Three guests and two visiting Rotarians joined 31 members at the February 5th meeting.  The visiting Rotarians were John Howard from the Northbrook club and Tom Zengler from the Libertyville Sunrise club.  Liz Taylor brought her colleague Andy Knott who works for Wintrust Wealth Management, Patti Van Cleave’s guest was Trisha Kocanda, the Superintendent of the Winnetka Public Schools, and finally John Muno, representing the Winnetka Park District, was the guest of Bob Smith.
As March 21st approaches Heidi Sibert reminded the club to sign up to work a shift at our food packing program “Kids Against Hunger” as we plan to pack over 100,000 meals for the children in Nicaragua.  Last year we set a club record of packing 110,000 meals.  In addition to needing volunteers to pack the meals our club also needs sponsors as the food and shipping for the 100,000 meals costs over $25,000.
Patti Van Cleave reported that her committee has reached their decisions on who will receive Community Grants this year.  This year there will be 15 recipients who will be presented their grants at our March 12th meeting.  Each organization has a club member as a ‘sponsor.’
New Meisner reported that the on-line Club Runner would have pictures of our speakers.  If you click on the picture you will get a brief biography.  Ned also mentioned that he is posting some videos of his piano playing on YouTube.  (You can also see a video of our club singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at the paid request of Robert Mardirossian.)
Happy Buck$ this week came from Heidi Sibert, Barb Tubekis, Ned Meisner, Tony Kambich, Keith Reed and guest John Howard.
Connie Berman introduced William Norris, the Chief Investment Officer for the Private Bank.  Mr. Norris said the Federal Reserve has been on one path – to stimulate the economy.  He feels that they have been successful in that regard, and they will not continue on that course.  The European Central Bank was doing the opposite and that was not working for them.  Mr. Norris stated that the U.S. economy is clearly on a solid path and that the Fed will likely be looking to gradually increase interest rates, probably later this year or in early 2016. Europe is in a deflationary environment, which is not good.  The U.S. is going to be buying European debt.  Large cap growth is slowing from being very good for the past few years and return to single digit returns in the near future.  The rising dollar will not have a negative effect on mid small cap stocks.  Despite the outlook for rising U.S. interest rates, stock are still attractive relative to investment in bonds.
Norris said this is a good time to take out a loan since interest rates are not likely to go any lower and they will likely be rising in the next three years.  The U.S. is now producing about the same amount of oil as Saudi Arabia.  The lower oil prices will stimulate the economy.  These low oil prices will hurt the small oil companies, especially those with heavy debt.  Oil companies like Exxon, Shell and Chevron can withstand the lower prices much better than the small companies.  We may see a number of the small companies go under.