Many tax advisors look at this Rorschach ink blot and see a bat or a butterfly. Not CTS Financial Group.

Do You See a Bat or a Butterfly?

Many tax advisors look at this Rorschach ink blot and see a bat or a butterfly. Not CTS Financial Group.

Getting to know your unique personality and understanding your business helps us view tax planning and preparation with a creative eye and an open mind. To show you we’re not missing the point, with every new client referral, you will receive $50 off your tax preparation services as will the new client you refer. Drop us a quick email if you know someone who may benefit from CTS Financial Group’s services by clicking here.

Many tax advisors look at this Rorschach ink blot and see a bat or a butterfly. Not CTS Financial Group.2017-11-29T12:27:42-05:00

Black Friday Brings Gains

The Weekly Update

Week of November 27, 2017
By Christopher Much, CFP®, AIF®

Last week was a relatively quiet time in the domestic markets. We did not receive a tremendous amount of economic data, and trading halted Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday. Nonetheless, all 3 of the major domestic indexes experienced sizable gains in only 4 trading days. By Friday, the S&P 500 added 0.91% and closed above 2,600 for the first time in its history. The Dow was also up 0.86%, and the NASDAQ gained 1.57%. International stocks in the MSCI EAFE had a 5-day trading week and grew by 1.85%.

A variety of factors contributed to this performance—from growth in the tech sector to increasing crude oil prices. But a specific event also helped push stocks higher: Black Friday.

The Black Friday Effect

What happened on Black Friday this year?
In the U.S., Black Friday is big business. The day after Thanksgiving is typically the year’s biggest shopping day and jump-starts the holiday season with enticing deals. The financial markets even close early because trading activity is traditionally so slow.

This year, a combination of low unemployment and healthy consumer confidence may help the retail industry. Many retailers saw lines forming outside their locations on Thanksgiving, while digital shopping also picked up. Shoppers spent $1.52 billion online by 5 p.m. ET on Thursday. And the next morning they made $640 million in online purchases by 10 a.m.—18.4% higher than at that time last year.

Why does holiday shopping matter?
Black Friday may not have the same urgency it once did, as fewer people fight for deals in person. Even without huge crowds at brick-and-mortar shops, many retailers declared the day a success—and posted stock gains on Friday.

Overall, industry experts predict holiday sales may grow by as much as 4.5% compared to last year. This growth matters because strong consumer spending is good for the economy. In fact, consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of gross domestic product. If spending is flat, so is economic growth. Thus, solid purchasing can help drive our economy to pick up speed.

We were pleased to see the markets experience a positive Black Friday effect, and we’ll continue to review this year’s spending data and stock performance. In the meantime, if you have any questions about where our economy stands or what lies ahead, please contact us.

Monday: New Home Sales
Tuesday: Consumer Confidence
Wednesday: GDP, Pending Home Sales Index
Thursday: Jobless Claims
Friday: Motor Vehicle Sales, PMI Manufacturing Index, ISM Mfg Index, Construction Spending

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Data collected from Investors FastTrack software.
Black Friday Brings Gains2017-11-27T12:20:28-05:00

The Numbers Behind Thanksgiving

The Economics of Thanksgiving: Infographic

As a quantitative group of people, we are always fascinated by the numbers. Download our latest infographic, The Economics of Thanksgiving, for a quick overview of how this significant holiday impacts our economy.

Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving.

The Numbers Behind Thanksgiving2017-11-22T10:29:14-05:00

Stocks Mixed, Data Up

The Weekly Update

Week of November 20, 2017
By Christopher Much, CFP®, AIF®

Domestic stock performance varied last week, with the S&P 500 and Dow losing ground for the 2nd straight week, while the NASDAQ posted gains. By Friday, the S&P 500 had dropped 0.13%, the Dow gave back 0.27%, and the NASDAQ gained 0.47%. International stocks in the MSCI EAFE stumbled, dropping 0.67%.

Tax reform remained a key focus in the markets, as investors questioned whether changes will happen by the end of 2017. The markets have largely priced in expectations that tax reform will move forward, a belief that has helped drive this year’s record prices. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin expects the President to receive a bill by Christmas, but despite his update, concerns about meeting this deadline remain. This uncertainty—combined with questions about differences between the House and Senate plans—has contributed to the market volatility we’ve seen in recent weeks.

While tax reform may be impacting stocks right now, going beyond the geopolitical debate reveals various positive economic updates.

An Overview of Last Week’s Economic Insight

From housing to industrial production, last week gave us a variety of economic updates for October. Overall, the data indicates that the economy is on solid ground.

  • Retail sales grew
    Hurricanes are still affecting retail sales, but October’s reading shows decent performance—and analysts expect the holiday season to drive strong results through year’s end.
  • Consumer prices increased slightly
    Inflation remains relatively low and slow, yet this month’s report shows it moving in the right direction toward the Fed’s goal of a 2% level.
  • Industrial production surged
    A large jump in manufacturing helped drive industrial growth and indicates a strengthening sector—good news for our economy.
  • Housing starts beat expectations
    The housing industry experienced strong growth in new permits, construction starts, and completed homes.

What Is Ahead
Tax reform will likely continue to be a hot topic in Washington and the markets. We will follow any changes or updates as they occur, and understanding the economy’s underlying strength will remain our key focus.

As a reminder, with Thanksgiving on Thursday, the markets will only be open for 4 days this week. During this season of gratefulness, we want to thank you for your ongoing trust and reinforce that we are always here to support you on your financial journey.

Tuesday: Existing Home Sales
Wednesday: Durable Goods Orders, Consumer Sentiment
Thursday: Markets Closed for Thanksgiving
Friday: PMI Composite Flash

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Data collected from Investors FastTrack software.
Stocks Mixed, Data Up2017-11-20T17:30:56-05:00

Stocks Slide as Uncertainty Rises

The Weekly Update

Week of November 13, 2017
By Christopher Much, CFP®, AIF®

After posting gains every week since September, U.S. stocks declined by market’s close on Friday. The S&P 500 and Dow ended their longest stretch of weekly increases since 2013, and the NASDAQ ended its own 6-week streak. By November 10, the S&P 500 declined 0.21%, the Dow was down 0.50%, and the NASDAQ slipped 0.20%. Meanwhile, the MSCI EAFE dropped by 0.45%.

While these declines are not huge, understanding why stocks dropped after several weeks of steady gains is important. The markets are incredibly complex, so we cannot point to one single detail that drove their performance. We can, however, help you gain insight into what influenced investors’ decisions.

The Market’s Drop in Context
In many ways, uncertainty is to blame for last week’s losses, from a variety of angles:

  • Healthcare: Equities dropped as companies continue to analyze changing dynamics in the industry, including potential competition from the tech world. Developments on medical devices and healthcare equipment could create quicker distribution models while decreasing costs, threatening traditional business practices.
  • Energy: Tension between Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon—and the accompanying geopolitical uncertainty—contributed to crude oil prices slipping, which led Energy stocks to lose ground.
  • Tax Reform: On Thursday, November 9, the Senate released its tax-reform proposal, which includes significant differences from the current House bill. The Senate’s decision to delay corporate-tax reductions until 2019 led to a stock sell-off. This change from the House bill also fueled concern about the likelihood of fiscal reform moving forward at all.

What Lies Ahead
No one knows exactly when or how taxes may change—and who will experience the greatest impact. For tax reform to occur, the House and Senate will have to work through the number of places where their plans diverge and align their political priorities. At the same time, the Federal Reserve could raise interest rates as many as 4 times over the next year, which could also alter the financial landscape.

In the coming weeks, we will gain more information on tax reform and monetary policy. As we digest information, we will continue focusing on how current circumstances affect clients’ long-term goals. As always, if you have questions about your financial life, contact us anytime.

Tuesday: PPI-FD
Wednesday: Consumer Price Index, Retail Sales, Business Inventories
Thursday: Industrial Production, Housing Market Index
Friday: Housing Starts

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Data collected from Investors FastTrack software.!DJI&region=usa&culture=en-US
Stocks Slide as Uncertainty Rises2017-11-13T17:40:53-05:00

Stocks End Up After Busy Week

The Weekly Update

Week of November 6, 2017
By Christopher T. Much, CFP®, AIF®

Once again, the markets ended the week in positive territory—and all 3 major domestic indexes hit new record highs. The S&P 500 added 0.26%, and the Dow was up 0.45%, with both indexes notching their 8th straight week of growth. The NASDAQ was up for the 6th week in a row with a 0.94% gain. International stocks in the MSCI EAFE joined in the growth, posting a 0.90% increase.

Why did markets continue to perform well last week? In part, economic data, political developments, and policy decisions gave investors a variety of details to digest.

Perspectives We Gained Last Week

1. Tax Reform
The House of Representatives released a long-awaited tax-reform bill on November 2, which included several changes to current laws. If passed, this legislation would reduce the corporate tax rate to 20% while cutting in half the mortgage-interest deduction. The markets responded positively to the bill, in part because of the level of detail it included.

Key Takeaway: This tax reform could be significant, but it must pass through several steps ahead before becoming law.

2. Monetary Policy
The Federal Reserve opted to keep interest rates at their current level for now. In addition, President Trump nominated Jerome Powell to be the new Fed Chair when Janet Yellen’s term ends next February.

Key Takeaway: Many people expect one more interest rate increase this year. And if the Senate confirms Powell’s nomination, the Fed may stay with the same centrist approach to monetary policy as in recent years.

3. Jobs
After hurricanes contributed to disappointing jobs data for September, the most recent reading showed improvements in hiring. October saw the economy add 261,000 new jobs—below the predicted 313,000—but positive growth, nonetheless. In addition, we received revised data for September, which indicated the economy gained 18,000 jobs during that month, rather than losing the previously reported 33,000.

Key Takeaway: Hurricanes continue to affect jobs data, but unemployment is now lower than it has been since 2001.

4. Business
The most recent ISM non-manufacturing data shows that many businesses in the service sector are growing. In October, these industries—which range from construction to agriculture—grew at the fastest rate since 2005.

Key Takeaway: With business activity and new orders on the rise, we may expect to see service-sector expansion continue in future months.

After last week’s wealth of data and developments, this week’s schedule is relatively quiet. We will continue to monitor incoming details and determine how they may affect our clients’ financial lives. In the meantime, if you have any questions, we are always here to talk.

Tuesday: JOLTS
Wednesday: EIA Petroleum Status Report
Thursday: Jobless Claims
Friday: Consumer Sentiment

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Data collected from Investors FastTrack software.
Stocks End Up After Busy Week2017-11-06T13:49:05-05:00

Chicago-Born Influencers

Ready to be surprised by some of Chicago’s significant influencers?

Chicago is a fantastic city. Vibrant. Diverse. Big city activity mixed with solid, hometown values. For those of us who call the city home and for those who visit, it’s people are its undeniable heart and soul.

We are excited to share our latest video. As we researched and curated, we found ourselves reminiscing, and feeling downright surprised by what we discovered. This has been one of our more fascinating and interesting projects to date.

Enjoy our latest video, Chicago-Born Influencers. Be inspired.

Chicago-Born Influencers2017-11-03T10:44:08-04:00