December 4, 2017

Weekly Market Commentary
December 4, 2017

The Markets

What will it take to shake investors’ confidence?

From the perspective of unsettling events, last week was jam-packed. North Korea claimed to have the capability to strike the United States with a nuclear missile, tax reform continued to travel a controversial path through the House and Senate, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with Russia’s ambassador.

U.S. stock markets weren’t immune to these events and some lost value. However, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index didn’t stay down for long. Both indices finished the week higher.

Investor sentiment remained largely undented. The AAII Sentiment Survey showed slightly more investors were bullish near week’s end than had been the previous week. Bearishness was also up, gaining 2.6 percent. Fewer investors were neutral about markets. Despite an increase in bullish sentiment, the level was below the historic average for bullishness for the 39th time in 2017.

RETIREMENT REQUIREMENTS. For a number of years, policymakers have been focused on finding ways to help Americans become better financially prepared for retirement. Studies have found having access to payroll-deduction retirement savings plans at work makes it 15 times more likely Americans will save for the future. Consequently, policymakers have focused their attention on smaller companies. About 36 percent of Americans work for companies with fewer than 100 employees, and many of these businesses do not offer retirement plans.

Last July, Oregon launched OregonSaves, the state’s auto-IRA program. Companies that don’t have workplace retirement plans are required to facilitate the program by:

• Providing information to set up Roth IRA accounts for employees
• Making payroll deductions to the Roth accounts
• Delivering updated employee information

California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts are working on similar programs.

Some business owners have embraced the auto-IRA opportunity, while others object to having the government involved. A Pew Charitable Trusts survey of 1,600 small and mid-sized business owners found 51 percent would prefer to sponsor their own retirement plans rather than participate in a state-run plan.

Focus On The Positive

“Humanity is a lot like me. It’s an aging movie star, grappling with all the newness around it, wondering whether it got it right in the first place and still trying to find a way to keep on shining regardless.”
–Shah Rukh Khan, Indian film actor

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