Prices At Pump Help Drive Savings
In This Issue
Markets shook off losses last week and ended with strong weekly gains on the back of a positive January jobs report. For the week, the S&P 500 gained 3.03%, the Dow rose 3.84%, and the Nasdaq grew 2.36%.[1]
January's monthly Employment Situation report showed that the economy gained 257,000 new jobs last month. Though the unemployment rate rose to 5.7%, it went up for the right reasons as Americans rejoined the labor force and began searching for jobs again. Best of all, average earnings grew 0.5%; since economists have been worrying about the slow pace of wage growth in the recovery, a jump in earnings is good news for the economy.[2] 

Though wages went up, consumer spending in December dropped to its lowest level in five years as Americans cut spending and used extra gas money to boost their savings. Higher incomes, lower prices at the pump, and falling inflation are giving American households a much-needed boost in spending power this year. Though the drop in consumer spending could hit Q4 economic growth numbers, the underlying factors set the stage for a strong 2015 for American consumers.[3] 

Stocks lost a little steam on Friday due to growing concern over a standoff between Greece's new anti-austerity government and Eurozone leaders. Greek leaders are seeking to tear up the agreements signed by the previous government in favor of debt forgiveness from the EU. However, the message from EU leaders to Greece is clear: Uphold your financial commitments and stick to the plan.[4] 

Though Greek voters are unequivocally tired of painful austerity cuts, Greece still depends on EU money, and its new leaders must tread carefully. Citing concern about how a liquidity crunch would affect Greece's ability to repay debts, Standard and Poor's downgraded Greek sovereign debt from B to B-.[5] What will the outcome of the showdown be? Hard to know at this stage, but the conclusion will likely affect how future negotiations with Spain, France, and Italy play out. 

Looking ahead, though the week ahead is light on economic reports, analysts will be closely monitoring the January retail sales report to see how Americans are spending. The Labor Department's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) that comes out Tuesday will also give some more insight into the overall health of the jobs recovery.[6] Positive data could renew focus on the Federal Reserve and a possible interest rate hike this year. 

Tuesday: JOLTS
Wednesday: EIA Petroleum Status Report, Treasury Budget
Thursday: Jobless Claims, Retail Sales, Business Inventories
Friday: Import and Export Prices, Consumer Sentiment

Notes: All index returns exclude reinvested dividends, and the 5-year and 10-year returns are annualized. Sources: Yahoo! Finance and 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.

Q4 earnings reports show revenue weakness. Though overall earnings are positive, U.S. firms are still struggling with weak demand. Including reports from 274 S&P 500 companies, overall earnings are up an optimistic 6.7% from Q4 2013; however, revenues are up just 0.2%.[7]

U.S. motor vehicle sales catch fire in January. U.S. automakers reported the strongest January car and truck sales in seven years. Ford and GM had strong months, showing that sales increased 15% and 18%, respectively, over last year.[8]

U.S. productivity falls in Q4 2014. Hourly output per worker, a measure of the productivity of the U.S. economy, fell 1.8% in the final three months of 2014. This could mean that employers have eked out every drop of labor from their workers (and may be forced to raise wages).[9]

Brent crude has best gains in 17 years. Oil rallied again and showed the best two-week performance since 1998, gaining 19%. Price volatility was stoked by falling oil production and violence in Libya.[10]

"When you determine what you want, you have made the most important decision of your life. You have to know what you want in order to attain it."

- Douglas Lurton

Pasta With Chicken Sausage

This quick pasta dish has a full serving of protein and vegetables.

Serves 4 

1 12-ounce package of rigatoni, farfalle, fusilli, or other short pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, sliced thinly 
2 garlic cloves, minced
Freshly cracked black pepper
6 ounces fully cooked chicken sausage links, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
1 small head broccoli, cut into small florets (or substitute frozen broccoli)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (1 ounce)

  1. Fill a pot with generously salted water and heat to a rolling boil. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package and drain.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion for 3-5 minutes until it is softened. Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
  3. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the pre-cooked sausage and cook 3-5 minutes more until the sausage is browned.
  4. Add the broccoli florets with 1 cup water. Cover the pan and simmer until the broccoli is tender when pierced with a fork. Remove the lid to allow most of the liquid to cook off.
  5. Add the pasta to the mixture and toss until coated thoroughly. Add the Parmesan and cracked black pepper. Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from Sara Quessenberry |[11]



Parents: Don't Miss These Tax Savers

If you have dependent children or financially support a student, you may be able to reduce your tax burden through these tax benefits:
  • The standard dependent exemption is worth up to $3,950 if your income falls within certain limits.
  • Some taxpayers can claim the Child Tax Credit, worth up to $1,000 for each child under age 17.
  • You may be able to claim a credit for childcare expenses for children under 13 (or other dependents that meet IRS requirements).
  • If you adopted a child last year, you may be eligible for a tax credit for certain adoption costs.
  • If you are paying for the education of a student, you may be able to take advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit or Lifetime Learning Credit. You may also be able to deduct interest on qualified student loans.
For more information on deductions and exemptions for children and dependents, visit or speak with a qualified tax professional.

Tip courtesy of[12]

Accelerate Through Your Putts


If you're missing a lot of putts, it's possible that you're not accelerating properly through the ball. Don't slow down or stop the club when you hit the ball; instead, keep your positioning and accelerate smoothly through the stroke.

Here's a simple drill that can help: Set up a putt about three to five feet away from the cup. Go through your normal pre-shot routine and setup. However, instead of making a backstroke, go straight to the forward stroke, essentially pushing the ball into the hole. This drill will help you feel where your arms, wrists, and upper body need to be to maintain acceleration.

Tip courtesy of Susie Corona, LPGA | Golf Tips Mag[13]

How Much Sleep Do You Actually Need? 


You probably know that not getting enough sleep can cause a host of physical, mental, and emotional issues. Studies have linked a lack of sleep to everything from depression to weight gain. However, how much sleep do you really need to get to stay healthy?

A recent National Sleep Foundation meta-study reviewed over 300 sleep-duration studies and came up with some new recommendations. While adults under 64 need anywhere from seven to nine hours a night, older adults over 65 only need seven to eight hours of sleep.

Tip courtesy of AARP[14]


Worried About Coral Reefs? Here's What You Can Do

Coral reefs around the world are suffering from the effects of pollution and warming oceans. Even if you don't live close to these diverse ecosystems, there are steps you can take at home to protect reefs:
  • Reduce household water use to lower the amount of runoff and wastewater that enters bodies of water.
  • Use eco-friendly or organic fertilizers. Fertilizer runoff has been linked to major reef damage.
  • If you dive or snorkel a reef on a vacation, don't touch or anchor your boat on the reef. Ask local businesses how they work to protect reefs in their area.
  • Dispose of your trash properly. Litter can wash into oceans even hundreds of miles away, harming wildlife.

Tip courtesy of Nature Conservancy[15]


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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. 


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