On Our Minds

WHAT BUSINESS OWNERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT RANSOMWARE

Ransomware attacks are nothing new, but there has been a major surge since the COVID-19 pandemic. Cybercriminals are using the fear and uncertainty of the pandemic to send malicious emails purporting to be from a legitimate source, such as the WHO, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Get My Vaccines, etc.

These emails appear genuine, but when you or an employee click on embedded link, your network locks up and those responsible hold all your date for ransom.

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Investable funds fuel financial markets

The S&P 500 index was up slightly in the month of May due to growing investor confidence in higher 2021 corporate revenues and earnings. With the receding COVID pandemic, consumers and businesses are emerging from social-distancing protocols and accelerating their spending. This strong growth in demand for goods has led to inventory shortages in many cases. Temporary delivery delays for raw materials and components are constraining global growth. Employment is expanding, however, which means goods manufacturing should improve and service industries should gain momentum.

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Plan to protect your financial information during hurricane season

Hurricane preparedness is on everyone’s mind this time of year, and with good reason. Being near the water makes Englewood particularly vulnerable. I’m sure most residents understand hurricane preparedness when it comes to protecting themselves and their loved ones in terms of shelter, safety and supplies. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the National Hurricane Center have posted some important operational guidelines.

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Revenue accelerating in some sectors

Most first-quarter corporate earnings reports have been meeting or beating expectations and this has raised the confidence that equity valuations are not excessive. The S&P 500 Index is trading at a reasonable 22x Price to Earnings multiple, but earnings estimates are being actively raised by analysts who see stronger revenue and profit growth in the second half of 2021. Financial, industrial, energy and basic materials companies are showing considerable revenue acceleration, expense control and order backlogs. Earnings from Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Qualcomm were all above expectation and guidance was strong for the year ahead. Both growth and value stocks are rising, but the pervasive microchip shortage is constraining production at some cyclical companies like Caterpillar and Ford. Small Cap and Mid Cap stocks continue to lead the market, while the service sector, especially travel and leisure, is gradually recovering.

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Cryptocurrency Becoming Less Cryptic

The creation of cryptocurrencies or digital currencies such as Bitcoin has bankers, financiers and governments pondering the long-term potential economic and political ramifications for the future. While the increasing use of digital currencies demonstrates the power of a secure, secretive payment transfer system, it also has created a loophole from government control.

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Federal Spending Strengthens U.S. Dollar

The S&P 500 Index grew 5.8% in the first quarter in response to the massive fiscal stimulus and the anticipation of a significant economic rebound. The recent passage of the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package added to the previous five major stimulus bills totaling over $5.2 trillion. Lawmakers as well as the Federal Reserve have responded dramatically to the COVID pandemic flooding the market with liquidity and the markets responded positively. The COVID-relief money flooding into depository institutions is being used for consumption and investment and helping corporate earnings rebound quickly.

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Look Out for Scammers During Tax Season

When checking your inbox this time of year, you may receive an email purportedly from the Internal Revenue Service. The subject line gets your attention with words such as “coronavirus,” “COVID-19,” and "Stimulus,” and the email seems real, with the IRS logo and other official-looking text and graphics.

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“Funny Money” No Laughing Matter

iTestCash is a company dedicated to helping big and small businesses throughout the U.S. and abroad. Its CEO, Alex Reichmann, comes from a family that has spent their lives focused on the protection of people’s money. His grandfather’s company invented the counterfeit detector pen that many banks and retail businesses use to identify counterfeit bills.

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Economic recovery is underway

With the completion of the fourth quarter of 2020 corporate earnings releases, investors are monitoring daily COVID headlines, rising interest rates, and the potential for a new stimulus program. Corporate earnings were mostly better than expected and guidance for the year ahead was surprisingly strong.

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Avoid Corporate Account Takeover

Cybercriminals are targeting small businesses with increasingly sophisticated attacks. “Corporate account takeover” is a form of identity theft of a business. Criminals phony emails pretending to be someone you know to trick you into clicking on links or attachments that can lead to malicious software being installed on your computer. Once this happens, they will ask you to enter credentials where they will gain access to your email account. At that point, they will send emails to the bank appearing to be from you to initiate ACH and wire transactions.

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