Letters category: Letters

Happy Valentine’s Day… February 9, 2024
Downloads: Happy-Valentines-Day.pdf

Happy Valentine’s Day!

For many people, Valentine’s is the most romantic day of the year.  But not everybody feels that way.  Some people are single.  Some are divorced.  Some are widowed.  Others don’t think the idea of spending money on flowers, chocolates, and fancy dinners is romantic at all and may resent the feeling that society “expects” them to do it.

In truth, though, the day is about far more than romance.  It’s about showing others they are loved and appreciated.  Recently, we came across several stories of people who are doing just that: Using Valentine’s Day to spread love in their communities and show appreciation to those who need it most.  In honor of the holiday, we thought we’d share three of those stories with you.


At Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, many of the patients are veterans.  Most of these wounded warriors are there for the long term.  Some are injured in body, mind, and heart.  Others are elderly and frail, their bodies finally on the verge of giving up the long fight.

All have dedicated their lives to serving their country.

So, every Valentine’s Day, a group of local teenagers take the time to show these veterans how much their service and sacrifice mean to the community.  Working with the residents of a nearby senior living community, the teens craft Valentine’s Day gifts by hand.  First, they paint dozens of bowls, then fill them with paper hearts and cranes.  Each is carefully shaped, cut, and folded with as much care and love as possible.

The students were not the first to do this.  The tradition started eight years ago with former students and has continued ever since.  And they know they will not be the last.

According to the hospital staff, “It lets [the veterans] know we love them, and we appreciate them.  When they get these [Valentines], it really warms their heart.”1

And as one gift giver put it: “By showing love for other people, we can be their Valentine in a way.”1

***

When it comes to showing love, nothing on Earth shows it better than a dog.  That’s why, in the Philippines, some people choose to spend Valentine’s Day giving love back.

Every Valentine’s Day in Manila, an animal shelter charges guests about $10 to spend half an hour with a rescue dog.  Many of the dogs came from abusive households or experienced trauma.  The fee goes to running the shelter, which cares for over 240 dogs and cats.  The guests can choose one or more dogs to walk and play with, and many will choose to adopt their new furry friend.  But all the dogs benefit, because it helps them relax, improve their social skills…and yes, feel more loved.

Says one of the caretakers: “A lot of animals in the shelter can give all the love that they can give, but they aren’t given a chance.”2  But now, many dogs will get that chance.

Thirty minutes with a dog.  Who could ask for a better date on Valentine’s Day?

***

As you know, few gifts are as romantic as flowers – making Valentine’s like Christmas for the floral industry.  In fact, 250 million flowers are sold around the world every Valentine’s Day!

For some people, though, Valentine’s Day doesn’t trigger feelings of romance, but of loneliness.  This is especially true for those who have lost their spouse or partner.  Back in 2021, a florist in North Carolina decided it was time those people felt loved around the holiday, too.

It all began when the florist, Ashley, delivered a bouquet to her son’s preschool teacher as a gift.  It meant so much to the teacher that Ashley started thinking about others who might enjoy a similar gift.  With the help of some volunteers, Ashley decided to deliver free flowers to widows in her community.  Using Instagram to get the word out, Ashley built a list of 125 people.

The next year, that number increased to 800.

Since then, Ashley has raised $50,000 and recruited over 1000 volunteers to help make Valentine’s Day special to those who have lost their spouse or partner.  The initiative has become so popular that she no longer does regular business on Valentine’s Day.  Instead, she spends that time knocking on doors and delivering flowers to those who least expect them…and most appreciate them.

“It’s a total surprise, and [at first] there is a lot of confusion,” Ashley says.  “But on a day that may be sad, you open your door, and there’s a young person there with a bouquet and gifts saying, ‘We just want you to know you’re loved today and every day.’  We flipped the script and turned it into a holiday that is not just for people who are married or have a partner to celebrate with.  When we see the smiles on people’s faces, it’s encouraging to know there are a lot of good people in this world, and it takes one movement to create a ripple effect.”3


To us, these stories prove that Valentine’s Day isn’t just for romance, as fun as that can be.  It’s a day for spreading love throughout our community.  A day for letting those around us know they are appreciated, valued, and seen.  And that, to us, makes it a special day indeed.  So, on behalf of everyone here at Hudock Capital Group, we want you to know how much we value and appreciate you.  Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

Sincerely,

Barbara B. Hudock CIMA®, CPM®
Chief Executive Officer
Founding Partner

Michael J. Hudock, Jr., CPM®
President and Founding Partner
Wealth Consultant

1 “For Valentine’s Day, Chicago teens, seniors spread love with veterans,” CBS News, www.cbsnews.com/chicago/news/valentines-chicago-veterans/

2 “Animal lovers book Valentine’s with shelter dogs,” Reuters, www.reuters.com/lifestyle/philippines-animal-lovers-book-valentines-dates-with-shelter-dogs-2023-02-14/

3 “Charlotte florist gives flowers to widows on Valentine’s,” CBS News, www.cbsnews.com/news/valentines-day-flowers-charlotte-florist-widow/?intcid=CNM-00-10abd1h

2023: The Year in Review January 8, 2024
Downloads: 2023-Year-in-Review.pdf

Every January, it’s customary to look back on the year that was. What were the highlights? What were the “lowlights”?  What events will we remember?  Most importantly, what did we learn?

As you know, many noteworthy and historic events happened in 2023.  Conflicts in Gaza, Ukraine, and Sudan.  India surpassed China as the most populous country in the world.  New temperature records were set all around the globe.  The use of “artificial intelligence” exploded and turned multiple industries on their heads.  Chinese spy balloons and deep-sea submarines grabbed the headlines.  The “Barbenheimer” phenomenon reinvigorated Hollywood.

But in some ways, one of the most notable occurrences of 2023 is actually what didn’t happen: We never entered a recession.

When 2023 began, the fear of a recession was so widespread that it almost seemed inevitable.  According to one survey, 70% of economists expected a recession to hit the U.S. in 2023.1  Another survey found 58% of economists believed there was a more than 50% chance of a recession. 1  For politicians, pundits, and analysts, it was practically all they could talk about.

But it never happened.  Instead, the economy grew by 2.2% in the first quarter, 2.1% in the second, and 4.9% in the third.2  (As of this writing, the numbers for Q4 are not yet available, but it’s expected to go up again.)  None of this is to say that our economy is perfect, or that we won’t have a recession in the future.  But for 2023, all the gloomy forecasts simply didn’t come to pass.

Now, let’s be fair to all those economists who got it wrong: They had very good reasons for expecting a recession.  Reasons based on data, logic, and history.

You see, when the year began, the U.S. was coming off a nasty 2022.  While consumer prices were already coming down from their earlier highs, the national inflation rate was still 6.5%.3  Interest rates, meanwhile, had risen dramatically, from just above 0% at the beginning of 2022 to over 4% by the end.4  It was already the highest level we’d seen in fifteen years – just before the Great Recession, in fact – and every indication was that rates would continue to rise higher.  All this economic pain was reflected in the stock market.  The S&P 500, for example, dropped over 19% in 2022.5

For economists, all this data seemed to point a clear way forward.  The Federal Reserve is mandated to keep consumer prices as stable as possible.  (Its target has long been to hold inflation to around 2%.)  When inflation runs hot, the Fed’s main tool for lowering it is to raise interest rates.  Higher rates often lead to lower consumer spending.  Lower spending, in turn, prompts businesses to decrease the cost of the goods and services they provide.  Essentially, higher rates create an environment where supply is greater than demand, thus cooling inflation.

But there’s a side effect to this.  If spending drops too much, businesses are often forced to cut back on expansion, investment, and labor costs.  This leads to a rise in unemployment…and a contracting economy.  In short, a recession.

This string of events isn’t just logical.  It’s supported by history.  When inflation has skyrocketed in the past, the Fed’s playbook has usually worked to bring prices down…but it’s usually triggered a recession, too.  Economists call this a “hard landing.”

Take a look at these two charts.  The top shows interest rate levels since 1955.3  The gray bars indicate a recession.  Notice how often a gray bar appears in the aftermath of a sharp rise in rates?  Similarly, the bottom chart shows the unemployment rate.6  See how the gray bars always coincide with a major spike in unemployment?  It’s clear that, historically, fast-rising rates often trigger a rise in unemployment…which contributes to a recession.

What about when prices come down, but the economy does not?  Economists call that a soft landing, and it’s proven to be very difficult to achieve.  It’s no surprise, then, that most economists predicted a hard landing in 2023.

One year later, that hasn’t happened.  Interest rates did continue to rise.  As of this writing, they’re at 5.3%.4  Inflation has continued to cool, albeit slowly.  As of November, the inflation rate was 3.1%.  That’s a 3.4% drop from the beginning of the year.3  But consumer spending has remained steady.  The labor market has remained strong.  The unemployment rate was only 3.7% as of November.6  And, as we’ve already covered, the economy has continued to grow.

From a financial standpoint, this, to me, is the major storyline of 2023.  Which means we have to ask ourselves: “What can we learn from it?”  As your financial advisors, we’ve taken the time to jot down a few lessons we think are worth remembering as we move into the New Year.  Here they are:

#1: Always emphasize preparation over prediction.  The economists who predicted a recession weren’t stupid.  They used the best data they had to make the best predictions they could.  But 2023 shows that even the most well-informed people simply can’t see the future.  Even the near future!  There are simply too many variables to consider.  That’s why, as investors, we have to always emphasize planning over predicting.  We can’t predict when the markets will drop nearly 20%, as they did in 2022.5  Or, when they’ll rise by well over 20%, as they did in 2023.5  What we can do is plan ahead for what we’ll do if the markets fall, or if they rise.  We can prepare mentally and financially for both market storms and market sunshine.  So that we can weather the former and take advantage of the latter.

When we predict, we’re essentially swinging for the fences on every pitch.  Occasionally, a prediction can lead to a home run…but it can also lead to a lot of strike outs.  By planning, we don’t have to swing at all.  Since we can’t control the situation, we simply make the best out of every situation.  We control only what we can control – ourselves.

#2: Be wary of confirmation bias.  Earlier in the year, many people were convinced a recession would happen.  Because of that, they tended to disregard all data that pointed away from a recession, and only valued information that confirmed what they already believed.  As a result, many investors missed out on a stellar year in the markets!  This is another example of why preparing is so much better than predicting.  It removes emotion from our decision-making.  Because we’re not so focused on “being right,” we can focus instead on “being ready!”

#3: Remember that past performance is no guarantee of future results.  You’ve probably seen this line in the past, and 2023 is a great example of why.  Just because rising interest rates have led to recessions in the past doesn’t mean they always will.  Just because the markets went one direction yesterday doesn’t mean they’ll go the same direction tomorrow.  While history is a great resource to draw from when making decisions, it’s just a guide, not a guarantee.

#4: At the same time, don’t anchor to the present.  As humans, we have a natural tendency to think that the way things are today is how they’ll be tomorrow.  When 2022 ended, many investors felt that 2023 would be much the same.  Now, we run the risk of thinking that just because a recession didn’t happen last year, it won’t happen this year.

Again, it all goes back to planning and preparation.  Here at Hudock Capital Group, we will continue to prepare for all possible outcomes.  We’ll plan for how to reach the outcomes we want and avoid the ones we don’t.  But instead of predicting, instead of assuming, instead of anchoring, we will accept that the future is written in clay, not stone.  Only when it becomes the past does it harden.  So, when you get right down to it, the lesson of 2023 is this: The future is flexible, and so we must be flexible, too.  By doing this, we can continue shaping your future into whatever it is you want it to be.

So, that’s 2023!  We hope it was a wonderful year.  On behalf of our entire team, we look forward to making 2024 even better.  Have a Happy New Year!

Sincerely,

Barbara B. Hudock CIMA®, CPM®
Chief Executive Officer
Founding Partner

Michael J. Hudock, Jr., CPM®
President and Founding Partner
Wealth Consultant

SOURCES:

1 “Top US economists are often wrong – should we trust their predictions?” The Guardian, www.theguardian.com/business/2023/nov/19/us-economists-wrong-predictions

2 “Annualized growth of real GDP in the United States,” Statista, www.statista.com/statistics/188185/percent-change-from-preceding-period-in-real-gdp-in-the-us/

3 “United States Inflation Rate,” Trading Economics, https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/inflation-cpi

4 “Federal Funds Effective Rate,” St. Louis Fed, https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/FEDFUNDS

5 “S&P 500 Historical Annual Returns,” Macrotrends, https://www.macrotrends.net/2526/sp-500-historical-annual-returns

6 “Unemployment Rate,” St. Louis Fed, https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/UNRATE

Happy Holidays!!! December 20, 2023
Downloads: Happy-Holidays.pdf

You know Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Vixen…but do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?

We’re referring, of course, to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  And yes, we know what you’re thinking: everyone knows Rudolph.  But do you know the actual story behind everyone’s favorite flying deer?  Until recently, all we knew were the words to the song.  But the other day we came across the history of Rudolph and found it so fitting for the season that we thought we’d share it with you today.


It was January 1939.  The Great Depression was ongoing, and war was breaking out all over Europe.  It wasn’t exactly the most festive of times – especially for a young writer named Robert L. May.

At the time, Robert was working as a copywriter for the Montgomery Ward department store in Chicago.  While he was often seen as the life of every party, in private he found himself feeling more and more downhearted.  For one thing, he was buried in debt, as many Americans were, with little prospect of getting out of it.  Professionally, he felt like a failure.  Instead of writing the next Great American Novel, he spent his days writing catalog copy, trying to make dress shirts sound exciting.  Worst of all, his wife was dying of cancer.  Soon, he knew he would have to raise their only daughter alone.

So, when he came to work one freezing day in January, the last thing he felt was the holiday spirit.  In fact, he later confessed to being relieved that the Christmas decorations from the previous year were finally being taken down.  But as any good writer would tell you, this is the point – when things look bleakest, and the main character is at their lowest point – that the story takes an unexpected turn.

That day, Robert’s boss came to him with an unusual request.  Every Christmas, the company released a promotional coloring book for children.  Since Robert was so good with jokes and limericks, would he be willing to write a story to go along with the next one?

Writing something jolly as a way to sell more clothes was the last thing on Robert’s mind.  But he was in no position to say no – so, of course, he said yes.

Robert got down to work.  At first, all he could come up with was that the story should be about a reindeer since his little daughter loved seeing them at the zoo.  But that presented a problem.  Reindeer were already associated with Christmas. Ever since the poem A Visit from Saint Nicholas was published back in 1820.  Every child in the country could list their names: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen.  So, what would the story actually be about?

Then, one day, Robert looked out his window at the wintry fog coming off Lake Michigan.  That’s when it hit him: How could Santa Claus or his reindeer ever deliver presents in conditions like that? 

The solution, Robert decided, was to create a ninth reindeer…with a glowing nose that could guide Santa in

the fog.  He wrote down a list of names, all beginning with the letter R for “alliterative purposes.”1  There was Rodney, Roddy and Roderick.  He tried Rudy, Romeo, and Rolland, too.  At last, he came up with a group of three finalists: Rollo, Reginald, and…Rudolph.  He selected the last because it “rolled off the tongue nicely.” 1   Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was officially born!

Meanwhile, his wife’s sickness worsened.  Instead of running away from his grief, Robert decided to draw from it.  He also drew from his experiences as a child when he had been bullied or didn’t quite “fit in”.  So, he made the story open on a sad, crying reindeer.  A reindeer who just couldn’t understand why life was being so cruel.  A reindeer who knew it had more to offer the world than the world could see.

Robert decided to write the story as a poem, using the same meter as A Visit from Saint Nicholas.  Slowly, the story took shape.  But then, in July, his wife passed away.  His boss offered to take the story off his plate and assign it to someone else, but Robert refused.  As he later explained, “I needed Rudolph now more than ever.  Gratefully, I buried myself in the writing.”1

By the end of summer, Robert had a draft.  But when he showed it to his boss, the response was, “Can’t you come up with anything better?”

That might have been the end of poor Rudolph right there – had Robert not received somewhat different feedback from much more important critics.  When he read it to his daughter and his wife’s parents, they immediately fell in love with the red-nosed deer.  “In their eyes, I could see that the story accomplished what I had hoped,” he later said. 1

So, Robert enlisted a friend to draw pictures for every page.  This time, the story was accepted…and the company distributed more than two million copies across the country.  Then, a small publishing house printed the book in hardcover, and it became a best-seller.  Eventually, the rage died down.  Robert continued to work for Montgomery Ward, although, like Rudoph, his life improved from that point on.  He was able to get out of debt and, a few years later, remarried.

After World War II ended, the company decided to give the rights to Rudolph entirely over to Robert, thinking the reindeer’s usefulness was over.  So, Robert asked his brother-in-law, a musician, if he wouldn’t mind turning the poem into a song.  The song found its way into the hands of the legendary singer, Gene Autry…and the resulting recording sold more than 25 million copies.

Having started under a mountain of debt, Robert and his family were financially set for life.  And though he may not have written the Great American Novel, he wrote something that, perhaps, will last for even longer: A reindeer that will go down in history.  A reindeer that, as the Chicago Tribune once wrote, “has become the first new and accepted Christmas legend since A Visit from St. Nicholas.”2 


We all experience low points in our lives.  Sometimes, we feel discouraged about where we are in life.  But we love this story because it reminds us that, with just a bit of hope, a bit of belief in ourselves, and by remembering that all of us have so much to offer the world – like Robert, like Rudolph – things will get better.  So, on behalf of everyone on our team, we wish you a Merry Christmas!  May your holidays be as bright as the nose of a very special reindeer soaring across the sky.

Sincerely,

Barbara B. Hudock CIMA®, CPM®
Chief Executive Officer
Founding Partner

Michael J. Hudock, Jr., CPM®
President and Founding Partner
Wealth Consultant

1 “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Origins,” TIME, https://time.com/5479322/rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer-history-origins/

2 “Robert L. May,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_L._May

Have a blessed Thanksgiving… November 17, 2023
Downloads: Have-a-blessed-Thanksgiving.pdf

Chances are that sometime over the last few weeks, you’ve seen a gaggle of geese flying south for the winter.  (And yes, “gaggle” is the correct term – we looked it up to make sure!)

But have you wondered why geese fly in a V formation?  We recently looked that up, too – and the answer was both interesting and inspiring.  Particularly now, just before the holidays.  In fact, it made us realize what we’re most grateful for as we prepare for a new Thanksgiving.

You see, as each goose flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following.  By flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds at least 71% greater flying range than if each bird were to fly on its own.1

As we look at the faces gathered around the Thanksgiving table, we’ll think to ourselves that it’s because of them – family, friends, neighbors, colleagues – that we’ve been able to make it this far in life.  Their support, their friendship, their time, their talents, their love – all of it has lifted us up and helped us get to where we want to be.


The V formation has other advantages, too.  Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone – and quickly gets back into the V, to take advantage of the lifting power of the birds in front.1

As we share our home and food with those gathered around the Thanksgiving table, we’ll think to ourselves how much harder life would be without them.  The things we’ve done, the places we’ve been, the goals we’ve accomplished…it simply would not have been possible alone.  Because none of us can get to where we want to be solely on our own. 

By the way, the same is true for you.  In fact, without you and our other clients, we wouldn’t even have a business!


Of course, the V formation starts with a lead goose.  The one who sets the pace, chooses the direction, and flies without the benefit of other geese in front of it.  But when the head goose gets tired, it rotates back into the wing and allows another goose to fly point.1

As we sit at the Thanksgiving table and give thanks for all the things our business has enabled us to afford, we’ll also give thanks to our amazing team.  As financial advisors, we strive to be the “lead goose” in the gaggle – setting the pace and choosing the direction.  But it’s our team that keeps the business aloft.  They do what we cannot, take point when we cannot, bear the burdens we cannot.  We rely on them, depend on them, need them, and treasure them. 


You may often hear geese honking as they fly in a V formation.  That’s because geese in the rear honk to urge those in front to keep up their speed.1  But they don’t honk in anger – they honk in encouragement!

As we listen to the voices laughing and chatting around the Thanksgiving table, we’ll think how often they have encouraged us.  How often they’ve told us, “You can do this,” or “We believe in you.”  How often they’ve pushed us to fly just a little longer, a little faster, a little further. 

And we’ll think, too: What do we say to the people that we stand behind?  How can we communicate in a way that helps those in front of us to do all they can and be all they can be?


Finally, when a goose gets sick or injured and falls out of formation, two other geese will also drop out and follow it down to help and protect it.  They will stay with the fallen goose until it is able to fly, or until it dies.  Only then do they return to the rest of the group.1

As we hold hands, break bread, and count blessings with the people around the Thanksgiving table, we’ll think how we all should stand by each other like that, in good times and bad, for better or for worse…if we but have the sense of a goose.  


As you can see, there is so much to learn from geese.  By following their example, we can fly higher, faster, and further…together.  And that is what we’re truly thankful for, «Salutation».  We’re thankful for all those in our gaggle, in our flock.  Thankful for the lift they provide, the support they give, and the love they share.

We’re thankful for our family, our friends, our team…and for you.

On behalf of everyone at Hudock Capital Group, we wish you a happy Thanksgiving!  May your holiday be filled with good friends, good food, and good cheer…with great memories the result.

And may we always continue to fly in a V formation!     

Sincerely,

Barbara B. Hudock CIMA®, CPM®
Chief Executive Officer
Founding Partner

Michael J. Hudock, Jr., CPM®
President and Founding Partner
Wealth Consultant

1 All my goose facts taken from a speech given by Angeles Arrien at the 1991 Organization Development Network, based on the work of Milton Olson.  https://med.fsu.edu/sites/default/files/uploads/files/FacultyDevelopment_LessonsGeese.pdf

Thank a Veteran… November 8, 2023
Downloads: Thank-a-Veteran.pdf

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month … in 1918, this was called Armistice Day, the official end to a horrible war.  Over time, it has evolved into the Veteran’s Day we now observe here in America.  What does this mean to us?  What are the facts?

Almost passed from living memory, World War I was supposed to forever end the carnage of war.  Yet in truth that war, with the Armistice Day that ended it, is a root of our modern world.  We should remember the event and its context.

On June 28, 1914, a lone assassin’s bullet was fired in a place well-known to most 21st century readers—Sarajevo.  That little spark in a city unknown to most of the world triggered a war that murdered millions.  At the time, it was called “The Great War.”  Now we call it World War I.

By April 1917, calling it “the war to end all wars,” President Woodrow Wilson declared war against Germany.  Americans were asked to remember the RMS Lusitania, a passenger ship sunk by a German U‑boat in 1915.  By November 1918, over 4,000,000 men (called doughboys) were sent “over there.”  By Armistice Day, the American dead and wounded exceeded 300,000!1

When we consider that American troops were not committed to combat until the late spring of 1918, theirs was a horrific casualty ratio!  Because the war was so horrible, American and European politicians—and most meant well—tried afterward through the Versailles Peace Treaty and the League of Nations to ensure war would never again scar mankind.  All was temporarily quiet on the Western front.  But neither Wilson’s Fourteen Points nor November’s peace prevented another war.

Twenty years later, the sons of doughboys bled and died again at Pearl Harbor, in Europe, and throughout the Pacific.  Five years later, they fought in Korea.  Ten years after that, their sons suffered in steamy Asian jungles.  Today, the sons and grandsons of Vietnam veterans fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.

All these are included in Veteran’s Day observances and usually overshadow World War I.  Yet there were terrible sacrifices in that conflict, which forever changed our world.  Those veterans helped purchase today’s freedom.

Throughout our history as a nation, men and women have fought, suffered, bled, and died so we could enjoy a freedom unmatched anywhere or anytime in the history of man­kind.  This is not bragging.  Rather, it is a realistic assessment of the leadership role afforded America and the sacrifices made by her people.

Patriotism requires us to appreciate the ultimate sacrifice paid by so many of America’s soldiers.  No doughboys remain now.  Frank W. Buckles was the last American World War I veteran, and he died at 110 years of age on February 27, 2011.  As World War I has passed from living memory, their lives and the reasons for their sacrifice must never be forgotten!

This Veteran’s Day, let’s honor our dead by working and hoping for a true and lasting peace.  Perhaps that is the best way we can observe the original intent of Armistice Day.      

Sincerely,

Barbara B. Hudock CIMA®, CPM®
Chief Executive Officer
Founding Partner

Michael J. Hudock, Jr., CPM®
President and Founding Partner
Wealth Consultant

Sources:

1 The Great War, Resources. WWI Casalities and Deaths. PBS.  Viewed October 14, 2013.

http://www.pbs.org/greatwar/resources/casdeath_pop.html

2 The Washinton Post, “Last U.S. World War I veteran Frank W. Buckles dies at 110.” February 28, 2011.  Viewed October 14, 2013.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/28/AR2011022800165.html?sid=ST2011022801892

Cause and effect October 11, 2023
Downloads: Cause-and-efffect.pdf

If you’ve been paying attention to the headlines, you know that September was a rough month for the markets.  The S&P 500 finished down 4.9%, making it the worst month of the year.1  For the quarter, the S&P dropped 3.6%, while the Dow lost 2.6%.1

What’s behind this surge in volatility?  While it’s easy to see all these numbers and headlines and feel overwhelmed, it might be helpful to think of the markets as a knotted-up ball of string.  By slowly tracing the string backward, we can gradually untangle it.  By doing that, we can discover the markets’ recent performance is based largely on a series of causes and effects, each leading into the next.  So, in this message, let’s unravel that string together and make sense of what’s going on.

Cause: Reduced oil production by Saudi Arabia, Russia, and others → Effect: Higher oil prices

In June, Saudi Arabia – second only to the United States as the world’s largest oil-producing country – announced it would cut its production by one million barrels per day.2  Several other nations, including Russia, followed suit.  All told, these cuts total around five million barrels a day.  Prior to this, oil prices had slid by nearly 15% over the previous seven months.2  These countries wanted to reduce supply to drive prices back up.  Initially, the cuts were only supposed to last for one month, but they have since been extended.  The law of supply and demand holds that when supply goes down and demand does not, prices go up.  Due to these cuts, oil prices have risen to their highest level since November of 2022.3  This, in turn, has driven up the cost of gasoline.

Cause: Higher oil prices → Effect: Rising Inflation

As you know, many goods and services depend on oil and gas.  Higher prices make certain types of transportation and manufacturing more expensive for businesses.  Anything that requires oil to be produced becomes more expensive.  Anything that requires oil to be shipped from one place to another becomes more expensive.  You get the idea.  These costs are often passed to consumers in the form of more expensive airline tickets, food, electricity…it starts adding up.

We have a name for rising prices: Inflation.  Now, inflation is still down significantly from where it was earlier in the year.  (The inflation rate was 6.4% in January and dropped to as low as 3% in June.)  But it has ticked up again during the summer, rising to 3.7% in August.4

Cause: Persistent Inflation (plus resilient economy) → Effect: High Interest Rates

To combat inflation, the Federal Reserve has hiked interest rates to their highest level in decades.  Higher interest rates have helped bring prices down, but they also make things more costly for businesses.  As a result, investors had hoped that lower inflation would prompt the Fed to slowly reduce interest rates.

Technically, rates have not risen in two months.  But since inflation is still proving stubborn – and since the economy is still growing – investors are coming to terms with the likelihood that rates will remain high for the foreseeable future.  Furthermore, if inflation continues to tick up, we may even see another rate hike before the year is out.

 

Cause: High interest rates → Effect: Higher bond yields

The realization that rates are likely to remain high has led to a spike in bond yields.  In fact, the yield on 10-year Treasury bonds is currently at its highest level in 16 years!5  You see, when interest rates go up, the price of existing bonds usually falls.  That’s because investors can buy newly issued bonds that pay higher coupon rates than older bonds.  As a result, if bond owners want to sell their older bonds, they must do so at a discount.  When bond prices go down, bond yields – the return an investor expects to gain until the bond matures – go up.

Cause: High bond yields → Effect: Less attractive stock market

Rising yields tend to make bonds more attractive to some investors.  Bonds, especially US Treasurys, are often seen as more stable and less volatile compared to stocks.  So, when investors feel they can get a decent return with less volatility, that tends to cause money to flow out of the stock market and into the bond market.  The end result: Stocks go down.

Whew!  We did it, «Salutation».  We traced the string and discovered some of the causes and effects currently driving the stock market.

One more possible cause-and-effect to keep an eye on

Now, to be clear, this string doesn’t cover every factor beneath the current volatility.  For example, higher gas prices and rising inflation tend to also decrease consumer spending, the lifeblood of our economy.  Should spending go down, that would lead to lower quarterly earnings for many companies that trade on the stock market.

To-date, consumer spending has been steady enough to keep the labor market strong and our economy growing.  (The economy grew by 2.2% in the first quarter of 2023, and 2.1% in the second quarter.6)  Data for the third quarter won’t be released until the end of October, but, as of this writing, the Federal Reserve projects even higher growth for Q3.7  The fear that some investors have, however, is that higher prices will lead to a drop in consumer spending. This, of course, would lead to a more anemic economy.

Now, in some respects, this is actually what the Federal Reserve wants.  A drop in consumer spending would force companies to lower prices on the goods they provide, thereby decreasing inflation.  But it’s a fine line the Fed has to hit, rather like a parachuter trying to land on a very small target.  If the economy slows too much, that will cause a recession. If it doesn’t slow enough, that would cause stagflation – a situation where the economy becomes stagnant even though inflation remains high.

Stagflation is rare, and currently, we’re nowhere near it.  In fact, we’ve only had one significant period of it in living memory, which occurred all the way back in the 1970s.  But since the markets move largely on what could happen – not what is currently happening – the fear of stagflation may also be contributing to the recent volatility.

So, that’s where things stand.  As you can see, there is a lot to monitor right now.  Over the coming months, investors will be poring over every bit of data that comes out of the government for hints of what might come down the road.  Meanwhile, the markets may well remain volatile for some time.

The good news is that you don’t have to spend your time scrutinizing reports and worrying about what they mean.  That’s what we’re here for!  Our team will continue to keep a close eye on the markets, the economy, and your portfolio.  If we ever feel changes need to be made, we will make them.  In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the upcoming holiday season!  Get out there and experience the fall colors, the crisp air, and the taste of pumpkin in seemingly every drink you order.  And, if you ever have any questions or concerns, please let us know.  We are always happy to address them.

Have a great autumn!        

Sincerely,

Barbara B. Hudock CIMA®, CPM®
Chief Executive Officer
Founding Partner

Michael J. Hudock, Jr., CPM®
President and Founding Partner
Wealth Consultant

1 “S&P 500 dips after US inflation data,” Reuters, September 29, 2023.  https://www.reuters.com/markets/us/futures-climb-treasury-yields-ease-ahead-key-inflation-data-2023-09-29/

2 “Saudi Arabia Says It Will Cut Production to Stem a Slide in Oil Prices,” The NY Times, June 4, 2023.  https://www.nytimes.com/2023/06/04/business/oil-prices-opec-plus.html

3 “Oil Prices ‘Melt Up’ in a March Toward $100 a Barrel,” The NY Times, September 27, 2023.  https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/27/business/oil-price-100-barrel.html

4 “Consumer Price Index – August 2023,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cpi.pdf

5 “In the Market: US bond market signals the end of an era,” Reuters, October 2, 2023.  https://www.reuters.com/markets/rates-bonds/market-us-bond-market-signals-end-an-era-2023-10-02/

6 “Gross Domestic Product (Third Estimate),” Bureau of Economic Analysis, September 28, 2023.  https://www.bea.gov/news/2023/gross-domestic-product-third-estimate-corporate-profits-revised-estimate-second-quarter

7 “Estimate for 2023: Q3,” Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, October 2, 2023.  https://www.atlantafed.org/-/media/documents/cqer/researchcq/gdpnow/realgdptrackingslides.pdf

Coming In For a Landing August 25, 2023
Downloads: Coming-In-For-a-Landing.pdf

Time for a big summer market update

You are on a plane, currently descending gradually through the clouds.  We’re on the plane, too.  In fact, everyone in the country is on board.  Welcome to Flight 2023 of U.S. Economy Airlines.  We know our destination: A normal rate of inflation.  What we don’t know is how long the flight will take…nor what kind of landing to expect when we get there.

Will it be a hard landing, or a soft one?

This metaphor, silly as it is, accurately describes the central economic problem of the year:  How to bring historically high prices down without also tanking the economy.  (In other words, how to land the plane without crashing it.)  It’s a puzzle that has plagued every economist who has ever sat in the cockpit during times of high inflation.

In this message, we want to give you an update as to where we are on our trip.

The Flight So Far

If you’re one of those people who can actually sleep on a plane – lucky you – then here’s a recap of what happened while you were out.  In 2022, coming on the heels of a global pandemic, a global reopening, and a war in Europe, inflation in the U.S. peaked at 9.1%.1  If you rewind back to the beginning of this year, prices had fallen, but were still elevated at 6.4%.1  This was partially achieved by higher interest rates, which had risen to just over 4% in January.2

At the time, it was widely expected among economists that the Federal Reserve would continue hiking rates to bring inflation down…but as a result, the economy would enter a recession sometime later in the year.  (This would be the aforementioned hard landing.)  Now, over eight months into 2023, we can say that the first part of the prediction held up.  The Fed has continued raising rates, albeit at a slower pace, with rates currently sitting at 5.3%.2  Consumer prices have cooled, too, with the most recent data showing inflation down to 3.2%.1

The second half of the prediction, however, is yet to come true.  The U.S. economy grew by 2% in the first quarter, and current data suggests it grew by 2.4% in the second.3  (That number may be revised later as more data becomes available.)  In addition, the labor market has remained healthy, adding 187,000 new jobs in July alone.4  That has kept the unemployment rate to around 3.5%…the same rate we saw before the pandemic began in 2020.4

Over the summer, many of the same experts that were forecasting a recession began revising their predictions.  Maybe, they say, we’ll avoid a recession this year.  Maybe it is possible to bring down inflation without tanking the economy.  Maybe we can land this bird softly after all.

Soft Landings vs Hard Landings

This is an important issue to ponder.  How investors expect the landing to go plays an important role in how the markets perform.  But to accurately think about the issue, we have to first understand what the difference is…and why it’s so hard to know which we’re in for.

First, let’s define these two terms.  A soft landing is when inflation decreases to an acceptable rate without triggering an unacceptable rise in unemployment.  A hard landing, by contrast, is when prices come down so fast that most businesses experience a major drop in revenue, causing them to lay off workers.  This would result in a surge in unemployment.  Since unemployed people tend to spend less money, the economy would contract.  When an economy contracts long enough – two straight quarters is a common measurement – we call it a recession.

Do you see why the plane analogy is actually a good one?  When pilots land a plane, they must do so quickly enough to prevent stalling, but gradually enough to glide parallel to the ground, kissing the runway rather than slamming into it.  That’s the goal, here, too.  Inflation has to decline quick enough to overcome inertia, but not so fast the economy crashes.

The folks most responsible for doing this – the pilots in our metaphor – are the board members of the Federal Reserve.  In fact, the Fed is mandated to “promote effectively the goals of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.”5  When one of those three goals gets out of alignment – in this case, prices – it can be extremely difficult to regain balance.

The Fed’s track record in this area is…mixed at best.  You might think that, as a society that has put people on the moon, cured smallpox, and invented robot vacuum cleaners, we’d be able to crack this code easily.  Unfortunately, policymakers don’t really have many options, and the ones they do have all come with downsides.

For example, the simplest option for bringing down inflation without damaging the economy is to simply wait and hope prices come down on their own.  But this risks the possibility that inflation will become entrenched.  When this happens, the effects can be devastating(Think of Germany in the early 1920s, when children stacked worthless cash as building blocks, or the 1970s here in the U.S.)

The second option is for the government to impose price controls.  (Essentially, dictating the price that industries can charge for their goods and services.)  The U.S. has tried this before.  It worked during the World War II years; not so much when President Nixon tried it in 1971.  And politically, it would likely never fly today.

The final option is to do what the Fed is doing now: Hike interest rates to cool off the economy so that businesses have no choice but to lower prices.  It definitely works, but it’s risky.  Raise rates too high, too fast, and you drive the economy into a full-blown recession.  This is what happened in the early 1980s.  Back then, Fed Chairman Paul Volcker took a “forget the torpedoes, full speed ahead” approach, raising interest rates as high as 20%.  It broke the cycle of inflation, but it also led to a deep recession.  At one point, the unemployment rate rose to 10.8%!6

Mindful of this, the current Federal Reserve has been raising rates much more gently and gradually.  The result is a very slow return to normal prices, but – so far at least – continued economic growth.  So, a soft landing, right?

Well, not so fast.  First of all, the plane hasn’t landed yet.  Second of all, there’s no firm agreement as to what a landing actually is.  How low does inflation have to get before we declare touchdown?  Three percent?  That’s in line with the kind of inflation we saw for much of the 2000s before the Great Recession hit.  Or is it two percent, which is what the Fed prefers?  And how much is unemployment permitted to rise?  Four percent?  Five?  Higher?  Actually, here’s a thought experiment for you: What if, over the next twelve months, unemployment and inflation both stay where they’re currently at?  Is that a soft landing, or a hard one?  Or is it no landing at all?

You can see why nothing keeps an economist up at night so much as inflation.  It’s not a clear-cut issue.  (And we haven’t even gotten into more nuanced topics, like what to actually measure when calculating inflation, whether the raw unemployment rate is really the best barometer of economic health, or the role consumer sentiment plays in all this.)

In our opinion, however, it’s still too early to proclaim a soft landing.  That’s because there are still potential patches of rough air ahead.  For one thing, while inflation is definitely cooling overall, it actually ticked up in July.  And while unemployment is low, the pace of added jobs is slowing down, too.  So, the numbers we’re seeing now might not be quite as rosy in the future.

Then, too, all these interest rate hikes are affecting other areas of the economy.  They’re partially responsible for the weaknesses we’re seeing in the banking sector.  They’ve also caused yields on long-term U.S. Treasury bonds to fall below those of shorter-term bonds.  This is what’s known as an inverted yield curve, and it’s historically been a reliable – if imprecise – indicator of a future recession.  (Here’s what this means in a nutshell: Typically, bond investors expect to be paid more interest for lending their money for longer periods of time, so interest rates for long-term bonds are higher than for short-term ones.  When this flips around, it means investors expect interest rates to fall sometime in the future.  This usually happens when the economy dips and needs propping up, forcing the Fed to cut rates.  So, to put it simply, an inverted yield curve suggests that many investors are still expecting a recession in the not-too-distant future.)

For now, though, inflation is cooling down, the economy is not in a recession, and the Fed’s rate hikes are coming lower and fewer.  This is good news!  And it’s a major reason why the markets have performed so well this year.  Should these factors continue in a positive direction, it’s perfectly reasonable to hope for a smooth final leg of our flight.

What This All Means For Us

Whew!  We got really wonky in this message, didn’t we?  But we wanted to make sure you got an up-to-date view of the situation.  As the co-pilot on your financial journey, here’s our view.  While the year has been positive, it’s possible that a “landing,” whether hard or soft, is still far away.  Right now, we’re in a low-altitude glide.  Therefore, the message from the cockpit is this: Feel free to move about the cabin, but for now, it may be best to keep the seat belt sign on.

In the meantime, we will keep doing all we can to help you continue moving forward.  Please let us know if you ever have any questions or concerns – and enjoy the rest of your flight!        

Sincerely,

Barbara B. Hudock CIMA®, CPM®
Chief Executive Officer
Founding Partner

Michael J. Hudock, Jr., CPM®
President and Founding Partner
Wealth Consultant

1 “Current US Inflation Rates: 2000-2023,” US Inflation Calculator, https://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/current-inflation-rates/

2 “Effective Federal Funds Rate,” Federal Reserve Bank of New York, https://www.newyorkfed.org/markets/reference-rates/effr

3 “Gross Domestic Product, Second Quarter 2023,” Bureau of Economic Analysis, https://www.bea.gov/news/2023/gross-domestic-product-second-quarter-2023-advance-estimate

4 “The Employment Situation – July 2023,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf

5 “Monetary Policy Principle and Practice,” Federal Reserve, https://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/monetary-policy-what-are-its-goals-how-does-it-work.htm

6 “Unemployment continued to rise in 1982 as recession deepened,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/1983/02/art1full.pdf

The Liberty Song June 28, 2023
Downloads: The-Liberty-Song.pdf

United we stand, divided we fall.  It’s a phrase that’s been said many times throughout our nation’s history.  The legendary Patrick Henry said it in the last speech he would ever give to the public, thundering the words so forcefully that at the end, he collapsed and had to be carried away.  Abraham Lincoln famously alluded to it during his historic debates with Stephen Douglas, declaring, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  The words adorn both the flag of Missouri and state seal of Kentucky.  And they could often be found on posters and flyers during World War II, urging Americans to tighten their belts, shore up their spirits, and fight for the future of the free world.

They are also words we think about every Fourth of July.  Because history has proven, time and again, just how accurate they are.

But the first time the phrase appeared in America wasn’t in a speech or on a flag.  It was in a song.

The year was 1768.  American colonists had just become subject to a new series of laws called the Townshend Acts.  These were designed to force colonists to comply with British trade regulations and prove that Parliament had a right to tax the colonies without their consent.  They may have even been meant to punish the people of New York for refusing to quarter British soldiers in their homes.  In other words, these new laws were behind several of the grievances Thomas Jefferson would include in the Declaration of Independence.

As you can imagine, Americans didn’t take these Acts lying down.  In every colony, protests broke out.  Ports refused to import British goods.  And many leading citizens of the day wrote pamphlets, articles, and editorials on why all colonists should unite to oppose unjust laws.

One of those citizens was a man named John Dickinson.  As one of the foremost legal minds of his day, he had already spilled gallons of ink on a series of essays against the Townshend Acts.  But, that summer, he decided to write something that appealed to the heart more than the head.  An ode to the rightness of fighting for liberty and freedom.  He called it The Liberty Song.  Here’s how it went:1

Come, join in hand, brave Americans all
And rouse your bold hearts at fair Liberty’s call;
No tyrannous acts shall suppress your just claim,
Or stain with dishonor America’s name.

Our worthy forefathers, let’s give them a cheer,
To climates unknown did courageously steer;
Threw oceans to deserts for Freedom they came,
And dying, bequeathed us their freedom and fame.

The tree their own hands had to Liberty reared
They lived to behold growing strong and revered;
With transport they cried, “Now our wishes we gain,
For our children shall gather the fruits of our pain.”

Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall;
In so righteous a cause let us hope to succeed,
For heaven approves of each generous deed.

All ages shall speak with amaze and applause,
Of the courage we’ll show in support of our Laws;
To die we can bear, but to serve we disdain.
For shame is to Freedom more dreadful than pain.

In Freedom we’re born and in Freedom we’ll live.
Our purses are ready. Steady, friends, steady.
Not as slaves, but as Freemen our money we’ll give. 

Dickinson submitted the lyrics to two Pennsylvania newspapers.  Both published the song in early July 1768.  From there, the song “went viral” as we would say today.  Within months, it had spread up and down the eastern seaboard, appearing in newspapers from Massachusetts to New York to Virginia.  It became one of the first patriotic songs in American history.

These days, most Americans don’t know about The Liberty Song anymore.  We think that’s a shame – because the words remind us that by uniting we stand, by dividing we fall. 

As you know, we all have different political opinions and beliefs.  We all have different visions of what our country should be.  But this is nothing new.  When Dickinson wrote his song, America wrestled with the question of whether to fight British law.  During the Revolution, America wrestled with the question of whether to declare independence.  (Dickinson himself voted not to sign the Declaration…although he became one of the few Founding Fathers to actually fight in the Revolution, and he later helped write the U.S. Constitution.)  During Lincoln’s day, America wrestled with the question of slavery.  In the 20th century, America wrestled with questions like isolationism or interventionism, segregation or integration.

Now, today, we have a hundred questions of our own.  But The Liberty Song reminds me that, while we will always have differences of opinion, we are all Americans.  We each do our best to continue rearing Liberty’s tree, so that its shade covers all of us.  We are all striving so that our children “gather the fruits of our pain.”  In other words, there will always be far more that unites us than divides us.

This Independence Day, we will sing the national anthem.  We’ll sing America the Beautiful and My Country Tis of Thee.  But we also want to remember the words of The Liberty Song.  We want to remember how far we’ve come as a nation.  Most of all, we want to remember that by uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.  And America will never fall.

On behalf of everyone at Hudock Capital Group, we wish you a safe and happy Independence Day!        

Sincerely,

Barbara B. Hudock CIMA®, CPM®
Chief Executive Officer
Founding Partner

Michael J. Hudock, Jr., CPM®
President and Founding Partner
Wealth Consultant

1 “The Liberty Song,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Liberty_Song

Debt Crisis Averted June 20, 2023
Downloads: Debt-Crisis-Averted.pdf

When 2023 kicked off, there were two storylines every economist, analyst, and financial advisor were keeping an eye on.  Two potential crises that could upend the markets.

We’re referring, of course, to the debt ceiling and the possibility of a recession.

Today, six months later, we’re thrilled to announce that the first potential crisis has been resolved.  There’s good news on the second one as well!

Good news.  That’s a wonderful phrase to hear, isn’t it?

Let’s start with the debt ceiling.  After weeks of negotiations, President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy struck a deal to suspend the debt ceiling until January 1, 2025.  That removes the possibility of the U.S. defaulting on its debt obligations, which would certainly have triggered a massive recession.

Quick recap in case you haven’t been following this story very closely.  The debt ceiling is “the total amount of money that the United States government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations.”What are these obligations? Think Social Security and Medicare benefits.  Military salaries.  Tax refunds and interest payments on Treasury bonds.

The debt ceiling, then, is the limit to what the government can borrow to pay back what it has already spent.  (Or is legally obligated to spend.)

Normally, raising the debt ceiling requires a simple act of Congress.  Some years, however, politicians disagree on whether the ceiling should be raised without a simultaneous decrease in spending or other appropriations.  When this happens, we get a debt ceiling crisis, where the nation comes close to defaulting on its debts.

In this case, Janet Yellen, the Secretary of the Treasury, predicted that the U.S. would default sometime in June if the debt ceiling wasn’t raised.  With that deadline in mind, the President and the Speaker reached an agreement on May 28.  A few days later, Congress approved the deal.

Here’s a brief look at what’s in the deal.  First, and most importantly, is the aforementioned suspension of the debt ceiling.  Rather than raising the ceiling to a new number, Washington has negated the idea of a debt limit altogether for the next eighteen months.  This means the government can borrow above the current limit in order to meet its existing obligations.

In return, both sides of the political aisle have agreed to cap future domestic spending to 1% through the 2025 fiscal year.2  Given that this number is lower than inflation, this effectively amounts to a spending cut.  The deal also ends the White House’s pause on student loan payments, while adding new work requirements for Americans who qualify for food stamps and other government assistance.

For the economy, however, the deal is less important for what it does than for what it prevents.

If the U.S. had breached the ceiling and defaulted on its debt payments, the economic impact would have been severe.  Seniors would have stopped receiving Social Security payments, or at least experienced delays.  Child Tax Credit payments, paychecks for federal employees, veterans’ benefits, Medicare benefits…all would have been either curtailed or delayed.

Less gut-wrenching on a human level, but equally impactful financially, is what a default would have meant for the bond market.  In a default, bondholders would no longer have been paid.  The value of their bonds would have plummeted.  This would have led to dramatically higher interest rates on any new debt issued in the future – which in turn would mean higher rates for everyone.  Given that rates are already higher than they’ve been in years, this would have likely plunged the economy into a deep recession.  And since Treasury bonds are historically the most stable investment in the world, it would probably have disrupted international bond markets, too.  The result?  A global recession.

Thankfully, the debt ceiling deal prevented this crisis from unfolding.  And while politicians on both sides of the aisle are reportedly unhappy with some aspects of the bill, the risk of default was simply too great.

But this wasn’t the only bit of good news in the past week!  We mentioned earlier that there was a second storyline to keep an eye on in 2023: The possibility of a recession.

As you know, the Federal Reserve has been steadily raising interest rates to bring down inflation.  At the start of the year, many economists predicted these rate hikes would lead to mass layoffs and lower consumer spending.  The two main causes, in other words, of most recessions.

Thus far, however, neither of those things has come to pass.  Consumer spending actually rose by 0.8% in April, up from lower increases in February and March.3  The labor market, meanwhile, has proven incredibly resilient.  The most recent report indicated the economy added 339,000 new jobs in May.4  That’s far more than experts predicted.  It’s also greater than any single month in 2019, the last year before the pandemic!  The report revised the numbers for March and April, too, with both months bringing more job growth than initially thought.

The upshot of all this is that the economy is doing far better than forecasters expected.  Does it mean a recession is off the table?  No.  But it does mean a recession isn’t a certainty this year, either.

That, is what we call good news.

Now, to be clear, this doesn’t mean market volatility is over, or that hard times aren’t ahead.  For one thing, inflation is proving stubborn, too.  The Federal Reserve may have more interest rate hikes in store.  This could bring renewed uncertainty to the markets in the short term.  In the long term, it could still tip the economy into a recession.  And despite the strong jobs report, the unemployment rate is still technically on the rise.

So, as investors, we must continue to be cautious.  As your financial advisors, we’ll still keep our eye on the markets every day, passing along what we think you need to know.

In the meantime, though, it’s perfectly okay to celebrate good news!  And it’s also perfectly okay for you to “unplug” for a while if that’s what you want.  Savor the summer months.  Spend time with family.  Work on your golf swing.  Take that road trip you’ve been dreaming of, or just relax in a hammock with a nice, cold glass of lemonade.  Our team will keep our eyes on the road ahead so you can enjoy the view out the passenger window.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.  Our door is always open!

Sincerely,

Barbara B. Hudock CIMA®, CPM®
Chief Executive Officer
Founding Partner

Michael J. Hudock, Jr., CPM®
President and Founding Partner
Wealth Consultant

1 “Debt Limit,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/financial-markets-financial-institutions-and-fiscal-service/debt-limit

2 “Here’s what’s in the debt ceiling package,” CNN, June 2, 2023.  https://www.cnn.com/2023/05/30/politics/whats-in-the-debt-ceiling-deal/index.html

3 “U.S. Consumer Spending Jumped in April,” The Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2023.  https://www.wsj.com/articles/consumer-spending-personal-income-april-2023-b1b57c31

4 “The US economy added 339,000 jobs last month,” CNN Business, June 2, 2023.  https://www.cnn.com/2023/06/02/economy/may-jobs-report-final/index.html

Happy Father’s Day… June 14, 2023
Downloads: Happy-Fathers-Day...pdf

Happy Father’s Day!  Recently, we came across a sweet story on social media that really put the holiday on our minds.  In honor of all fathers, we’d like to share it with you.

Earlier this spring, the staff at the World Bird Sanctuary in Missouri witnessed an unusual sight when an old, male bald eagle named Murphy sat down on a rock.1

Day after day, Murphy refused to leave the spot, squawking at anyone and anything who came near.  Murphy had lived at the sanctuary for almost thirty years and had never behaved this way before.  Many visitors who saw the eagle worried there was something wrong with it.

But the eagle wasn’t sick.  He wasn’t hurt.  And he wasn’t sad.

For the first time in his life, he was ready to be a dad.

At first, the handlers at the sanctuary were confused.  Normally, bald eagles mate for life, with both parents taking turns incubating their eggs.  But because Murphy’s wing was permanently damaged, he couldn’t be released into the wild.  As a result, he had never fathered eaglets before.  In fact, he had never even mated before.  Already 31-years-old, he seemed destined for a life of bachelorhood.  But something changed in him that first day.  Suddenly, he was ready to be a protector and provider…even if the thing he was protecting and providing for was a rock.

Touched by his parental instincts, the sanctuary staff decided not to interfere, other than moving him – and his rock – to a private enclosure.  Eventually, spring would end.  The rock would never hatch, Murphy would lose interest, and that would be that.

But then one day a new visitor arrived at the sanctuary.  An orphaned eaglet, barely a week old, that had been swept out of its tree during a storm.  Far too young to survive on its own…but still young enough to imprint on a new parent.  Even if that parent was a grumpy old loner.

Lacking other options, the staff decided to pair the little chick with Murphy.  After all, the eagle was clearly in dad mode.  Yet there was a major risk involved.  Again, Murphy had never built a nest before, never cared for eaglets before…and might even see the little newcomer as a threat to his “baby rock.”

But they also knew that every child needs a parent.

So, the next day, they swapped Murphy’s rock with the orphaned chick, held their breaths, and waited.  (Of course, they also took precautions, leaving the eaglet in a heated cage in Murphy’s pen.  That way, the new dad could get to know his new charge without any risk of hurting it.)

After a few days, the staff felt the coast was clear.  They opened the chick’s cage so the two could be properly introduced.  And to their delight, Murphy successfully swapped being a rock dad to being a real dad.  The two conversed back and forth, chirping and peeping at each other.  Soon, the old eagle even started protecting and feeding it.  Later on, Murphy showed the chick how to drink and eat on its own.  How to stretch its wings.  How to clean its beak and feet after a meal.  (And yes, even how to behave whenever the young eaglet started acting naughty.)

Of course, there were some things that Murphy couldn’t do.  He couldn’t teach the chick to fly.  And when a tornado struck nearby, he forgot to keep the chick warm and dry, forcing the staff to do it.  (Hey, even the best dads aren’t perfect.)  But the two bonded beautifully, and in the ensuing weeks, the chick has grown and grown.  Now, the sanctuary team believe they can even release it back into the wild.  In fact, as of this writing, they have already selected a date to do so.

Father’s Day.

***

When we heard this story, «Salutation», it really got us thinking about fatherhood.  About the role fathers play in our lives.  About how important a good father really is.

Fathers come in all shapes and sizes.  Birth fathers and stepfathers; grandfathers and father-figures.  Some dads are gregarious and playful; some strong and silent.  (Some are all of the above!)  Some are good in the garage, some are good in the yard, and some are good in the kitchen.  Some dads are married or in partnerships; others, like Murphy, do it solo.

But the good ones all have something in common: Nothing is more important to them than their kids.

As Murphy no doubt discovered, fatherhood is never easy.  But dads are persistent and tenacious, learning as they go.  Learning what to do and when to do it.  When to push their kids and when to leave them be.  When to be a coach and when to be a friend.  But always being a protector and a provider, in whatever way their family needs.  All dads make mistakes, of course, but the good ones never stop trying to be better…because they always put their kids first.

Thanks to Murphy, that little chick is growing up strong and healthy.  It knows how to take care of itself.  It knows how to be an eagle.  And that’s really what fatherhood is all about, isn’t it?  They’re teachers and role models.  Cheerleaders and caretakers.  Protectors and providers.  Fathers teach us how to grow up.  They teach us how to take care of ourselves.  They teach us how to be the best people we can be.

We’re so grateful for our dads.  And we’re grateful for all the good dads in the world.  The ones who put their kids first.  The ones who teach them how to stretch their wings…so that, one day, they too will take to the air and fly.

On behalf of everyone here at Hudock Capital Group, we wish you a happy Father’s Day!

Sincerely,

Barbara B. Hudock CIMA®, CPM®
Chief Executive Officer
Founding Partner

Michael J. Hudock, Jr., CPM®
President and Founding Partner
Wealth Consultant

1 “An Eagle Who Adopted a Rock Becomes a Dad,” The NY Times

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