If you’ve invested long enough, it’s almost certain that you’ve been made to feel less than knowledgeable, either by your advisor (unwittingly, of course) or by ‘Mr. Market.’ People invest for as many reasons as there are people. Today’s Brief addresses the purpose of the vast majority of investors; that of saving to replace the paycheck. Some call it retirement, some call it freedom from salary, others refer to it as their second half, and still others call it doing what you really want to do, or were meant to do all along. Whatever you call it, it happens when you begin depending on your investments to see you through life, no longer relying on what is commonly referred to as ‘your day job.’ 

The 10% rally in the S&P 500 beginning in early July abruptly turned this past Tuesday as the Fed announced a small downgrade in their assessment of the recovery and as a Chinese government report suggested growth was slowing in that economy. The US recovery has been largely attributed to exports which will decline if China and the global economy drift back into recession. The three-day decline in stock prices this week erased 3.8% from the 10% rally. Treasuries on the other hand continued their multi-month advance as the Fed said they would replace maturing mortgage bonds held on their books with two to ten-year Treasury bonds. The Barclay’s 7-10 year Treasury index is up 3% since early July. 

Approaching President Obama’s Wednesday state of the union address, many expected he would steer a new direction, away from a decidedly liberal agenda toward the center. He obliged with more than a few promises on how he would do just that. He took a clearly more populist/centrist tone, berating bankers, rebuking congressmen and senators for partisan bickering, reminding critics of his many “tax cuts,” and doing it all in his own version of “I feel your pain.” He even nodded to the right on initiatives such as nuclear power and offshore drilling. He urged Congress to pass a new jobs bill, called for the extension of a big business tax break, and the creation of a small business tax credit. In a follow-through today, it is reported that the president plans to propose tripling loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors to more than $54 billion.

Have you noticed that the stock market is doing consistently better in spite of the continuing dreary economic news?  One reason is that we have largely escaped the first quarter earnings cycle without a single major blowup or negative surprise; corporate earnings are coming in better than expected.  What’s more, analysts have shown no signs of cutting their second, third, or fourth quarter earnings estimates.