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Financial services, copper, Cyprus and more

- Last modified: April 12, 2013 at 4:50 PM
Hope Stephan
Hope Stephan

The focus in this week's upcoming issue of the Business Journal is financial services, and that got me to wondering: We know what our financial advisers say to us, but what do they say to each other (and maybe to themselves) about the state of the economy? What keeps them up at night?

One thing I discovered is that while the rest of us count sheep, they lie awake visualizing charts – charts that, frankly, would make anyone's head hurt. (Warning: You could spend hours here, especially if you are a stats junkie.)

Collateral velocity in global financial markets? Japanese credit default swap spreads? The divergence between copper and stock prices?

That last one was a stunner. Who knew (well, I didn't, and I paid attention in my finance classes, I swear) that copper prices and the S&P 500 tend to track one another? Is that like the Dow and hemlines?

Clearly, that's just my ignorance showing. A Google search of the two terms brings up more than 3 million results. The divergence between copper prices and the S&P 500 has been big – and bad – news for more than a month.

It seems to make sense. Copper is versatile and used in myriad manufacturing functions. The consensus is that falling demand for copper is one more reason to believe any recovery this spring will stall, since it signals less demand for housing, machinery, electronics, you name it. The average home contains 400 pounds of copper. Smartphones use it, too.

But as with most economic bellwethers, there are contrarian views.

So. Is it time to add copper to our metals portfolios and maybe take a lesser position in gold, which looks to be turning? No answer here! That's why we consult our financial advisers.

The week ahead

Here's a by-no-means-all-inclusive look at what April 15-20 is expected to bring.

Monday (aside from tax-filing deadline) is a busy day.

The Consumer Price Index and Real Earnings reports are out from the feds.

And the state Capitol in Harrisburg is going to be jammed, from a news conference perspective.

At 11:15, representatives of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association will make a push for "safe staffing" legislation.

At noon, Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Schuylkill) says he will announce legislation to use the money from liquor privatization to fix the state's roads and bridges. (We thought the state's public school had a lock on that revenue already, but apparently not.)

Among those joining him, according to his office's news release, will be Republican House Majority Whip Stan Saylor (R-York); Rep. Will Tallman (R-Adams/York); and Matthew Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation, which has been arguing for privatization for years.

At 12:30, Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray will be among a group calling for prevailing wage reform.

Also Monday, the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors issues its monthly report on housing sales.

Wednesday, the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce hosts "Your 2013 Marketing Planning Guide."

Midweek, the Lancaster Chamber of Business & Industry has two events slated:

The mixer Wednesday has a different twist – at the end of the evening at Shred-It, you can shred of a box with up to 50 pounds of documents for free.

Thursday, the Wake Up to the Issues Forum will feature state Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser.

Friday, the government hits us with more stats. This time, it's regional and state unemployment numbers.

The rewind

Our live chat Friday with David Vassilaros on the impact of health care reform on employers was popular, informative and – dare I say it where health care reform is concerned -- fun. If you missed it or want to recheck some answers, you can replay it here.

A while back, the Business Journal featured a York-based group that's bringing an old-time steam train back onto the tracks near New Freedom for trips through the countryside just about the time Civil War 150-related events ramp up in the midstate. Here's a video with more on that.

I'll leave you with a bit of copper trivia. The word "copper" is derived from the Latin cuprum (hence Cu on the periodic table), and Cuprum was the ancient name for the island of Cyprus.

Now there's a country seeing more than its share of economic troubles right now. Last week, the European Commission told Cyprus to sell nearly three-quarters of its gold reserves – more than 10 metric tons – as a condition of its bailout. Nearly four millennia ago, it was Cyprus's copper mines that allowed the small Mediterranean island to extend trade throughout the known world and become a center of wealth and culture.

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