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2015 economic forecast: ready for liftoff

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After several years of slow-growing momentum in the U.S. economy, we have deemed 2015 the year of economic “lift-off.”

Lift-off is a term the Federal Reserve (Fed) typically uses to reference a transition from lower rates to a rising rate environment. For our forecast this year, however, this term can actually be applied broadly to the entire U.S. economy, signaling that meaningful improvement has arrived and will likely continue. So what will fuel this economic lift-off, and are there any variables to consider that may cause us to reconsider whether or not the economy is truly ready for launch?

Check out KC’s interview with The Street to see a short summary of his predictions. For the full story, keep reading.

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Where we’ve been

reverse-liftoff

The United States has been stuck in a below potential, moderately-growing economy since 2009. Most recently, we saw 2.2 percent real or inflation-adjusted GDP growth in 2013 – followed by a small improvement to 2.4 percent growth last year. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we anticipate additional improvement in 2015; but will this be a low-altitude lift-off near 2.7 percent or something more powerful, closer to 3.1 percent growth?
economic growth

Fuel

The economy is fueled by many factors, but there are a few that carry more weight than others. If you are familiar with UMB, you’ll note that we are driven by what the data tells us, not by what people say; the goal being to understand the difference between the signal and the noise.

This year we think the primary driver of growth will be the consumer.  We think there will be three key variables to watch that should drive consumption and economic activity.
fuel

Jobs are one of the most telling and powerful variables in the economic formula. Most of the time, though, headline unemployment is the only data indicator used in reporting. We don’t think the value of that indicator is very significant. We prefer to hone in on actual job creation or payroll growth because it tells more of the story. The country has seen marked improvement in average monthly payroll growth since 2011, and with that, GDP has correlated nicely. In 2013, approximately 194,000 jobs were created per month (GDP at 2.2 percent); in 2014, the number was 246,000 (GDP at 2.4 percent) and we anticipate the labor market will stabilize or improve slightly, increasing to somewhere around 250,000 per month in 2015. Historically speaking, when the United States creates 3 million jobs a year, the economy grows faster than 3 percent.
unemployment

One of our favorite signals to forecast payroll growth is availability of credit. Businesses need to know credit is available prior to expanding and hiring workers.  Payroll growth and the willingness of banks to lend are highly correlated by as much as 85 percent.  Today banks are open for business and lending standards are accommodative.
unemployment

Consumer confidence has been improving and we think will continue to improve due to the labor market, stock and home prices, and of course lower energy costs. As we stated, the employment landscape is in excellent condition and on an upward trajectory. This adds to the formula for upward movement, along with a stock market that is up more than 200 percent over the last five years, home prices are up 30 percent over the last three years.  As I have said before, when consumers feel good, they consume. This certainly seems to be the case.
confidence

Credit makes the world go ’round, and banks and credit are the lifeblood of the economy. Unfortunately over the past few years, millions of Americans were cut off from credit but today will once again have access to credit. From 2006 – 2009 nearly 5 million Americans, roughly the population of metropolitan Atlanta, defaulted on their mortgages. When you default on a loan, you are cut off from credit. Fast forward seven years after a default and that blemish has been expunged from your credit record, thus giving millions of Americans access to credit once again. With that, demand for bank loans has improved significantly. In 2007 loan demand was growing just shy of 10 percent, then dried up during the Great Recession, and resurfaced to nearly 8.0 percent in 2014. In other words, consumers and businesses are willing to borrow and consume yet again.

Houston we have a problem…or do we? 

All indicators are telling us that things look positive, but as with any mission, we must explore possible hazards that could cause a ‘failure to launch.’ Let’s hone in on a few key variables:

Employment – Yes jobs have been created, but job quality has been in question for a few years. Now, though, we can see improvements. The national quit rate is on the rise, which tells us that employees are finding better paying employment.
employmentHousing – Household formation data typically follows the economic cycle. When economic conditions are favorable, young people can find jobs. They move out of their parents’ homes and create their own household, increase consumption and create housing demand.  Unfortunately, employment among the millennial generation (age 15-35) is incredibly low, indicating that many of them are unable to move out and create a household. Perhaps a more relevant group would be millennials aged 25-35, revealing that approximately 25 percent of them are not working, due to either unemployment or remaining in school. However, we feel confident that as the economy improves, this generation will have an easier time securing work, creating households of their own and thereby creating housing demand.  Housing has not made a significant contribution to GDP over the last several years. This year we think housing starts will reach 1.2 million and add close to 0.50 percent to real GDP, which will be material.
housingGeopolitical – The U.S. economy operates on a global scale and we always have to be mindful of the geopolitical risks that exist. Most recently, we’ve had to a take a close look at potential action coming from the European Central Bank, as Europe has been on the brink of a recession for some time now. In addition, Russia has been put in a difficult situation with the price of oil down nearly 50 percent. Russia has a losing hand as a country where 68 percent of its exports come from oil and gas. While this proves problematic for some countries overseas, non-oil producing countries, such as Europe and Asia, will have a boost of stimulus through lower oil prices. Overall, we mark this as a risk, but not particularly threatening to our forecast in the United States since consumers will have an estimated additional $100 -$150 million of disposable income.
geopoliticalPolicy Mistake – As previously mentioned, a Fed liftoff will occur when it begins to raise overnight rates up from the zero rate that’s been in place for several years.  This could be called a “policy mistake” if the Fed were to begin pushing rates up before the economy is healthy enough to handle higher borrowing rates.  We think that this is a very remote possibility, as inflation is still quite low and the Fed has little incentive to move rates up early or in a dramatic fashion.  In fact, the interest rate liftoff that we think will begin later in the year will actually be good news, because it will signal that the central bank sees a US economy that is healthy enough to withstand more normalized rates.  We think the Fed will move in a rational, measured manner that will not threaten the economic expansion.
policy mistakeCleared for Lift-Off – Through careful consideration of what factors are fueling our economy and what could pose a risk to launch, we believe the U.S. economy is officially ready for lift-off.
cleared for lift-off

Here’s what we anticipate for this year:

  • GDP growth between 2.7 percent and 3.1 percent, supported by a robust labor market as businesses create new jobs
  • Nearly 250,000 jobs created on average per month; this will drive unemployment down to 5.5 percent and many discouraged workers will return to the work force
  • Another good year in domestic equities
  • Corporate America will see 4.0 percent revenue growth and 6.0 percent earnings growth, which should lead to 10 percent total returns in the equity market
  • Interest rates will be on the move this year, expecting both short-term and long-term rates to increase

In all, the above data and research proves that the economy is certainly prepared for a lift-off. Whether we will see GDP near 2.7 percent or slightly more significant at 3.1 percent, the year ahead is looking brighter than we have seen for quite some time.
When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.

 

UMB Investment Management is a division within UMB Bank, n.a. that manages active portfolios for employee benefit plans, endowments and foundations, fiduciary accounts and individuals. UMB Financial Services, Inc.*  is a wholly owned subsidiary of UMB Bank, n.a. UMB Bank, n.a., is an affiliate within the UMB Financial Corporation.

This content is provided for informational purposes only and contains no investment advice or recommendations to buy or sell any specific securities. Statements in this report are based on the opinions of UMB Investment Management and the information available at the time this report was published.

All opinions represent our judgments as of the date of this report and are subject to change at any time without notice. You should not use this report as a substitute for your own judgment, and you should consult professional advisors before making any tax, legal, financial planning or investment decisions. This report contains no investment recommendations and you should not interpret the statements in this report as investment, tax, legal, or financial planning advice. UMB Investment Management obtained information used in this report from third-party sources it believes to be reliable, but this information is not necessarily comprehensive and UMB Investment Management does not guarantee that it is accurate.

All investments involve risk, including the possible loss of principal. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Neither UMB Investment Management nor its affiliates, directors, officers, employees or agents accepts any liability for any loss or damage arising out of your use of all or any part of this report.

“UMB” – Reg. U.S. Pat. & Tm. Off. Copyright © 2015. UMB Financial Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Securities offered through UMB Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC or the Investment Banking Division of UMB Bank, n.a.

*Insurance products offered through UMB Insurance Inc.

You may not have an account with all of these entities.

Contact your UMB Representative if you have any questions.

Securities and Insurance products are:

Not FDIC Insured  *  No Bank Guarantee  *  Not a Deposit  *  Not Insured by any Government Agency  *  May Lose Value

 

 


K.C. Mathews joined UMB in 2002. As executive vice president and chief investment officer, Mr. Mathews is responsible for the development, execution and oversight of UMB’s investment strategy. He is chairman of the Trust Investment, Asset Allocation and Trust Policy Committees. Mr. Mathews has more than 20 years of diverse experience in the investment industry. Prior to joining UMB, he served as vice president and manager of the portfolio management group at Bank of Oklahoma for nine years. Mr. Mathews earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame. Mr. Mathews attended the ABA National Trust School at Northwestern University and is a Chartered Financial Analyst and member of the CFA Institute. He is past president of the Kansas City CFA Society and a past president of the Oklahoma Society of Financial Analysts.



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Industry Insights: Manufacturing Efficiencies

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Business is good for the manufacturing industry. How can manufacturers capitalize on this growth?

 

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Mr. Nohavec is a SVP/Business Development Officer for UMB Bank Colorado. He is responsible for Colorado. He joined UMB in 2005 and has 20 years of experience in the financial services industry.



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Don’t let tax credits fall through the cracks

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How can you get a bigger refund when filing your taxes? These tips can help:
tax credit tips
Even if you’re dreading the process of filing your taxes this year, taking the time to know what you’re doing can equal a bigger refund check. Everything from plugging in your electric car to adopting a child can be considered for deductions, so don’t miss out on refunds this year.

The IRS offers several federal tax credit options designed to lessen the burden of taxpayers. This is especially true for low- and middle-income households, which often retain a higher percentage of their annual salaries for basic living expenses than high-income households.

Earn tax reductions with a retirement plan
Some of the best tax deductions tend to be linked to retirement plans. With these deductions, you save money on annual taxes and invest in your future.

The Saver’s Tax Credit (previously known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit) is for those making eligible contributions to a 401(k), IRA, or other workplace retirement plans such as a 403(b), 457, or Thrift Savings Plan. If you’re contributing and are in a lower-income bracket, you can receive a tax credit up to $1,000 when filing alone and up to $2,000 if filing jointly.  This credit is on top of the tax advantages already associated with retirement plans, which might include pre-tax contributions, tax-deferred growth, or tax-free withdrawals in retirement.

Tax credits for small business owners
The IRS also offers potential tax credits for small business owners. One of the biggest deductions is through a home office credit.

More than 50 percent of U.S. small businesses operate at an owner’s home, according to the Small Business Administration(SBA). Unfortunately, many fear taking advantage of this tax credit will red flag an audit from the IRS. The good news is, that fear is usually unfounded.

To be eligible for a home office tax deduction, the IRS requires a portion of a residential property to be considered a legitimate home office. The home must be a primary workplace. If there is an additional office used, you cannot file a home office deduction. An exception can sometimes be made for those who work all day at an office part of the week and all day at home the rest of the week.

To figure out a home office credit, the SBA recommends calculating deductions by comparing the size of the home office versus the rest of the home. However, a business owner can also deduct expenses for a separate freestanding structure, which means a business owner can use a studio to conduct work, or a garage or barn for storage. But those freestanding structures should be exclusively for business.

Tax refunds as a way to save
Remember that getting a large refund may not always be in your best interest. It could be a sign that you’re having too much money withheld from your wages. If you have trouble saving on a regular basis, however, forced savings through tax withholdings is better than not saving at all. Just try to set aside all or a portion of your refund for the future. Some great ways to use your refund include paying down high-interest debt, building an emergency fund and investing for retirement.

 

Take a look at the IRS website for a comprehensive list of deductions, and ask a trusted tax accountant for advice on which ones apply to your situation so you can take full advantage of your options.

 

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*This post is not meant to replace the advice of a tax professional.

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


Mr. Chen is a Vice President and Portfolio Manager for UMB Private Wealth Management. He is responsible for all aspects of portfolio construction, including asset allocation, security selection and mutual fund analysis for high-net-worth clients. He joined UMB in 2013 and has 10 years of experience in the financial services industry. Mr. Chen earned a Bachelor of Science in Business with an emphasis in Financial Management from Kansas State University and Master of Science in Business with a Finance Concentration from the University of Kansas. He serves on the board of directors for the Financial Planning Association of Greater Kansas City and the Kansas City CFA Society. He is a Certified Financial Planner® and is a CFA charterholder.



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UMB: Inspiration – Private Wealth Management

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UMB prides itself on being a financial institution with a heartbeat. We are passionate about what we do and want to share what inspires us.

Dana’s father inspired her to be a leader, her small business owner mother influenced her commercial banking roots and several mentors helped to shape her career. Hear more about what inspires the leader of our Private Wealth Management department.

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Dana Abraham is president of the Private Wealth Management Division and is responsible for the delivery of comprehensive financial services to high-net-worth clients. Her areas of focus include Wealth Planning, Private Banking, Personal Trust, Investment Management and Insurance. She joined UMB in 2005 and has more than 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. Abraham earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in both accounting and economics from the University of Louisiana. She is a graduate of Leadership Overland Park and Kansas City Tomorrow Leadership programs.



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What’s happening with oil? (part II)

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Our Chief Investment Officer continues to answer questions about oil prices, today focusing on the impact on the consumer, corporate earnings and macro economy. Take a look at yesterday’s video if you missed it.

 

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K.C. Mathews joined UMB in 2002. As executive vice president and chief investment officer, Mr. Mathews is responsible for the development, execution and oversight of UMB’s investment strategy. He is chairman of the Trust Investment, Asset Allocation and Trust Policy Committees. Mr. Mathews has more than 20 years of diverse experience in the investment industry. Prior to joining UMB, he served as vice president and manager of the portfolio management group at Bank of Oklahoma for nine years. Mr. Mathews earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame. Mr. Mathews attended the ABA National Trust School at Northwestern University and is a Chartered Financial Analyst and member of the CFA Institute. He is past president of the Kansas City CFA Society and a past president of the Oklahoma Society of Financial Analysts.



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What’s happening with oil? (part I)

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Our Chief Investment Officer answers your questions about oil prices:

  • How low will oil prices go and for how long
  • What does it mean for the consumer?
  • What does it mean to corporate earnings and financial markets
  • Can we see attractive returns in the equity markets without the contribution of the energy sector?

Check back tomorrow for part II!

 

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K.C. Mathews joined UMB in 2002. As executive vice president and chief investment officer, Mr. Mathews is responsible for the development, execution and oversight of UMB’s investment strategy. He is chairman of the Trust Investment, Asset Allocation and Trust Policy Committees. Mr. Mathews has more than 20 years of diverse experience in the investment industry. Prior to joining UMB, he served as vice president and manager of the portfolio management group at Bank of Oklahoma for nine years. Mr. Mathews earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame. Mr. Mathews attended the ABA National Trust School at Northwestern University and is a Chartered Financial Analyst and member of the CFA Institute. He is past president of the Kansas City CFA Society and a past president of the Oklahoma Society of Financial Analysts.



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Benefits of a will

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A will allows you to protect and distribute your property owned by you at your death* through a written legal document. By detailing who should inherit what, you try to ensure that your possessions are distributed by your wishes, rather than state laws.  Remember, having a will does not mean that your estate will avoid probate.
Benefits of Having a Will

*Your will only affects property owned by you at your death titled in your sole name. It typically does not affect property which is owned as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, which passes by beneficiary deed or designation, including “Pay on Death” or “Transfer on Death,” or which is owned by a trust.

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UMB is not providing you with any legal or tax advice.  You need to consult with your own legal and tax advisors to determine what estate plan is best for you and how the laws of the state governing your estate might affect you given your specific circumstances.

 

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


Ms. Teson is a Senior Vice President and Private Wealth Management’s Senior Legal Counsel at UMB Bank. She is responsible for managing Private Wealth Management’s Legal, Fiduciary Tax and Real Estate and Unique Asset teams. She joined UMB in 1992 and has been a licensed attorney for 32 years. She is also a Certified Financial Planner.



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UMB Hometown: Colorado

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Good news, Coloradans. Your economy is robust right now. Learn more about your economic outlook and how areas like energy, construction and aerospace help the state be one of the top performing in the United States.

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Mr. Robinson is the CEO-Colorado Region for UMB. He is responsible for strategic direction and growth for UMB in Colorado. He joined UMB in 1981 and has 33 years of experience in the financial services industry.



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2014 Earnings Explained

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We recently released our Fourth Quarter 2014 earnings. Here’s a breakdown of the fundamentals that made 2014 a successful year, what caused the challenges and what we’re looking forward to in the months and years to come.

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Mr. Kemper is the chairman and chief executive officer of UMB Financial Corporation and UMB Bank, n.a. He joined UMB in 1997. Mr. Kemper is active in both civic and philanthropic endeavors. One of the causes he is most passionate about is the arts. He currently serves as a trustee and executive committee member for the Denver Art Museum and is a past board member for The Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City.



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How to secure an ag loan

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If you’re in the agriculture business, you know that securing a loan is an important step to reaching milestones like purchasing new equipment or additional land. When you decide it’s time to borrow money – no matter if it’s your first loan or for additional funds – there are a few tips that can help make the process more efficient and effective.

tractor-cost

The four phases of securing an ag loan:

1) Application Phase

Determine what you want and why. The amount, term and purpose of the loan will be essential to understanding the risks and cash flow burdens you will incur as well as for the lender to understand your needs. This may sound basic, but it is the most important and often times overlooked portion of the loan request process.

It’s okay to be a little unclear as to the right structure for the loan as this is a task that should be done in collaboration with a lender. The lender should work carefully with you to determine how the loan will work going forward and what it will be used for. Loans borrowed for one specific purpose and then used for another is the most frequent cause of stress and problems between ag borrowers and lenders.

2) Information Phase

During this phase, it is important that you be open with your lender. There are three areas you should be prepared to discuss:

  • Copies of your last three years of tax returns and a current financial statement (balance sheet) with complete and full disclosure of all assets and liabilities
  • A realistic value of your assets — Any exaggeration will make a negative impression of your approach to the borrowing process and financial matters.
  • How your operation has changed over the last several years, as well as your expectations for the years ahead — A realistic valuation is one of the most significant aspects of a lender’s assessment of your financial and operational planning capabilities. If you have been through a difficult time period, be prepared to discuss this candidly and to share the causes and cures for these troubles.

3) Analysis Phase

Meet with more than one lender. This may allow for more options on loan terms, rates and structure. Be candid with the lenders in telling them that you are talking to more than one lender.

Ask the lender’s opinion on your loan request, financial strength and plans for the future. If the lender is vague or reluctant to share an opinion, you may need to speak with another bank. Whether their opinion is good or bad, a clear understanding of their thoughts on your financial situation and the direction you are headed is critical to your financial future with this lender. This conversation is one that many avoid because it can be stressful and awkward, but this is where you can receive the greatest value from a lender. This exchange will also provide insight as to the quality of the lender and financial institution you would be working with.

4) Decision Phase

Plan on learning from this experience. Whether the decision on your application is a yes or a no, you have the right to understand the reason and the rationale behind it.

  • With a yes comes the requirement that you understand what the decision means to future operations and cash flow and whether or not it meets your initial needs.
  • With a no comes the difficult but important personal understanding of why the decision was negative and how your operation needs to change so that it will be more credit worthy going forward (at least in the eyes of this particular lender).

In all borrowing discussions, the most important aspect is candor, both with you and with a lender. A realistic third party assessment of your operational and financial affairs can be a valuable insight that can only be gained through a candid and open discussion with knowledgeable people.

For more tips on securing loans, read our lender’s inside scoop.

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When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


Mr. Watson serves as president of the UMB Agribusiness Division. He joined UMB in August of 2005 and has also served as the president of the UMB Kansas region. Watson is a graduate of Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana with a major in Psychology. He has also attended The Colorado School of Banking, The National Commercial Lending School (where he has also been an instructor), and the Stonier Graduate School of Banking.



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