Heads Up!

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 enacted this week changes the income tax law for…….2017!!!  How could Washington pass legislation in February to change last year’s tax law? What about the income tax forms and software already produced – how will they cope with these changes? What were they thinking? It doesn’t matter – we have to deal with the change.

First, the changes do not affect all income tax payers or returns. We have listed the areas which will be affected below. The affected taxpayers will have to wait for the software to be updated. IF YOU ARE NOT AFFECTED BY ANY OF THE CATEGORIES BELOW, WE CAN GO FORWARD AND COMPLETE YOUR TAX RETURN WITHOUT DELAY.

  1. Extends exclusion from gross income of discharge of Qualified Principal Residence indebtedness
  2. Extends mortgage insurance premiums treated as Qualified Residence Interest through 12/31/17
  3. Extends above the line deduction for Qualified Tuition and related expenses through 12/31/17
  4. Extends the credit for Non-business Energy Property
  5. Extends and modifies the credit for residential energy property
  6. Extends the credit for new qualified fuel cell motor vehicles
  7. Extends the credit for alternative fuel cell motor vehicles
  8. Extends the credit for energy-efficient new homes
  9. Extends the credit and adjusts the phase-out of the energy credit
  10. Modifications to hardship distributions and hardship withdrawals from cash or deferred arrangements

Did You Know…?

The U.S. stock market, as well as most of the global stock markets, have entered into a “Correction”.  A Correction is a series of stock market declines over several days or weeks leading to a 10% to 20% decline from a stock market high. The stock market typically recovers from a Correction in a relatively short time of 3 to 12 months. As of today, we do not see any system-wide issue so large as to cause the market to slide further into a “Bear Market” which is a decline of 20% from a stock market high.  Our insight is also supported by strong consumer spending and business profits as further explained in The “Heat Map” section.

Update – Washington

The U.S. stock market has jumped since the November 8th election. We identified 4 initiatives on which the U.S. stock market is speculating to be successfully accomplished early in the Trump administration. What will happen next? It is still to be determined!

The 4 initiatives will have a tremendous influence on the “Heat Map” which forms the basis of our forward looking view of the U.S. economy. We consider the success or failure of the 4 initiatives to be “leading” indicators for the Heat Map.

Below are the 4 Trump administration initiatives upon which the stock market is speculating and what progress, if any, has been made:

  1. Tax cuts and tax reforms benefiting most individuals and businesses. THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TAX LEGISLATION IN A GENERATION WAS SIGNED INTO LAW LAST YEAR. CUMULATIVE PROGRESS TOWARD GOAL: 100% 
  4. Roll back of government regulations and Executive Orders considered to be difficult for businesses. ROLL BACKS HAVE CONTINUED. CUMULATIVE PROGRESS TOWARD GOAL: 55%

As the action happens in Washington on these 4 initiatives, don’t be surprised if the political “tug and pull” contest results in a wilder than normal stock and bond market.

We will continue to report in future issues on the progress on each initiative.

The “Heat Map”

Most of the time, the U.S. stock market looks to 3 factors (call them the “pillars” which support the stock market) to support its upward trend – let’s grade each of the pillars.

CONSUMER SPENDING: This grade is A+ (extremely favorable). Consumer spending is expected to strengthen as individuals with lower tax rates spend their windfalls.

THE FED AND ITS POLICIES: This factor is rated C- (Below average).

BUSINESS PROFITABILITY: This factor’s grade is A- (very favorable). Corporations are in the midst of releasing 4th quarter earnings. Earnings season has been stellar, with S&P profits growing at a fast pace.

OTHER CONCERNS: The “Heat Map” is indicating the U.S. stock market is in OK shape ASSUMING no international crisis. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest level of crisis, we rate these international risks collectively as a 5.  These risks deserve our ongoing attention.

The Numbers

Last week, U.S. Stocks and Foreign Stocks and Bonds all decreased. During the last 12 months, STOCKS outperformed BONDS.

Returns through 2-9-2018







Bonds- BarCap Aggregate Index







US Stocks-Standard & Poor’s 500







Foreign Stocks- MS EAFE Developed Countries







Source: Morningstar Workstation. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. Three, five and ten year returns are annualized excluding dividends.

“Your Financial Choices”

The show airs on WDIY Wednesday evenings, from 6-7 p.m. The show is hosted by Valley National’s Laurie Siebert CPA, CFP®, AEP®. This week Laurie will discuss:

“The new world of planning under tax reform.”

Laurie will take your calls on this or other topics.  This show will be broadcast at the regular time WDIY is broadcast on FM 88.1 for reception in most of the Lehigh Valley; and, it is broadcast on FM 93.9 in the Easton and Phillipsburg area– or listen to it online from anywhere on the internet.  For more information, including how to listen to the show online, check the show’s website www.yourfinancialchoices.com and visit www.wdiy.org.

The Markets This Week

So that’s what a correction feels like. Yes, it was painful, but there was a curious sensation about this one.

It’s been a long time since we’ve experienced a drop like we did last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 1330.06 points, or 5.2%, to 24,190.90 last week, its worst since Jan. 2016. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slumped 5.2% to 2619.55. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 5.1% to 6874.49. On Thursday, both the S&P 500 and Dow had dropped more than 10% from their Jan. 26 high, the definition of a correction, though they made back some of those losses in a late-Friday rally.

And what a strange correction it has been. Unlike the past ones since the end of the financial crisis, this correction was caused by fears of too much growth, rather than concerns that there wouldn’t be enough. When the S&P 500 tumbled 13% from Nov. 3, 2015, through Feb. 11, 2016, it was caused by a collapse in oil prices that then spread into high-yield bonds, raising the specter that a recession was looming. Not this time. Economic data continue to come in strong—the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow indicator estimates 4% growth this quarter—while companies continue to report strong earnings and give upbeat guidance even when the benefits of tax cuts are excluded. Even the high-yield bond market is refusing to act as if a crisis is at hand.

Sure, we can cite a litany of reasons for the correction. The market was overbought and overvalued. Investors had misjudged inflation and miscalculated how high bond yields could go. But really, we were just overdue. Too many traders had bet the market’s calm would last forever. It’s probably the most overused statistic about this market, but the S&P 500 had gone more than a year since its last drop of 5% or more.

So, a correction is what we got—and an uncomfortable one, just like it’s supposed to be. “They should be painful,” says Thomas Digenan, Head of US Intrinsic Value Equities at UBS Asset Management.

Still, the market needs a narrative—and so it’s latched on to whatever’s handy, in this case that the Fed is so far behind the curve that inflation will spike and bond yields will soar. As with many good stories, there’s a kernel of truth to this one. Inflation is picking up, bond yields are heading higher, and the Fed is behind the curve, says Richard Bernstein, chief investment officer at Richard Bernstein Advisors. Many had been reluctant to embrace that idea. Now they may have no choice. “The employment report destroyed the narrative that there would never be inflation again,” says Bernstein, who doesn’t foresee the correction becoming a bear market. “And that caused chaos at this point.”

History suggests that this correction isn’t the end of the bull market, despite the chaos. Part of that has to do with what came before the rally—a long period of what market technicians call consolidation.

From May 19, 2015, through July 11, 2016, a period that included a correction, the Dow went nowhere, explains Randy Watts, chief investment strategist at research shop William O’Neil. The next day, the benchmark hit a new high, and the Dow went on to gain 45% over the next 80 weeks.

Watts sees more similarities to a breakout that occurred in 1995. It occurred well into a bull market—just like the current one—and gains have been similar at the same period of time. And each of those initial rallies came with no hiccups—neither had even a 5% drop before their first correction. That bull market ended up running for 255 weeks, with the Dow nearly tripling during the same period. If the Dow follows that pattern, there could be more upside ahead.

Trading action suggests that the market could be close to finding a bottom. After hitting a new all-time high on Jan. 26, the S&P 500 had tumbled through its 20-day moving average a week later, and then through its 50-day on Monday. When the S&P 500 ticked below its 200-day moving average early Friday afternoon, it looked like that wouldn’t hold either. Instead, a furious rally ignited and the index finished up 1.5%. “At least it respected one technical level,” says Fundstrat technical analyst Robert Sluymer.

That doesn’t mean that the 200-day will hold again on Monday, but there’s no reason to call the end of the bull market just yet. Even Stifel Head of Institutional Equity Strategy Barry Bannister, who correctly called the correction last month, doesn’t foresee it becoming a bear for the simple reasons there’s no recession in sight.

Does that mean it’s time to rush in and buy everything in sight? No. Bannister expects a bottoming process, not a V-shaped bounce. And it might take a higher inflation print—the consumer price index is being reported on Wednesday—and a 3% yield before investors feel that the worst is over. “It could be a capitulatory moment for the stock market,” Bannister says.  Unless we’ve already had it.

(Source: Barrons Online)