February 26, 2013

Effects of Fed's Ending Quantitative Easing Program

Like Canadian geese migrating in anticipation of winter, stock markets moved south last week in anticipation of monetary tightening. Minutes from the January Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meeting were released mid-week. After reviewing them, many analysts decided that quantitative easing may begin to taper off before the end of the year. Not everyone agreed with this interpretation; however, it caused major U.S. stock markets, as well as some Asian and European stock markets, to dip lower. Many markets recovered ground before Friday, but in the U.S., only the Dow Jones Industrial Index finished the week with a gain.

Interestingly, expectations that the Fed's quantitative easing program may end relatively soon had little effect on Treasury bond markets. This seems counterintuitive because an end to quantitative easing (the Fed's program of buying Treasuries to create liquidity and encourage economic improvement) could potentially lower demand for these securities and cause Treasury yields to move higher. Instead, yields moved lower last week. Experts suggested that bond investors' apparent lack of concern may be rooted in the belief that the Federal Reserve will not ease interest rates even if it changes its policy on quantitative easing. In previous statements, the Fed has said it will not modify interest rates until unemployment rates and inflation reach specific targets.

Last week, The Conference Board announced that itsLeading Economic Index® (LEI) for the U.S. showed America's economy gaining some momentum. The LEI tracks 10 leading economic indicators to gauge short-term economic outlooks. The Conference Board's LEI for China also signaled improvement. While this may prove to be good news, the impact of sequester - $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that are scheduled to begin in early March - on America's economic growth remains unknown and highly debated.

Data as of 2/22/13 1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks) -0.3% 6.3% 11.6% 11.0% 2.3% 6.2%
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 2.0 N/A 2.0 3.8 3.8 3.8
Gold (per ounce) -2.2 -6.9 -10.0 12.2 10.8 16.1
DJ-UBS Commodity Index -1.8 -1.7 -7.8 0.6 -8.0 0.9
DJ Equity All REIT TR Index 0.1 5.1 17.9 20.2 7.5 12.6

Notes: S&P 500, Gold, DJ-UBS Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT TR Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.

Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron's, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

It's important to look at more than tuition and fees when planning for college. That's because tuition and fees account for just about 39 percent of the total budget for students who live on campus at public four-year state colleges and universities. Tuition and fees are about 20 percent of the budget for students who live off campus at public two-year state colleges and universities.

If that's an unwelcome surprise, you won't be thrilled to learn that during the 2012-2013 school year the average college budget for a student who lived on campus and attended an in-state, four-year public institution and was more than $22,000. That budget included:

  • Tuition and fees
  • Room and board
  • Books and supplies
  • Transportation
  • Other expenses

On average, the same items for a student who commuted to a two-year, in-state public college ran about $15,500. At a private non-profit, four-year college or university the average budget was more than $43,000.

Making college possible

So, how do students and their families afford college? The good news is that financial aid is available for many. Total financial aid for full-time students was more than $14,000 on average during the 2011-2012 academic year (the most recent data available). In addition, according to the College Board, undergraduate students received financial assistance from a variety of sources:

  • 39 percent received federal loans and work/study
  • 26 percent received Pell and other federal grant programs
  • 18 percent received institutional grants
  • 9 percent received federal education tax credits and deductions
  • 5 percent received state grants
  • 4 percent received private or employer grants

Is it worth it?

Scrimping and saving to pay for college often has a significant pay off. The median income for a person with a bachelor's degree who worked full-time, year-round in 2008 was almost $56,000. That's about $22,000 more than the median income for a high school graduate. In addition, the unemployment rate for college graduates was significantly lower than that of high school graduates during 2008 (the most recent data available).

Weekly Focus - Think About It

"Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence."

Robert Frost, poet

Best regards,
Sean M. Dowling, CFP, EA
President, The Dowling Group Wealth Management

Please feel free to forward this commentary to family, friends, or colleagues. If you would like us to add them to the list, please reply to this e-mail with their e-mail address and we will ask for their permission to be added.

  • The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general.
  • The DJ Global ex US is an unmanaged group of non-U.S. securities designed to reflect the performance of the global equity securities that have readily available prices.
  • The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market.
  • This newsletter was prepared by Peak Advisor Alliance. Peak Advisor Alliance is not affiliated with the named broker/dealer.
  • Gold represents the London afternoon gold price fix as reported by the London Bullion Market Association.
  • The DJ Commodity Index is designed to be a highly liquid and diversified benchmark for the commodity futures market. The Index is composed of futures contracts on 19 physical commodities and was launched on July 14, 1998.
  • The DJ Equity All REIT TR Index measures the total return performance of the equity subcategory of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry as calculated by Dow Jones.
  • Yahoo! Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods.
  • Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance.
  • Past performance does not guarantee future results.
  • You cannot invest directly in an index.
  • Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.

http://online.barrons.com/mdc/public/page/9_3063-economicCalendar.html (click on US & Intl Recaps; then "What the Fed really said")










ADV & Investment Objectives:

Please contact The Dowling Group if there are any changes in your financial situation or investment objectives, or if you wish to impose, add or modify any reasonable restrictions to the management of your account. Our current disclosure statement is set forth on Part II of Form ADV and is available for your review upon request.

IRS Circular 230 Disclosure:

Pursuant to requirements imposed by the Internal Revenue Service, any tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, for purposes of avoiding penalties imposed under the United States Internal Revenue Code or promoting, marketing or recommending to another person any tax-related matter. Please contact us if you wish to have formal written advice on this matter.