As stock markets go, the first quarter of 2019 was a win all around. The S&P 500 experienced its best quarter overall since the third quarter of 2009, when the recovery out of the great recession was just getting underway. The index also had its best first quarter since 1998, which is reaching back to another bull market entirely. Click here to read more…

Home values affect much in the economy – especially the housing and consumer sectors. Periods of rising home values encourage new construction while periods of soft home prices can damp housing starts. Changes in home values play key roles in consumer spending and in consumer financial health. During the first half of this decade, sharply rising home prices boosted home equity, consequently, consumers had money to spend. Click here to read more.

Stocks closed mixed on Friday, but mostly recovered from early losses. The muted performance is attributable to fourth-quarter earnings, negotiations over a China trade deal and the insipid debt ceiling issues.

The 10-year Treasury yield closed Friday at 2.63%, down from 2.69% the prior week. Last week’s economic reports, which included some catch-ups from prior weeks as government agencies re-opened following the partial shutdown, were generally soft. Motor vehicle sales were reported at 17.5 million in December and 16.6 million annualized in January, with the latter showing a significant drop in light truck sales. Factory orders for November fell 0.6%, hurt by oil’s price drop late last year. The ISM non-manufacturing index for January was 56.7, down from the prior month and below the consensus, but still well into expansionary territory. The government shutdown has likely skewed some economic figures downward as both consumers and businesses paused their spending given uncertainty. Click here to read more…

Our winter edition of Financial Edge 2019 is now available.  The latest on Walgreens/Aspen Dental, Practice Growth via Social Media and your new favorite recipe, Shrimp and Grits. Don’t forget to send us a photo of your creation to be featured on our website. Please share your feedback and requests on content for our next Financial Edge.

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2019 Interest rates and inflation shouldn’t represent a serious roadblock to equities.

Economic and corporate earnings fundamentals have remained relatively positive over the past few months amid increasing volatility; many stocks have entered correction territory. Investor concerns have grown as a number of issues remain unclear; trade talks, oil price declines, strengthening (U.S.) dollar and unresolved monetary policy. The year 2018 is almost in the rear-view mirror, but significant events over the last 12 months will continue to shape economic outcomes.

On the whole, we think the global economy is expanding and reasonably solid, but recent trade conflict presents a significant and serious threat.

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Check out our latest Dentists Financial Edge newsletter for 2018. This newsletter includes updates you’ll want to know about the Tax Reform, some insight on how to better your success rate in setting appointments, and maybe even your new favorite weekend recipe. Don’t forget to send us a photo of your creation to be featured on our website. Please share your feedback and requests on content for our next Financial Edge.

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U.S. stocks ended the week slightly lower after reaching new all-time highs last week, with the S&P 500 Index dropping 0.5%. Materials, financials and consumer staples were among the biggest detractors, while telecom, health care and technology moved higher. U.S. Treasury prices and the dollar also advanced and oil prices ended the week up 3% amid growing concerns over tightening supply as a result of U.S. sanctions on exports from Iran.
Vicissitudes in the market should not come as a surprise, equity prices simply don’t move in linear fashion. However, we are entering the fourth quarter (when markets typically post the strongest returns of the year). In theory, investors can breathe a sigh of relief during this time of year. We are not postulating a linear move higher heading into year-end, but we have analyzed data collected on S&P 500 performance from 1980-2017. The way we see it, the final quarter of the year has generated average gains of 4.59%, compared to gains of 2.34%, 2.67% and 0.3% for 1Q, 2Q and 3Q, respectively.

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Earlier this year, Twitter started putting some of its users in “time-out” as one of the company’s new measures designed to curb abusive behavior. As spelled out in an email sent to those placed in time- out, Twitter said that “creating a safer environment for people to freely express themselves is critical to the Twitter community.” The email then went on to explain the infraction and the duration of the time-out.

Recently, Twitter gave InforWars’ Alex Jones a weeklong time-out and suggested that additional restrictions to combat the “spread of fake news, misinformation and hate speech” might be on the way. As a publicly traded company, a good question is “what might this mean for Twitter shareholders?”

History of Twitter

Twitter was created in March of 2006 and launched in July of that year. Current CEO Jack Dorsey published the first Twitter message at 9:50 p.m. Pacific Time that read: “just setting up my twttr.”

Dorsey has explained the origin of the “Twitter” title: as follows:

“we came across the word ‘twitter’, and it was just perfect. The definition was ‘a short burst of inconsequential information,’ and ‘chirps from birds’. And that’s exactly what the product was.”

In September of 2013, Twitter announced that it had filed papers in advance of an Initial Public Offering and less than two months later, Twitter shares opened at $26.00/share and closed at $44.90, giving Twitter a valuation of approximately $31 billion.

Fast forward to the summer of 2018, Twitter is trading in the $32 range with a valuation of approximately $24 billion.

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Stocks prices continued moving higher last week as if to say a somewhat disappointing July jobs report and ongoing trade-related tensions between the U.S. and China are not a serious threat, yet. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both climbed 0.5%, while the Nasdaq Composite inched up 0.1%. Second-quarter earnings were mostly above expectations and provided much of the direction for the week. The biggest market story, however, was the sharp rebound in tech stocks following a selloff the prior week. The momentum pushed Apple’s market capitalization to an unprecedented $1 trillion.

Friday’s jobs (non-farm) report showed that the U.S. economy generated 157,000 positions in July, well below the consensus forecast of 190,000. Moreover, the latest numbers are significantly lower than the six-month average of 219,000. The unemployment rate also ticked lower, to 3.9%, while wage growth held steady at a 2.7% annual rate. Looking under the hood, jobs were most plentiful in manufacturing, healthcare, and professional and business services. Overall, the headline jobs number, while weaker than in recent months, appears reasonable at this stage of the economic cycle. As the Federal Reserve meets this week in Jackson Hole, we are anticipating plenty of discussion about the economy’s potential for employment growth. We also expect two more rate hikes in 2018.

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The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, characterized as the first major reform of the Internal Revenue Code in 31 years, brings a lot of changes to individuals and businesses alike.

The legislation slashes the top corporate tax rate to 21 percent, lowers the top marginal rate for individual taxpayers to 37 percent, eliminates or scales back several popular deductions, reduces taxes on business income earned by pass-through businesses, doubles the estate tax exemption, and substantially enhances immediate expensing of capital investments.

It also impacts how families save for college—especially with respect to 529 plans. But there are some details still being worked out. Let’s explore.

529 Plans
Designed to promote saving for future college costs, a 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan authorized by Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code. Sponsored by every state and the District of Columbia, there are two types of 529 plans: Prepaid Tuition Plans and College Savings Plans.

In simple terms, a Prepaid Tuition Plan allows you to effectively lock-in tuition costs to avoid tuition inflation; whereas, a College Savings Plan is a tax-advantaged investment account.

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