A LIMITED TRADE DEAL: Apparently, the U.S. and China have agreed to a “first-stage” trade deal. China will agree to buy more products from the U.S., and in particular agricultural products ($40 billion per year). The U.S. will not impose certain threatened tariffs, and reduce some existing ones. Tariffs on smartphones, toys and consumer electronics, set to go into effect this Sunday are cancelled. China also agreed to specific commitments on intellectual property protections.
BREXIT CLOSURE: This week, British voters handed a conclusive victory to Boris Johnson and the Tories. Of course, a primary theme in this election was the Tories’ promise to quickly finalize the Brexit deal. Now that Boris Johnson has a clear majority that was voted in while promising to “get Brexit done,” it is highly likely that the June 2016 Brexit referendum result will now be consummated quickly.
CLARITY DRIVES MARKETS: This week, several items seemed to move toward clarity. Markets love that. In the U.K., there was a decisive election which will clearly push that country to finalize the Brexit drama. All uncertainty on that issue seems to be over. This week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the U.S.M.C.A., or the new trade deal between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. The outcome of that deal was uncertain until the House acted. The limited trade deal between the U.S. and China will probably not end the drama between those two countries which ripples across the globe. But it did give investors hope that the worst might be behind us. Furthermore, the U.S. Federal Reserve met this week and gave no indication that it wishes to raise rates any time soon. All in all, economic optimism heading into 2020 was the theme of the week, and global stocks rose.
U.S. RETAIL SALES: For November, retail sales were 3.3% higher than November of last year. Total sales for September through November were up 3.5% from the same period a year ago.
ANOTHER BANNER YEAR FOR HOTELS: 2018 was a record-setting year for hotel occupancy. So far, 2019 looks like it will be very close to 2018.
QUICK PRIMER ON SOCIAL SECURITY: For those born after 1960, full retirement age is 67. If you wait to take Social Security until this age, you get your Primary Insurance Amount (“PIA”). If you wait, and claim later, you get 8% more for every year you delay until age 70. Therefore, it never makes sense to delay past age 70. If you claim early, you lose 5/9 of 1% for each month you claim early, up to three years. You can claim as early as 62, in which case you get a 30% decrease in your PIA. If you know how long you are going to live, the decision is easy.