Vail Daily column: Fiscal cliff uncertainty
Markets experienced another choppy week, disturbed by ongoing fiscal cliff debates and lackluster economic data. Equities finished the week mixed, with the S&P gaining 0.13 percent, the Dow gaining 0.99 percent, and the Nasdaq losing 1.1 percent. After another week of back and forth between Democrats and Republicans, no fiscal cliff resolution is in sight. Despite offers on the table from both parties, the debate remains stalled on the issue of higher taxes for the wealthy. Although both sides are exchanging accusations of brinkmanship, multiple polls suggest that Americans will blame Republicans should politicians fail to reach a deal. It appears as though President Obama and Congressional Democrats are content to stall the clock in the hopes of pushing Republicans into grudging agreement with their plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans (Those earning $250,000 or more per year).Although we have been talking about the fiscal cliff with our clients for many months, the media is making up for its lateness to the issue with hysteria. In truth, the fiscal cliff deadline isn’t Dec. 31, it’s actually much sooner. According to the rules in the House of Representatives, the last day any bill can be submitted for consideration is Dec. 18 since Congress will adjourn for the year on Dec. 21, and they need at least three days to deliberate. However, since President Obama may be leaving on Dec. 17 for his annual family vacation to Hawaii, next Monday might be the last possible date for a fiscal cliff resolution. At this point, it seems unlikely that lawmakers will be able to hash out a compromise in the week we have left. While a lack of a resolution means we probably won’t see a year-end market rally, regardless of whether a deal is reached or not, the economy won’t suddenly stop on Jan. 1. It will take time for the full effects of tax increases and budget cuts to kick in, giving lawmakers further time to come to a resolution.Looking ahead, we have the year’s final Federal Reserve FOMC meeting this week; analysts don’t expect interest rate targets to change. However, many will be closely watching the fourth quarter growth forecast, which Fed economists will announce before Bernanke speaks.Whatever the remaining weeks of the year have in store, we’ll be monitoring the situation and will keep you up to date.Headlines• Manufacturers unable to fill job vacancies. Despite high unemployment rates, some manufacturers are unable to fill open jobs, forcing them to lower production rates or run fewer shifts. While this may affect manufacturing productivity, it’s a good sign for job seekers. • Greece buys back bonds to lower debt. In an important part of the country’s efforts to lower debts to manageable levels, Greece used 10 billion euros of borrowed funds to buy back approximately 30 billion euros of Greek government bonds, cutting its national debt by a net of approximately 20 billion euros. The move is part of an aid package scheduled to be released later this month. • November jobs report better than expected. Despite worries about Sandy’s effect on employment, U.S. companies kept up their slow, steady hiring, adding 146,000 new jobs last month. Although the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, this was largely due to job seekers dropping out of the search. • German central bank cuts economic outlook. In a sign of deepening gloom in Europe, Germany’s Bundesbank cut its growth outlook and warned of recession potential as the ongoing crisis continues to take its toll. Mark Ballenger is an investment and financial planning consultant offering services to individual investors and business owners. His company, Ballenger Asset Management, is located in Avon and can be reached at 970-471-9962. This report has been created with the cooperation of Platinum Advisor Marketing Strategies LLC. Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, a broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Ballenger is an investment adviser representative for Cambridge Investment Research Advisors Inc., a registered investment adviser. Ballenger Asset Management and Cambridge are not affiliated.