After Market: What a Weak First Trading Day Could Predict About 2014


The new year on Wall Street is off to a shaky start, with steep losses on Thursday, despite some decent economic news.

The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) slid 135 points, its first loss on the initial trading day of the year since 2008. And compare today’s performance to a year ago, when the Dow soared 308 points. That was the second best gain of the year. The Standard Poor’s 500 index (^GPSC) fell 16 points, and the Nasdaq composite index (^IXIC) dropped 33.

The declines were broad-based, with the number of losers swamping gainers by nearly a 9-to-1 margin.

Here’s why this down day may be worrisome: There’s a very high correlation, nearly 90 percent, between what happens in January — especially the first five days of January — and what happens for the full year. It’s certainly not time to panic, but it is something we’ll keep a close watch on.

Despite the big losses, some of the interesting movers were on the upside.

Jefferies upgraded a number of retailers to “buy.” Chico’s (CHS) rose 3 percent, Urban Outfitters (URBN) and American Eagle (AEO) gained 2 percent, and ANN (formerly known as Ann Taylor) (ANN) jumped nearly 5 percent. However, Jefferies also lowered its ratings on two others. Abercrombie Fitch (ANF) fell 2.5 percent and Aeropostale (ARO) edged lower.

Mining companies, which were among the few losers last year, rallied Thursday in sync with price of gold. Newmont Mining (NEM) and Goldcorp (GG) rose 4 percent each.

And solar stocks extended their gains. First Solar (FSLR) and SolarCity (SCTV) both gained 5 percent, and Jinko (JKS) jumped 9 percent.

On the downside, Continental Resources (CLR) fell 4 percent following a government safety warning that the company’s Bakken crude oil may be less stable than traditional crude. Noble Energy (NBL) and Chesapeake (CHK) both lost 2 percent.

Elsewhere, Apple (AAPL) fell 1.5 percent on a Wells Fargo downgrade. General Electric (GE) lost 2 percent.

What to Watch Friday:

  • All day: Automakers release vehicle sales for December.
  • Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke talks about how the Fed has changed over the years at a meeting of the American Economic Association, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.

  • Nearly one in four people say they don’t have money to contribute to retirement after all the bills are paid. It might feel that way sometimes, but if we can find the $50 to go out to dinner every Tuesday night, we can find $200 a month to put in a retirement account. Make this happen, even if you have to do it one dollar at a time over the course of the month.

    And if you think putting away $50 a week won’t make a difference, consider this: Contribute just $200 a month for thirty years, and if your money grows on average 8% a year, your total contributions of $72,000 will grow to almost $300,000 if put away for 30 years. When you think about it that way, skipping that regular Tuesday dinner doesn’t seem so bad, does it?

    Excuse 1: I can’t afford it.

  • This is one of the most seductive retirement lies. For a good long while, it is true that retirement is a ways off. (Even if you’re 55, it’s still at least ten years away.) But the longer you put off saving for retirement, the less interest you’ll earn and the more difficult it will be for you to save.

    An example: Alex and Jordan both put just over $90,000 in their retirement accounts over the years, but Alex began saving ($2,000 per year) at age 22, while Jordan began saving (about $3,500 per year) 20 years later at age 42. Even though they both put in the same total amount, Alex will have over twice as much money at retirement as Jordan will when they reach age sixty-seven (assumes a 6% annual rate of return). That’s because her money had more time to grow, so it was able to make more off of itself than Jordan’s.*

    Seriously, you have two people who put the same dollar amount into their retirement funds. The one who started twenty years later contributed the same amount, but ended up with less than half as much.

    As someone who cares about making my money work for me, this speaks volumes. It turns out that one of the smartest things you can do is simply to get time on your side. This is how you shortcut the hard work-by taking advantage of the power of compounding interest and the fact that you will only have an increasing number of financial obligations pulling at your purse strings as the years go by. So, this is not something you can keep putting off. This is something to tackle today. The time is now.

    * Note: This is illustrative and is not reflective of guaranteed profits over time. Actual results may fluctuate based on market conditions.

    Excuse 2: I’m young. There’s plenty of time to save for retirement later.

  • Excuse 3: When I get married someday, I won’t have to worry about money.

  • Excuse 4: What about Social Security? I’ll just live off that when I retire.

  • I hear you. But saving for retirement versus enjoying life now is not an either/or proposition. You can do both. Also, let me put it this way: Yes, you deserve to enjoy

    your money now, but you also deserve not to count pennies when you’re old.

    Excuse 5: I deserve to have fun with my money today-I work hard for it.

  • Excuse 6: An inheritance is coming my way someday.

  • Yes, the market is unreliable from year to year, and yes, the value of your investments will dip in a down market. But downswings don’t last forever, and historically, over long periods of time, the market has shown solid returns. While past performance doesn’t reveal future returns, the SP 500, for example, has averaged 9.28% annual returns over the last 25 years.

    Alternatively, let’s say you leave your money under your mattress or even in a savings account bearing 1% interest: You’re going to lose the purchasing power of those dollars due to inflation (which is estimated at 3%). Yes, with the market, you’re opening yourself up to some risk — but with risk comes reward.

    Excuse 7: The market is down, so why bother to invest in a retirement account?

  • Excuse 8: I’ll start saving when the market improves.

  • Excuse 9: I’ll be able to use the equity in my home to retire.

  • Yes, college is a big expense, and you should definitely save for it-that is, once your own retirement needs are taken care of. If you’re a parent, it’s a natural instinct to put your children’s futures before your own. But think about it this way: If you don’t save the full amount for your children’s college education, you can always fall back on financial aid, grants, scholarships and student loans to help pay your children’s way. When it comes to your retirement, however, there are no loans. Let me repeat: There are no loans. All you’ll have to live on is what you’ve saved. For that reason, saving for retirement should be your top financial priority-always. I get that you don’t want to saddle your kids or future kids with loans- what parent would?

    But remember that if you pay for your children’s college and then cannot afford your retirement, you will end up burdening your children all the same. They will feel obligated to help you out-at a time when their own families need them financially.

    Excuse 10: I need to get my kids through college first, and then I can focus on my retirement.

  • You may love your work, and it may be the kind of work you can even imagine yourself doing well into your seventies or eighties. But while that’s easy to say now, what if you can’t find work at that point in your life, or what if you have health problems or family obligations that prevent you from working? While there is nothing wrong with hoping for a best-case scenario, it isn’t wise to plan around one. Sock away some money now so you’re ready for whatever may come your way. The last thing I ever want you to deal with is a health issue and money concerns at the same time.

    Reprinted from the book “Financially Fearless: The LearnVest Program for Taking Control of Your Money” by Alexa von Tobel, CFP®. Copyright 2013 by Alexa von Tobel. Published by Crown Business, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.

    Excuse 11: I plan to keep working even during retirement.

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