December Economic Update
The Markets & Economy
In November, the S&P 500 gained 2.81% and advanced for a thirteenth straight month – an unprecedented milestone in the index’s long history. Consumer confidence and investor confidence were both abundant as further evidence arrived that the economy was growing at an impressive rate.
Solid fundamental indicators, upbeat earnings announcements, and hopes for 2018 tax cuts motivated stock gains in the U.S.; though many foreign benchmarks slumped. Oil prices rose and home sales picked up after a late-summer lull. (1)
A December Federal Reserve rate hike seems a certainty to many investors. Given the growth rate in the second and third quarters, it raises the question whether the central bank will need to start tightening faster in 2018.
This current upward trending market has had help from low inflation as well as accommodative monetary policy. It would certainly get a tailwind, perhaps a strong one, from passage of federal tax reforms. While potential stock market hazards always lurk, Wall Street seems very confident heading into the holiday season. A great 2017 could precede solid gains in 2018. (1)
Year-End Charitable Gifting
Are you making charitable donations this holiday season? If so, you should know about some of the financial “fine print” involved, as the right moves could potentially bring more of a benefit to the charity and to you.
To deduct charitable donations, you must itemize them on I.R.S. Schedule A and you need to document each donation you make. Ideally, the charity uses a form it has on hand to provide you with proof of your contribution. If the charity does not have such a form handy (and some charities do not), then a receipt, a credit or debit card statement, a bank statement, or a cancelled check will have to suffice. The I.R.S. needs to know three things: the name of the charity, the gifted amount, and the date of your gift. (2)
Make sure your gift goes to a qualified charity with 501(c)(3) non-profit status. Also, visit CharityNavigator.org, CharityWatch.org, or GiveWell.org to evaluate a charity and learn how effectively it utilizes donations. If you are considering a large donation, ask the charity involved how it will use your gift.
Should you donate a vehicle to charity? This can be worthwhile, but you probably will not get fair market value for the donation; if that bothers you, you could always try to sell the vehicle at fair market value yourself and gift the cash. As organizations that coordinate these gifts are notorious for taking big cuts, you may want to think twice about this idea. (3)
1 - finance.google.com/finance?q=INDEXSP%3A.INX&ei=6JcgWoKgH4GG2Ab8_LzoDA [11/30/17] 2 - tinyurl.com/y8dkleed [8/23/17] 3 - foxbusiness.com/features/2017/10/18/edmunds-what-to-know-about-donating-your-car-to-charity.html [10/18/17]
This post has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. Bob Lawson is not engaged in rendering legal or accounting services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.