And we’re off…to a slow start.
Last week, investors appeared to suffer from a New Year’s hangover. The culprit was too much optimism.
After its December meeting, with inflation easing and the U.S. economy remaining resilient, the United States Federal Reserve (Fed) indicated that three rate cuts were possible in 2024. Assuming the Fed drops rates by 0.25 percentage points each time, the effective federal funds rate would fall by 0.75 percentage points to about 4.5 percent by the end of this year.
That was welcome news. Lower rates make borrowing less expensive for businesses and consumers. As a result, rate cuts could lead to lower interest rates on home and auto loans, as well as credit cards. In addition, lower rates could boost corporate profits and push stock prices higher.
Ebullient investors saw the inch and took a mile, extrapolating the possibility of three Fed rate cuts in 2024 to six rate cuts. Jeff Cox of CNBC explained. “Markets…followed up the meeting and Chair Jerome Powell’s press conference by pricing in an even more aggressive rate-cut path, anticipating 1.5 percentage points in reductions next year, double the [Fed’s] indicated pace.”
Investors’ buoyant outlook supported strong third-quarter performance and double-digit returns for major U.S. stock indices in 2023. However, investors recognized they may have taken things too far, and the U.S. stock market retreated for much of last week.
Friday’s employment report didn’t help matters. It confirmed the continued strength of the U.S. economy. Employers added 216,000 jobs in December, surpassing economists’ estimates, according to Megan Leonhardt of Barron’s. The unemployment rate remained at 3.7 percent and average hourly earnings were up 4.1 percent over the 12 months through December 2023.
The strong report lowered expectations that the Fed will cut the federal fund rate at its March meeting, reported Karishma Vanjani of Barron’s.
Last week, major U.S. stock indices finished the week lower, and the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose.
Data as of 1/5/24
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.
THE POWER OF STORIES. Nobel-prize-winning economist Robert Shiller and his colleagues researched what they call “Narrative Economics” and found that popular stories affect our decision-making. In 2023, we witnessed the phenomenon firsthand as the story of the “Magnificent Seven” gathered steam.
For movie buffs (and people of a certain age), the name brings to mind the star-studded 1960s film with a reputation as one of the greatest Westerns of all time. The seven gunmen of the film are the reason pundits adopted the moniker to describe seven technology-related stocks that delivered double-digit returns in 2023.
“Shares of the so-called Magnificent Seven…individually soared between around 50% and 240% in 2023, making them among the market's most rewarding bets… Because of their heavy weightings in the S&P 500…the seven were responsible for nearly two-thirds of the benchmark index’s 24% gain this year,” reported Lewis Krauskopf of Reuters.
If the goal of investing is to buy low and sell high, investors would have been better off investing in the Magnificent Seven in 2022 when they delivered a less-than-magnificent performance. Combined, they lost 39 percent that year, according to Joseph Adinolfi of Morningstar, and all seven finished 2022 with double-digit losses.
When the narrative focuses on a broader time horizon and individual share price performance, the story looks quite different. Three of the Magnificent Seven stocks have a negative average annual return over the last two years, three have a positive return, and one delivered a flat performance, reported Matt Krantz of Investor's Business Daily.
The Magnificent Seven narrative offered investors an invigorating story. When reading stories about stocks or other investments that are performing well, it’s tempting to jump on the bandwagon. If an investment narrative captures your interest, give us a call. We can discuss the pros and cons of the opportunity.
Weekly Focus – Think About It
“Some narratives go viral because they contain real truth and knowledge and are useful. I’m more concerned with the other kinds of narratives that are story-quality, interesting, stimulating, fun—and travel person to person. They have a high contagion rate. Changes in public thinking are revealed by them and changes in public thinking are important causes of major economic events.”
—Robert Shiller, economist
Culinary Curiosity of the Week
The Different Types of Butter and When to Use Them
Pick the right butter for the job every time.
By Stacey Ballis
Updated on December 1, 2023
It used to be that butter was a no-brainer, whether you were at the grocery store or standing in front of your refrigerator: The only decision you had to make was salted or unsalted. But these days, there is a proliferation of options in the stores, and more and more recipes and recipes are specifying specific styles of butter.
Confused about the difference, and where and when you should use the various types? Let’s debunk the butter aisle.
Unsalted butter is the all-purpose flour of the butter world. If a recipe simply calls for “butter,” this is the one to choose. Unsalted butter has a pure, creamy flavor. Its use in recipes allows the cook to have complete control over salt levels, making it a go-to for both baking and savory cooking. Unsalted butter will usually have 80% butterfat, and 16 to 18% water. I like to buy packs of “half-sticks,” which give me the most flexibility with butter, especially for baking.
Unless a recipe specifically calls for salted butter, it is generally best used for spreading on toast, radishes, crackers, and other straight usage. Salt was originally added to butter as a preservative, and as such, it was often believed that commercial salted butter used lesser quality or older cream. These days, it is really just a flavor preference. If you are team “Butter on the Counter,” salted will be your best bet to pack into your butter bell, as it will last longer than unsalted.
European butters have a higher butterfat percentage than American butters, and have become the butters of choice for many chefs, bakers, and passionate home cooks. American butters have to have 80% butterfat to be called butter, European butters or American-made “European style” butters have between 82% and 90% butterfat (and a maximum of 16% water), which makes for a richer flavor. These are great for spreading on bread at the table, but also can make a lovely difference in sauces that are boosted with butter, or rich baked goods.
This light fluffy salted butter comes in convenient tubs, and is a great option if you want butter that is more easily spreadable than sticks, even when right out of the fridge. These are a good choice if you live in a hot climate and leaving butter out isn’t an option for you. Perfect for toast, pancakes, baked potatoes and the like. If you like, you can make your own whipped butter by just whipping cool room temperature butter in your stand mixer or with a hand mixer until it is aerated and fluffy. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. We don’t recommend using whipped butter in recipes unless you weigh it, as the aeration makes volume measures inaccurate for recipe use.
There are a variety of salted and unsalted cultured vegan butters on the market. You can find options made with vegetable oil, almond oil, olive oil, avocado oil, cashew milk, and coconut oil. They taste and act just like dairy butter, whether you're baking, spreading, melting, or browning.
Clarified butter and ghee
Clarified butter is butter that has been cooked to remove the water and milk solids, leaving pure butterfat. This gives it a much higher smoke point, which means you can cook with it without risk of burning. Unless you are shopping at a restaurant supply house, you will need to make your own clarified butter.
Ghee is a South Asian style of clarified butter, where the milk solids have been left to brown before straining, giving it the addition of a lovely nutty flavor. Ghee is readily available in grocery stores and is a wonderful product to keep on hand when you want to sauté or do other higher heat cooking and want that buttery flavor. Both are also great options for those who have dairy sensitivities, but not allergies.
The French call brown butter “beurre noisette,” or hazelnut butter, as a nod to its deep brown color and nutty, complex aroma and flavor. Brown better is butter that is melted and then cooked further, until the water evaporates and the milk solids brown and become toasty.
Cultured butter is made with cream that has been allowed to ferment slightly, intensifying the flavor and bringing some lovely tangy notes to the final product. It is great for spreading on bread, garnishing vegetables, or making compound butters, and is especially good drizzled on popcorn. We don’t recommend using it in recipes unless the text specifically calls for it, since the tangy flavor can be pronounced.
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Securities offered through Registered Representatives of Cambridge Investment Research, Inc, a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Cambridge and Wealth Managing Partners, Inc., are not affiliated. #6187142-2 01082024
* 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.
https://www.barrons.com/articles/december-jobs-report-today-64efdb87?mod=hp_LEAD_2 (or go to https://resources.carsongroup.com/hubfs/WMC-Source/2024/01-08-24_Barrons_%20Decembers%20Strong%20Jobs%20Data%20Will%20Keep%20the%20Fed%20on%20Hold_5.pdf)
https://www.barrons.com/livecoverage/stock-market-today-010524/card/odds-of-march-rate-cut-dip-after-jobs-data-sgv1HdFF6ZBIT1fFuzWV# (or go tohttps://resources.carsongroup.com/hubfs/WMC-Source/2024/01-08-24_Barrons_Odds%20of%20March%20Rate%20Cut%20Dip%20After%20Jobs%20Data_7.pdf)
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-12-27/magnificent-seven-stocks-risk-losing-sheen-in-fed-s-soft-landing?embedded-checkout=true (or go to https://resources.carsongroup.com/hubfs/WMC-Source/2024/01-08-24_Bloomberg_Magnificent%20Seven%20Loses%20Importance_11.pdf)