Retirement plan investors are moving into equities as economic signs improve modestly. The unemployment rate went down while factory work and construction spending increased. J. Crew is rolling out a lower end brand of stores. And which country pays the highest income tax rate? Surprisingly, not us.
Retirement plan investors move to stocks
Retirement plan investors are putting more money into stocks than they have since the financial crisis. Stocks accounted for 67 percent of employees’ new contributions into their retirement plans, according to data from Aon Hewitt , which tracks 401(k) data for 1.3 million people in large corporate retirement plans. The Wall Street Journal indicates that this is the highest percentage since March 2008. In March 2009, only 56 percent of contributions were going into equities. Overall, stocks represent 66 percent of the assets in the Aon Hewitt survey, up from 48 percent in 2009.
Unemployment rate at lowest level since 2008
The US economy added 288,000 jobs in April and the unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent, the lowest level since September 2008. According to the New York Times, the good news was tempered by a drop of 806,000 in the number of Americans in the labor force. The number of Americans in the labor force remains low. While the unemployment rate is down from its peak of 10 percent in October 2009, it is still above the historical average at this stage of an economic recovery and masks significant pockets of joblessness among blacks, teenagers and workers with a high school degree or less.
Factory work and construction spending up
Construction spending rose slightly in March and factory activity increased in April, according to USA Today. The Commerce Department said construction spending increased just 0.2 percent in March, after having fallen 0.2 percent in February. The March improvement put construction at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $942.5 billion, an 8.4 percent increase from a year ago. The March gains also included increases for apartments, single-family homes, factories, health care centers and office products. In a separate report, the Institute for Supply Management reported that its manufacturing index rose to 54.9 up from 53.7 a month ago. Readings over 50 indicate that an economy is growing while readings under 50 indicate contraction.
J. Crew to open chain for budget-conscious shoppers
J. Crew is developing a new brand aimed at budget-conscious shoppers, underscoring the difficulty apparel retailers have had in boosting sales without help from discounts. Fox Business reports that the new stores will be called J. Crew Mercantile and prices will be closer to what shoppers find at J. Crew Factory than the regular retail stores. In January, J. Crew asked Goldman Sachs to begin work on a potential IPO. J. Crew’s Chief Executive, Millard Drexler, made a similar move in the 1990s when he was CEO of Gap. There he developed Old Navy, a line that sells lower priced versions of the t-shirts, shorts and jeans for which Gap was known. Old Navy eventually overtook Gap in both revenue and the number of stores in the US.
Who pays the most income taxes?
A CNN report indicates that the average American pays more in tax and social security than Canadians, Australians, the Japanese and the British. A report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, that compares tax rates and social security deductions on average incomes in 34 countries, finds that Germans, Belgians and Danes have the highest tax burdens. South Koreans, Mexicans and Chileans have the lowest. The average American pays 24.6 percent of their salary in income taxes and social security. Belgians pay 57.4 percent of their salaries in taxes. In contrast, Mexicans take home 90 percent of their salaries.
Catherine S. McBreen is President of Millionaire Corner. McBreen plans and develops content for Millionaire Corner. Catherine balances editorial content to meet the informational needs of both new and seasoned investors. She designs special monthly surveys on topical issues affecting the economic environment.
McBreen has a B.S. in speech communications from Northwestern University and a J.D. from DePail University College of Law. She is a member of the American Bar Association, the Illinois Bar Association, and the Chicago Bar Association.
Well-known for her expertise in the affluent and retirement arenas, McBreen is a frequent speaker at industry conferences. She has been quoted widely by the financial media, including The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Research, Private Asset Management, On Wall Street, Reuters, Bloomberg News, The Dow Jones Newswires and Worth. Cathy has appeared as a guest on CNBC Closing Bell, First Business Morning News, Neal Cavuto at Fox Business News, ABC and CBS radio.
McBreen is co-author with Spectrem President George H. Walper, Jr. of the book "Get Rich, Stay Rich, Pass It On: The Wealth-Accumulation Secrets of America's Richest Families" (Portfolio, January 2008)
Catherine is the mother of four and is involved in many school and community events.