This Halloween, when you open the door, you may find Thor, Captain America, Green Lantern, or the X-Men standing outside looking for tasty treats. Or, you may find characters you don’t recognize at all! Keeping up with pop culture is no easy task. This year, watch for:

  • Anime characters: If you’re not a fan of Japanese anime comic books, graphic novels, or video games, you may not recognize Chibi Moon or Uzumaki when they appear at your door.
  • Steampunk characters: Steampunk culture shows what the digital age would look like if it had happened 100 years ago.

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Markets reacted positively last week to the long awaited outline of President Trump’s tax reform. Affectionately known as the “reflation trade”, risk-on sectors reengaged and outperformed, but small cap stocks and the technology sector were the brightest stars. Reaching the close on Friday, the Nasdaq Composite gained 1.1% and S&P 500 moved up 0.4%. Based on investor optimism, tax reform may be the key to a continuing bull market.

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Last month we wrote about American’s vulnerability to the growing threat of SPAM in your emails, and the historically unfavorable returns of August and September. On September 7th, Equifax decided to layer another level of doom to our readers when the company announced that 143 million American’s information, including social security and driver’s license numbers, had been stolen by hackers. This is the largest threat to personally sensitive information in years, and the third successful hack into Equifax in 2017 alone.

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Looking back, August brought little change to markets. Beneath seemingly quiescent waters, dramatic and momentous events took center stage. First, Charlottesville gripped the nation, a total eclipse captivated every age, and the month gave its farewell with a deluge of rain and misfortune in Texas. During all that, geopolitical tensions intensified as North Korea continued its repugnant behavior. We now head into arguably the worst market month, September.

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From the title, you may be thinking about the iconic American meat that arrives in a rectangular 12-ounce tin (and is inexplicably popular in certain island states and American territories). However, your true worry should focus on the “spam” that arrives digitally as email, text, and social media messages.

The latter type of ‘spam’ took its name from the former. You may be familiar with a sketch from the 1970’s movie, Monty Python. The performance introduced a café that offered Spam in almost every dish, much to the dismay of a customer whose palette did not favor the processed meat.

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Stocks were mixed on Friday as the Dow Jones Industrial Average managed a 0.2% rise, but the Nasdaq Composite and S&P 500 both fell fractionally by 0.1%. Everyday can’t be one of growth and, frankly, we don’t think that is healthy for a sustainable market. Looking past daily market movement, second-quarter GDP was in line with the consensus at 2.6%, more than double first-quarter results. This data presents a solid rebound but remains short of President Trump’s target of 3 to 4%. Year-to-date, things are still looking good and stocks remain stronger relative to bonds.

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It’s been a busy year in Washington D.C. with a mixed view on accomplishments. Next on the agenda, Congress is beginning its shift (for the time being) to tax reform; lower taxes are expected to create improvements in the economy by increasing the rate of money flow (how fast it changes hands). On the surface, tax-reform has a good vibe and theoretically puts more money in consumer’s pockets. Granted, personal consumption expenditures represent 70 percent of gross domestic product, but journalists should know from Econ 101 that GDP only measures the value of final output. It deliberately leaves out a big chunk of the economy—intermediate production or goods-in-process at the commodity, manufacturing, and wholesale stages—to avoid double counting. We calculated total spending (sales or receipts) in the economy at all stages to be more than double GDP (using gross business receipts compiled annually by the IRS). By this measure—which we have dubbed gross domestic expenditures, or GDE—consumption represents only about 30 percent of the economy, while business investment (including intermediate output) represents over 50 percent.

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The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices, was recently released for April 2017; nationwide home prices continue their rise over the trailing 12 months. The Case-Shiller Index covers all nine U.S. census divisions which reported a 5.5% annual gain in April, down from 5.6% in March. The 10-City Composite showed a slight decrease of 4.9%, down from 5.2% the previous month and the 20-City Composite posted a 5.7% year-over-year gain, down from 5.9% in March.

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Political headlines are coming at an alarming pace. In spite of this, markets were relatively quiet last week which left U.S. equity prices little changed. Treasury yields moved slightly lower as the dollar weakened; our dynamic yield curve is beginning to flatten. Oil prices also declined for a fourth straight week. Nevertheless, the Federal Reserve remained on track to slowly normalize monetary policy. As expected, the Fed funds rate rose by 25 basis points to 1.0%. Additionally, the Fed hinted at the likelihood of one more increases before year-end. Normalizing the country’s balance sheet should be viewed as a positive. However, it wasn’t long ago that our Fed vowed to raise rates only when inflation reach higher levels. To date, that has not happened.

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Last week, stocks started the abbreviated trading week on a down note, but things turned around heading into Thursday and Friday, pushing the major benchmarks to record highs. Equity prices closed higher on Friday, June 2, following a non-farm payrolls report that showed a weaker-than-expected 138,000 jobs were created in May (versus consensus of 185,000). Logic holds that stock prices would move lower on such news. However, the (negative) new jobs portion of the report was counterbalanced by lower unemployment and (almost undetectable) wage inflation. In essence, news is mixed and markets are maintaining their resilience.

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