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The Weekly Flyer: Monday, March 25th, 2024



The Markets


The central banks have spoken.

 

No one expected the United States Federal Reserve to announce a rate change last week – and it didn’t. But Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s comments and the actions of other central banks led to new records being set in stock markets around the world, reported Randall Forsyth of Barron’s.

 

“…the world’s central banks, led by the U.S. Federal Reserve…have all but green-lighted lower policy interest rates in coming months in the expectation that inflation will continue to make downward progress without triggering recessions. The Fed’s counterparts at the European Central Bank and the Bank of England similarly signaled lower rates ahead, while the Swiss National Bank made a surprise cut this past week…Meanwhile, major Latin American central banks, led by Brazil and Mexico, are well along in their rate cuts, having been much prompter in raising their rates to fight inflation starting in 2021, a year or more ahead of the Group of 10.”

 

In the United States, a lower federal funds rate could be good news for consumers and businesses. So, how low could rates go?

 

The Fed’s updated Summary of Economic Projections (SEP) shows that Fed officials expect the federal funds rate to move lower over the next three years, and beyond, based on what they know today. Here’s the SEP year-by-year forecast:

 

  • 2024: 4.63-4.87 percent by year end. (Implying three quarter-point rate cuts over the year.) 

  • 2025: 3.88-4.12 percent by year end. (Implying three quarter-point rate cuts over the year.)

  • 2026: 3.13-3.37 percent by year end. (Implying three quarter-point rate cuts over the year.)

  • Longer term: 2.38-2.62 percent. (Implying additional rate cuts.)

 

When the fed funds rate moves lower, lending rates usually fall as well. So, consumers who buy a home or a car, apply for a home equity or business loan, or use a credit card over the next few years, could see lower interest rates.

 

U.S. stocks moved higher last week, and U.S. Treasury yields fell as the bond market rallied.


HOW DO YOU MEASURE HAPPINESS? The 2024 World Happiness Report relies on data obtained through a Gallup World Poll (GWP) that has been conducted since 2005. The GWP asks participants in various countries this question:

 

“Please imagine a ladder, with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?”7

 

The happiness rankings reflect the three-year average (2021-2023) of the answers received. While the number of participants varies from country to country (and there are no responses for some countries in some years), the usual number appears to be around 1,000 participants per country.

 

Next, the researchers try to figure out why people in one country are happier than those in another country. The researchers reported that six variables – economic prosperity, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and freedom from corruption – explained more than three-fourths of the variation in scores.

 

In 2023, Finland was the happiest country in the world for the seventh consecutive year. The happiest countries included:

 

1.     Finland,

2.     Denmark,

3.     Iceland, and

4.     Sweden.

 

The least happy countries included:

 

140. Sierra Leone, 

141. Lesotho,

142. Lebanon, and

143. Afghanistan.

 

The United States was not among the top 20 for the first time since the report was introduced in 2012. The U.S. ranked 23rd, down from 15th last year.

 

“For the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, happiness has decreased in all age groups, but especially for the young, so much so that the young are now, in 2021-2023, the least happy age group. This is a big change from 2006-2010, when the young were happier than those in the midlife groups, and about as happy as those aged 60 and over. For the young, the happiness drop was about three-quarters of a point, and greater for females than males.”

 

The difference in reported happiness between older and younger Americans was quite large. Americans who are age 60 and older ranked 10th for happiness, while Americans who are age 30 and younger ranked 62nd.


Weekly Focus – Think About It 

“Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be; embrace who you are.”

—Brené Brown, author









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