season and anemic consumer demand led retailers to aggressively discount and offer free-shipping deals to woo online shoppers. This combination created a last-minute surge that shippers couldn't handle, leading to unhappy customers on Christmas morning. Current estimates of holiday sales show an increase over 2012 of between 2.3%[4] and 3.5%.[5] The problem is that retailers achieved those numbers by lowering prices and relying on deep discounts. While these tactics may have boosted sales numbers, gains in absolute dollar terms may have been held back.

 

Looking ahead at the final week of the year, markets will likely see low volume as traders take some vacation and holiday spirits keep markets in check. Important data this week includes the latest consumer confidence numbers and a speech by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke Friday, where he will discuss the changing Fed and take questions from economists. While Bernanke has been reticent to talk about future Fed actions, we can hope for more guidance about tapering.[6] 

 

Even if markets don't make any gains this week, 2013 will still be a banner year for equities with major indices notching double digit growth: To date, the S&P 500 has grown 29.11%, the Dow has increased 25.75%, and the Nasdaq has risen an incredible 37.66%.[7] 

 

We're also hopeful for continued performance next year, and sentiments about 2014 have shifted into cautious optimism on expectations for better global growth next year. Keep in mind that stocks may struggle to maintain their sizzling pace of gains much longer. While Fed tapering hasn't yet affected markets, investors are waiting to see how slowing quantitative easing will play out. If we continue to see positive economic data, we can expect more gains. However, investors may see a selloff as traders take profits off the table and consolidate their positions.

 

We hope that 2013 has been a wonderful year for you, and we look forward to continuing to support you as we move into 2014.  Happy New Year!, Rob

 

 

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

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

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

Wednesday: All Markets Closed for News Year's Day

Thursday: Jobless Claims, PMI Manufacturing Index, ISM Mfg. Index, Construction Spending

Friday: Motor Vehicle Sales, EIA Petroleum Status Report, Ben Bernanke Speaks: 2:30 PM ET

 

 

 



Notes: All index returns exclude reinvested dividends, and the 5-year and 10-year returns are annualized. Sources: Yahoo! Finance and  Treasury.gov. International performance is represented by the MSCI EAFE Index. Corporate bond performance is represented by the DJCBP. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.  

HEADLINES: 

 

New home sales fall slightlySales of new single-family homes fell modestly in November from a five-year high, and prices moved higher, indicating that the housing sector is weathering higher mortgage rates just fine. Compared with November 2012, new home sales are up 16.6%.[8]

 

Durable goods and capital orders up. Orders for long-lasting manufactured goods surged in November and a measure of planned business spending on capital goods recorded its largest increase in nearly a year, suggesting sustained strength in the economy. The increases in these two key measures caused some economists to raise Q4 GDP estimates.[9] 

 

Turkish lira plunges. Turkey's currency fell to record lows against a basket of currencies as domestic political woes cause investors to flee. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was forced to sack nearly half of his cabinet during a corruption scandal. The combination of Fed tapering and political risk proved too much for currency traders, forcing the lira down.[10] 

 

Obamacare counts down the daysJanuary 1 will bring a big test for Obamacare as hundreds of thousands of Americans begin to use their new healthcare coverage for the first time. While it's hard to know how Obamacare troubles may affect markets, the success or failure of the program will feature heavily in 2014 mid-term elections.[11]  

 
 

 

 

Quote Of The Week
Quote Of The Week
Fountain Pen

 

 

"Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy."  - Norman Vincent Peale

 

Recipe Of The Week
Recipe Of The Week
Fork and Knife

 

Easy Candied Hazelnut Brittle

 

  

 A simple, but rewarding treat. Recipe from RealSimple.com.

 

Ingredients: 

Cooking spray

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons water

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/3 cup chopped roasted hazelnuts

1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

 

Directions: 

  1. Line a baking sheet with foil and coat foil with cooking spray.
  2. Combine sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a medium saucepan; stir to dissolve sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. 
  3. Cook until mixture is golden brown (about 6 minutes), stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from heat, and stir in hazelnuts and vanilla.
  5. Spread mixture onto prepared baking sheet. Cool completely. Break into pieces.
  6. Store the brittle in an airtight container.

 

 

Tax Tips
Tax Tips
Document

 

Decoding Gift Tax Exclusions

  

For tax purposes, the definition of a gift is something given with no expectation of receiving anything of equal value. Gifts can include cash, property, interest-free loans, payments to a third party on behalf of the gift recipient, below-market (bargain) sales, and other types of transfer. However, there are some important limitations to gifts for annual gift tax exclusion purposes.

 

Gifts must be of "present interest," meaning that recipients must have the unrestricted right to immediately possess and use the property. An example would be a check from Grandma: The grandchild has immediate possession and can use the money however they wish. If you plan to give any gifts this year, speak to a tax professional who can advise you about your personal financial situation. 

  

Golf Tip
Golf Tip
Golfer

 

Get the Sweet Back in Your Swing

 

Hitting toe shots? Here's an exercise to help you find that "sweet spot:" Tee up as usual, but position a second ball at the heel of your club and make an easy swing. By avoiding the second ball, you learn to swing from the inside. Tip from Golf Digest.


Healthy Lifestyle
Healthy Lifestyle
Medical Cross

 

Bringing Home Perchloroethylene?

 

Perchloroethylene is a colorless, nonflammable liquid used by many drycleaners. According to government research, perchloroethylene is probably carcinogenic and is linked to respiratory issues after long-term exposure. Ask your current dry cleaner if they use biodegradable solvents or seek out a new green cleaner.


Green Living
Green Living
Leaf

 

Curb Computer Energy Use

 

You probably know that laptops and tablets use much less energy than a desktop computer. If, however, you're attached to your desktop machine, there are still some tricks to curbing energy usage. Ditch your old CRT monitor (the big, heavy ones) in favor of a more energy efficient flat panel monitor. You can also set your power management options to automatically shut down your computer or put it in standby mode when not in use. Also consider disconnecting peripherals like external hard drives, cameras, and memory sticks when not needed since these all use extra power when attached.

 

Share the Wealth of Knowledge!

 

Please share this market update with family, friends, or colleagues. If you would like us to add them to our list, simply click on the "Forward email" link below. We love being introduced!  

 

 

 

Investing involves risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. 

 

Diversification does not guarantee profit nor is it guaranteed to protect assets.

 

The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. 

 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted average of 30 significant stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ. The DJIA was invented by Charles Dow back in 1896. 

 

The Nasdaq Composite is an index of the common stocks and similar securities listed on the NASDAQ stock market and is considered a broad indicator of the performance of stocks of technology companies and growth companies. 

 

The MSCI EAFE Index was created by Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) that serves as a benchmark of the performance in major international equity markets as represented by 21 major MSCI indexes from Europe, Australia and Southeast Asia. 

 

The Dow Jones Corporate Bond Index is a 96-bond index designed to represent the market performance, on a total-return basis, of investment-grade bonds issued by leading U.S. companies. Bonds are equally weighted by maturity cell, industry sector, and the overall index. 

 

The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices are the leading measures of U.S. residential real estate prices, tracking changes in the value of residential real estate. The index is made up of measures of real estate prices in 20 cities and weighted to produce the index. 

 

The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market. 

 

Google Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods. 

 

Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance. 

 

Past performance does not guarantee future results. 

 

You cannot invest directly in an index. 

 

Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision. 

 

Fixed income investments are subject to various risks including changes in interest rates, credit quality, inflation risk, market valuations, prepayments, corporate events, tax ramifications and other factors. 

 

These are the views of Platinum Advisor Marketing Strategies, LLC, and not necessarily those of the named representative, Broker dealer or Investment Advisor, and should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named representative nor the named Broker dealer or Investment Advisor gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please consult your financial advisor for further information. 

 

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[1]  http://briefing.com/investor/markets/weekly-wrap/weekly-wrap-for-december-23-2013.htm

 

[2]  http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/23/us-usa-economy-sentiment-idUSBRE9BM0IU20131223

 

[3]  http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/26/us-usa-economy-jobs-idUSBRE9BP09A20131226

 

[4]  http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-12-26/2013-holiday-sales-numbers-are-weaker-than-they-appear

 

[5]  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-12-26/u-s-holiday-sales-rise-3-5-spendingpulse-says.html 

 

[6]  http://www.cnbc.com/id/101299237

 

[7]  Google Finance  

 

[8]  http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/24/us-home-sales-idUSBRE9BN0F020131224

 

[9]  http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/24/us-durable-goods-idUSBRE9BN0CO20131224

 

[10] http://finance.yahoo.com/news/further-gloom-store-lira-hits-023849465.html

 

[11] http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/29/usa-healthcare-idUSL2N0K807V20131229

 

 

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Robert G. Miller, CFP , RFC, LUTCF
The Miller Financial Group
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