Governor Kemp of Georgia is suing Atlanta’s mayor over her mask mandate

One last reminder about our highly-anticipated webinar this week, featuring Michael Walker of Samuels, Yoelin, Kantor.

Your Digital Assets – Include Them in Your Estate Plan
Many of you don’t have a current estate plan. We know this, because you’ve told us so. But, if you do have a current estate plan, it’s unlikely you have a plan for your digital assets.

What are digital assets? They’re assets that exist electronically and are (usually) stored on the internet. Examples include accounts for which you have a user ID and password, photos, music, virtual currency, documents, and social media. Think about how much of your life is conducted online.

What happens to all of this content and information when you die? It all depends on you. If you do nothing, someone else will spend many hours dealing with it and trying to guess your intentions. If you take action, organize your digital assets and include them in your plan, then your executor will spend far less time making certain that your wishes are honored.

The webinar is this Wednesday, July 22 at 4:00 pm. We’ll be providing a very helpful inventory for these assets that you can complete on your computer, save and store securely.

Can’t attend? Don’t despair. The webinar will be recorded and available on our YouTube channel. Know others who might be interested? Email or call Caitilin in our office to get them signed up.

Planning for College?
Do you have a college-bound child? Are you concerned about whether you can afford their first-choice school?

Do you know what you’ll be expected to pay? What about accessing scholarships, loans and grants?

At Springwater Wealth, we can help you answer these questions, and give you the peace of mind to know you and your student have made the right choice.

Get the information you need in a free, no-obligation, personalized college funding report. You’ll learn how you can save on the cost of college, as well as saving for it.

Visit our website to learn more: https://springwaterwealth.com/how-we-help/college-planning/

COVID-19 Numbers
Globally, across 213 countries and territories, there have been over 14 million confirmed cases and over 600,000 deaths. In the US, over 3.7 million have been infected and over 140,000 have died. The CDC believes 10 million Americans are already infected.

Every week we report to you higher numbers … for positive case, for hospitalizations, for deaths. Across much of the country, the virus is in command. Candidly, the only good news has been an increase in testing. But even that is not keeping up with the need. Because we’re not testing enough and processing completed tests fast enough, we can’t contact trace properly. A test is of little value if the results aren’t received for a week (or longer). Without contact tracing, corralling this virus is basically impossible.

On Friday, the nation set a daily record with 76,043 new cases of infection. This past Saturday, Arizona reported its single-day highest death total. North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Missouri announced record highs.

This graph from Johns Hopkins continues to tell the story.

https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/testing/individual-states

Source: Johns Hopkins University

Political Theater and COIVID-19
Last week brought additional perplexing incidents on the political in the fight against the virus.

The Governor of Georgia is suing the Mayor of Atlanta, because the mayor defied the governor’s guidance and ordered city residents to wear face masks. Given Georgia’s lack of success in containing the virus, wearing face masks seems like a rather obvious measure.

The Trump Administration is waging a smear campaign against Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the nation’s leading infectious disease expert. This move left Dr. Fauci at a loss for an explanation and baffled the health care community. The Administration is also seeking to block billions in additional funding for states to conduct testing and contact tracing. These funds are under consideration by the House and the Senate as they negotiate the next coronavirus relief package. The Administration also opposes additional funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Markets
On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 63 points, or 0.23%. The S&P 500 Index rose 9 points, or 0.28%. The Dow was up 2.3% for the week and the S&P 500 Index was up 1.2% last week. For the year, the Dow is off 6.50% and the S&P 500 Index is down just 0.20%. Remarkable, given the severe impact of COVID-19 on the nation’s economy.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury Note was at 0.626% on Friday. Spot gold, which traded at $1,581 (per ounce) at the beginning of the year, was trading at $1,810 on Friday. Investors typically head to US government securities and gold in times of uncertainty and worry.

The rate for a 30-year mortgage dropped below 3% last week. This is the lowest rate in nearly 50 years. Low rates are fueling the housing market and refinancing activity.

Budget Deficit
The federal government has been spending at an unprecedented rate to combat the virus. The result is record-setting budget deficit of $3 trillion over the past 12 months (to June 2020). The deficit is 14% of the nation’s gross national product (GDP). The deficit was $864 billion in the month of June alone. The Congressional Budget Office (the “CBO”) is projecting a $3.7 trillion budget deficit through the end of the government’s fiscal year (September 30, 2020). Congress has allocated $3.3 trillion in coronavirus-related relief spending since March. Federal revenue is down 28%.

The Labor Market
The Labor Department reported that another 1.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending July 11. These numbers have been declining since peaking in April.

There are 17.3 million Americans receiving unemployment benefits. The CBO projects that the unemployment rate will be 10.5% at the end of 2020. Recall that the jobless rate was 3.5% in March, just before the pandemic hit and forced much of the economy to shutter.

There is some indication that the labor market is losing momentum. As the virus surges in many sections of the country, employers are hesitant to bring back additional workers. In addition, consumers are growing cautious because of the uncertainty.

Inflation
As expected in a severe recession, inflation is not a problem. The consumer price index (CPI) rose by 0.6% in the month of June. Core prices (which exclude food and energy) were up 1.2% over the past 12 months. This gives the Federal Reserve room to keep interest rates near zero for as long as necessary.

The Economy
The Wall Street Journal reported that earnings for the companies that comprise the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index declined by 45% in the second quarter from the same quarter a year ago.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that gross national product will be 5.9% lower in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared with 2019.

Consumer spending has bounced back. Retail sales (i.e. stores, restaurants, online) increased 7.5% in the month of June.

The Federal Reserve is anticipating a “choppy recovery” as the country navigates a recovery from COVID-19.

Additional Federal Relief
We reported several weeks ago that the House passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act or HEROES Act. This bill includes $3 trillion in additional spending to counter the impact of the virus.

However, the Senate has not taken up, much less passed, companion legislation. A battle looms as the two Houses of Congress are far apart on what should be done. They are debating several elements:

Enhanced unemployment benefits. These $600 weekly payments expire at the end of July. They have been a lifeline to 30 million Americans. However, we know that many who are receiving these benefits have more income than they did when they were employed. The government is spending $15 billion each week to support states’ unemployment benefit programs. Look for the Senate to push for modifications in an extension of these benefits.

The Paycheck Protection Program. This is a loan program administered by the Small Business Administration designed to help businesses retain workers during the pandemic. It has been a success. There have been 4.9 million loans, totaling $518 billion. We can expect Congress to extend the program and tighten requirements for eligibility.

Schools. The government will need to provide much more financial assistance to schools and universities as they attempt to reopen. The money will be needed for testing, cleaning and additional staff.

Liability protection. The Senate will push hard for liability protection for employers, schools and universities, health care providers and non-profit organizations. The issue is lawsuits by those who become infected with the virus at work or school and by those who claim a loved one didn’t receive proper care. The House will push for additional protection for workers, particularly those on the front lines of the pandemic.

State assistance. The federal government will need to provide financial support to states, counties and municipalities that have been hit hard by the virus. They are spending to support businesses and citizens and their tax revenue has dropped significantly.

Testing. Congress will likely provide additional funds to increase testing, expand contact tracing, and accelerate vaccine research.

Look for the House and Senate to enter serious negotiations in the next week in an effort to pass a bill before the end of July.

The Bottom Line
The virus continues to dictate what is happening. If infection and hospitalization numbers continue to rise, states will be forced to suspend re-opening measures or, if the situation really deteriorates, backtrack and reimpose stricter shutdown measures. California finds itself in this situation.

The imposition of defensive measures by government officials will slow the economy, as we saw earlier this year. If the economy falters, the stock market will react accordingly.

We can limit the spread of the virus by practicing good hygiene, avoiding crowds, avoiding close contact with others outside our “pod,” wearing a mask and cleaning and sanitizing surfaces as appropriate. The World Health Organization encourages us to avoid the three C’s: Closed-off spaces (with insufficient ventilation), Crowded places and Close conversations.

Despite the discord in this nation, we are all in this together.

A Reminder About Our Communications
We correspond with you every Monday. We hope you are enjoying your summer and getting outside in remote places where the virus is far less likely to be present.

Keep the faith, be safe and stay healthy.

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