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The Ricks Report – March 6, 2017

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The Ricks Report

March 6, 2017

Numbers of $ignificance

  • ALMOST TWENTY TRILLION – The national debt of the United States is reported 5 days a week and is calculated to the penny. The national debt first exceeded $19 trillion on 1/29/16 and subsequently passed $19.9 trillion on 11/22/16.  Outstanding debt peaked at $19.977 trillion on 12/30/16 (the last business day of 2016) and closed last Thursday 3/02/17 at $19.895 trillion but has yet to exceed $20 trillion (source: Treasury Department).  
  • COLLEGE COSTS – The cost of tuition, fees, room and board at an average in-state public college has increased +5.5% per year over the last 30 years, reaching $20,090 for the 2016-2017 school year. If college costs had instead risen only by the rate of inflation (using the CPI) over the last 30 years (+2.7% per year), then a year of college would cost $8,892 during the current school year (source: College Board, Department of Labor).

Winning at Life with Gregory Ricks

Tune in to every weeknight from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm and every Saturday from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm!  We are now on News Talk 99.5 WRNO, News Talk 104.9 WBUV, and News Radio 1150 WJBO as well as Facebook LIVE, Periscope (GregoryRicks) and the iHeart app.  Gregory Ricks and James Parker will be live in studio talking about some great current events and financial solutions.

The Markets

It was a grand slam.

Major U.S. stock markets were positively euphoric following President Trump’s speech on February 28. Optimism about the new administration’s pro-growth policies propelled the four major U.S. stock indices to record highs, despite a dearth of policy details, reported Financial Times.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why stocks have moved so far, so quickly. However, it appears that mom-and-pop investors have become quite enthusiastic about the asset class according to data from JPMorgan Chase cited by Bloomberg. While institutional investors (pensions, insurance companies, etc.) have been reducing exposure to stocks, smaller investors have been loading up on shares.

CNBC reported some industry professionals, including Goldman’s chief U.S. equity strategist David Kostin, believe stocks have become too highly valued. ZeroHedge.com quoted Kostin, who said:

“Cognitive dissonance exists in the U.S. stock market. S&P 500 is up 10 percent since the election despite negative EPS [earnings per share] revisions from sell-side analysts…Investors, S&P 500 management teams, and sell-side analysts do not agree on the most likely path forward. On the one hand, investors, corporate managers, and macroeconomic survey data suggest an increase in optimism about future economic growth. In contrast, sell-side analysts have cut consensus 2017E [estimated] adjusted EPS forecasts by 1 percent since the election and ‘hard’ macroeconomic data show only modest improvement.”

Financial Times reported pessimism prevails in the bond market. One bond market professional said, “The bond market is taking a totally different view from the equity market. Blowing raspberries is a good way to put it…There’s no belief that the growth agenda will be dramatic.”

So, is strong economic growth ahead? Do bond investors or stocks investors have it right? Are institutional investors or mom-and-pop investors positioning themselves correctly? Only time will tell.

 

Data as of 3/3/17 1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks) 0.7% 6.4% 19.6% 8.9% 11.8% 5.7%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. -0.2 5.2 12.2 -1.4 1.7 -0.5
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 2.5 NA 1.8 2.6 2.0 4.5
Gold (per ounce) -2.2 5.8 -1.9 -3.1 -6.4 6.8
Bloomberg Commodity Index -0.3 -0.4 13.4 -13.6 -9.8 -6.2
DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index -1.0 3.2 12.4 11.0 11.2 5.5

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.

Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

 

Don’t think so! Tax season is upon us. That means we can all use some entertainment. While many folks dread the process of completing and filing taxes, some see it as an opportunity to test the boundaries of the system. Here are a few deductions Americans have taken that have failed to pass muster in tax court, courtesy of Kiplinger.com:

  • You cannot deduct the cost of a good night’s sleep. A tax preparer who worked from home escaped to a hotel because her clients were calling in the wee hours of the night and causing her to lose sleep. When she attempted to take a business deduction for the hotel expense, the tax court ruled a good night’s sleep is a non-deductible personal expense.
  • You cannot take a theft loss deduction for poor construction. A couple moved into their newly built dream home only to realize the builder had cut some corners. The house had some serious issues, including its foundation. The couple claimed the builder had defrauded them and took a large theft loss deduction. While taxpayers can deduct losses from a home-related theft, shoddy construction doesn’t qualify.
  • You cannot take a depletion deduction for bodily fluids. A woman earned $7,000 a year donating blood plasma because of her rare blood type. She took a depletion deduction, claiming “the loss of both her blood’s mineral content and her blood’s ability to regenerate,” wrote Kiplinger. While companies that take coal, iron, and other minerals from the ground can take a depletion deduction, the tax court ruled that individuals cannot claim depletion on their bodies.
  • You cannot deduct a business trip if there are no formal business meetings involved. A repo firm sponsored a trip to Las Vegas for its bank customers. The firm’s employees chatted with clients about business on the way to Vegas, but no formal meetings were held. The tax court denied the deduction.

Before you get creative with your taxes, consult with a tax professional.

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful.”

–Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist

 

Best regards,

Gregory Ricks

 

P.S.  Please feel free to forward this commentary to family, friends, or colleagues. If you would like us to add them to the list, please reply to this e-mail with their e-mail address.

Gregory Ricks & Associates is a Registered Investment Advisor which offers services and charges fees as set forth in Form ADV, a copy of which you should obtain prior to investment. Information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies.  Investments involve risk and unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed.  Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial advisor and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein. 

                                   

* 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 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.

* 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

Sources:

https://www.ft.com/content/8bb044d0-ff76-11e6-8d8e-a5e3738f9ae4 (or go to https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/peakcontent/+Peak+Commentary/03-06-17_FinancialTimes-Bond_Investors_Send_Warning_for_Record_High_Equity_Market-Footnote_1.pdf)

https://www.ft.com/content/cc48869a-ff9b-11e6-96f8-3700c5664d30 (or go to https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/peakcontent/+Peak+Commentary/03-06-17_FinancialTimes-Hearty_Appetite_for_US_Equity_Funds_Since_November_Election-Footnote_2.pdf)

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-28/bullish-mom-and-pop-behind-u-s-stock-market-rifling-off-records

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/21/goldman-sachs-market-investors-have-a-letdown-coming.html

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-02-18/goldman-investors-will-soon-realize-they-were-too-optimistic

http://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/taxes/T054-S011-16-nice-try-tax-breaks-rejected-by-the-irs/index.html

https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc515.html

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/t/thich_nhat_hanh.html