June
03

Written by: Jon McGraw

The Markets

The Fed will taper… the Fed will not… the Fed will taper… the Fed will not…

Last week, investors and traders obsessed about the Federal Reserve and the possibility it might begin to end its quantitative easing program. The Fed began its first round of quantitative easing during the financial crisis in an effort to prop up the American economy. In general, quantitative easing helps increase money supply and promote lending and liquidity. Investors’ fears about what may happen when the program ends were apparent when, despite abundant positive economic news, major U.S. stock markets lost value last week.

On Tuesday, after the Memorial Day holiday, the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller home price index posted its biggest gain in seven years. Housing prices increased in every one of the 20 cities it tracks. U.S. stock markets initially responded positively to the news. However, it wasn’t long before investors began to worry that stronger housing prices might speed up the Fed’s timetable for quantitative easing, and U.S. stock markets moved lower on Wednesday.

On Thursday, weaker-than-expected economic data – first quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the United States was revised downward from 2.5 percent to 2.4 percent – pushed markets higher.

On Friday, positive news – the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index of sentiment showed consumer confidence had reached its highest level in six years – caused markets to move lower.

U.S. stocks generally finished higher for the month of May despite last week’s performance. The Dow Jones Industrial Index gained 1.9 percent, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose by 2.1 percent, and the NASDAQ was up 3.8 percent.

Treasuries, however, delivered their worst monthly performance since 2010. During the last four weeks, yields on 10-year Treasury notes rose from 1.6 percent to 2.1 percent – an increase of 50 basis points.


Data as of 5/31/13

1-Week

Y-T-D

1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks)

-1.1%

14.3%

24.5%

15.1%

3.3%

5.4%

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

2.2

N/A

1.6

3.3

4.0

3.4

Gold (per ounce)

0.3

-17.7

-10.5

4.3

9.4

14.4

DJ-UBS Commodity Index

-1.0

-6.1

1.8

1.8

-9.5

0.8

DJ Equity All REIT TR Index

-5.2

8.0

19.1

17.7

6.0

11.4

 

Some say the consumer financial protection bureau (CFPB) unnecessarily limits consumers’ choices

And is not subject to sufficient oversight; others say it protects consumers from unethical business practices and unnecessary financial hardship. Regardless of the hoopla surrounding it, consumers have begun turning to the CFPB for help.

The CFPB is funded by the Federal Reserve and operates independently of Congress which is one reason some believe it does not have sufficient oversight. According to the CFPB’s web site, its purpose is: “Above all… ensuring that consumers get the information they need to make the financial decisions they believe are best for themselves and their families – that prices are clear up front, that risks are visible, and that nothing is buried in fine print. In a market that works, consumers should be able to make direct comparisons among products and no provider should be able to use unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices.”

From July 2011 (the date the CFPB became effective) through February 2013, the CFPB had received and worked to address more than 131,000 consumer complaints, including 5,000 issues raised by members of the military, veterans, and their families. The complaints typically are related to mortgages, credit cards, bank accounts and services, private student loans, consumer loans, and credit reporting. According to a recent article in Barron’s, the CFPB is:

“…Progressing in its original mission of reducing predatory lending by mortgage and auto lenders, credit-card issuers, and other consumer-finance outfits… So far, the agency has forced financial institutions to repay $425 million to consumers, and tackled bias in auto loans made by finance companies via car dealers. The CFPB has formulated tighter mortgage-lending rules that are being challenged in Congress. The bureau is about to begin regulating an estimated 22,000 payday offices.”

For banks and financial firms, complying with CFPB rules may require operational makeovers and the not-insignificant expenses which may accompany them, according to American Banker.com. One financial institution spent 900 hours analyzing how its mortgage operations, servicing, collections, and legal compliance measured up to CFPB rules. Then it modified its systems, processes, and training programs (or created new ones) to ensure it would remain in compliance. One outcome was the firm’s compliance team grew from four to 17 employees.

So, what is the CFPB? Is it an overreaching compliance nightmare or an effective consumer watchdog? Only time will tell.

Weekly Fun – First Friday for our Animals! 

Cats, dogs, horses, turtles, birds, lions, and more – animal art in all mediums and styles – have taken over the Art Space! It feels like Noah’s Ark as animals cover every inch of wall space at 3013 Main Street, KCMO 64108!

Fifty-percent of your art purchase qualifies as a charitable tax deduction to Friends of KC Animals a 501c3 helping abused, abandoned, lost and neglected animals in our community. Come choose your favorite artwork, enjoy a beverage and appetizers catered by The Kansas City Club, and support animals here in Kansas City.

For additional information or to view some of the art in the exhibit, please visit –> Buttonwood Art Space