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The Markets (as of market close January 29, 2016)

The start of 2016 for the equities markets may be described as rocky at best.  Stunted by receding oil prices and a plummeting Chinese stock market, January began with stocks hitting the skids in a big way.  A late-month rally fueled by an about-face in oil prices, some favorable earnings reports, the prospect of further stimulus from the European Central Bank, and Japan dropping interest rates to negative numbers spurred stocks higher toward the end of the month, but not enough to lift each of the indexes listed here out of negative territory year-to-date.  The Russell 2000 and Nasdaq still have the most ground to make up to get to even, while the large-cap Dow and S&P 500 are about 5.0% off their values at the end of 2015.

The close of January saw bond prices rise as yields fell, evidenced by the 10-year Treasury yield which dropped below 2.0%.  The price of gold (COMEX) increased by month's end, selling at $1,118.40 -- about $58 higher than December's end-of-month price of $1,060.50.

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Market Month January 2016

Year-End Tax Planning Basics

The window of opportunity for many tax-saving moves closes on December 31, so it's important to evaluate your tax situation now, while there's still time to affect your bottom line for the 2015 tax year.

Timing is everything

Consider any opportunities you have to defer income to 2016.  For example, you may be able to defer a year-end bonus, or delay the collection of business debts, rents, and payments for services.  Doing so may allow you to postpone paying tax on the income until next year.  If there's a chance that you'll be in a lower income tax bracket next year, deferring income could mean paying less tax on the income as well.

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Tax Planning

The Markets

November saw equities markets follow October's gains, although not nearly at the same pace.  Amid favorable jobs reports, moderate GDP growth, and increased consumer income, coupled with an apparent easing of economic concerns in China, conditions appeared ripe for a strong November in equities trading.  However, the major indexes listed here saw gains that can be described as pedestrian at best.  Possibly shaken by the terrorist attacks in Europe, investors socked money away at a pace not seen since 2012.  Nevertheless, positive gains were achieved in both the Dow and S&P 500.  The Nasdaq advanced almost 55 points, while the Russell 2000 jumped a little over 3.0%.  Of the indexes listed, only the Global Dow lost value by the end of November.

At the close of November, the price of gold (COMEX) was $1,064.00 more than $77 lower than October's end-of-month price of $1,141.70.  Crude oil (WTI) prices remained below $45 a barrel, selling at $41.68 a barrel by month's end.

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Market Month: November 2015

Overview

Volatility may best describe the equities markets for the majority of 2015, as they were impacted by economic stress in China and Greece, coupled with underwhelming corporate earnings reports, falling oil prices, and terrorist attacks here and abroad.  While some economic sectors, such as housing and labor, offered favorable news, others, including exports and wages, showed little in the way of positive movement.  Nevertheless, despite inflation running below the Fed's target rate of 2.0%, there were enough signs of overall economic growth to prompt the Federal Open Market Committee to raise interest rates in December for the first time since 2006.

Of the indexes listed here, only the Nasdaq posted a year-on-year gain.  Not even a fourth quarter rally could bring the other indexes into positive territory for the year.  Nevertheless, the fourth quarter saw gains in large caps as the S&P 500 finished up 6.45%, while the Dow closed the quarter up 7.0%.  Even the Global Dow gained a little over 4.0% for quarter.

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Year end market review

The Markets (as of market close October 30, 2015)

October proved to be a month filled with highs and lows in the equities markets.  But in the end, all of the indexes listed here posted gains over their closing values in September.  The DOW gained almost 8.5% -- its largest monthly percentage gain in four years.  The S&P 500 almost matched the Dow's percentage increase by month's end, gaining almost 160 points to finish the month up 8.30%.  Of the indexes listed here, the tech-heavy Nasdaq recorded the largest monthly percentage increase, closing up 9.38%.

At the close of October, the price of gold (COMEX) was $1,141.70, compared to September's closing price of 1,134.90.  Crude oil (WTI) prices remained below $50 a barrel, selling at $46.39 a barrell by month's end.

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Market Month: October 2015