AJA Weekly Recap

2023 | December 11


Here is your weekly market commentary. We hope you enjoy receiving our newsletters. If you have any questions about the following content, please let us know!

- The AJA Team

This Week….

  • The Markets
  • Money Market Rates
  • Social Security Fix

The Weekly Focus

Think About It

 “If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first.”


— Mark Twain, writer and humorist

The Markets

Stocks Continue Streak

The major U.S. stock indexes recorded their sixth positive week in a row, although momentum continued to slow, with the S&P 500, the NASDAQ, and the Dow each recording a fractional gain. Friday’s S&P 500 closing level was the highest year to date; over the past six weeks, the index has climbed nearly 12%.

November’s jobs growth figure of 199,000 came in slightly above most economists’ expectations and extended a recent run of moderate but solidly positive labor market momentum. The latest figure was above October’s jobs growth of 150,000 but below the 12-month average of 240,000. The unemployment rate slipped to 3.7% from 3.9% the previous month.

A survey of U.S. consumers found that their expectations for inflation fell to the lowest level since March 2021. The University of Michigan reported on Friday that its December sentiment survey found that consumers expect the annual inflation rate to be about 3.1% 12 months from now—down sharply from the 4.5% figure in the November survey.

During October and November, analysts cut their fourth-quarter earnings-per-share estimates for S&P 500 companies by an average of 5.0%, according to FactSet. While analysts typically cut estimates during the first two months of a quarter, the latest cuts have been larger than the 20-year average 2.9% reduction.

The price of Bitcoin, the most widely traded cryptocurrency, jumped to the highest level since April 2022. Bitcoin on Friday was trading around $44,000—up more than 13% for the week, and above a recent low of around $25,000 on September 1.    

The price of U.S. crude oil slipped below $70 per barrel on Wednesday to the lowest level in more than five months. Oil climbed back above that threshold later in the week but remained far below a recent peak of around $89 on October 20.

The price of gold futures surged on Monday, at one point climbing above $2,100 an ounce for the first time ever. However, that level wasn’t a record on an inflation-adjusted basis, and the price spike reversed course later in the day. For the week, gold was down more than 3% overall but still above $2,000 per ounce.

Investors have plenty to keep an eye on in the new week, highlighted by a monthly Consumer Price Index report due out on Tuesday, a U.S. Federal Reserve meeting that concludes on Wednesday, and a monthly update on retail sales scheduled on Thursday. While the Fed is expected to keep interest rates unchanged in its final meeting of 2023, policymakers could offer clues as to the timing of potential rate cuts in 2024.

Source: John Hancock Investment Management


Savings & Money Market Rates

The IRS has announced new 2024 investor contribution limits for 401(k) plans, individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and other retirement accounts.

In 2024, more Americans may qualify for Roth IRA contributions, with the adjusted gross income phaseout range rising to between $146,000 and $161,000 for single individuals and heads of households, up from between $138,000 and $153,000 in 2023.

The Roth IRA contribution phaseout for married couples filing together will rise to between $230,000 and $240,000 in 2024, up from between $218,000 and $228,000.

Americans Agree on Some Things

Spending on healthcare – including amounts spent on healthcare, administration of insurance, health research, and public health through public and private funds – in the United States grew more slowly than usual during the pandemic, rising just 2.7% from 2020 to 2021, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Despite the slower rate of increase, Americans spent about 4.3 trillion on healthcare in total or about $13,000 per person. It’s a significant expenditure even before you consider the fact that the real median household income was about $70,784 in 2021 in the United States.


Here’s a different perspective: healthcare spending was equal to almost one-fifth (18.3%) of U.S. gross domestic product – that’s all goods and services produced by the U.S. economy in 2021. For comparison, U.S. manufacturing contributed $2.3 trillion (12%) to GDP that year.

In 2021, the fastest-growing segments of healthcare spending were:

  • Out-of-pocket spending ($433 billion, up 10.4%),
  • Medicaid ($734 billion, up 9.2%),
  • Medicare spending ($901 billion, up 8.4%), and
  • Prescription drug spending ($378 billion, up 7.8%).

Understanding the cost of healthcare is important – and not just because it rises quickly. Healthcare is an essential component of retirement planning. Some pre-retirees assume that Medicare (the federal health care plan available to most retirees at age 65) will cover all healthcare expenses after retirement. 

It does not.

As you prepare for the future, it’s important to understand what Medicare covers, when you can enroll, and the estimated cost of any premiums or co-payments that may be required.

Fidelity’s Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate suggests that an individual who reaches age 65 in 2023 may need savings of about $157,500 (after tax) to cover healthcare costs in retirement. For a couple, retiring at age 65 in 2023, the savings required to meet healthcare expenses in retirement is about $315,000.

If you would like to talk about retirement planning or review your current plan, please reach out!

AJ Advisors

Phone: (615) 709-8709

Fax: (615) 505-3306


Charles Schwab


John Stauffer, CFP®

Andrew Quinn, CFP®

Emily Triano
Operations Associate

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