Archive for Richard Cox

student cards

Credit Cards for College Students and Recent Grads

Graduating from college can be an exhilarating and daunting experience — all at the same time.  With the average student leaving college with record levels of debt, managing your money now is much more complicated that it has been in years past.  For these reasons, it makes sense to watch for new credit card opportunities as they arise.

There is a common school of thought that suggests the use of credit cards — any use of credit cards — is a always bad thing.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  Credit cards are actually a great way to efficiently manage your budget by keeping and recording all of your expenses in one place. Here, we look at some of the best credit card choices for recent college graduates in 2015.

Best Cardholder Bonus:  BankAmericard Cash Rewards for Students Credit Card

For those interested in a great initial bonus, the BankAmericard Cash Rewards for Students Credit Card might be the best option:  When you spend $500 in your first 90 days after opening your account a $100 cash bonus will be credited to your balance.  After that, you can still capture 3% cash back on all gas and 2% on groceries (on the first $1,500 spent in those categories each quarter) in addition to 1% on everything else. You’ll also get a 10% rewards bonus when you redeem for a BofA bank account contribution. There is no annual fee.

0% Balance Transfers:  BankAmeriCard Travel Rewards for Students Card

Since most college students are already leaving school with at least some debt, many will want to consider a 0% balance transfer card.  These cards will allow your to pay off your current creditors and give you since extra time to get your finances in order before making your payments.

The BankAmeriCard Travel Rewards for Students Credit Card offers a 0% interest rate on both balance transfers and new purchases for the first 12 months you hold the card.  Interest rates normalize to 14-22% after this grace period completes itself.  But for those looking to make large purchases after college, this is one of the most flexible options out there.  On the downside, there is a balance transfer fee of 3% but there are no annual fees associated with this card and there are extra rewards point for purchases made while traveling.

You can apply for the BankAmeriCard Travel Rewards for Students Credit Card here.

When we look at these choices, some key characteristics should become obvious for college students and recent graduates.  Specifically, these cards are designed to allow you to maintain low interest rates on your previous balances and even for new purchases.  This is critically important because the average college student is starting to accumulate significant debt loads for the first time.

If you have difficulty paying your minimum balances during these years, it becomes easy to quickly ruin your credit score before you even start to enter the workforce.  In personal finance terms, this is a clear recipe for disaster — and something that could create significant problems for your long-term financial health.  For these reasons, students and recent graduates need to pay special attention when choosing the card that is most appropriate.


long term view

Ready to Invest in an Index Fund? Make Sure You Take the Long-Term View

Stock market investing has surged in popularity over the last five years.  This is largely because stocks have rallied strongly and earned back all of the losses that were seen during the collapse of 2008.  It seems as though the Dow Jones Industrials and the S&P 500 are making new record highs every time we turn on the financial news.  So, what is the best way to capitalize on these trends?  Is there still money to be made using index funds?  For those willing to take a long-term outlook, the answer is a clear “yes.”

Index Funds Defined

So, what exactly is an index fund?  An index fund is an investment instrument that tracks the performance of a benchmark stock index.  Key examples here include the S&P 500, Dow jones Industrials, NASDAQ, and Russell 2000.  Index funds provide broad exposure to a large number of stocks and a wide variety of market sectors.   Ideally, when selecting a fund you want to fund instruments that have minimal portfolio turnover and low operating expenses.

This essentially means that the management costs will not eat into your profit potential and that the fund itself does not make many changes in the stocks that make up the fund.  Not all index funds are created equal, so these are factors that will need to be considered before you start investing any real money in these vehicles.

Taking a Long-Term Outlook

The next factor to consider is the length of time you plan to be invested.  When we look back at stock market history, we can see that fortune clearly favors those that establish positions for the long-term.  One of the biggest mistakes that new investors tend to make comes when thinking it is easy to “time the market” and take short-term day trades as a strategy for success.

But, unfortunately, there are very few examples of traders that have actually been able to make these types of strategies work in any consistent way.  Stock markets are notorious for experiencing short-term price fluctuations that are volatile and unpredictable.  It is a great mistake for new investors to think that they can overcome these historical tendencies — and when this is approached in the wrong way significant losses can accumulate quickly.  It is a much better idea to stick with the broader, long-term trends as this will generally produce the most substantial returns.

Broad Index Trends are Generally Positive

Of course, it cannot be argued that any “buy and hold” strategy will profit in the stock market.  There are certainly months — and even years — where the trend is negative and losses can accumulate.  But when we look back through history it quickly becomes clear that most years are positive for the stock market and that conservative strategies tend to profit over time.

Let’s consider the S&P 500, which is the most commonly watched stock index.  On average, the S&P 500 will produce annual gains of around 12%.  This is not something that can be said for individual stocks.  So for those looking for investment strategies that have truly proven themselves over time, there is no better alternative than to choose a commonly watched stock index and allow the broader market trends to establish themselves.  An added benefit for this type of strategy is that it takes most of the guesswork out of choosing individual stocks.  It is also much easier than looking to time the market and benefit from short-term trends.

For these reasons, investors can remove a good deal of risk when investing in a stock index with a long-term, conservative outlook.  Short-term strategies are much more likely to put your retirement savings at risk — and if you are unable to accurately time the market you could encounter losses that should have been avoidable.



3 Ways to Overcome Debt

After the financial crisis of 2008, the average level of household debt rose to new records.  This was true of debt in many different forms, as outstanding credit card balances, student loans, and problematic mortgage were all seen at their highest levels in recent memory.  Because of this, it has become clear that consumers need to make strict rules to overcome the rising level of debt that is seen across the country and around the world.  Here, we will look at three ways consumers can tackle their debt problems and create a long-term plan to overcome debt before it gets out of control.

Acknowledge the Amount You Owe

One of the first problems consumers face is the failure to truly acknowledge the amount of amount of debt that is owed.  This is especially easy for consumers that have their debts spread out over a number of different sources.  To be sure, it is not an easy task to go through all of your bills and accurately add the balances.  But what seems to be most difficult is coming up with the mental and emotional fortitude to face the problem and accurately acknowledge the amount of debt you owe.  As they say, “the first step toward a solution is admitting you have a problem.”

This is as true in the personal finance realm as it is anywhere else, so do not forget to complete this step before you do anything else.  Taking an accurate assessment of your real debt levels will also enable you to efficiently budget, and determine where your financial resources should be allocated.  This is critical in paying off your total debt.

Reduce Your Interest Rates

If you are having difficulty repaying your debt balances, it is a good idea to call your lending companies and request a lower interest rate.  You might be surprised how often these companies are actually willing to work with you in easing your debt burden.  After all, if you are completely unable to make payments, it is much more likely that you will be forced to declare bankruptcy — and this would mean that the lender will not be getting its money back.  For these reasons, it is always a good idea to try negotiating with your lender to get repayment terms that are more favorable.

Pace Yourself

Last, remember that repaying your debts is going to be a marathon — not a sprint.  It is important to pace yourself and exercise patience.  After all, debt repayment schedules are usually designed to be manageable over an extended period of time.  If you need to make smaller minimum payments, you will need to extend your repayment period until the individual payments are more appropriate for your financial situation.   Mostly, it is critical to focus on the present and make sure that your finances are in order so that you can make your payments as they become due.  Missing payments can become very costly in a short amount of time, so consumers that pace themselves will be much better situated in accomplishing their repayment goals.



Why Is Inflation Still So Low in the US?

When we look at the last decade, we can see some significant changes taking shape in the US economy.  For a good portion of this time, we have seen a rising unemployment rate and falling consumer inflation levels.  These are troublesome trends that have only started to get better in the last couple years.  But it is important to remember that economies do work in somewhat predictable cycles, and no negative trend can last forever.

In fact, it should be remembered that low inflation levels mean that consumer goods are still cheap and that there is no immediate need for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to high levels.   For these reasons, it is still a good time for US consumers to make large purchases before prices start to rise once again.  Here, we will discuss some of the reasons we continue to see low inflation levels in the US.

Sluggish Jobs Market

Despite the recent progress that has been seen in monthly jobs figures and the national unemployment rate, we are still in a relatively sluggish phase when compared to the historical averages.  Labor markets will not be considered “healthy” until we are able to get unemployment rates down to about the 4% area.  This is still some ways off, so we can expect these trends to continue for most of this year.  When fewer people are working, fewer people are making large purchases.  Companies are well aware of this, and they understand that it would still be difficult (or impossible) to charge higher prices for their items.

Until these trends change, we are unlikely to see many changes in the underlying inflationary pressures present in the US economy.  Those looking to make economy forecasts for when consumer inflation will truly start to make gains will need to pay special attention to the labor market, as this holds the most critical key to solving the puzzle.

The Stronger Dollar

Another factor to consider is the stronger US Dollar.  Trends in these areas have not strong dollarreceived much press in the regular news media — but the US Dollar has actually been making significant gains over the last year.  The EUR/USD forex pair has hit long-term lows near 1.17, which means that $1.17 US Dollars will buy one Euro.  This is the strongest the Dollar has been in quite some time, and this can have a significant impact on the prices that are seen for export markets.

When the Dollar is strengthening, it is actually much cheaper to buy goods from foreign countries (such as China).  Since the export costs are cheaper, the final costs to consumers are also cheaper — and this is another factor that is keeping inflation levels low in the US.

In all, these are issues that will need to change before we can start to expect rising inflation in the US.  Of course, no economic trend can last forever — so it is only a matter of time before we start to see changes in these areas.


AAPL Earnings:

AAPL Earnings: What to Expect on 01/27/2015

Every time earnings season rolls around, one of the first words on the minds of investors is Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).  As the world’s most valuable company, Apple’s ability to generate strong revenue is intimately connected with underlying consumer strength.  Big ticket items from Apple are more difficult for consumers to afford when the economy is struggling — and this is why Apple is often viewed as a leading indicator of what is likely to happen in the stock market as a whole.

For this reason, most of the financial media will be looking in this direction when Apple releases its quarterly earnings report on Jan. 27th.  So, what can investors expect as we head into this release?  Is this a good time to buy Apple stock?  Which factors are likely to support the outlook for strong earnings results at the company?  Here, we will look at some potential answers for these questions.

Will History Repeat Itself?

Since the release of its original iPhone product, Apple has consistently beaten analyst estimates in its quarterly earnings reports.  Because of this, it has almost become a market rule that investors should buy AAPL stock before the report is made public.  Of course, there is no guarantee that this will be true in all cases.  But when we look at some of the underlying positives that were seen during the previous quarter, it starts to become more likely that we will see another strong report from the tech giant.

First on this list is the release of its latest product innovations, the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus products.  These offerings garnered a significant amount of consumer attention as the company finally completed steps to increase the screen sizes on its most closely-watched devices.  This helped to erase some of the consistent criticism suggesting that Apple was behind the game relatively to some of its competitors.  Consumer sales for the iPhone 6 devices far exceeded expectations for the 2014 holiday season — and this will almost certainly support the company’s earnings outlook for the quarter.

aapl chart

Second is the broad strength that has been seen in the economy as a whole.  The US unemployment rate is currently at its lowest levels since the financial collapse and this has helped consumer confidence to its highest levels in recent memory.  This supports the outlook for big ticket items and makes it much easier for consumers to buy fashionable products like the iPhone and iPad.

The third supportive factor can be found in Apple’s ability to maintain its high margins.  Few companies in the tech space are able to command such high prices while efficiently (and cheaply) attaining the resources need in production.  All indicators point to this continuing for 2014 as a whole, and this will help drive revenue results for the next earnings report.

All of these factors suggest Apple will produce another stellar report on Jan. 27th.  This means that there is relatively low risk establishing long positions in AAPL stock in the days leading up the release.  If history is any indication, strong profits are likely to follow.



3 Excellent Rewards Credit Cards For Millennials

When millennials are looking to build a solid credit history, rewards cards offer some excellent choices.  This personal finance approach is much more efficient than using cash for purchases and many of these credit cards grant carrier rewards that far exceed anything that is usually offered through bank debit cards.  This way, you can establish a strong credit history, manage most of your purchases in a single location, and take advantage of rewards programs that are most closely tailored to your financial situation.

Of course, not all credit cards rewards programs are created equal — and some will be much better suited to your financial situation than others.  Some banks will allow you to consolidate your existing debt and transfer your previous balances at highly attractive interest rates.  Others will offer cash back for qualifying purchases or eliminate the requirements for annual fees.  Here, we look at 3 excellent card options.

Cash Back Rewards:  Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card / Capital One JourneySM Student Rewards Card

Those looking for cash back rewards on their purchases have two good choices.  First is the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, which offers a very attractive 1.5% reward on all purchases made with the card.  New cardholders will also enjoy 0% interest on purchases until September 2015.  It should be remembered that these rewards are only paid out when you pay your balance in full every month, so if you are looking to carry a balance this card might not be the best choice.  This card does come with a $39 annual fee, but if you are looking to make most of your regular purchases with the card (and keep your payments up-to-date) the cash back rewards will more than cover this.

You can apply for the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card here.

Next is the JourneySM Student Rewards Card, which is also offered by Capital One.  This card offers 1% cash back on all purchases and an additional 0.25% cash back bonus during months where your balance is paid on time (bringing the potential cash back amount to 1.25%).  As an added plus, here is no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees for purchases made when travelling.

You can apply for the JourneySM Student Rewards Card here.

Lanpass Secured Credit Card

For college students and recent graduates lacking sufficient credit history to get approval, a secured credit card is another alternative.  The Lanpass Secured Credit Card is one of the best choices here.  An initial deposit of $300 is generally required for approval, and you will receive 5,000 bonus airline miles after you make your first purchase (along with 1 bonus mile for each $1 you make in purchases).  Cardholders receive 10% discounts when making purchases from a LAN partner (many airlines fall into this category), and there is no annual fee for the first year.  The annual fee increases to $25 during the second year but the card can be cancelled before then, allowing you to build your credit history in the process.

You can apply for the Lanpass Secured Credit Card here.




Why Your Electricity Bill Could Be Higher in 2015

Most consumers tend to think that there are some economic constants, and that prices for certain items generally remain the same.  But the global economy is is a highly dynamic organism, and it should be remembered that prices for many regular consumer items change all the time.  When we look ahead to 2015, one of the consumer items that will probably fall into this category can be found in your utility bills — as the price of electricity should see some increases in the year ahead.  These changes will not be spread evenly throughout the country but the broader trends for higher prices are clear.

Average Costs This Winter

Unfortunately, we have already started to see some of these trends in utilities start to take shape.  In recent years, large numbers of power plants that use coal and oil and the basis for their energy outputs have been closed.  These trends have been particularly apparent in the Northeast — but all across the country we have seen a widespread shift toward the use of natural gas.  This has left many utility companies unprepared for the changes, and the result of the declining supply has been higher prices.

In New England alone, energy prices will be roughly 38% higher than they were in the winter of 2014.  This might be surprising to some, given the fact that there is a large number of natural gas producers in nearby Pennsylvania.  But the problem is that there is not enough pipeline infrastructure to cheaply transport the natural gas even at that small distance.  The result is that energy supplies have diminished while consumer demand has remained constant.  This is a recipe for higher energy prices overall.

Expect Higher Prices Throughout 2015

But these changes in price will not only be present during the winter.  It is true there will be some consumer relief during the Spring months, which are generally marked by much lower energy consumption.  But once the Summer cooling season rolls around again, we can expect another hike in prices.

Looking at specific examples, the California Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has announced plans to increase its customer surcharge by 6% in anticipation of the higher transportation costs that will be required to supply natural gas.  This comes after the 4% increase that was already implemented in October 2014, so on a yearly basis California energy consumers will be seeing price increases of at least 10%.  On the bright side, utility prices at this company are still roughly $30 below the national average, which currently comes in at $118.

These are some factors that consumers should keep in mind when turning on the thermostat for the remainder of this year.  On the whole, it might be a better to put on a sweater this winter, rather than to turn up the heater because this year your per unit energy bills will almost certainly be higher than they were last year.  Once the pipeline infrastructure is rebuilt to transport natural gas products greater distances, these prices will start to drop.  But this is unlikely for the remainder of this year, so keep this in mind before you set your thermostat this winter.



Will Mortgage Rates Go Up Again?

The financial crisis of 2008 was something of a “double-edged sword” both for consumers and for the economy as a whole.  On one side, we did see worsening economic data, especially in areas like the unemployment rate.  But on the positive side, interest rates were reduced to near-zero levels.  This helped the housing market recover strongly and remove the glut of foreclosures that was sending property values lower in many distressed neighborhoods.  But the Federal Reserve policy stance of 0% interest rates certainly cannot last forever, and many market analysts expect major changes here in the coming quarters.

Changes in the National Average

Currently, the US national average for conventional and fixed-rate 30-year mortgages is 3.93%, which is actually lower than the 4.42% that was seen during the previous year.  From an historical perspective, these are still great deals for those looking to purchase a new home.  But if we do start to see material changes in Fed policy, mortgage rates will almost certainly rise in tandem and many new potential homeowners could be left out in the cold.

So, the real question is this:  When will the Federal Reserve end its 0% interest rate policy, and how high will they raise rates?  At this stage, the true answer is still anybody’s guess.  But when we look at the consensus opinion of analysts in the bond market, some possibly troubling trends have started to emerge.  With many analysts now forecasting that interest rates could be as high as 5% by the end of the year, it seems fair to say that the days of sub-4% mortgage rates are coming to an end.

Not Too Late to Buy

Given the total scenario here for the Fed and the US economy as a whole, it makes sense buy a homethat those looking to buy a home right now have approached the market with some degree of urgency.  Mortgage rates will almost certainly be higher at the end of the year than they are now, so it is clear that these fears are somewhat justified.  But it should be remembered that there is still time to capitalize on the low-interest rate environment that the Fed put in place in order to cushion the economy from any further slowdowns.

Looking at home prices across the country, significant progress has been made over the last five years.  But average home values are still more than 15% below the peaks that were seen in 2006, so there is still room to run higher.  This should help to ease some of the fears new potential home buyers are experiencing in the new economic environment.  So, if you are looking to buy a new home, it is a good idea to stay focused and explore your options because if you want until next year, your chosen home will probably cost more, and the cost of your mortgage will definitely be higher than it is now.  Keep all these factors in mind as you navigate the new climate in home mortgages.



First Earnings Season of 2015: What Should Investors Be Watching?

If you talk to most stock investors, you will almost certainly hear that 2014 was a stellar year for the market.  Both the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial average traded at consistent records with very little to be seen in the way or corrective pullbacks.  These gains were seen as US economic data continued to improve and corporate earnings levels built on the progress that was made during the previous year.

But with stocks trading at all-time highs, new investors might be concerned about buying into the market at its current levels.  These are valid concerns, and the answer to whether or not 2015 will be a bullish year will depend heavily on the strengths or weaknesses that are seen in corporate earnings.  Here, we look at some of the factors to watch as companies report their next set of quarterly revenues.

Consensus Expectations

When we look at the consensus expectations from the stock market analyst community, we are starting to see a slowdown in the bullish optimism that marked 2014.  In terms of earnings growth, US companies are now expected to show gains of 5.3% for the first quarter and then come in slightly higher at 5.9% for the second quarter.  For the last several years, we have seen consistent outperformance in corporate earnings relatively to the initial expectations.  But trends these strong cannot last forever, and it is starting to look much more probable that 2015 will see a more pronounced slowdown.

The Fed Factor
Part of the reasoning behind these declining expectations is the fact that the US Federal FederalReserveReserve is widely expected to start raising interest rates in the near future.  Some members of the analyst community have suggested that interest rates could be as high as 5% by the end of 2015, and this is not a positive scenario for stocks as a whole.  Higher lending rates tend to weigh heavily on consumer spending practices, and this makes it much more difficult for companies to pad their bottom lines.

So a good deal of whether or not these pessimistic forecasts come to fruition will depend on the Fed itself, and whether or not they decide to increase interest rates in an aggressive manner.  For these reasons, dates where central bank meetings are scheduled will likely be much more volatile in 2015 than they were in 2014.  If you are trading in these markets with a more conservative outlook, it will probably be best to stay on the sidelines until these meetings have reached their conclusion as this will help you to avoid wide fluctuations in market price when entering into new positions.

Potential Positives:  Valuations In-Line With Historical Averages

On the positive side, we can still see that US stocks are trading at valuations that are roughly in-line with their historical averages.  Looking at the history of the S&P 500, stocks tend to trade at a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of about 15.9.  Currently, stocks are trading only slightly higher at a P/E ratio of 17, so there is no real reason to believe that we will be seeing any significant declines in the main benchmarks any time soon.  If stock valuations hold relatively steady and we do see at least some growth posted during the next earnings season, the combined forces will bring stocks closer to their historical P/E averages.  This would show that stocks are priced appropriately and that there is little reason to start exiting positions in equities.

Overall, the first earnings season of 2015 will be characterized by a balance between the expectations and the final results.  If we see upside surprises in blue-chip names (particularly in tech stocks and in energy), we should see a steady rally in benchmarks like the Dow Jones Industrials and the S&P 500.  Will the performances seen equal what was witnessed during the previous year?  This is unlikely, especially if we start to see the Federal Reserve take a more aggressive stance in its policy to normalize interest rates.  In any case, first quarter earnings for 2015 will likely set the stage for what is to come — and investors will need to position themselves accordingly.




How Promising is the Housing Market for 2015?

Over the last decade, the sub-prime mortgage crisis was one of the most impactful financial events.  Net losses for US homeowners rose to more than $1 trillion and this significantly diminished the buying power for large numbers of families across the nation.  But we have seen some major economic improvements in the years since, and most of this financial destruction has ultimately been recovered.

So the real question real estate investors are asking is:  Can these positive trends continue in 2015?  Those that might be looking to purchase a new home will need to know if now is a good time to re-enter the market, or if it is better to wait on the sidelines until better opportunities can be found.  But when we look at the consensus opinions seen in the real estate analyst community, the outlook is still largely positive.  Housing website predicts that average home values will increase by 2.5% in 2015, while is slightly more optimistic in its projections that call for increases as high as 4-5%.  Here, we will look at some of the factors that will likely send housing prices higher in the year ahead.

Better US Economic Data

In the years since the sub-prime lending crisis, US economic data has rebounded heavily.  Key financial metrics like monthly jobs numbers and the national unemployment rate are currently holding at their strongest levels in years.  In fact, 2014 was the best year for jobs creation since the turn of the century.  While labor market data and the projected outlook for real estate markets might seem like somewhat unrelated sectors of the economy, it should be remembered that higher jobs numbers boost consumer confidence and make it might easier for households to commit to large purchases.  As long as these trends continue, we can expect the cumulative effect on the housing market to remain supportive.

Sustained Positive Momentum

Another factor to consider is the positive momentum in housing prices that has been sustained over the last five years.  According to the S&P/Case-Shiller housing report for September 2014, US home prices rose at a rate of 4.8% relatively to the year before.  Significant gains in real estate were seen in 2013, so the fact that there is still the potential for growth is highly encouraging.   It is true that the pace of growth has started to decelerate, as the same report from December 2014 showed a yearly increase of 10.8%.  But it is important to remember that slowing growth is still growth, and this ultimately suggests that US home buyers are still able to make home purchases even with values at higher levels.

A good portion of these positive trends stems from the fact that we are seeing reduced supply in the market.  Recent economic reports show that home inventories have declined as speculators have largely exited the market.  This suggests that the people that are actually going those houses will live in them, rather than trying to flip them for a profit.  History shows that foreclosure rates are much lower for owner-occupied homes, so it is much less likely that we will see a rise in foreclosure rates in 2015.  Across the country housing prices have risen back toward levels seen in Spring of 2005, and roughly 15% below the peaks seen in 2006.  This shows that the broader market momentum is still positive but has yet to reach the point of exhaustion.

Potential Negatives: Rising Mortgage Rates

All of these underlying factors should support home values in 2015.  But it is important to rising-mortgage-ratesconsider potential negatives, as well.  First on the negative side is that fact that mortgage lending rates should start to increase sometime in the middle of next year.  The US Federal Reserve has ended its historic quantitative easing programs and this suggests that the central bank will start to normalize its interest rate policy.  Higher interest rates mean that it will be more expensive to borrow money, and this could make it more difficult for households to make their mortgage payments.

Forecasts from the Mortgage Banker’s Association suggest that we could see interest rates as high as 5% by the end of next year, and this will almost certainly eat into the buying buyer for average US households.

Conclusion: Expect Gains, But At A Slower Pace

Overall, the balance of the evidence points to continued gains in real estate prices, but at a slowing pace of growth.  Watch for outside factors like raised interest rates by the US Federal Reserve to pose a “wild card” factor that could deter these projections.



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