You probably know that representatives from Canada, Mexico and the U.S. are meeting at this moment to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—and, in the words of President Trump, get “a better deal for America.” But what IS NAFTA, and what are the chances that this time around the provisions will favor jobs and growth in America?
Low interest rates and added regulation designed to head off another global financial crisis has made it more expensive and complicated to run a banking operation these days. Gone are the heady days when banks were building 200 new brick and mortar locations a month in the U.S. market, leading up to the market top in 2008, when there were 100,000 bank branches in the U.S.—35 for every 100,000 adults, twice as many, per capita, as Germany.
Chances are, the market barometer you most often hear about is the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Every evening, the Dow’s ups or downs are soberly reported as if they reflect something important.
Have you ever wondered what stock market professionals and equity analysts talk about in their spare time? Recently, the Bloomberg website featured a debate about something that is getting a lot of attention recently: the historically high, and still-rising U.S. stock market valuations. People have been willing to pay more, and more, and more for a dollar of corporate earnings. What does that mean about future returns?
Chances are you’ve never paid anybody to have lunch with you, but chances are you aren’t Warren Buffett either. Every year, the Sage from Omaha hosts an auction, with the highest bidder getting to join Buffett for lunch and bring seven guests—with the proceeds going to charity. The winner in this, the 18th year of the auction, came in at $2.67 million, which is actually below last year’s winning bid, of $3.46 million.
You receive portfolio performance reports every three months—a form of transparency that financial planning professionals introduced at a time when the typical brokerage statement was impossible to decipher. But it might surprise you to know that most professionals think there is actually little value to any quarterly performance information, other than to reassure you that you actually do own a diversified portfolio of investments. It’s very difficult to know if you’re staying abreast of the market, and for most of us, that’s not really relevant anyway.
It’s not uncommon to hear people wish that we could return to the “good old days,” when the world seemed more prosperous. Of course, depending on how far you go back, the “good old days” might cover a time when the world was poised on the edge of a nuclear precipice, when the Soviet Union and other communist governments basically enslaved more than 50% of the world’s population, when racism was practiced openly and codified in the legal system, when there was no Internet or smartphones, and when TV entertainment consisted of three or sometimes four channels on a heavy, small-screen device that didn’t include a remote.