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CPI Decreases, Service Sector Grows, Stocks Advance

FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE MARCH, INFLATION RETREATS

December brought a 0.1% decline in the Consumer Price Index, the first in nine months. As in November, cheaper gasoline was a factor: gas prices took a 7.5% monthly fall. The CPI advanced 1.9% across 2018. The core CPI, which excludes food and energy costs, rose 0.2% in December for a third consecutive month and gained 2.2% for the year. In short, yearly inflation is back in the vicinity of the Federal Reserve’s 2.0% target.1

SERVICE SECTOR GROWTH RATE SLOWS

The Institute for Supply Management said that its purchasing manager index service, tracking industry activity, descended to 57.6 in December, paralleling the dip of its factory sector PMI. While the decrease of 3.1 points was a disappointment, the new orders sub-index did rise slightly to 62.7, and the service sector expanded for the 107th straight month.2

OIL RECORDS ITS LONGEST DAILY WINNING STREAK IN 9 YEARS

Crude oil futures are no longer scraping near 52-week lows. WTI crude settled at $51.59 on the New York Mercantile Exchange at Friday’s close, up 7.6% for the week. A down day on Friday broke a 9-session streak of advances for the commodity, the longest seen since January 2010.3

BENCHMARKS RISE ON THE EVE OF EARNINGS SEASON

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When You Retire Without Enough

Start your “second act” with inadequate assets, and your vision of the future may be revised.

How much have you saved for retirement? Are you on pace to amass a retirement fund of $1 million by age 65? More than a few retirement counselors urge pre-retirees to strive for that goal. If you have $1 million in invested assets when you retire, you can withdraw 4% a year from your retirement funds and receive $40,000 in annual income to go along with Social Security benefits (in ballpark terms, about $30,000 per year for someone retiring from a long career). If your investment portfolio is properly diversified, you may be able to do this for 25-30 years without delving into assets elsewhere.1

Perhaps you are 20-25 years away from retiring. Factoring in inflation and medical costs, maybe you would prefer $80,000 in annual income plus Social Security at the time you retire. Strictly adhering to the 4% rule, you will need to save $2 million in retirement funds to satisfy that preference.1

There are many variables in retirement planning, but there are also two realities that are hard to dismiss. One, retiring with $1 million in invested assets may suffice in 2018, but not in the 2030s or 2040s, given how even moderate inflation whittles away purchasing power over time. Two, most Americans are saving too little for retirement: about 5% of their pay, according to research from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Fifteen percent is a better goal.1

Fifteen percent? Really? Yes. Imagine a 30-year-old earning $40,000 annually who starts saving for retirement. She gets 3.8% raises each year until age 67; her investment portfolio earns 6% a year during that time frame. At a 5% savings rate, she would have close to $424,000 in her retirement account 37 years later; at a 15% savings rate, she would have about $1.3 million by age 67. From boosting her savings rate 10%, she ends up with three times as much in retirement assets.1

   

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Strong Q3 GDP, Mixed Housing Indicators, Retreat for Equities

FIRST ESTIMATE OF Q3 GDP: 3.5%

A 4.0% gain in consumer spending and a 3.3% advance in government spending helped strengthen the economy in the three months ending in September. Bureau of Economic Analysis data shows that the past two quarters represent the best 6-month period for U.S. growth since 2014. It appears likely that the economy will expand more than 3% this year; if that happens, 2018 will enter the history books as the best year for the economy since 2005.1

NEW HOME SALES SLUMP, BUT PENDING HOME SALES IMPROVE

According to the Census Bureau, new home buying decreased 5.5% last month, even as the number of new homes on the market hit a nine-and-a-half-year high. The median sale price of $320,000 was 3.5% lower than it was in September 2017. Pending home sales surprised to the upside in September: they rose 0.5%. Economists polled by Briefing.com expected the National Association of Realtors to announce a housing contract activity decline of 0.3%.2,3

A SLIGHT DIP FOR CONSUMER SENTIMENT

Friday, the final University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for October appeared, bearing a reading of 98.6. This was 0.4 points below its preliminary October mark, but little cause for concern.3

MORE TURBULENCE ON WALL STREET

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