Plenty happened in the news this week, but the biggest thing shaking your portfolio had to be our friendly event known as Election Tuesday.
1. Abundant blues don't rock blue chips
What happened? Despite some apprehension, investors didn't see tumultuous days on the market in the critical 24 hours subsequent to the elections. Many analysts speculated that a shift of power in the House and Senate might result in some bearish results, but so far, the market seems to be handling the news in a satisfactory manner.
What does this mean for your portfolio? With the Democrats in control on Capitol Hill, the political economy will take on a different dynamic than in years prior. Investors can expect a slower turnaround for legislation, since lawmakers and our commander-in-chief will likely be at odds over a plethora of issues. In terms of your portfolio, keep an eye on defense, drug, and health-care companies; Democratic legislation could affect these sectors.
2. Oil's down, but not for the count
What happened? Consumers have enjoyed more friendly prices at the pump for almost three months now, but with new data pointing to decreasing inventories and a renewed commitment from OPEC countries on a production cut, gas prices are back above $60 a barrel.
What does this mean for your portfolio? It would be unreasonable to expect that prices would remain at a discount forever. Demand levels have not changed, and in fact, American consumers experienced mild amnesia when they went right back to purchasing large numbers of gas-guzzlers in October. I don't expect companies to be handing out gasoline in the low $2 range forever. Prepare yourself.
3. How will the corporate sweethearts of the GOP fare?
What happened? We all are aware of the lobbyist culture that exists within our government within both major parties. But with the recent tilt in the balance of power, companies that once fell under the protective cover of Republicans may now be exposed to restrictive legislation. Similarly, Democrats can now shelter their favorites.
What does this mean for your portfolio? As you might have guessed, many people are speculating that energy companies will be the subject of increased scrutiny and legislation. Tax-cut repeals are possible. And Congress might pursue legislation that could affect big-name pharmaceutical companies.
4. The cost of flipping burgers just went up
What happened? In keeping with the election-oriented theme, it has become clear that one of the first initiatives of the newly rebalanced government is to adjust the hourly minimum wage from $5.15 to somewhere in the neighborhood of $7.
What does this mean for your portfolio? As a former student of labor economics, I am well aware of the inverse relationship that exists between the minimum wage rate and the ability of corporations to not only provide growing numbers of unskilled jobs but to also sustain current employment levels. Across an entire economy, and even within a corporation, a single dollar's difference in an hourly wage can have a big impact. This is not to say that individuals working minimum-wage jobs are not deserving of such an increase. But from an investing standpoint, that kind of legislation could seriously affect a company like McDonald's
5. Job cuts hit the white collar
What happened? The New York Stock Exchange
What does this mean for your portfolio? This is a smart decision by the company, which now must mimic the practices of the nearly 2,700 for-profit businesses that it lists. Although nobody enjoys knowing people will lose their jobs, the move will nonetheless reduce bottom-line costs and will increase the company's capacity to execute fast and accurate trades.
6. Cisco brings in the big news
What happened? Networking giant Cisco
What does this mean for your portfolio? In and of itself, this is impressive news for the company. However, it is also great news for the entire tech sector, which has been lagging behind the rest of the market for more than three years now (using the E*Trade Technology Index Fund (ETTIX) as a benchmark). Cisco may be able to tow along the rest of the unimpressive industry over short periods, but it's unreasonable to expect that it can do so for a sustained amount of time.
7. SEC sets its sights on hedge funds
What happened? According to Bloomberg, the SEC is in the process of arranging rules that will make it more difficult for investors to invest in hedge funds. The volatile industry will be under more restrictive guidelines in the future and probably will remain under the microscope for quite a while.
What does this mean for your portfolio? It is unlikely that these restrictions will really affect investment practices for the growing industry. Considering that most funds require a $1 million investment minimum to begin with, I suspect that most participants, wealthy as they are, are fully aware of the risks and rewards of the situation. I am waiting, however, for the moment when regular investors like me can get a piece of the action in a "fund of funds" type of deal, without the large minimum investment requirement.
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