Archives For Todd Burkhalter



Weekly Update – January 30, 2012

With only a couple trading days left in January, stocks are positioned to lock in four straight months of gains and finish with their best performance since 1997.[i] Unfortunately, some momentum was lost last week after the government said the U.S. economy expanded at a slower-than-expected pace in the fourth quarter. For the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.5%, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq notched modest gains.[ii] 

Because the figures reported by the Commerce Department were lower than expected and stocks pulled back, should that lead us to conclude that economic growth was poor? Not at all. Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation’s economic health, grew at a 2.8% annual rate during the last three months of the year, which is a major improvement from the 1.8% we saw during the third quarter, and is the fastest growth we’ve experienced since the second quarter of 2010.[iii] 

On the other hand, when you look closely at the numbers, there are some important points to note. One is that the majority of the growth came from one area – business inventories. Private businesses increased inventories $56.0 billion in the fourth quarter, following a decrease of $2.0 billion in the third. Of course that sounds wonderful, but it can also be a double-edged sword. While it shows that businesses are optimistic about the health of the economy and feel confident they can sell their goods, if sales fall short of expectations, it can create a financial burden for them in the future. Only time will tell how this works out.

Another important point is that “real final sales of domestic product” – GDP less the change in private inventories – only increased 0.8% in the fourth quarter, compared with an increase of 3.2% in the third. So while GDPas a wholepicked up in the fourth quarter, real salesslowed down. This is likely one of the reasons why the Federal Reserve lowered its outlook for the economy in 2012, announcing that they expect it to grow between 2.2% and 2.7% this year.[iv] 

What’s next? The week ahead is a heavy one for economic data that includes personal income, consumer confidence, auto sales, manufacturing, construction, and the key nonfarm payrolls figure at the end of the week. In addition to the economic news, nearly 100 companies in the S&P 500 will report quarterly earnings.

Why are all these numbers important? For months, U.S. economic indicators have taken a back seat to headlines out of Europe, but as confidence grows that the Eurozone will survive, focus should gradually shift back to the health of the U.S. economy. We’ll be watching this data and sharing our thoughts with you along the way.


Monday –
Tuesday – Employment Cost Index, Redbook, S&P Case-Shiller HPI, Chicago PMI, Consumer Confidence
Wednesday – Motor Vehicle Sales, ADP Employment Report, ISM Manufacturing Index, Construction Spending, EIA Petroleum Status Report
Thursday – Jobless Claims, Productivity and Costs
Friday – Monster Employment Index, Employment Situation, Factory Orders, ISM Non-Manufacturing Index

Personal Income and Outlays

The January Effect

January 23, 2012 — Leave a comment



Weekly Update – January 23, 2012


There’s an old adage you may have heard recently which says: “As goes January, so goes the year.” What is this January barometer all about? According to the Stock Traders Almanac, the month of January tends to predict the direction of the market with an 88.5% accuracy ratio, with only seven major errors record since 1950.[i] Those aren’t bad numbers.


What causes the “January effect”? Most sources attribute it to a calendar-related anomaly in the financial markets where security prices increase in the month of January because investors sell losing positions in December and reposition themselves after the first of the year, or vice-versa.[ii] While this is certainly not exact science, and it is far too early to know if January will accurately predict the rest of the year, it is interesting to note.


So far, the Bulls are really showing off. With seven trading days left to go in January, the benchmark indexes are all up between 4% and 7%. The S&P 500’s 4.5% YTD gain marks its best start since 1987![iii] So does this bull have legs? Skeptics will tell you it doesn’t and idealists will tell you it does. We’d like to tell you that we don’t know. We’re not clairvoyant. (Sorry, we know you wish we were.) What we do know is that markets don’t move up or down in a straight line, and we won’t be surprised if we experience a pullback in the weeks ahead. This is not something we fear; it’s just the nature of the stock market.


There are both positive and negative factors at work right now, and we are monitoring many of them. Europe is still on the map, and our economy is growing at a slower-than-average rate that leaves it somewhat vulnerable to external shocks. At the same time, we see the strengthening in various sectors such as financials, basic materials, durable goods, and technology[iv] as reasons to sustain our optimism that both the stock market and the economy will fare well in 2012.



Tuesday – Redbook
Wednesday – Pending Home Sales Index, EIA Petroleum Status Report, FOMC Meeting Announcement 

Thursday – Durable Goods Orders, Jobless Claims, New Home Sales, Leading Indicators

Friday – GDP, Consumer Sentiment


Would you like to discuss your portfolio of investments and what is impacting it? 



We Have to Mention It

January 18, 2012 — Leave a comment

Weekly Update – January 16, 2012


We know you’re probably tired of hearing about Europe’s debt crisis, and frankly, we don’t blame you. At risk of sounding insensitive to the struggles of our European neighbors, we’re tired of it too. While there are benefits to globalization, there are also drawbacks as evidenced by the unprecedented level of negative influence Europe’s financial issues have had on us in recent years.


As we look at last week’s activity, we can see the affect Europe is having yet again. While all three indexes ended the week in positive territory, recent gains came at lower-than-normal trading volumes as wary investors dipped their toes in the water, but were afraid to dive in.[i] Stocks finished in the red Friday on expectations that nine Eurozone nations would be downgraded by S&P (and they were shortly after trading hours), including AAA-rated France and Austria. Italy was lowered two notches to BBB+, dangerously close to junk bond levels that could make it even more difficult for the government to raise money.[ii] Here’s the report card[iii]:


France – AAA to AA+

Austria – AAA to AA+

Slovenia – AA- to A+

Slovakia – A+ to A

Spain – AA- to A

Malta – A to A-

Italy – A to BBB+

Cyprus – BBB to BB+

Portugal – BBB- to BB


While investors have been expecting this downgrade since S&P issued a warning last month, the news is still a harsh reminder that Europe is not out of the woods. It is not yet clear how hard the downgrades will hit markets, but it is likely that we will continue to feel Europe’s influence until this situation is resolved. On the bright side, leaders from Germany, Italy, and France have been sounding upbeat about proposed solutions.[iv] We hope their optimism will promptly translate into concrete actions.


When any set of circumstances has the potential to affect your financial situation, we are committed to monitoring it closely and to keeping you informed. Please rest assured that the European debt crisis is no exception.


Monday –

U.S. Holiday: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Tuesday –

Empire State Manufacturing Survey

Wednesday – Producer Price Index, Industrial Production, Treasury International Capital, Industrial Production, Housing Market Index

Thursday –Consumer Price Index, Housing Starts, Jobless Claims, Philadelphia Fed Survey

Friday – Existing Home Sales