Happy #GivingTuesday!

Of all the post-Thanksgiving hashtagged holidays, #GivingTuesday is our favorite. We like the idea of a day focused on charitable giving,  although we do urge caution at this time as well. Before you donate to any charity, we encourage you to look into its status. Is it registered with the IRS as a 501(c) (3)? What percentage of the funds raised go to overhead like salaries and marketing and what percentage funnels directly to the charity’s intent? Have you read the charity’s mission statement to be sure its goals align with yours? Because so many companies, including PayPal and Facebook, offer matching funds, Giving Tuesday offers great incentives to make a financial contribution today. But, we also urge you to pay wisely, especially for online donations. Make sure the address includes the “S” to indicate it is secure as in https:// rather than http://. Don’t donate from a public computer or using an unsecure Wi-Fi connection. If money is tight this year, there are plenty of other ways to participate. You can volunteer your time – sort food for a local pantry, ring bells for the Salvation Army, sign up for a charitable fun run, etc. You could also donate things you already have, which is often a win/win for you and the charity. Take clothes to Goodwill and slightly used coats, hats and mittens to Coats for Kids or check with your local schools or jails to see if they need donated clothing items. Food banks accept unexpired and unopened pantry items. Libraries, the Salvation Army and Goodwill all accept donations of gently used books. Even if you don’t have time today to vet a charity, or collect donations, or ring a bell you can still participate by just being kind. Wave a car into traffic, visit a lonely neighbor, compliment a worker, or call a friend.    

Clear it up Fridays: The Dow vs. The S&P

While it’s the oldest and most familiar index, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is not the largest and, due to the way it weights its companies and to the limited amount of companies it represents, it may not provide the best representation for how the U.S. stock markets are faring. With only 30 stocks, all of them blue chip industrials, the DJIA includes familiar companies like Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. By contrast, the S&P includes 500 companies with a market cap of $5.3 billion or more. Historically, the Dow and the S&P have been almost perfectly correlated, meaning they move in the same direction on virtually every trading day. Recently, though, the two indices have been tracking differently, with the S&P 500 YTD returns around 7.41% relative to the Dow at 4.28%, according to Factset. The two indices weight their companies differently, with the S&P weighting by market cap, meaning that bigger companies make up more of its value, and the Dow weighting by price, meaning that a change in the price of one stock has the same impact to the Dow as a change in the price of another. The prices are equally weighted on the Dow. A third index we track closely is the Nasdaq Composite, which includes more than 3,000 stocks that are weighted by market capitalization. More than half of the companies listed on the Nasdaq are tech stocks, and, unlike the Dow and the S&P, the Nasdaq includes some foreign-based companies. All three indices have enjoyed unprecedented success in recent years.  According to MarketWatch, since March 9, 2009, which marked the low of the financial crisis and which many consider the birth date of the current bull market, the S&P has advanced 320%, the DJIA has risen 290% and the Nasdaq  is up has soared 520%.

Clear it up Fridays: An historic bull market

Next week, you’ll be hearing a lot about an historic bull market. That’s because most analysts agree that on August 22, the stock market is likely to have avoided a 20% or more decline from on a closing basis for 3,453 calendar days making it the longest bull market in history. This calculation tracks the current bull market from March 9, 2009. On that day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 80 points, or 1.2%, to end at 6,547.05, its lowest point since April 15, 1997. The S&P 500 index lost nearly 7 points or 1%, to end at 676.53, its lowest point since Sept. 12, 1996, and the Nasdaq Composite lost 25 points or 2%, to end at 1,268.64, its lowest point since Oct. 9, 2002. Since March 9, 2009, the market has not dropped 20% from its closing day high. A correction is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. While we celebrate this historic milestone, we’re also keeping an eye on factors that might signal a potential slowdown. The spread between the two-year treasury and 10-year treasury appears to be tightening, which can be a leading indicator for a recession (which is defined by two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth). The market breadth is also very narrow and mostly due to the strong performance of the FAANG stocks. (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google). New home sales appear to be slowing down. Student loan and consumer debt is expanding. With strong earnings, low unemployment and a healthy economy, we remain cautiously optimistic that the record bull run will continue.

Clear it up Fridays — The Wisconsin Primary Election

On Tuesday (August 14), Wisconsin residents will vote in a primary election. The rules for primary elections differ from the general election. In a primary, you must only vote within one political party. In a general election, you can vote for the candidate of your choice, regardless of political party affiliation.  For instance, in a general election you could vote for a Republican senator and a Democratic governor, but in a primary, once you vote for one candidate in a party you must stick with that party as you fill in the rest of your ballot. You do not have to cast a vote for each open position. You can leave some blank. Wisconsin does allow same-day registration, so you can register to vote at the polls as long as you have proof of residence, like a driver’s license or a utility bill. You must be a resident of Wisconsin for at least 10 days prior to voting in a Wisconsin election. Even if you are registered, you will need a photo ID to vote. While primary elections don’t draw the same turnout as general elections, they are critical to the political process as they whittle down a pool of candidates. For instance, this year, 10 candidates are running for governor in the Democratic Party and only one will make it out of the primary. Also, in Outagamie County, where we’re located, all three candidates running for sheriff are members of the Republican Party, so the primary election will decide the overall winner. If you have any questions about how to register to vote, please let us know. We’d be glad to help.

Clear it up Fridays — Wisconsin Sales Tax Holiday

This August, we will be featuring a series of short educational posts aimed to clarify trending items in the financial news. We start today with Wisconsin’s Sales Tax Holiday. Today is the third day of Wisconsin’s 2018 five-day Tax Holiday, which means you have until the end of the day on Sunday to make your tax-free purchases. The exemption does apply to on-line sales as well, as long as the item is ordered, paid for and accepted during the sales tax holiday. Purchases do not have to be delivered during the five day window. Each qualified purchase is exempt, so you can make multiple purchases on the same receipt and each one will qualify for the exemption if it meets the requirements. Clothing purchases must be less than $75, computers must be for personal use and must be less than $750, computer supplies must be less than $250 and school supplies must be less than $75. This does not include text books. The price limit refers to the sales price. If you have further questions about the Sales Tax Holiday, please call the office. Now get shopping (but stay within your budget)!   The past does not predict the future, and past results do not predict, guarantee, or indicate future performance.  These explanations are for educational purposes only and should not be perceived as advice, a solicitation to buy or sell, or a recommendation.. The information and opinions contained in this material are derived from proprietary and nonproprietary sources, deemed by Winch Financial to be reliable, and are not necessarily all-inclusive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. Reliance upon information in this material is at the sole discretion of the reader.