Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) is unchanged in anticipation of the Federal Open Market Committee statement due to be released at 2 p.m. EDT. As of 1:30 p.m. EDT the S&P 500 is down 0.28% to 1,767, and the largest exchange-traded fund tracking the S&P 500, the SPDR S&P 500 (NYSEMKT: SPY ) , is down 0.29%.
The S&P 500's biggest member, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) , is up 1.6% today, recovering from yesterday's dip following earnings that beat estimates but disappointed on guidance. The company also did not mention any updated plans for its massive cash balance of roughly $150 billion. Activist investor Carl Icahn is pushing hard for the company to immediately pursue a $150 billion share buyback. I'm not a fan of giant share buybacks, as companies have to pay big money to execute them, and when they're performed at high prices, they reward exiting shareholders, rather than long-term shareholders. I would much rather see Apple reward all shareholders by paying a large special dividend.
The argument against returning cash to shareholders has always been that the majority of it is held overseas and that the company would be hit with a 35% tax to bring it back to the U.S. Many other companies are facing similar situations, and Congress has been working this year on a complete overhaul of the U.S. tax code to make it less of a burden to bring back foreign earnings. It will likely be some time before a complete overhaul happens, but given the Dec. 13 deadline for a new budget, we could see a repatriation tax holiday.
Today, the 29-member House-Senate budget committee met for the first time and started out by arguing about taxes. Democrats want higher revenue, while Republicans are open to increasing revenue but not through new taxes. Representative Tom Cole (R-OK) brought up the idea of a repatriation tax holiday today and said, "I would be willing to consider additional revenue achieved through pro-growth tax reform." While the last repatriation tax holiday failed to stimulate the economy, I continue to believe that a repatriation tax holiday, with a requirement that companies pay out repatriated earnings as dividends to shareholders, would both stimulate the economy and raise revenue for the government. You can read more here.
Hopefully, Congress comes to some sort of agreement by Dec. 13 and we won't have another government shutdown. The most recent shutdown lasted 16 days and is estimated to have slowed annual GDP growth by somewhere between 0.3 and 0.6 percentage points. The Federal Reserve has been doing all it can to stimulate the economy; because of the slowdown caused by the government shutdown, I don't expect the Federal Open Market Committee to pare back its asset purchases. That said, the Fed has surprised everyone before. We have less than 20 minutes to go before the Fed's statement -- we can wait and see.
With the Federal Reserve about to release its statement, what should you do? Nothing. If your investment strategy is dependent on Federal Reserve action, you are doing it wrong. Constantly educate yourself, find great companies, and invest for the long term.
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