An epic infographic explaining Alibaba

In a recent US poll, 88% of respondents said that they had never heard of Alibaba. If you are one of those who don't know the Chinese e-commerce giant, then you can have a quick primer with this epic infographic from Here are a few interesting facts before you dive in:

  • Alibaba has a market capitalization of $511 billion as of 3/16/18, just a hair less than Facebook's $535 billion.
  • Alibaba has 528 million mobile active users.
  • Interestingly 11.1% of Alibaba's visitors are from the US.
  • CEO/Founder Jack Ma set up Alibaba with $60k that he borrowed from 18 people. At the end of 2017, the company employed over 50,000 people.
  • The company sold over $25 billion in just one day on Singles Day.

Time to invest in a generator (stock)?

The northeast has had a brutal last couple of weeks. Yesterday we saw a third nor'easter bring more snow to the area. The first had wind gusts of 50mph and knocked power out at our office for a week. The second brought close to 2 feet of snow and took down many trees and power lines. Many homes in my area were without power for 5+ days. I was one of the unlucky ones losing power on Wednesday night. Temperatures in my house dropped steadily down to a low of 46 degrees by day 3. The food in the refrigerator was a lost cause but the biggest worry was freezing pipes causing significant damage. Three of my surrounding neighbors had full-house generators and I'm sure many people that lived without power are now seriously considering installing one even at the cost of $8-10k.

S&P earnings are strong and optimistic for 2018

The constituents of the S&P 500 are wrapping up an extremely strong 4th quarter earnings season. Even before tax reform kicks in, corporations reached record operating profit margins at 10.4%. Furthermore, companies beat on the top and bottom line with over 75% beating estimates which is an eight-year high. Looking ahead, it is no surprise that earnings revisions are trending higher across all sectors.

Will trade tariffs cause higher inflation and beer prices?

Yesterday President Trump surprised many of his own advisors when he announced that he would impose steel tariffs of 25% and aluminum tariffs of 10% on national security grounds. There are rumors that his top economic advisor Gary Cohn is so unhappy with the decision that he is on the brink of leaving the White House. The market voted a thumbs down on the decision as the Dow fell close to 1000 points before closing some of the gap on Friday. While the tariffs aren't yet finalized, many of our trading partners from Canada to Germany are seeking exemptions so it isn't yet clear how this will play out. If it is a broad based tariff, it would likely cause ripple effects in global trade and the end result is higher inflation.

1-year Treasury rates hit 10 year high

Today in the bond auction, the 1-year Treasury bill yield hit a 10-year high at 2.02 percent. This is good news for savers as they are finally starting to see some risk free returns on their money in the bank. Furthermore, new Fed Chair Jerome Powell testified on Capitol Hill and suggested that there will be 3-4 more hikes this year. That means that we may see 3 percent rates by year end. Powell said, “At the December meeting, the median [FOMC] participant called for three rate increases in 2018,” Powell said. “Now since then, what we’ve seen is incoming data that suggests a strengthening in the economy.”

The Podcast Explosion. Are You Listening?

Three and a half years ago, two of my cousins separately asked me, "Are you listening to Serial?" I had no idea what they were talking about. "The podcast," they continued. "It's so good. You should listen to it."

401K Providers: 2017 Top 10 Lists

Companies that offer employees a 401(k) plan have many choices when selecting service providers for defined contribution plans. The challenge for many businesses, especially those small- and medium-sized, is that day-to-day operations leaves little time to review, monitor, and optimize their retirement plan on a regular basis. The result is that many plan sponsors lack a comprehensive understanding of who the top 401k providers are. Because your plan assets change due to financial market conditions and retirement plan contributions, it's important for plan sponsors to understand the service provider landscape and ensure that their plan is with the best provider for their participants (employees.)

PLANSPONSOR magazine conducts an annual recordkeeping survey and in 2017 profiled 55 leading providers that represent more than $6 trillion in assets and are estimated to account for 85% of the total defined contribution market.

Here's their list of the 2017 top 401(k) providers and my thoughts.

Is the Year of the Dog bullish or bearish for the market?

Today marks the New Year of lunar calendar. We turn the page on the Year of the Rooster and welcome the Year of the (Earth) Dog. Some famous dogs are Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa, Elvis Presley, President Donald Trump, former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush, Michael Jackson, Madonna and Steven Spielberg. Clearly lots of creative people and powerful leaders, but that isn't important to us. We wonder what the Year of the Dog has in store for the stock market.

 401(k) Trends for Business Owners [infographic]

The Plan Sponsor Council of America (PSCA) released its 60th Annual Survey of Profit Sharing and 401(k) Plans this week. The good news is that participation rates in retirement plans, including defined contribution profit sharing and 401(k) plans, rose steadily. This means that more employees are taking advantage of their employer sponsored retirement benefits. Plan sponsors also continue to employ plan features like automatic enrollment, auto-escalation, and Roth 401(k)s to assist employees to grow their retirement savings.

Experts are starting to see parallels to the financial crisis?

This morning on Yahoo Finance, the top story is titled "Market experts are starting to see parallels to the financial crisis." According to writer Dion Rabouin, some market analysts and fund managers believe that the current environment is beginning to look like the early days of the financial crisis of 2007-2009. The key argument is that the volatility products that collapsed on Monday are similar to the leverage in subprime mortgages. Here is an excerpt:


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