A New Hope … In Congress

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by Timothy D. Carkin, CAIA, CMT
Senior Vice President

Week in Review

Markets moved modestly higher this week with domestic stocks up nearly 1 percent and the benchmark 10-year Treasury was off 2 basis points. As if held up by a mysterious force, Bitcoin set a new high Friday just shy of 18,000.

The Last Fed Meeting

The European Central Bank (ECB), Bank of England, Swiss National Bank and Federal Reserve met this week with one lone rebel, the Fed, raising rates. In her last meeting, Yellen’s Fed raised the short-term rate a quarter percent, the last in their trilogy of hikes this year. The rate hike was a foregone conclusion in most economists’ minds. Of concern was the forecast for future rate hikes which was allayed with no change from prior meetings.

Return of the Rate Hike

Laying the foundation for next year’s rate hikes were a few strong, but not exuberant economic reports this week. Retail sales, a good barometer of consumer health, increased 0.8 percent and upwardly revised the last reading by half a percent. Another gauge of that health is a tight labor market which was on display with initial jobless claims decreasing 11,000 to 225,000 while continuing claims for the week dropped by 27,000. This marks the 145th straight week initial claims have been below 300,000.

The Tax Bill Awakens

Following the defeat in Alabama, Congressional Republicans came together on a compromise plan on tax legislation Wednesday hoping it will be finalized by the week’s end. This may amount to the biggest tax overhaul in three decades. Of note in the bill is a drop in the corporate tax rate to 21 percent, which will take effect in 2018. In addition, companies will be able to expense 100 percent of capital equipment, repatriate cash and won’t be subject to the alternative minimum tax (AMT). Consumers in the top tax bracket will pay 37 percent, the onerous AMT rules will be scaled back and there is a cap on state and local tax deductions of $10,000. Nearly all individuals will see a tax cut in 2018 … but few believe it, as seen in the data below.


Source: Strategas

President Trump indicated that the Internal Revenue Service advised that if signed before Christmas, the tax cuts could be seen in February, yielding a pleasant surprise for consumers when they see the lower withholding in their paychecks.

There are still a couple wild card senators who have withheld divulging their vote, but Republicans are confident the plan can pass. Voting in the Senate could take place as early as Monday and Wednesday in the House.

May the markets be with you.


Takeaways for the Week

  • Forecast for three rate hikes in 2018 remains unchanged
  • Tax plan may add 1 percent to GDP