Record High U.S. Markets and Strong Jobs & Wage Reports
In the United States, it was more of the same ole, same ole…
The Dow Jones Industrial Average and Standard & Poor’s 500 closed at record highs for the 34th time and 49th time this year, respectively. The impetus last week was a jobs report that far exceeded expectations. For the 10th consecutive month, more than 200,000 jobs have been created. That’s the longest string of improvements since 1994, according to Reuters. Not only did U.S. employers hire the most new workers in three years, wages ticked higher, too. An expert cited by Barron’s said the underlying report data was promising:
“The average workweek was 34.6 hours, up from 34.5, and where it was before the 2008 crisis. That level acts as an effective ceiling to additional hours and suggests employers will have to increase hiring, he says – hence the pop in bond yields. The 10-year U.S. Treasury bond yield jumped to 2.31 percent from 2.26 percent on Friday. (Bond prices move inversely to yields.)”
Analysts told CNBC.com the strong jobs report might mean the Federal Reserve will begin to raise the Fed funds rates by mid-2015.
The Stoxx Europe Index closed at a relatively high level, even though things weren’t so rosy economically in the Eurozone. Inflation continued to fall and is now close to zero. The last time inflation was at 2 percent, which is the level targeted by the European Central Bank (ECB), was two years ago, according to The New York Times.
The ECB continues to talk a big game without taking any action, according to Barron’s. Last week, President Mario Draghi said the ECB plans to assess the success of its current stimulus programs as well as the effects of lower energy prices early in 2015. However, he offered no specific monetary easing measures or a timeline for action. It was the same message he delivered in October and November of 2014. Experts cited by The New York Times indicated the ECB could lose credibility if it fails to act early next year.
|Data as of 12/5/14||1-Week||Y-T-D||1-Year||3-Year||5-Year||10-Year|
|Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks)||0.4%||12.3%||16.3%||18.2%||13.5%||5.7%|
|10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)||2.3||NA||2.9||2.1||3.5||4.2|
|Gold (per ounce)||1.0||-0.6||-2.3||-11.9||0.9||10.2|
|Bloomberg Commodity Index||-0.7||-10.8||-10.4||-8.3||-3.6||-2.6|
|DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index||-0.4||26.0||26.9||17.5||17.3||8.3|
The Effects of Long Working Hours
In 1960, about one-half of the jobs in the United States were at least mildly physically strenuous. Gosh, how things have changed. Today, we’re a lot more sedentary. Just 20 percent of jobs are at all strenuous and has produced the wrong type of growth, according to Joelle Abramowitz, an economist at the U.S. Census Bureau and author of a paper entitled, The connection between working hours and body mass index in the U.S.: a time use analysis.
Abramowitz found 70 percent or more of people who work 40 or more hours a week are overweight. All those extra hours people put in trying to impress the boss, or wining and dining clients, don’t pay off when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. For every 10 hours worked – over and above the weekly 40 – at a non-strenuous job, men gain about 1.4 pounds and women gain about 2.5 pounds. The Economist theorized longer work hours might translate into less exercise time, more take-out meals, and fewer hours of sleep. All of these have the potential to affect weight.
In a separate article, The Economist pointed out there has been a significant shift in the leisure time of the rich and the poor. One expert cited said, “In the 19th century you could tell how poor somebody was by how long they worked.” That has changed over time. In 1965, college-educated men, who tended to earn more than men without college degrees, had more leisure time than men with only high school diplomas. By 2005 the college-educated enjoyed eight hours less leisure time each week than the high school grads.
It’s interesting to note less than 60 percent of Americans who work 20 or fewer hours a week are overweight.
Weekly Fun – Think About It
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature, and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.”
–Anne Frank, Writer