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By: Mark Fahey
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The national unemployment rate rose a 0.1 point in December, to 4.7 percent, the Labor Department announced Friday. That's a slight increase, but relying on that one headline number as an indicator of the economy's general direction ignores important information just below the surface.
Every month on "Jobs Friday," the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases a slew of data, each of which provides its own perspective on the nation's employment situation. Economists look past the official unemployment rate — that 4.7 percent figure, also known as the "U-3" — to other metrics that give their own nuanced view of the jobs in the country.
One of those figures is called the U-6 rate, which has a broader definition of unemployment than the U-3 does. In December, that number fell 0.1 point, to 9.2 percent.
President-elect Donald Trump can influence stock prices and change corporate plans simply by tweeting, and few companies are as dependent on the government as the big contractors.
About 61 entities earned $1 billion or more from federal contracts in the 2015 fiscal year, and 34 of those are publicly traded companies, according to data from the federal procurement data system. As you would expect, the biggest recipients are defense contractors, which already had good reason to watch Trump closely after he was involved in a deal to keep Carrier jobs in Indiana.
Companies like Lockheed Martin may top the list at $36 billion in contractual obligations, but companies across several other industries are getting a huge amount of their revenue from the government, according to data from the federal system and FactSet.
An analysis of Janet Yellen's language shows the conflicted position of the Fed chair in predicting monetary policy with the uncertainty of Donald Trump's fiscal plans.
The Federal Reserve announced earlier in December that it would raise interest rates a quarter point, the first rate hike in a year. That ends months of speculation on whether Yellen sees the economy as strong enough to handle tighter monetary policy.
But the question remains how the Fed will react to fiscal spending and potential inflation-inducing actions from the incoming administration.
Just because a fund calls itself "contrarian" doesn't mean it's offering something all that different.
A contrarian strategy buys stocks when they are unpopular and sells when they come back in style. The funds themselves say they seek out stocks that have "fallen out of favor because of short-term, transitory factors," or are "underfollowed, underappreciated and undervalued."
It may come as a surprise, then, that if you invested $100 in the $10 billion Columbia Contrarian Core Fund, you'd be buying almost $4 in Apple stock, $3 in Microsoft stock and $1.30 in Alphabet shares. That's very close to what you'd be getting if you just bought the S&P 500 index.
Often, there is little contrarian about a fund aside from its name. Some of the biggest contrarian funds have popular holdings and daily movement highly correlated with the S&P 500. Returns this year appear to be a mixed bag, with the funds that don't rise and fall with stock indexes bringing exceptional gains even as bigger funds underperformed.
The Dow Jones industrial average has been closing in on 20,000 for over a week now and was as close as 27 points Tuesday morning. Market observers and investors alike have been hotly anticipating that new threshold, but the index just hasn't been able to make it over that hump.
Surprisingly, it was less than $10 in real share price that separated the Dow from breaking that barrier, as of the close Friday.
If any one of the 30 Dow stocks increased in value by $9.67, the index as a whole would rise above 20,000. Put another way, if each stock increased by just 33.3 cents, it would break the barrier. That's because a single-dollar movement in any one stock is worth 6.8 points to the index because of how it's created.
Call them the 12 companies of Christmas: This is a time of good cheer for the handful of names that get more than 30 percent of their annual revenue from the holiday quarter.
Those 12 S&P 500 companies include the two big toymakers — Hasbro and Mattel — as well as cosmetics brands, department stores and jewelers. Yum Brands and Monsanto also make the list for reasons that are unrelated to rampant gift giving or religious holidays.