Is a Rate Hike Coming?      
In This Issue
On Wednesday, March 1, the three major domestic indexes all had their best performance in 2017 and reached record highs yet again. [1] In fact, the S&P 500 hit 2,400 for the first time ever on the same day the Dow went above 21,000 for the first time. [2] While the markets cooled slightly on Thursday and Friday, all three indexes were up for the week. The S&P 500 added 0.67%, the Dow increased by 0.88%, and the NASDAQ was up 0.44%. [3] International equities in the MSCI EAFE also grew, adding 0.39% for the week. [4] 
In the midst of more record performance, we received a number of data updates that help improve our understanding of the true economic environment and potential for the Fed to increase interest rates next week. 

What We Learned Last Week

Fourth Quarter 2016 GDP Readings Stayed the Same
On February 28, we received the second reading of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the fourth quarter of 2016. The consensus expectation was for the reading to increase to 2.1% from the 1.9% growth in January's Advance report. [5] However, the newest data did not show any change in Q4 GDP. [6]   

Manufacturing Activity Increased
The ISM manufacturing survey beat expectations to come in at 57.7 for February - the highest reading in 2.5 years and the best yearly start since 2011. [7] Levels over 50 indicate expansion, so this data provides a positive signal for our manufacturing sector. [8] 

Service Sector Activity Increased
In February, the service sector grew for the 86 th straight month, with the ISM non-manufacturing survey coming in at 57.6. [9] Both new orders and business activity had faster expansion, and the employment index also increased. [10] 

Consumer Confidence Hit a More Than 15-Year High
The latest consumer confidence numbers from the Conference Board have not been this high since July 2001. [11] Fewer people think that jobs are "hard to get," and many "consumers expect the economy to continue expanding in the months ahead." [12] Of course, consumer confidence is no guarantee for future circumstances; instead, it measures sentiment and currently indicates that many people feel more positively about the economy. 

Personal Income Went Up
The latest personal income data indicated a 0.4% increase in January - for a 4.0% yearly increase. [13] In addition, the Personal Consumption Indicator (PCE) deflator, which measures consumer inflation, grew by 0.4% in January, the largest monthly increase since 2011. [14] The Federal Reserve follows the PCE deflator very closely, so this recent jump could be another sign that a March interest-rate increase could be more likely to occur. [15] 

These data updates are only a few of the economic details we learned last week, but together, they may help explain why the Fed could increase rates in the March 14 - 15 meeting. As recently as Tuesday morning, the odds of a rate hike were only 35%. [16] By Friday, they had increased to 81%, due to strong economic data and remarks from Fed representatives. [17] On Friday, Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said that if employment and inflation continue to change as they expect, then a change to the "federal funds rate would likely be appropriate." [18]

Combined with the recent PCE deflator increases, this Friday's employment data should help provide more context for the Fed's decision. However, as we have seen before, no one truly knows what the Fed will decide until they make their announcement after the meeting. For now, we will monitor the data and wait to hear the Fed's announcement on March 15.  

Monday: Factory Orders
Tuesday: International Trade
Wednesday: Productivity and Costs
Thursday: Import and Export Prices
Friday: Employment Situation

Notes: All index returns exclude reinvested dividends, and the 5-year and 10-year returns are annualized. Sources: Yahoo! Finance, S&P Dow Jones Indices and International performance is represented by the MSCI EAFE Index. 
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.

"Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand.
The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus."

- Alexander Graham Bell

No-Churn Vanilla Ice Cream
A no-fuss recipe for a classic dessert. 

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
2 cups cold heavy cream


1.Combine the condensed milk, vanilla, and bourbon in a medium bowl.
2.Stir together until thoroughly mixed and put aside.
3.Pour heavy cream into a large bowl.
4.Beat thoroughly (on high for 3 minutes if using an electric mixer) until you form stiff peaks.
5.Fold the cream gently into the condensed milk mixture using a rubber spatula.
6.Pour combined mixture into a 4.5" x 8.5" loaf pan.
7.Freeze ingredients until firm, usually for 6 hours.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart [19]

Lifestyle Tips to Reduce Snoring

Snoring when sleeping is a common ailment that affects 45% of normal adults - and 75% of snorers experience obstructive sleep apnea, which disrupts breathing and can increase the risk of other health problems. While medications and surgeries can help with snoring, lifestyle changes may also provide a fix. If you snore, here are common adjustments you can make to improve your quality of sleep (and those around you).

1. Change the position you sleep in
If you're a back-sleeper, you're increasing your chance of snoring. Lying on your back makes your soft pallet and tongue's base collapse to your throat's back wall, which creates vocalized vibrations. A simple switch to lying on your side - and using a body pillow - can help you reduce this effect.

2. Lose weight
Carrying extra weight - especially around your neck and throat - can cause your throat to collapse in your sleep, which leads to snoring. Losing weight may help reverse this snoring trigger.

3. Drink enough water
Not drinking enough water can increase your snoring intensity, because you dehydrate the secretions in your nose and soft palate, making them stickier. You can increase hydration by getting at least 11 cups of water per day for women and 16 per day for men.

Tip courtesy of AARP [22]

Embrace Upcycling - And Turn a Cardboard Box Into a Designed Storage Basket

Upcycling is a term for giving new life to old items. When you upcycle, you take something you no longer use, such as a t-shirt, and repurpose it into something else, like a tote bag. By embracing upcycling as part of your lifestyle, you can help reduce what you send to the landfill while also minimizing your consumption.

A common item we use once and immediately throw away or recycle is a cardboard box. These containers are great for upcycling and can help you bring organization to your household. Instead of buying an expensive basket, save those bucks and new products by repurposing your cardboard box into the storage you need.

Turn a cardboard box into a storage basket
You can give that box new life by:
  • Removing the cardboard box flaps
  • Wrapping and glueing jute string around the box's exterior until you completely cover the box
  • Covering the box's interior with a self-designed fabric liner glued inside
Use your storage container to hold everything from extra toilet paper rolls to hand towels and more.

Tip courtesy of Good Housekeeping & Elizabeth Joan Designs [23] 

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