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Recession Or Not - Investment Basics That Work

Recession Or Not - Investment Basics That Work
May 1, 2008

SAN DIEGO ( - Limping, but at least moving – that is the current state of the US economy. The bruised economy grew 0.6% for the first quarter as housing and credit problems curbed consumer’s appetite for spending.


The Federal Reserve lowered a key U.S. interest rate by a modest quarter percentage point on Wednesday in what may be the last of a series of cuts.

The Q1 ‘08 gross domestic products growth (GDP) of 0.6% is the same as in the final three months of last year, according to the Commerce Department.

Gross domestic product measures the value of all goods and services produced within the United States and is the best measure of the country's economic health.

The numbers as dim as they may seem, still don't translate into what economists consider the classic definition of a recession (often defined as two consecutive quarters with a real fall in gross domestic production). Nevertheless, the less than stellar numbers reveal that although the economy is stuck in a rut, it is still managing to grow, even if modestly.

Spending by the government was another factor helping out GDP in the first quarter. The spending rate rose at a 2 percent pace for the second quarter in a row.

Other key data: 

- Slowing consumer spending:
  First quarter spending rose just 1 percent, down from 2.3%. This is the slowest since Q2 ’01.   
  (ETF: Vanguard Consumer Discretionary ETF, Ticker: VCR)

- Slowing housing market:
  Builders (ETF: SPDRs S&P Homebuilders, Ticker: XHB) slashed spending on housing projects
  by 26.7% (annual basis), the most in 27 years.

- Weak labor market:
  First quarter Wages & benefits grew 0.7%, the slowest pace in two years.

- Trimmed business spending:
  Business cut spending on equipment and software (ETF: iShares Technology – Software, 
  Ticker: IGV) at a 0.7% rate, the most since Q4 ’06. Spending on commercial construction was 
  cut by 6.2%, the most since Q3 ’05 (ETF: iShares FTSE NAREIT, Ticker: REM).

The U.S. stock market isn't the only asset class being talked about.

Gold, silver, oil and other raw commodities are talk of the town because of their close proximity to all time highs.

REITs and homebuilders have experienced a rally this year, despite last year's negative performance.

How can you capitalize on what's happening in the financial markets today?

The key is balance and diversification among all the major asset classes.

Below is a list of core ETFs that can serve as a foundation for a balanced portfolio.

Broad US Stock Market:

Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (Ticker: VTI)
iShares Dow Jones U.S. Total Market (Ticker: IYY)
SPDR DJ Wilshire Total Market (Ticker: TMW)

Broad International Stock Market:

Vanguard FTSE All World ex-US (Ticker: VEU
iShares MSCI EAFE (Ticker: EFA)

Emerging Markets:

SPDR S&P Emerging Markets (Ticker: GMM)
Vanguard Emerging Markets (Ticker: VWO)

Fixed Income / Bond:

Vanguard Total Bond ETF (Ticker: BND)
iShares Lehman Aggregate Bond (Ticker: AGG)

Broad Commodity:

iPath DJ AIG Commodity Total Return (Ticker: DJP)
iShares S&P GSCI Commodity (Ticker: GSG)
PowerShares DB Commodity (Ticker: DBC)

Real Estate:

Dow Jones Wilshire Reit ETF (Ticker: RWR)
Vanguard REIT ETF (Ticker: VNQ)

>> click here to view the ETF Reference Guide, a handy guide containing the entire ETF universe, categorized by asset classes.

>> click here to learn more about building ETF portfolios.

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