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Friday Financial Five – January 24th, 2014

Friday, January 24, 2014

 

Housing finishes strong in 2013

The recent numbers, according to Realtor.com continue to encourage. At the end of last year, the median list price was over 8 percent higher than December 2012, while inventory was down considerably. Many of the major markets saw considerable price appreciation throughout the year. That makes 2014 a pivotal year in terms of keeping the housing engine rolling. The government is slowly getting out of the guaranteed mortgage business, meaning banks will have to step in and provide funds, especially for first time homebuyers. This may mean a dramatic increase in lending through state housing-finance agencies.

Good start for municipal bonds

Last year saw consistent outflows from municipal bond funds, but 2014 has already seen positive returns as investors refocus on the tax advantaged yield. Some local funds based are already up over 1.5 percent this year or 2 percent for some on a tax equivalent basis. This after a 2013 which saw many muni funds lose money amidst fears of increased defaults. While the interest rate environment remains tenuous, investors often try to avoid taxes and that might account for this month’s bump. As a recent Kiplinger’s article states, “Municipal bonds remain one of the most attractive fixed-income sectors.”

Roth IRA conversions continue to surge

The rising tax environment and elimination on restrictions has also resulted in a huge number of Roth IRA conversions taking place since 2010. The Internal Revenue Service estimates that conversions increased ninefold in 2010, and more money is converting to Roth IRAs than are being contributed to Roth accounts. It stands to reason that the wealthier the household, the more likely the participant is to convert. Those that are considering a conversion should be aware of the effect on Adjusted Gross Income and the possibility that they may be pushed into a higher tax bracket.

Hedge fund assets reach an all time high

Continuing with the trend of increases, the much maligned and sometimes misunderstood hedge fund industry also reached an all time high in 2013. Over $60 billion in additions and rising stock prices brought total hedge fund assets up to $2.63 trillion, according to Hedge Fund Research. These increases continue in spite of numerous studies that calculate total hedge fund performance may have underperformed equity portfolios over the last five years.

Mohamed El-Erian out at PIMCO

When high profile executives leave a mutual fund company, investors take note. The resignation of PIMCO’s CEO, Mohamed El-Erian, is one of the higher profile divorces in recent memory. El-Erian is considered a foremost expert in the world of fixed income trading, and may only be slightly overshadowed by PIMCO co-founder, Bill Gross. Gross had referred to El-Erian as his heir apparent. Now, his departure leaves Gross as the sole Chief Investment Officer, with a need to reassure PIMCO investors who withdrew over $40 billion from the company’s Total Return Fund last year.

 

Dan Forbes is a regular contributor on financial issues. He is a CFP Board Ambassador. He leads the firm Forbes Financial Planning, Inc in Providence, RI and can be reached at dforbes@forbesplanning.com .


Related Slideshow:
13 Biggest Business Stories in RI in 2013

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13 Best Biz Cities in RI

GoLocal's examination of the Best Cities and Towns to do business in RI explored new ground for companies looking to relocate or expand.

Our researchers culled municipally-distinct data on tax rates, workforce availability, cost of living index, economic indicators for short term and long-term job growth, even average driving time to TF Green Airport, to quantify a blend of factors that make for a pro-business environment. Because every city and state in RI complies by statewide measures, those metrics weren't included in GoLocal's research.

READ THE STUDY

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12 Superman

Our coverage of the Superman building's threatened future started back in 2011, when a news story by GoLocal's News Team first unveiled the threat that Bank of America would leave the building and leave the city with the largest embarrassment.

In the story, The Superman Building: Downtown’s Ticking Time Bomb - former Mayor and developer Joe Paolino predicted the demise of the iconic building.

The failure to act by the Taveras Administration created the tallest embarrasment in America - one that has been reported by most every news organization in America.

GoLocal covered the demise of the building throughout the year.

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11 JetBlue Factor

JetBlue's arrival to Rhode Island was first announced by GoLocal is the summer of 2012, but no one quite knew the impact of the JetBlue factor, until a promotion by the airline was launched in partnership with the Big Blue Bug, which rocked the internet and sold out $20 tickets in minutes.

The promotion launched on GoLocalProv showed the world of advertising has changed forever. 

Launched one minute and thousands sold out nearly instantly.

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10 New England's Business

GoLocal's business team loves to collect and breakdown critical data to help Rhode Islander's get a beat on the story or even the bigger story.

One massively wide-read story was one that pivoted off the data of the Milken Institute and its rankings of all the cities in America.

The Best-Performing Cities study is published annually in order to highlight the cities and metropolitan areas in the U.S. that are prospering, and to point out those that are struggling from a structural point of view. By examining job, wage, and technology metrics over a five-year period, the publication utilizes a data-driven approach to provide a comprehensive measure of economic strength.

See which New England cities ranked best overall--both in the 200 largest metros pool and the 176 smallest metros pool.

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9 Arcade is Back

GoLocal has been tracking the Arcade since we came online in 2010 - from investigative video reports about the homeless living in the building to restoration and the reopenning.

While the financial district is only a shadow of itself - kudos need to go out Evan Granoff for pouring millions into the restoration of the classic Greek revival edifice.

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8 38 Studios Defendants

An exclusive report by GoLocal's Investigative Team unveiled that defendant's in the 38 Studio's lawsuit had filed responses, and they had a very different opinion of what caused the collapse and the loss of $100 million to the State of Rhode Island. 

Almost every defendant pinned the blame on Governor Lincoln Chafee for failing to give oversight and then hitting the panic button and forcing the ultimate collapse of the company.

GoLocal posted more than 440 page of court documents.

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7 Social Media

Social media continues to flex its muscle and demonstrate that it is far more influential than legacy media. 

Twitters IPO and the progression of the Facebook model have redefined business.

One article in GoLocal's on going coverage of the metamorphosis of social media was a great guidance article by Johnson & Wales' Sierra Barter which functionally went viral. 

Amazingly, one of the biggest stories of 2013, the effort by union leaders to force John DePetro off the air for calling female teacher protestors "WHORES," has been battled almost exclsuively on social media. 

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6 Alex and Ani Growth

Rhode Island's homegrown Alex and Ani continues at rocket speed growth. 

The Cranston-based, Made in America jewelry company continues to bundle the very best of Rhode Island: jewelry design, old school manufacturing and smart marketing.

According to a study by Bryant University:

 

• Generated $80.04 million in revenue, including $22.06 million in sales in the state of Rhode Island, $51.42 million in sales in other U.S. states, and $6.57 million in exports.

• Supported 1,094 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs in Rhode Island, from which 296 are direct FTE jobs and 798 are induced FTE jobs.

• Created $35.4 million in income for Rhode Island households. Direct earnings totaled $10.32 million and induced earnings totaled $25.1 million.

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5 College Endowments

In Rhode Island, colleges and universities are big business. They are major economic engines and each of the local colleges readily announce the positive impact they have on the local economy and job creation.

GoLocal's look at the top 50 endowments of the college and universities in New England, found that Harvard's $30+ billion endowment overshadowed all other colleges in New England.

Brown ranked ranked 5th in New England and 28th overall with an endowment of more than $2.4 billion.

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4 Fastest Growing

While Rhode Island's economy is trailing the rest of the country, there are some bright spots. Throughout 2013, GoLocal featured a number of companies that were fast-growing.

Inc Magazine's fastest growing companies in the US list flagged some real growth engines.

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3 Twin River Rebound

Twin River is now a real casino with humans not video tapes dealing black jack.

Under the leadership of John Taylor, the company has rebounded from bankruptcy and become a model for gaming firms.

Now, Twin River is expanding and has made a strategic purchase in Mississippi.

With casinos coming online in Massachusetts sometime in the future, Twin River is doing a better job diversifying and planning for the future than the state of Rhode Island, who is so dependent on the revenue.

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2 Unemployment

Rhode Island's unemployment situtation is a national embarrassment, and it is hard to see a governmental strategy designed for its improvement. In the post-38 Studios environment, decision-makers are affraid to champion significant initiatives.

The result is now that Rhode Island is last in America in unemployment and the crisis has gone on without improvement for years and years.

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1 Demise of Newspapers

In the past year, the Providence Journal has laid off, demanded buyout or pushed retirements of over 50 reporters, editors and photographers - a staggering percentage of the newsroom.

Many of the those who departed were among the most recognized. Pulitzer Prize winning writer Mike Stanton quit to take a teaching job at UConn and now freelances for the Boston Globe.

Speaking of the Boston Globe, Red Sox owner John Henry bought the Globe from the New York Times for $70 million which represented a 97% loss in value for what the NYTimes had paid for the Globe and other related media.

As GoLocal's Pultizer Prize winning reporter Dean Starkman has written repeatedly about the need for media to invest in content. His words seem to fall on deaf ears.

 
 

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