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By way of brief introduction, my name is Matt Savoti and I am stepping in for Bruce Mason this week to deliver The Harvest Advisor weekly update.  Bruce and his candid insights will return next week to provide The Harvest Advisor weekly update.

Both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq hit all-time highs this week before closing down on Friday.  Investor enthusiasm has continued for the most part and company earnings and revenue have been compelling. February employment numbers were released Friday and the economy added 275,000 jobs.  The unemployment rate did rise to 3.9% from the 3.7% January number.  The Labor Department also revised its numbers from the January jobs report to 229,000 from 353,000.  That notwithstanding, an average of 230,000 jobs have been added on a monthly basis over the past year.  Additionally, average hourly earnings rose 0.1% in February and have increased 4.3% compared to a year ago. Six spending bills were passed this week in the House and sent on to the Senate for a vote.  Presupposing these bills are passed, which leaves six spending bills still to be hashed out between now and the March 22 deadline regarding the military, health programs, homeland security, financial services, foreign operations, and other funding.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell spoke to lawmakers this week and reiterated the central bank’s stance that interest rate cuts are expected later this year contingent upon additional data that inflation is slowing.  Earlier this year, many economic forecasters had theorized that the Fed would commence cutting interest rates in March; however, that appears to have been wishful thinking.  In his comments this week, Powell quelled any thoughts of reducing interest rates later this month although he did state that rates “are well into restrictive territory.”  Those who are looking to purchase homes and vehicles are hopeful to find at least some modicum of relief when the Fed does begin to cut rates and make big-ticket items somewhat more financially palatable.

Speaking of vehicles, the Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index released its monthly report from February and the price of used cars did come down from the prior year.  Overall, the price of a used vehicle dropped 13.1% in February 2024 as compared to 2023 with compact cars notching the largest decline at 16.5%.  Luxury vehicles had the smallest decrease at 12.0%, while midsize cars dropped 15.1%, pickups were down 14.3%, and sport utility vehicles/crossover utility vehicles declined 12.8%.  The price of a used car is still up significantly as compared to pre-Covid levels but at this point, any sort of solace from inflation is welcoming.  If only this drop in prices were transferable to other parts of the economy.

With the NCAA college basketball tournament poised to gear up in less than two weeks, I came across an interesting story involving college athletics.  Winthrop University in South Carolina has offered partial athletic scholarships to a pair of high school seniors for the sport of cornhole.  Yes, cornhole.  While cornhole has proliferated over the years, many still see it as an undertaking generally reserved for backyards, tailgates, etc.  In fact, the NCAA does not recognize cornhole as an officially sanctioned sport, although there are a host of universities that do field competitive teams.  There is even a National College Cornhole Championship that is hosted by the American Cornhole League.  With college tuition skyrocketing over the past two decades, reduced college expenses via scholarships of any variety is a victory.

Finally, as more and more workers continue to head back to the traditional office environment, one commercial real estate organization has unleashed its secret weapon to induce employees to want to return, perfume.  Hines, a real estate firm that owns properties all over the world, believes that aromatherapy increases worker well-being amongst other benefits.  Hines has incorporated 35 ingredients into its “signature scent,” which it circulates into office HVAC and ventilation systems.  It is believed that this aroma can enhance happiness and confidence in addition to fighting fatigue.  Other scents purport to relieve tension and augment learning.  While it’s not uncommon for hotels or bakeries to utilize aromas, the overriding challenge, of course, is to find a scent that is amenable and does not produce any allergic reactions within a large commercial property.  I guess it’s no wonder that the worldwide candle market is an $8 billion industry. 

Matt Savoti, MBA