Welcome to another rousing edition of Black Coffee, your off-beat weekly round-up of what’s been going on in the world of money and personal finance.
Happy New Year! I want to thank all you who regularly stop by this little ol’ blog every week to read my nutty ramblings. I hope 2017 is a very prosperous and healthy year for everyone.
Anyway, due to the holiday, I have a very brief espresso edition of Black Coffee for you this week. I promise I’ll be back with a much fuller cup of joe in this space next week.
So with that, let’s get right to it …
Credits and Debits
Credit: US stocks ended the final trading day of the year slightly lower on Friday — but that didn’t stop the Dow from having its best calendar-year performance since 2013; for the year it was up 13.4%. Hooray!
Credit: The Dow’s strong finish is surprising considering it was down 10% on February 11th — but since then the Dow has gained more than 20%. In fact, only three of the 30 companies that make up the index finished 2016 with an annual negative return: Nike (-18.7%), Coca-Cola (-3.5%) and Disney (-0.8%).
Credit: Meanwhile, US consumer confidence climbed in December to the highest level in nearly 16 years. Wow. Somebody pinch me. On second thought, somebody should probably pinch the entire country.
Credit: It’s probably not a coincidence that consumer optimism spilled over to business owners. True, only 26% of them expect better business conditions six months from now. Then again, economic sentiment hasn’t been that high since February 2011.
Debit: By the way, who says optimism isn’t contagious? Heck … even President Obama and Congressional Democrats have been swept up in newfound enthusiasm — this week they’ll be meeting to discuss ways to save Obamacare from falling into the dust bin of history. Heh. No, really.
Debit: Of course, delusion isn’t limited to the politicians on Capitol Hill. Apparently, most Americans have forgotten that they’re now deeper in debt than they were before the financial crisis of 2008. You can bet that will change when the bills finally come due.
Debit: It will be interesting to see how all of that debt will be paid too, considering that an astounding 94% of the new jobs created during the past eight years was a part-time position. Ninety-four percent. I know — but that’s great news for aspiring waiters, baristas, fry cooks and WalMart greeters.
Debit: I guess when it comes to retiring debt, anybody short on cash can always try to follow Cuba’s lead — the Caribbean socialist paradise recently offered to settle its $270 million trading-debt with Czechoslovakia in rum instead of cash or gold. Viva el Socialismo!
Credit: Frankly, it’s easy to see why the Czechs declined. According to Bloomberg: “The Czech Republic only imported $2 million worth of rum from Cuba last year. At that rate, it would take more than a century for Czechs to drink enough booze if it was used to pay off Cuba’s entire debt.” Sheesh. And I thought we Americans were optimistic.
By the Numbers
It’s hard to believe that 2017 is upon us. Here are some findings from an Associated Press poll on how Americans celebrated the New Year — and their thoughts about 2016:
50% The share of Americans who spent New Year’s Eve at home.
20% Americans who spent New Year’s Eve at the home of friends or family.
10% Americans who brought in the New Year at a bar or restaurant.
25% The share of people who said they didn’t celebrate the New Year at all.
60% Percentage of people who watched the Times Square ball drop on television.
18% The share of Americans who said 2016 was better than 2015.
The Question of the Week
Last Week’s Poll Results
Do you have a passport?
- Yes (68%)
- No (32%)
More than 1100 people responded to last week’s question and two out of three said that they have a passport. You know … that’s actually more than I expected. How about you? I’ve been meaning to get mine, but I’ve been too lazy to get off my rear and get it done. I think I’ll make that my New Year’s resolution for 2017.
Other Useless News
While you’re here, please don’t forget to:
1. Click on that Like button in the sidebar to your right and become a fan of Len Penzo dot Com on Facebook!
2. Make sure you follow me on Twitter!
3. Subscribe via email too!
And last, but not least …
4. Consider becoming a Len Penzo dot Com Insider! Thank you.
Letters, I Get Letters
Every week I feature the most interesting question or comment — assuming I get one, that is. And folks who are lucky enough to have the only question in the mailbag get their letter highlighted here whether it’s interesting or not! You can reach out to me at: Len@LenPenzo.com
Of all the letters and comments that come your way, what’s the dumbest one you ever received?
Jimmy … I can tell you’re a man who likes to live dangerously.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.
Photo Credit: brendan-