Watching the Tape: Random gleanings from the world of business, investments and economics
Fintrust 1st Annual Financial Conference
Last Friday the first annual Fintrust Financial Forum brought renowned experts and Fintrust clients together at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Greenville, SC. The takeaways were numerous. We’ll pass along a couple of those takeaways today, and more in the weeks ahead.
In the morning keynote address, Goldman Sachs senior market strategist Allen Sukholitsky set a tone for the conference: cautious optimism.
Goldman believes a recession is not around the corner. Though the economy is currently in its 81st month of expansion (the normal expansion lasts 72 months), the economy is fundamentally sound. Goldman believes there is a 60% chance that sustainable growth will continue for another three years.
Allen reminded the audience that stocks go up for three reasons:
2. Earnings growth
3. Multiple expansions (expanding price-to-earnings ratios)
Goldman Sachs believes the US stock market is fully valued, currently, and P/E expansion is unlikely from here, especially if the Fed tightens interest rates later in the year. That leaves two engines for growth: dividends and earnings growth.
Goldman’s forecast for the next few years: mid-single digit returns for the S & P 500.
Comment: Goldman believes oil prices will stabilize at higher levels, which should be a net positive for stocks.
One of the conference’s most popular presenters was Felica Rude, Special Agent in Charge of the Columbia, SC field office of the Secret Service.
Felica brought us up to date on identity theft, and ways to help avoid it or minimize the impact. Some of her recommendations:
• Avoid giving out your Social Security number if you don’t really need to. She noted the healthcare industry is especially vulnerable to security breaches. Assisted living centers are also vulnerable.
• Use two home computers: one computer dedicated to your email and internet browsing, the other dedicated to online financial transactions. By separating your online activities, you can limit the opportunities for bad guys to access your financial data through emails and web searches.
• Be suspicious of all emails about money, or asking for personal information. Said Felica, “verify, verify, verify”.
• Ask your banker to put an ATM withdrawal alert on your checking account. With an alert in place, every time an ATM withdrawal exceeds a certain amount (she has hers set for $50), you receive an email notification from your bank.
• Freeze your credit. This is done through major credit agencies. Freezing your credit will keep the bad guys from borrowing money in your name. This strategy may create problems, however, if you forget to un-freeze it before trying to get a loan.
• Strive to owe income tax at the end of the year, instead of trying to get a refund. Most of us hope for a refund, but tax refund fraud is rampant. If you owe money, you won’t be victimized.
• Change all of your passwords often and make them strong (difficult).
• Don’t give out personal information on Facebook or other social networking sites. The bad guys are keeping track of you. Felica mentioned vacations, advising the audience to never announce an upcoming vacation on a social network.
• Make up fake answers to your easy log-on test questions. Frankly we were a little surprised by this one, but it makes sense. If your mother’s maiden name is Smith, and a web link asks for your mother’s maiden name, make up something like Elvispressley (that name was our idea, not Felica’s). In other words, give them a name you can remember that nobody else could figure out on their own.
The 1st annual Fintrust Financial Forum was a success. We thank our speakers and our attendees. Above all, thank you to our sponsors:
The Week Ahead
Economics This Week
Tuesday: FOMC (Fed) Meeting begins, Producer Price Index, Retail Sales, Empire State Manufacturing Survey, Business Inventories, Housing Market Index
Wednesday: Consumer Price Index, Housing Starts, Industrial Production, FOMC (Fed) Meeting Announcement
Thursday: Jobless Claims
Friday: Quadruple Witching Day
Monday: Rosetta Stone, Westport Innovations
Tuesday: Eastman Kodak, Oracle
Wednesday: FedEx, Guess, Williams-Sonoma
Thursday: Adobe Systems, Lands End, Michael Cors, Fresh Market