Weekly Market Commentary

September 18, 2019

The Markets

Where’s inflation?

If you enjoy searching for Waldo, the visual nemesis in a red-striped sweater and cap, you may appreciate the quandary of central bankers in many wealthy nations. For almost a decade, they’ve been trying to find inflation.

Last week, there were reports of a sighting in the United States.

The core U.S. Consumer Price Index  measures changes in the prices Americans pay for goods. The Index rose 0.3 percent from July to August. It was up 2.4 percent year-to-year, reflecting the strongest annual growth rate since July 2018, reported The Wall Street Journal.

Rising healthcare costs were another reason for inflation gains, reported CNBC.

Central banks don’t want inflation to be too high, as it has been in Argentina (22.4 percent year-to-date). They also don’t want it to be too low, because low inflation can be a sign of economic weakness. The Federal Reserve, which is our central bank, considers 2 percent inflation to be consistent with a healthy economy.

U.S. stocks moved higher again last week on solid retail sales and positive trade news.

Moments at Work

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2018 American Time Use Survey reported people employed full-time worked 8-1/2 hours on weekdays, on average, and almost 5-1/2 hours on weekend days (when they worked on weekends).

If you estimate 8 hours of sleep a night and two weeks of vacation, at least one-third of awake-time is spent at work. That may explain why some people have strong opinions about dress codes and workspaces. How would you answer these questions?

If your employer gave you the choice, would you prefer to wear casual clothes to the office or receive a $5,000 salary bump?

Dress casual has become the new norm in many workplaces. A significant percentage of employees participating in a recent Randstad US survey (33 percent) like it so much, they would sacrifice a $5,000 salary increase to keep it that way.

Imagine that. One-third of workers would give up $25,000, assuming they stayed with their employer for five years, to avoid dresses and neckties.

In the same survey, one-third of participants said they would turn down a job offer or quit, if the employer insisted on a conservative dress code.

Interestingly, some psychology studies have found more formal clothing may affect: 1) the way others perceive you, 2) how you perceive yourself, and 3) how you make decisions.

If you were given the choice, would you opt for a totally open, a totally private, or a shared workspace?

Four-of-10 American workers get to choose where they work within their offices. Preferences vary significantly. The top choices for 2019, according to a Western Office survey were:

  • 28 percent: Mostly open space, just a few walls and private space available on-demand.
  • 23 percent: Mostly private space, an agglomeration of shared offices and team rooms.
  • 20 percent: Somewhat open, a combination of offices and cubicles.

The survey suggested having a workspace that suits employees’ preferences can improve efficiency, making companies more productive and profitable.

Focus On The Positive

“I don’t care to join any club that’s prepared to have me as a member”–Groucho Marx