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Consumer Conditions

The drop in gasoline prices over the fall and summer months has been a plus for spending, but other factors have a much bigger impact on the consumer. The better tone to the labor market, the sharp rise in household net worth, and prerecession levels of consumer confidence all act as supports for the consumer. However, stubbornly weak wage and income growth remain as key constraints on spending. Sustained economic growth is the best way to ensure solid employment growth.

S&P Is Not GDP

It is important to recognize that the S&P 500 is not GDP. S&P 500 companies have different drivers for earnings than the components that drive GDP. The backdrop of solid business spending within a slower trajectory of overall GDP growth can be a favorable one for the stock market. Although stocks are at the low end of our target 10–15% S&P 500 return range for 2014, we see further gains between now and year end as likely, with profit growth as a primary driver.

QE Ended, Now What?

The Fed ended its bond purchase program last week and the bar has been set fairly high for restarting more QE. The economy is in far better shape today, compared with the start of QE in 2008 and the end of QE1 and QE2. It is probably too soon to know if QE has “worked,” and the better question may be, can the U.S. economy stand on its own without QE? We believe the BOJ and ECB are likely to do more QE.

Recovery Reality

The U.S. economy is improving, and in many cases is back to normal, but it remains stubbornly weak in some areas. “Real world” indicators that point to the health of the economy include crane rental rates and customer traffic in restaurants. Economic uncertainty — likely a drag on economic growth in 2011, 2012, and 2013 — has faded as a concern in 2014, consistent with the Fed’s most recent Beige Book.​

Corporate Calm

We remain confident in corporate America’s ability to generate solid earnings growth in the current global economic environment despite the slowdown in Europe (and to a lesser extent, China). A number of U.S. companies have performed relatively well in Europe, with some not yet seeing signs of a slowdown in their business. The business environment overseas appears to be good enough for companies to largely maintain their outlooks for the rest of the year and into 2015.

 
Results: 106 Articles found.
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