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Dishwasher Decorum

The Commerce Department released Gross Domestic Product (GDP) this week for the first quarter and growth came in at 1.6%, which was lower than most economists had predicted.  The lower-than-expected GDP number was attributed partly to a slowdown in spending on cars and gasoline.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500, and Nasdaq were down on Thursday as a result of this data but all three rebounded and were up Friday.  The personal consumption expenditures (PCE) number was released this week, as well, and came in slightly higher than expected.  Excluding food and energy, the PCE index increased 2.8% in March from a year ago versus an estimate of 2.7%.  Including food and energy, the PCE number was up 2.7% last month from a year earlier, which was also 0.1% above consensus estimates.  The aforementioned data is leading many to wonder when the Fed is going to cut interest rates.  At the beginning of 2024, interest-rate futures market investors were betting that there would be six rate cuts this year.  Most are now anticipating only one rate cut in 2024 with some surmising that the Fed won’t commence lowering rates until 2025.

Several technology and communication services companies released earnings this week including Meta, Microsoft, and Alphabet.  Meta booked $36.5 billion in revenue in the quarter, which was an increase of over 27% from the same period last year; however, the company’s forecasted revenue for the second quarter was below what Wall Street anticipated and the stock ended the week in negative territory.  Alphabet beat analysts’ expectations and the stock was rewarded notching a double-digit gain for the week.  Additionally, the company, which reported revenue of $80.5 billion for the quarter, declared a dividend of 20 cents per share set to be paid in June.  In addition to declaring its first-ever dividend, Alphabet indicated it was going to embark on a $70 billion stock buyback program.  Microsoft recorded $61.9 billion in revenue this quarter, which was a 17% increase year over year, surpassing forecaster’s estimates.  Microsoft stock finished the week in positive territory and the company’s market value is now over $3 trillion making it the world’s biggest company according to this metric.

Just about anyone who owns a home has seen an increase in their insurance premiums over the last couple of years.  The average annual premium for homeowners’ insurance in the United States is predicted to increase to $2,522 this year according to Insurify and Bloomberg, which is a 6% increase from 2023.  This is on top of a nearly 20% increase over the prior two years.  Eight states – Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Utah, Montana, South Carolina, North Carolina & Illinois – are expected to have double-digit premium increases this year alone.  Six states are expected to see their insurance premiums remain flat, while only one state, South Dakota, was expected to see an actual material decline in premiums this year of about 3%.

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the travel industry is projected to see record growth in 2024.  It is anticipated that travelers will contribute over $11 trillion to the world economy this year alone, besting the $10 trillion total from 2019.  As vacation season begins in earnest, this invokes the common and not necessarily unwarranted gripe relating to baggage fees for many airline travelers.  These luggage fees have increased exponentially over the last several years as a way to offset costlier fuel and labor.  In fact, baggage fees generated in excess of $6 billion of revenue for the airline industry in 2022 according to the Wall Street Journal.  Most of the major airlines charge a minimum of $35 to check the first bag and will charge even more to check a second bag.  A quick check of the math indicates that a family of four checking multiple bags could easily result in $300 worth of additional fees on top of the cost of the airline ticket.

Finally, I came across a story that is apparently causing a conundrum among couples, which is how to properly load a dishwasher.  This is ostensibly a bigger concern than I had imagined as evidenced by a poll several years ago in which 65% of Americans stated there is a right and wrong way to go about loading a dishwasher.  A different poll indicated that the average American household has 18 arguments every month ranging from who should empty the dishwasher to leaving dishes in the sink.  This topic has resulted in such fervent discourse that a couple posted a clip online with respect to techniques of loading a dishwasher.  Apparently, that video clip was viewed last year more than 21 million times.

Matt Savoti, MBA