Even better than expected!
The United States economy is not performing the way anyone thought it would. Instead of tipping into a recession last year, it crushed expectations. Gross domestic product, which is the value of all goods and services produced in the country, expanded 2.5 percent, after inflation, for the year.
U.S. economic growth
1Q 2023: 2.2 percent
2Q 2023: 2.1 percent
3Q 2023: 4.9 percent
4Q 2023: 3.3 percent
It’s interesting to note that the U.S. economy has been outperforming other developed countries’ economies. For example, GDP for the Group of Seven (G7), which includes seven countries plus the European Union, has grown 4.7 percent, in total, since the fourth quarter of 2019 (prior to the pandemic). G7 GDP includes – and got a boost from – U.S. economic growth.
G7 economic growth
(October 2019 through September 2023)
U.S.: 7.4 percent
G7: 4.7 percent
Canada: 3.5 percent
EU: 3.4 percent
Italy: 3.3 percent
Japan: 2.4 percent
UK: 1.8 percent
France: 1.8 percent
Germany: 0.3 percent
Here’s the really good news: Inflation continued to move lower while the economy grew last quarter. Last week, the personal consumption expenditures index reported that core inflation, which excludes food and energy prices, dropped from 3.2 percent to 2.9 percent. Headline inflation was 2.6 percent.
Last week, major U.S. stock indices finished higher. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury finished the week in the same place it started.
Data as of 1/26/24
Standard & Poor's 500 Index
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. Index
10-year Treasury Note (yield only)
Gold (per ounce)
Bloomberg Commodity Index
S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) 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; MarketWatch; djindexes.com; U.S. Treasury; 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.
HERE’S ANOTHER TAX-ADVANTAGED WAY TO SAVE FOR RETIREMENT. Many people are looking for ways to save more for retirement. An option that is often overlooked is the health savings account, or HSA. While some eligible people are using these accounts for short-term savings, most are not taking advantage of the potential long-term benefits, according to Bank of America’s 2023 Workplace Benefits Report.
Anyone who is enrolled in a qualifying high-deductible health plan (HDHP) can contribute to an HSA. It’s an attractive option because these accounts offer a triple tax advantage.
- Contributions are made with after-tax dollars.
- Any investment earnings grow tax deferred.
- Withdrawals taken for qualified medical expenses are tax-free.
This year, individuals can contribute up to $4,150 to an HSA, while families can contribute up to $8,300. Depending on the HSA, it may be possible to invest any money that is not used for current medical expenses.
For instance, imagine a 35-year-old saves about $2,000 in an HSA each year until retirement at age 65. They withdrew $500 a year to pay for healthcare, and invest the rest, earning 7 percent a year, on average. At retirement, the individual would have more than $150,000 in the account.
Best of all, after age 65, the money in an HSA can be withdrawn without penalty for any purpose at all. The caveat is that taxes may be owed on distributions taken for purposes unrelated to healthcare. In addition, the savings could be used to reimburse some Medicare premiums, as well as healthcare costs that are not covered by Medicare.
If you would like to learn more about HSAs, please get in touch.
Weekly Focus – Think About It
"Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck."
Culinary Curiosity of the Week
The Complete Guide to Cooking With Okra
By Cheryl Slocum
Published on July 28, 2023
What is okra?
There’s plenty to love about okra; it’s nutritionally dense, adaptable to multiple cooking methods, grows like magic, and carries important cultural significance. Okra is high in vitamin C, and rich with heart healthy antioxidants and the gel it excretes contains soluble fiber and is purported to help prevent heart disease.
Okra, a plant of the mallow family, comes with some impressive relatives — hibiscus, cotton, and cacao to name a few. It’s grown in tropic and subtropic regions throughout the world, from Pakistan and India to Japan, and Ethiopia. Its origins are unclear, but it’s believed okra first took root in West Africa before spreading to the middle east and beyond. Later, through the transatlantic slave trade, okra spread to the United States, Brazil, and the West Indies.
What does okra taste like?
Every part of the okra plant is game for cooking and eating. The cream-colored flowers, which resemble hibiscus and have a fleeting one-day existence, have a nutty, asparagus flavor. They can be used raw in salads, cooked in stir-fry dishes, or stuffed and fried as you might a squash blossom. The leaves (as well as the blooms) are sometimes added to soups and stews as a thickening agent. The leaves can also be used in salads and stir fries. Seeds, harvested from mature pods, can be dried and ground into flour or brewed like coffee. But it’s the young, tender pods, with their grassy, green bean-meets-eggplant taste, that get most of the attention in recipes.
How to cook okra
Okra pods have tiny, fuzzy spines, although some varieties have been bred to minimize them. The spines can irritate skin, so wearing gloves during prep is a smart move. As they mature on the plant, okra pods will grow longer but also toughen and become especially fibrous, so it’s best to select younger, small (2-3 inch), tender pods. Avoid any pods that have started to blacken or are dry. Fresh okra keeps for two to three days, refrigerated. Store it, unwashed, in a brown paper bag or wrapped in paper towels to inhibit moisture and mold growth.
The slippery liquid that okra pods contain is called mucilage, and the gel-like liquid has thickening properties that are coveted for making stews like gumbo. How much the mucilage is accentuated will depend on the cooking method used to prepare the okra.
Fast and piping hot preparations like roasting, frying, and grilling deliver especially crisp outer skins and tender centers with heightened grassy flavor. Try this recipe for Crispy Okra Salad, which features fried okra spiced with garam masala in a salad of fresh tomatoes and onion, or Crispy Snacking Okra, where a hot cast-iron skillet transforms okra into a crunchy, chiplike snack.
Stir-frying and sautéing (as in this stir-fried okra with tomatoes and spices) will yield lightly crisp pods with a juicy interior.
Pickling (as in our Hot Pickled Okra recipe) almost completely abates okra’s viscosity.
Is okra a fruit or a vegetable?
Although usually treated like a vegetable, okra pods are technically a fruit that develops after the plant’s brief flowering stage. The pods develop rapidly and are ready for harvest within two days and by Day Five they’ve likely over matured. Okra color varies, depending on variety, from pale green, silvery green, red, burgundy, and bright green. Once cooked, all okra varieties turn green.
The okra varieties shown here were shared with Food & Wine by the Utopian Seed Project, a nonprofit that cultivates and disseminates seeds for heirloom fruits and vegetables, including over 125 varieties of okra.
- Puerto Rico Everblush: Bred from a Puerto Rican variety called Puerto Rico Evergreen, the long, thin, ridgeless pods have a sweet pea flavor.
- Ultracross: This composite cross of 85 different kinds of okra is a grab-bag for gardeners; you never know what you might get.
- Nkruma Tenten: The name for this towering okra from Ghana means “tree okra.” It has dark green, mucilage-rich pods.
- Hill Country Red: Thought to have been cultivated in Texas Hill Country, this okra has plump, spineless pods with deep ridges.
- Essoumtem: Essoumtem okra produces pods that are short and stubby, light green in color, and lightly ridged.
- Red Burgundy: The most widely grown red okra variety in the U.S., Red Burgundy was originally bred at Clemson University.
- Aunt Hettie’s Red: This burgundy-colored okra plant yields small, glossy, ridged red pods with terrific flavor.
- Candle Fire: These rounded red okra pods are prized for their great taste and tenderness, and for their resistance to high heat and disease.
- Sherwood Red Okra 98: The pods of this okra are relatively low in mucilage and remain tender even when large.
- Mr. Bill’s Big: This rare North Carolina cultivar sends forth fat green pods with a satisfying, buttery texture.
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* These views are those of Carson Coaching, not the presenting Representative, the Representative’s Broker/Dealer, or Registered Investment Advisor, and should not be construed as investment advice.
* This newsletter was prepared by Carson Coaching. Carson Coaching is not affiliated with the named firm or broker/dealer.
* Government bonds and Treasury Bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value. However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate.
* Corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds but normally offer a higher yield and are subject to market, interest rate and credit risk as well as additional risks based on the quality of issuer coupon rate, price, yield, maturity, and redemption features.
* The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. You cannot invest directly in this index.
* All indexes referenced are unmanaged. The volatility of indexes could be materially different from that of a client’s portfolio. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment. You cannot invest directly in an index.
* The Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. Index covers approximately 95% of the market capitalization of the 45 developed and emerging countries included in the Index.
* 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.
* Gold represents the 3:00 p.m. (London time) gold price as reported by the London Bullion Market Association and is expressed in U.S. Dollars per fine troy ounce. The source for gold data is Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (FRED), https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/GOLDPMGBD228NLBM.
* The Bloomberg 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 Total Return Index measures the total return performance of the equity subcategory of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry as calculated by Dow Jones.
* The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), commonly known as “The Dow,” is an index representing 30 stock of companies maintained and reviewed by the editors of The Wall Street Journal.
* The NASDAQ Composite is an unmanaged index of securities traded on the NASDAQ system.
* International investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and political instability and may not be suitable for all investors. These risks are often heightened for investments in emerging markets.
* Yahoo! Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods.
* The risk of loss in trading commodities and futures can be substantial. You should therefore carefully consider whether such trading is suitable for you in light of your financial condition. The high degree of leverage is often obtainable in commodity trading and can work against you as well as for you. The use of leverage can lead to large losses as well as gains.
* Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance.
* Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.
* Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investing involves risk, including loss of principal.
* The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee it is accurate or complete.
* There is no guarantee a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk.
* Asset allocation does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss.
* Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.