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December 2014 Market Update

After nearly six months of steady gains, the equities markets ran into some major turbulence this week that caught just about everyone by surprise. Today's jobs report is the best in almost two years with 321,000 new jobs added to the economy in November, and an upward revision to the previous two months' job totals of 44,000.

While the unemployment rate remains unchanged at 5.8%, this appears to be due to the fact that more people are re-entering the job market now that finding work is getting easier.
As I write this article, the Dow Jones is within very close striking range of 18,000 - a new all-time high. That represents almost a tripling of market capitalization from its low back in March 2009 when the index stood at just over 6,600. In rough numbers, that represents a rate of appreciation somewhere close to 17% per year.
Darn that my crystal ball wasn't working back in 2009 - like a lot of people back then, I was far too frightened by the prospect of further deterioration to risk putting more money in the market. It's a good lesson, and one we've heard before, that the time to invest is when the markets are down, not soaring to the stratosphere as they are now doing. Easier said than done when you're living through the kind of scare we all endured during those dark days of 2009.
If there's one obvious downside to this good economic news, is it that interest rates are likely to begin rising again. Indeed, they have already begun to do so as the markets anticipate a gradual tightening of monetary policy in the face of all this good economic news. That said, this morning's 2.31% 10-Year T-bill is still well below the 3.0% Jan. 2 close that kicked off the year. How long we can have a growing economy and low interest rates is an open-ended question. Market wisdom says we can have one or the other, but not both.
We have now had positive job creation every month since October 2010, a run of 50 consecutive months. Even better, this job growth appears to be accelerating with 200,000-plus jobs created every month this year except January. You couldn't ask for a better way to finish up 2014. 
So, on that happy note, I would like to wish everyone a very happy holiday season and a prosperous and healthy New Year. See you all in 2015!


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