With the first six months of the year now past, some clear
financial winners and losers have emerged from the first half of
2013. Here's a list of who gained ground during this period -- and
who lost a little.
Stock investors had the best of both worlds: continued low
interest rates, with signs of economic improvement. The result
was a 13.82 percent total return for the S&P 500 during the
first half of year. One note of caution though: Interest rates
began to rise over the last two months of the quarter, and as
long as the economy keeps showing improvement, expect that
interest rate trend to continue. Those rising rates could create
a headwind for stock prices in the second half of the year.
Mortgage rates finally broke out of their slide and rose during
the first half of 2013, and as a result current mortgage rates
are at their highest level in nearly two years. However, rates on
savings accounts, money market accounts and other deposits did
not start to rise. That means banks are
taking in more interest, but not paying it
The price of a barrel of oil rose by more than 5 percent in the
first half of the year -- a solid though unspectacular gain. But
with tensions rising in the Middle East, oil prices were
continuing upward as the quarter ended.
dropped by more than $450 an ounce in the first six months of
2013, a 28 percent decline. Admittedly, this comes after a long
winning streak for gold -- though not for investors who only came
to the party recently.
As noted above, bank rates on savings accounts and other deposits
did not rise along with other interest rates in the first half of
2013. Improbably, they even managed to slip a little lower. This
group represents millions of retirees who have seen their
interest incomes melt away to almost nothing, and savers who have
seen their purchasing power eaten away by inflation. The best
sign of hope for beleaguered depositors is that some rates, most
notably bond yields, did start rising in the first half of 2013.
If the economic recovery continues to gather momentum, the second
half of the year might finally see
rates on savings accounts
start to recover.
Lastly, an important group hangs in the balance between winners
and losers for the first half of this year: job seekers. The
employment rate remains stubbornly high at 7.6 percent, but in
terms of the number of jobs created, the first half of 2013 was the
best half-year since the first half of 2005. If jobs continue to be
created at a healthy pace, it will not only add more job seekers to
2013's list of winners, but it will support the environment for
investments and savings accounts as well.