February 21, 2017

Weekly Market Commentary
February 21, 2017

The Markets

Four major U.S. benchmark stock indices closed higher for four consecutive days during Valentine’s Day week plus everyone got chocolates so I would say that’s a good week!

To date, positive corporate earnings and investor confidence have offset fiscal and political uncertainty and helped push U.S. stock markets higher. With 82 percent of companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index reporting, corporate earnings are up 4.6 percent for the fourth quarter of 2016, and the Investors Intelligence Advisors Sentiment survey showed bullishness at a 12-year high.

Stock markets may be higher, but the Conference Board Leading Economic Index, which was designed to determine highs and lows in the business cycle, indicates the U.S. economy is doing well. The index increased for three consecutive months (November through January). The Conference Board’s director of business cycles and growth research, Ataman Ozyildirim, said, “The January gain was broad based among the leading indicators. If this trend continues, the U.S. economy may even accelerate in the near term.”

THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOUR CAT WANTED. Cat wine didn’t win the first Pet Care Innovation Prize – that went to a dishwasher-safe bowl that connects to the pet owner’s phone and Wi-Fi – but the product has been in the news. Hostilities appear to have broken out between competing start-up companies that make faux wine for cats (and a few faux wines for discriminating dogs). The New York Times reported:

“But already the company that brought its products to market first…‘the original cat winery’ – is accusing its newer competitor…of being a copycat…Both have come up with clever names for their products: For $11.95, people can buy Fluffy an 8-ounce bottle of Catbernet or Pinot Meow…Or for $14.95, they can pour 12 ounces of Meow & Chandon…Since alcohol can harm cats, these products are essentially catnip water, which can make a cat loopy and an owner happy. But based on a wine tasting I conducted at a local cat cafe-slash-adoption center, the products are primarily catnip for the owners: The shelter cats did not like wines from either company – only two of them indulged – but the people visiting the tastings loved the concept.”

The challenge for companies that want cats to enjoy their wines, according to data from National Geographic, is the active ingredient in catnip – the oil found on catnip’s stems and leaves – functions as a pheromone. While humans have ingested catnip for years in teas that assist digestion or reduce tension, cats prefer to smell the stuff. That could make the bouquet of cat wine quite important. Next on the docket for the cat wine start-ups: products for the next generation – kittens.

If cat wine sounds over-the-top to you, ponder this: One of the cat wine start-ups sold half of a million dollars worth of pet wines last year.

Weekly Focus

“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.
–Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian novelist

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