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The Sandy Spring Way

Like a climber determined to reach a peak, stock markets continued to move higher last week.

February 11th, 2013 | By Beau Mercer

Brian OettingerSigns of strength in U.S. and international trade data improved the outlook for economic growth at home and abroad. The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in December, a sign that the economy did better than expected during the fourth quarter of last year. In China, robust domestic demand pushed imports significantly higher while exports grew more than anticipated. In Europe, Germany’s 2012 surplus was its second highest in more than 60 years which is a sign of underlying strength in one of the Eurozone’s biggest economies.

Positive economic news hurt gold futures which ended the week modestly lower. However, it made riskier assets, like stocks, attractive to investors, which helped push equity markets higher during the week (although trading volumes were low on Friday because of bad weather in the northeast). The NASDAQ closed at a 12-year high, the S&P 500 Index reached a five-year high, and the S&P 500 posted gains for a sixth consecutive week.

The Treasury bond market gained ground during the week. However, at a symposium at the St. Louis Federal Reserve, Federal Reserve Board Governor Jeremy Stein’s comments seemed to reinforce the idea that Fed officials are concerned that ongoing accommodative monetary policies could cause some sectors of the bond market to overheat. His comments reinforced the idea that the Fed is considering tightening its credit policies down the road.

Data as of 02/08/13 1-Week YTD 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks)

0.3%

6.4%

12.4%

12.8%

2.7%

6.1%

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

2.0

N/A

2.0

3.6

3.7

4.0

Gold (per ounce)

-0.05

-1.5

-4.5

16.2

12.7

16.2

DJ-UBS Commodity Index

-0.9

1.5

-1.3

-0.3

-5.8

2.2

DJ Equity All REIT TR Index

0.3

4.6

15.1

23.1

7.6

12.6

Notes: S&P 500, Gold, DJ-UBS Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT TR Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.

Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

THERE IS A NEW TREND IN FUNERALS: PLAN YOUR OWN

Susan Boyle, the Scottish chanteuse who was discovered on Britain’s Got Talent back in 2009 wants to leave mourners at her funeral laughing. What is her plan? She wants to have ‘Nellie the Elephant’ played during the service. Whether you applaud her approach or find it appalling, there is a new trend in the funeral industry: preplanning, prepaying, and personalization. Here are a few of the reasons people are choosing to plan and pay for their funerals ahead of time:

Control. When you plan the funeral, you have a pretty good idea about what will happen. You can decide whether there will be a viewing and how your life will be celebrated after the service. You can also create a file with personal information for your obituary, as well as any instructions you have for burial, cremation, or organ donation. Just make sure you leave it with a loved one so they know how to proceed.

Negotiate. Grieving family members are rarely good negotiators. Planning ahead gives you a chance to negotiate and secure a guaranteed price on a prepaid plan offered by a funeral home. Make sure you find out answers to questions such as: What happens if prices increase? What happens if you move? What happens if you change your mind?

Goodwill. If prepaid plans leave too many questions unanswered, you may choose to fund your funeral through a trust or an insurance policy. Regardless of the payment method, providing instructions with your wishes and funds to cover the expenses can relieve some of the anxiety and stress of a funeral.

Personalize. There are many new and unusual options available for funerals and memorial services. Whether you opt for traditional burial, cremation, green burial, mummification, cryonics, a memorial space flight, a memorial reef, or having your ashes compressed into a gemstone, there is a business willing to help.

Funeral preferences are changing. Alternatives to traditional funeral home services are becoming popular, especially among Baby Boomers. If you would like to learn more about the options available, visit the Funeral Consumers Alliance web site (www.funerals.org) and the National Funeral Directors Associations web site (www.nfda.org).

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

–Mahatma Gandhi, philosopher