Feature

Reasons to avoid store cards

And more of the week's best financial insight

Here are three of the week's top pieces of financial insight, gathered from around the web:

The Select Seven are suffering

Seven stocks helped boost the S&P 500 index to record highs, said Allan Sloan in The Washington Post — and now they are dragging it down. I call them the Select Seven, and they consist of Apple, Amazon, Meta, Google, Microsoft, Tesla, and Netflix. Last year, those seven companies "returned a weighted average return of 36.3 percent," significantly boosting Vanguard's S&P 500 index. Alas, the tables have quickly turned. Those same seven are down 32 percent in 2022. The overall S&P 500 fund has dropped 17.7 percent this year. But if you subtracted those seven dogs from the fund, "Vanguard says the remaining 493 would have shown a loss of 12.8 percent."

A mortgage-rate reprieve

Mortgage rates suddenly plunged last week by the biggest week-over-week decline since 1981, said Gabriella Cruz-Martinez in Yahoo Finance. "The rate of the average 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 6.61 percent from 7.08 percent the week prior, according to Freddie Mac," following a sharp decline in Treasury yields after October's inflation report came in better than expected. Lenders typically follow the direction of the 10-year Treasury yield when assigning mortgage rates. The sudden drop sent homebuyers racing to lock in lower rates, "boosting activity in the otherwise sluggish housing market." The volume of applications has fallen by 46 percent from a year ago, "when rates were at 3.10 percent." But one agent said her client's preapproved mortgage budget went from $430,000 to $490,000 in a single day.

Reasons to avoid store cards

Don't be fooled by the 10-percent-off-your-purchase pitch, said Alexis Leondis in Bloomberg: Store credit cards often end up costing you more. With holiday sticker shock this season, an upfront discount for signing up for a retail-branded card is an especially tempting offer. But there are some things to consider. In addition to a higher interest rate (26.72 percent) than general credit cards, and no cash back or travel rewards, retail cards also "do something sneaky." It's called deferred interest, and it means "if a shopper doesn't pay off the balance within the promotional window" (say, 6 months), interest gets assessed "retroactively from the purchase date." Unless you are shopping constantly at certain retailers "and are able to pay off the balance in full," it's probably not worth it.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

Recommended

The daily business briefing: February 8, 2023
Jerome Powell
Business briefing

The daily business briefing: February 8, 2023

Why BP is cutting back on its climate goals
oil barrels.
Briefing

Why BP is cutting back on its climate goals

7 unusual trademark battles
Adidas shoes
Briefing

7 unusual trademark battles

The U.S. economy is shifting toward disinflation. Here's why that's welcome.
Discount pricing
Not getting worse

The U.S. economy is shifting toward disinflation. Here's why that's welcome.

Most Popular

The next pandemic?
A hen.
Briefing

The next pandemic?

Just what has Biden accomplished, anyway?
Joe Biden.
Briefing

Just what has Biden accomplished, anyway?

Vendor apologizes for insensitive school lunch on 1st day of Black History Month
Aramark logo on a truck
'inexcusably insensitive'

Vendor apologizes for insensitive school lunch on 1st day of Black History Month