It’s time to turn your mind to taxes.
Last week, President Trump signed tax reform, officially titled ‘An Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018,’ into law.
The legislation provides significant permanent tax cuts for businesses, including reducing the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. Most individual taxpayers will also receive tax benefits, including lower marginal tax rates. However, all of the individual tax breaks will expire before 2026.
In addition, “…the standard deduction has been raised from $6,350 for singles and $12,700 for couples filing jointly to $12,000 and $24,000…With the standard deduction raised to $24,000, many folks will take the standard deduction rather than itemize. Taxpayers itemize their deductions when total deductions exceed the standard deduction,” wrote Barron’s.
The new rules won’t go into effect until next year, and that gives you a small window of opportunity. If you act by the end of the year, you may be able to minimize the amount you pay Uncle Sam. For example, you may want to consider:
One problem with end-of-the-year tax reform is it leaves little time to act. Before making any decisions or taking any actions, please consult with a tax or legal advisor. This is not intended as legal or tax advice.
Here we come a tax-reforming…
The reconciliation of Congressional tax reform bills proceeded apace last week, and Congress is expected to vote on the measure early this week. If tax reform passes, Dubravko Lakos-Bujas, head of U.S. equity strategy with JPMorgan, thinks we may see value stocks swing back into favor. Barron’s reported:
“The spread between value and growth has reached a point historically associated with a reversal; the Russell 1000 value index is up 9 percent this year, against a gain of 27 percent in the comparable growth index. Tax reform is a catalyst for a rotation into value stocks, as value companies generate almost 80 percent of their revenue in the U.S. and are subject to an effective tax rate of 30.3 percent, the strategist observes.”
Tax reform isn’t the only driver that may support value stocks. Value also tends to outperform when interest rates are rising. If the Federal Reserve has anything to say about, rates should begin to move higher.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) increased its benchmark interest rate by one-quarter of a percentage point last week. It was the third increase during 2017.
Normally, a Fed rate hike would be expected to push Treasury rates higher; however, that didn’t happen last week. Rates on U.S. government bonds fell on Wednesday after the Fed took action, reported CNBC. It’s notable that, after three rate hikes during 2017, the yield on 10-year Treasury bonds finished last week at 2.4 percent, which was lower than at the start of the year.
Following the FOMC meeting last week, Chair Janet Yellen told CNBC, “My colleagues and I are in line with the general expectation among most economists that the type of tax changes that are likely to be enacted would tend to provide some modest lift to GDP growth in the coming years.”
What will it take to shake investors’ confidence?
From the perspective of unsettling events, last week was jam-packed. North Korea claimed to have the capability to strike the United States with a nuclear missile, tax reform continued to travel a controversial path through the House and Senate, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with Russia's ambassador.
U.S. stock markets weren’t immune to these events and some lost value. However, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index didn’t stay down for long. Both indices finished the week higher.
Barron’s reported black-box trading may have been the reason “…the Dow shed 400 points from peak to trough in a matter of minutes. The drop happened so quickly that some opined that humans couldn’t have been responsible for the tumble. ‘No way real traders were moving that fast,’ says Andrew Brenner, head of international fixed income securities at NatAlliance Securities. ‘Clearly, it was algorithms taking over.’”
Investor sentiment remained largely undented. The AAII Sentiment Survey showed slightly more investors were bullish near week’s end than had been the previous week. Bearishness was also up, gaining 2.6 percent. Fewer investors were neutral about markets. Despite an increase in bullish sentiment, the level was below the historic average for bullishness for the 39th time in 2017. (The AAII survey runs from Thursday to Thursday, so it did not reflect any changes in sentiment that may have occurred after reports of Michael Flynn’s indictment and cooperation with special investigators.)
The CNN/Money Fear & Greed Index is an investor sentiment gauge that relies on seven market indicators – stock price momentum, strength, and breadth, put and call options, junk bond demand, market volatility, and safe haven demand – to measure whether fear or greed is driving the market. Last week, the needle was in the Greed range, as it has been for some time.