Comments and Opinions

Second Quarter, 2020

As we enter the second half of 2020 we hope you and your family are doing well as we continue to deal with the impact of the Covid-19 virus on health, employment, businesses, the stock markets, and our way of life in general.  We have witnessed how national and local governments closed down their economies and restricted the movements of their citizens triggering a financial crisis as a result of a severe world-wide health threat.

In response to the crisis, The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was passed by Congress and signed into law on March 27, 2020.  The CARES Actis a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill which primarily includes $300 billion in one-time cash payments to individual Americans, $260 billion in increased unemployment benefits, the creation of the Paycheck Protection Program that provides forgivable loans to small businesses with an initial $350 billion in funding (later increased to $669 billion by subsequent legislation), $500 billion in aid for large corporations, and $339.8 billion to state and local governments.  The US Federal Reserve also acted swiftly by lowering interest rates and providing unprecedented liquidity to financial markets to ensure they would continue to function efficiently. The Fed is expected to keep interest rates low for the foreseeable future.  More stimulus funding is expected. This aid, while necessary in the short term, adds to our ever-growing national debt in the long term.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US unemployment rate as of February, 2020 was 3.5%.  In April, 2020 the Bureau reported the unemployment rate at 14.7%, the highest rate and largest month-to-month increase in the history of the data (available back to January, 1948). According to the Small Business Administration, there are 30.7 million small businesses in the USA which account for 99.9% of all US businesses. The SBA also reports small companies have been responsible for creating 1.5 million jobs annually and account for 64% of new jobs created in the United States. 

A BRANCH OF NATIONAL SECURITIES CORPORATION · 59 FINLAY ROAD, PO BOX 2806, ORLEANS, MA  02653

Tel:  (508) 240-0320      FAX:  (508) 240-2309    www.brimmerfinancial.com

Securities offered through National Securities Corporation, member FINRA/SIPC.  Advisory services offered through National Asset Management, an SEC registered investment advisor.  Fixed Insurance Products offered through National Insurance Corporation.  Investing involves risk including loss of principal.

The shutdown has severely impacted specific industries such as retail, hospitality, transportation, travel and tourism.  Small business owners have been sharply affected.  With the lessening of state and local restrictions these small business are working to adapt to new regulations and rules and fighting to keep their businesses alive.

Along with the bad news in the Second Quarter, there has been some good news.  Research has been progressing in the development of treatments and a vaccine. States have begun to reopen for business, employees have been returning to work, people have begun to resume travel and some of their usual activities.  Going forward, each State will have to find a balance between increased economic activity and the increase of Covid-19 cases that may put their citizens at risk and stress their healthcare systems.

Stock markets rebounded in the Second Quarter.  The S&P 500 closed at 3100.29 on June 30th, up from the March 31st close of 2584.59, a gain of 20%.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 25,812.88 on June 30th a 17.8% gain from its close of 21,917.16 on March 31st., and the NASDAQ Composite ended the Second Quarter at 10,058.77 gaining 30.6% from its close of 7700.10 at the end of the First Quarter, 2020.  Past performance is not a guarantee of future results

It is said that stock markets are forward-looking.  Markets may be looking to the economic future with encouragement from current research for treatment and a vaccine, the increase of testing capabilities, and progress toward the gradual reopening of the US economy.  We believe volatility will continue in the stock markets with new spikes of virus cases in certain areas of the country, the current divisive social and political climate, upcoming national elections in November, and residual damage that has been done to the economy.

Overall, we remain optimistic in the long-term and feel confident that the US and the economy will weather the storm caused by the pandemic as we have weathered many other challenges in the past.  However, with the recent volatility in the markets, we strongly recommend our clients call us to schedule a time to review their accounts.  We can help you determine if your portfolio’s asset allocation meets your current financial goals and needs or if rebalancing is in order.  We are here to answer your questions and address your concerns.

*We are updating client email addresses and it is important that we have your current email address.  Please call us if you have changed your email address or to confirm we have yours on file.

The information provided is not directed at any investor or category of investors and is provided solely as general information about products and services or to otherwise provide general investment education. None of the information provided should be regarded as a suggestion to engage in or refrain from any investment-related course of action as neither National Securities nor its affiliates are undertaking to provide you with investment advice or recommendations of any kind.  Opinions are subject to change with market conditions. The views and strategies may not be suitable for all investors and are not intended to be relied on for legal or tax advice.

First Quarter 2020

Comments and Opinions

The longest bull market in US stock market history ended suddenly this quarter with the emergence of Covid-19, a novel coronavirus, originating in China and growing into a global pandemic.  The effects of this pandemic have changed our lives both socially and economically in ways we could not imagine just several short months ago.

We are now Socially Distancing and isolating ourselves to prevent the spread of the virus.  Schools have closed, many employees are working from home, travel has been disrupted, many small businesses have had to close for the foreseeable future, and first responders and medical personnel are battling equipment shortages and placing themselves in danger.

The economic fallout from this has yet to be determined.  Corporate earnings and unemployment for February and March will reflect the immediate toll the virus has taken on our economy.  The impact will stretch into the Second Quarter and beyond.  Market volatility will most likely continue during the uncertainty and recession is likely.

However, research on a vaccine has been ramped up across the world, Congress has passed the

CARES Act Economic Relief Plan (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.), corporations are working to adapt and provide needed equipment and supplies to hospitals, and communities and individuals are doing their part to help those affected.  

Our healthy economy was shut down out of necessity to slow the spread of the coronavirus.  Once it becomes clear that the rate of new infection has begun to flatten we feel that confidence will begin to return and the engine of the economy will start to ramp up.  Looking ahead, businesses will reopen, employees will return to work, and people will create demand for goods and services.  As we wait for this to happen, we believe our value as your financial advisors is most important during these difficult times.  We have weathered difficult economic situations in the past and are here to advise you now and going forward.

We urge you to become informed on the provisions of the CARES Act and how it may apply to you or your business.  Please be aware that Section 2203 of the CARES Act provides a Temporary Waiver of Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) for year 2020 for most retirement plans.  We recommend you consult your tax professional before making any changes to your retirement distributions.

We hope the charts on page two are helpful in providing you with some perspective and we encourage our clients to call us with their questions and concerns at #508-240-0320.

This is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as investment advice or an offer or solicitation of any products or services. Opinions are subject to change with market conditions. The views and strategies may not be suitable for all investors and are not intended to be relied on for legal or tax advice. Investing involves risk including loss of principal.

A BRANCH OF NATIONAL SECURITIES CORPORATION · 59 FINLAY ROAD, PO BOX 2806, ORLEANS, MA  02653

Tel:  (508) 240-0320      FAX:  (508) 240-2309    www.brimmerfinancial.com

Securities offered through National Securities Corporation, member FINRA/SIPC.  Advisory services offered through National Asset Management, an SEC registered investment advisor.  Fixed Insurance Products offered through National Insurance Corporation.

Investing involves risk including loss of principal.

FOURTH QUARTER, 2019   –    COMMENTS AND OPINIONS

“Great learning and superior abilities…will be of little value and small estimation unless virtue, honor, truth, and integrity are added to them.”  – Abigail Adams, 2nd First Lady of the United States

The Santa of Economic Good Things left a lot of presents under the tree at the end of the Fourth Quarter.  With only a few exceptions, such as home buying in the U.S., the packages were bigger this Christmastime.  The U.S. and many foreign stock markets gained appreciably during the last quarter of 2019.  The S&P 500 Index increased by 8.53%. (1)  Gold and oil increased in value.  China and the U.S. announced a pending agreement, to be signed on January 15th, which will cancel a scheduled 15% tariff on Chinese goods.  China has agreed to buy more American farm products.  We are already buying more from them than they buy from us.  This is Phase One of a larger agreement.  It sets the tone on addressing the very important issue of protecting U.S. intellectual property in China.  The theft of industrial and national secrets has been a serious overhanging problem that has not been solved to date.  This early portion of the Sino-American trade agreement has been greeted by the markets very favorably.  No one wants a trade war. 

Our Federal Reserve made its third interest rate cut of the year in October.  Then the Fed signaled that it may not adjust short-term interest rates during 2020.  Currently the Federal Funds Rate is in the neighborhood of 1.50% to 1.75%.  The U.S. Dept. of Labor offered presents with happy news inside.  During October employers added 156,000 new jobs.  During November we gained 266,000 new jobs.  December saw an increase of 145,000 new jobs. (2) 

There are several official unemployment numbers issued by the U.S. Labor Dept.  The most commonly used report is called U-3.  This counts unemployed workers who are seeking work.  U-3 was 3.6% of the workforce in October and 3.5% in November.  These are extremely good numbers.  The most accurate indicator is U-6.  This number is higher because it includes all workers who are either unemployed or under-employed.  U-6 was 7.0% in October and 6.9% in November (3) – very good numbers indeed.  “The trend is our friend” is an old and well-loved mantra of the markets.  At the time of this writing most trends are positive.  More good news: The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index, which measures consumer optimism, was 126.1 in October, 126.5 in November and 126.5 in December. (4) The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment gauge rose from 95.5 in October to 96.8 in November to 99.3 in December. (5)

During the Fourth Quarter of 2019 Congress passed and the President signed a new law that will affect retirement plans in America.  It’s called SETTING UP EVERY COMMUNITY for RETIREMENT (SECURE) ACT.  For those who have not yet attained the age of 70 ½, SECURE changes the age for taking Required Minimum Distributions from their IRAs or other retirement plans to 72.  This affects those who will turn 70 ½ during 2020 or later. 

To Our Clients and Those Who Are Not Yet Our Clients:

Start off the New Year with a fresh look at your investments and your financial plans.  Call us to make an appointment for a complimentary review of your portfolio.  Also, come with your financial planning questions.

At Brimmer Financial, National Securities Corp., our client relationships are the cornerstone of our business.  Our clients aren’t just account numbers.  We place your best interests before our own to develop a strategy that meets your individual financial goals and needs.

HELPING YOU REACH YOUR FINANCIAL GOALS

LOCAL, INDEPENDENT, EXPERIENCED

Brimmer Financial     508-240-0320

Susan Lemieux, Registered Representative, Investment Advisor Representative, Branch Manager

Robert Brimmer, Registered Representative, Investment Advisor Representative, Certified Financial Planner™ professional

Alecia Wright, Registered Representative, BSc Mathematics, University of the West Indies

Disclaimers: The opinions expressed herein are those of Robert Brimmer of Brimmer Financial and are current as of this report’s posting date.  This commentary is general in nature and should not be construed as investment advice.  Opinions are subject to change with market conditions.  The views and strategies may not be suitable for all investors and are not intended to be relied on for legal or tax advice.  Please note that any investment involves risk including loss of principal.  Interest rate risk is the possibility that the value of an investment will decline as the result of an unexpected change of interest rates.  Securities offered through National Securities Corp., member FINRA/SIPC.  Advisory services offered through National Asset Management, an SEC Registered Investment Adviser.  Fixed Insurance Products offered through National Insurance Corporation.

Sources: [1] us.spindices.com/indices/equity/sp-500[12/31/19]; [2],[3] investing.com/economic-calendar[12/31/19]; [4] investing.com/economic-calendar/cbconsumer-confidence-48[1/3/20]; [5]tradingeconomics.com/united-states/consumer-confidence [1/3/20]; [6]         

     “If by the liberty of the press were understood merely the liberty of discussing the propriety of public measures and political opinions, let us have as much of it as you please: But if it means the liberty of affronting, calumniating and defaming one another, I, for my part, own myself willing to part with my share of it.”  — Benjamin Franklin (1789) – writer, printer, scientist, inventor, political philosopher, postmaster, humorist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat.

Dr. Franklin, one of our greatest founding fathers, stated that Argumentum ad Hominem (a type of argument that sidesteps the topic of discussion and instead attacks the character of the opponent in the debate) was not fit for civil discourse.  Sadly, this rhetorical device is used all too often these days.  As the war of the words rages on during this political season in our news media, our economy and securities markets have actually performed surprisingly well.

Our Stock Market – The Dow Jones Industrial Index passed a new milestone, crossing over 27000 for the first time ever, closing up 227 points, at 27088 on July 11, 2019.  The S&P 500 approached its own new milestone, closing at 2999 on the same day.  Looking back to an earlier high, the S&P 500 broke 300 on March 23, 1987.  The S&P 500 index rose 1.19% in the Third Quarter of 2019.

The Economy – The biggest economic news in Q3 was the growing trade dispute between the U.S. and China.  U.S. complaints include China’s ongoing theft of our trade secrets, manipulation of their currency, the yuan, and barriers to our entering their markets.  Trade secrets are protected by our patent laws.  The Chinese ignore these laws by either reverse engineering our products or by hacking into our corporations, blatantly ignoring our patent protection laws.  The Chinese currency, the yuan, can be manipulated by them at any time.  China, being a totalitarian government, ignores the market valuations of their currency to suit their needs.  A lower yuan makes their imports to us cheaper and our exports more expensive to Chinese buyers.  For decades China has taken advantage of other nations by employing trading dishonesty.  In early October President Trump and Vice Premier Liu He met at the White House to discuss an incremental trade agreement.  They began with one step and will continue to meet over time in an effort to conclude an overall trade agreement that would be agreeable to both sides.

Looking Ahead – Our American stock and bond markets have performed well on average over the past ten years.  From the lows of 2009 to the present highs of 2019, the domestic stock markets have rewarded many who held on throughout the decade.  The closing value of the S&P 500 on January 1, 2009 was 865.  The closing value on January 1, 2019 was 2,607.  Those who were winners bought and held on.  Those who day traded might have done better or worse.  In my opinion day trading is exhausting and fraught with danger.   A ten-year positive move is not an anomaly, but it’s not the norm. 

Sue, Alecia and I have considered the historic data and believe this is a good time to review the exposure to risk in our clients’ portfolios.  Consider the probability that stock markets will continue to grow at the same pace they have in the recent past.  The higher it goes and the longer it goes up, the more a decline is a possibility.  Interest rates have stayed very low for a long time.  At the first whiff of inflation interest rates will likely increase.  Increasing interest rates are unfavorable for stocks.  Political winds are increasingly blowing in the direction of higher taxes and more government control.  These two forces are counter to corporate profitability.  Every portfolio should be reviewed at least yearly and rebalanced when necessary.  But perhaps the most important is this…our clients from 2009 are now ten years older.  According to many in the financial advisory community, the older one becomes the less aggressive one should be. 

At Brimmer Financial/National Securities Corp. we have access to the world’s largest money managers, such as Black Rock (the largest manager in the world), Vanguard, Fidelity, Calvert, Eaton Vance, Prudential and most of the well-known managers of mutual funds and exchange traded funds.  The managers with the best long-term performance records and the flexibility to help our clients are the arrows in our quivers.  Our clients have accumulated assets and want these assets to serve them well throughout their lifetimes and to be able to pass on to the next generations their good fortunes.

At Brimmer Financial we help families and small businesses achieve their financial goals.  Our team includes Susan Lemieux, Owner and Manager of Brimmer Financial, RR, IAR; Bob Brimmer, Certified Financial Planner™ professional, RR and IAR; and Alecia Wright RR, B.Sc. Mathematics, University of the West Indies. 

Disclaimers

The opinions expressed herein are those of Robert Brimmer of Brimmer Financial and are current as of this report’s posting date.  This commentary is general in nature and should not be construed as investment advice.  Opinions are subject to change with market conditions.  The views and strategies may not be suitable for all investors and are not intended to be relied on for legal or tax advice.  Please note that any investment involves risk including loss of principal.  Interest rate risk is the possibility that the value of an investment will decline as the result of an unexpected change of interest rates.  Securities offered through National Securities Corp., member FINRA/SIPC.  Advisory services offered through National Asset Management, an SEC Registered Investment Adviser.  Fixed Insurance Products offered through National Insurance Corporation.

COMMENTS AND OPINION

“A wise and frugal government … shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.” – Thomas Jefferson (1801)

 From the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:  Median weekly earnings of the nation’s 117.6 million full-time wage and salary workers were $908 in the Second Quarter of 2019 (not seasonally adjusted).  This was 3.7% higher than a year earlier.  The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.3% in April and 0.1 % in both May and June on a seasonally adjusted basis.  Over the last 12 months, the All Items Index increased 1.6% before seasonal adjustment.  Our inflation rate is very low.  And that’s a good thing.  The U.S. Labor Department reported that in April the unemployment rate was 3.6% in April, 3.6% in May, and 3.7% in June, 2019.  Unemployment numbers are at roughly 50-year lows in America.  Just about everyone who wants a job can find one

The U.S. Federal Reserve has left little to the imagination about their intentions on rates at their July 31st meeting.  Fed Chair Jay Powell delivered a speech in Paris recently where he reiterated that the Fed will “act as appropriate” to keep the U.S. economic expansion going.  He also noted a few key global concerns that are adding “uncertainty” to the economic outlook in the U.S. and abroad, including the U.S. Federal Debt Ceiling; a prolonged shortfall in U.S. inflation; and Brexit.  Federal Reserve Bank of New York President John Williams said this week: “When you only have so much stimulus at your disposal, it pays to act quickly to lower rates at the first sign of economic distress.”  The only real question now seems to be will they cut 25 or 50 basis points? [One basis point = 1/100 of one percent.]  US-China trade has faded somewhat into the background.  Investors anticipate the present truce persisting for the foreseeable future, with existing tariffs staying in place but incremental ones being implemented” –  SOURCE – ARTHUR HOGAN, CHIEF MARKET STRATEGIST, NATIONAL SECURITIES CORP.  MORNING COMMENTARY FROM JULY 24, 2019

The S&P Index crossed 3,000 for a few hours on Wednesday, July 10th, for the first time ever as Fed Chair Powell was testifying before Congress.  On Thursday, July 11th, the Dow Jones Industrials crossed over 27,000 for the very first time.  Do these positive results in market performance portend another time of Greenspanian “Irrational Exuberance,” or just the continuation of an aging Bull Market?  We can’t foretell the future until it has become the past. 

At some point the pundits will dissect the most recent data and pronounce a concluding diagnosis, as they always do.  But how does that help?  What’s an investor to do now?

We can start with what we know of past Bull and Bear Markets.  Bull Markets start to grow during pessimistic times.  They mature during good economic times and begin to die during times of euphoria.  Then, at the next point of maximum pessimism, the next Bull Market is born.  This up and down cycle was recorded in a book by Charles Mackay called Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, first printed in 1841.  It may be the best book ever written to describe crowd psychology.  Mackay describes some of the best known cases of market insanity, starting with the Dutch Tulip mania of 1634, when newly discovered tulip bulbs were temporarily worth more than gold.  A number of other get-rich-quick popular schemes during the 18th and 19th Centuries are described and analyzed.  At this time, there are no wacky popular delusions of any consequence, in my opinion.  Well, maybe Cryptocurrency, which is a form of money that has no country or bank to back it up.  Bitcoin was the first of these digital mediums of exchange. 

The increasing Federal Debt is not a delusion in the usual sense.  It’s more like a very bad case of wishful thinking.  It goes something like this: “If we don’t have to solve this debt thing right away, we can kick the can down the road and let someone else deal with it.”  Sadly, those some ones will be our children and grandchildren.  All states except Vermont have balanced budget laws.  But Congress is perpetually incapable of balancing the Federal Budget.  Maybe we should elect politicians who want to run a fiscally sound nation.  Despite the increasing national debt, shares of stocks have performed well over the past decade, mostly because of demand.  Bonds have also done well because interest rates have not gyrated up and down during the past decade. 

In my opinion, this may be a good time for some of our clients to take some profits off the table and reallocate proceeds of these sales to more conservative, income-producing securities.  Sue, Alecia and I have noticed that the so-called Responsible Investments are gaining in popularity with investors who want securities that embrace high environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards.  During 2016 more than $ 8.7 Trillion was invested in ESG securities.  We believe our clients should consider including some of these ESG investments in their portfolios.  It’s always a good time to call our office (508) 240-0320 to schedule a review of your current investments.

SOURCES: Thomas Jefferson; US Bureau of Labor Statistics; US Labor Dept.; US Federal Reserve; Arthur Hogan, Chief Market Strategist, National Securities Corp.; Charles Mackay – Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds;  US Federal Debt Clock.

The Views and opinions expressed herein are those of Robert Brimmer of Brimmer Financial and are current as of this report’s posting date.  This commentary is general in nature and should not be construed as investment advice.  Opinions are subject to change with market conditions.  The views and strategies may not be suitable for all investors and are not intended to be relied on for legal or tax advice.  Please note that any investment involves risk including loss of principal.  Interest rate risk is the possibility that the value of an investment will decline as the result of an unexpected change of interest rates.  Securities offered through National Securities Corp., member FINRA/SIPC.  Advisory services offered through National Asset Management, an SEC Registered Investment Adviser.  Fixed Insurance Products offered through National Insurance Corporation.

2

The U.S. economy grew at a solid 3.2% annual rate in the first three months of 2019, a far better outcome than expected, overcoming a host of headwinds including some global weakness, rising trade tensions and a partial government shutdown.


“The advance in the gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic health, marks an acceleration from a 2.2% gain in the previous October-December period, the Commerce Department reported. However, about half the gain reflected two factors not expected to last – a big jump in stockpiling by businesses and a sharp contraction in the trade deficit.


“The first day of trading this April looked interesting, similar to the last week of this past March. During the last week of March, 2019, the Dow Jones Industrial moved higher by 426 points. During the first week of April the Dow gained 1.27%. The S&P 500 Index increased by 1.16%. That’s impressive when you think about where we were four months ago when stocks suffered their worst December since 1931. Newton’s First Law is ‘A body in motion will remain in motion until acted upon by an outside force.’ The S&P 500 is now just off its record high from last October.”


[SOURCE- ART HOGAN, CHIEF MARKET STRATEGIST, NATIONAL SECURITIES CORP.]


What outside forces now exist that are exerting pressure on our economy and the markets? At first glance there are no storm clouds in the sky and no rumbles of thunder in the distance. Outside forces that usually move markets and economies are interest rates, inflation, tax law changes, domestic and international trade, fear or greed. Right now both interest rates and inflation are tame. The recent Federal Income Tax decrease has benefited our economy. Whenever taxes are increased, more of our income is directed to government spending. Whenever our taxes are decreased, more of our income is ours to keep and spend as we wish. An issue that may impact the stock market is the ongoing trade negotiations with China.


All markets go through cycles. That’s just the fact – Jack. The stock market is the market followed most frequently. The Standard and Poor’s 500 Index has grown on average by about 10% per year over the past 90 years. This includes the depths of the Great Depression and all of the boom times. For those who understand these ups and downs and are willing to not sell out at the bottom and then buy back in at the top, stocks can be an asset class well worth holding and adding to throughout one’s life.


59 FINLAY ROAD. PO BOX 2806 ORLEANS MA 02653
Tel: (508) 240-0320 FAX: (508) 240-2309 www.brimmerfinancial.com

Securities offered through National Securities, Member FINRA/SIPC – Financial Planning and Asset Management offered through National Asset Management, Inc. – Life and Health Insurance and Annuities offered through National Insurance Corp.

FOURTH QUARTER, 2018

The final three months of 2018 experienced volatile financial markets, political turbulence and fear among investors, especially those within ten years of retirement.  But as rocky as the final quarter was, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index only dropped 6.2% for the full year.  The Dow Jones Industrial was down 5.5% in 2018.* Not positive, but not bad enough for an H.G. Wells-style novel about our world’s end.  For those of us who have slogged through at least two bear markets, 2018 wasn’t even a baby bear.  I think it was more like a playground for those nefarious computer programmers who set their machines to sell when many are selling and to buy when many are buying.  Think of this type of market as a stock car race.  Each driver is trying to beat all the other drivers, while the patient investors sit safely in the stands, high above the fray.  When the race is over, the spectators can come down from their observation perches to resume a more rational pace of buying, holding and selling.  We can expect a down market every few years, maybe twice in a decade.  We expect that they will arrive, but nobody has been able to figure out, with any consistency, when the winds will blow.  One of my favorite sayings is: “Stocks can go down but they have never stayed down.”

Now, what might make a market, any market – securities, real estate, precious gems, etc. go up or go down?  Well, let’s start with the simple Law of Supply and Demand.  When something is desired but is in short supply its price increases.  When something is desired but is very plentiful, its price decreases.  This simple law is in effect every minute of every day all over the world.  It’s what makes commerce work.

“We must take human nature as we find it, perfection falls not to the share of mortals.” —George Washington (1786)

INVESTING IN YOUR BELIEFS

Is your investment strategy as socially and environmentally responsible as you are?

It’s not uncommon – Many a well-educated, socially conscious, environmentally friendly investor winds up buying shares of companies whose beliefs and business practices are far removed from their own.  Why? Often investors simply haven’t thought about merging their personal beliefs with their investment strategies.  Some may not even be aware of where and how their money is invested.

Is it that big a deal? – Only you can answer that.  What matters to you may not matter to the next guy, and vice versa.  But consider this – when you invest in a company you own part of that company.  What you need to consider, based on what the company does and how they conduct business, is whether you would feel comfortable being a partial owner of that company.

Voting with your wallet – How we invest or don’t invest our money can be a significant statement of our beliefs and personal principles.  For example, if someone is strongly opposed to gambling or pornography, they could choose not to invest in any company that contributes to those industries.  If everyone who opposed those industries sold (or didn’t purchase) shares from those companies, that could potentially send a powerful message.  On the flip side, if someone firmly believes in eco-friendly alternative energy sources, they could choose to invest in wind farms rather than big oil (for example) as a way to show their support.

The trade-off – Investing according to your beliefs and convictions can definitely affect your rate of return.  Whether the effect is positive or negative depends upon the investments you choose and the performance of those investments.  But it is entirely possible, and perhaps probable, that at some point you could face a situation where you feel the best return on your investment would come from a company that is absolutely contrary to what you believe.  In that case, what do you do?  No one but YOU can answer that question.  You must decide for yourself which is more important – your convictions or your potential financial return.

We at Brimmer Financial believe that in many cases our clients will be well served by selecting professional asset managers whose first responsibility is to seek strong portfolio returns and who offer socially and environmentally responsible securities.  We have studied the offerings of the best-known managers and have selected a group that, in our opinion, are suitable for many if not most of our clients. 

*SOURCES: S&P 500; Dow Jones Industrial Average

Securities offered through National Securities, Member FINRA/SIPC – Financial Planning and Asset Management offered through National Asset Management, Inc. – Life and Health Insurance and Annuities offered through National Insurance Corp.

THIRD QUARTER, 2018

MY COMMENTS AND OPINIONS

Tolerate the Turbulence

Look beyond this moment and stay focused on your long-term objectives.

Volatility will always be around on Wall Street, and as you invest for the long term, you must learn to tolerate it. Rocky moments, fortunately, are not the norm.

Since the end of World War II, there have been dozens of Wall Street shocks. Wall Street has seen 56 pullbacks (retreats of 5-9.99%) in the past 73 years; the S&P index dipped 6.9% in this last one. On average, the benchmark fully rebounded from these pullbacks within two months. The S&P has also seen 22 corrections (descents of 10-19.99%) and 12 bear markets (falls of 20% or more) in the post-WWII era.1

Even with all those setbacks, the S&P has grown exponentially larger. During the month World War II ended (September 1945), its closing price hovered around 16. At this writing, it is above 2,750. Those two numbers communicate the value of staying invested for the long run.2

This current bull market has witnessed five corrections, and nearly a sixth (a 9.8% pullback in 2011, a year that also saw a 19.4% correction). It has risen roughly 335% since its beginning even with those stumbles. Investors who stayed in equities through those downturns watched the major indices soar to all-time highs.1

As all this history shows, waiting out the shocks may be highly worthwhile. The alternative is trying to time the market. That can be a fool’s errand.To succeed at market timing, investors have to be right twice, which is a tall order. Instead of selling in response to paper losses, perhaps they should respond to the fear of missing out on great gains during a recovery and hang on through the choppiness.

After all, volatility creates buying opportunities. Shares of quality companies are suddenly available at a discount. Investors effectively pay a lower average cost per share to obtain them.

Bad market days shock us because they are uncommon. If pullbacks or corrections occurred regularly, they would discourage many of us from investing in equities; we would look elsewhere to try and build wealth. A decade ago, in the middle of the terrible 2007-09 bear market, some investors convinced themselves that bad days were becoming the new normal. History proved them wrong.

As you ride out this current outbreak of volatility, keep two things in mind. One, your time horizon. You are investing for goals that may be five, ten, twenty, or thirty years in the future.

One bad market week, month, or year is but a blip on that timeline and is unlikely to have a severe impact on your long-run asset accumulation strategy. Two, remember that there have been more good days on Wall Street than bad ones. The S&P 500 rose in 53.7% of its trading sessions during the years 1950-2017, and it advanced in 68 of the 92 years ending in 2017.3,4

Sudden volatility should not lead you to exit the market. If you react anxiously and move out of equities in response to short-term downturns, you may impede your progress toward your long-term goals. 

     YOU CAN HELP US HELP YOU.

Periodically emails change.  If you notice that you haven’t received an email from us recently, we may not have your correct email address.  Please send us a quick email note from your most used email address.  This will allow us to serve you better.

Send a quick note to Sue or Bob:

slemieux@nationalsecurities.com

rbrimmer@nationalsecurities.com

Events that affect the financial markets might affect your investment portfolio.  Rather than have the talking heads on TV explain an event, please allow us the opportunity to further explain events to you with a timely email. 

Those of us at Brimmer Financial have been aware that the news is almost always the BAD NEWS!  Yes.  Bad news happens and bad news sells newspapers.  But it’s not the ONLY news.  Quite often positive forces behind the headlines are at work in the financial markets, but too often good news is ignored and only the negative is featured. 

Many of our clients have heard us explain periodic market swoons as predicable events.  Markets go up.  Markets go down.  BUT – Markets have never stayed down.

So, let’s stay in touch.  We promise not to send you minute-by-minute minutia, day-by-day bits and pieces and weekly worries.  We at Brimmer Financial are long term investors.  We stay in the boat during rough weather and smooth sailing.  History is on the side of the optimists.

A BRANCH OF NATIONAL SECURITIES CORPORATION · 59 FINLAY ROAD, PO BOX 2806, ORLEANS, MA  02653

Tel:  (508) 240-0320      FAX:  (508) 240-2309    www.brimmerfinancial.com

Securities offered through National Securities Corporation, member FINRA/SIPC.  Advisory services offered through National Asset Management, an SEC registered investment advisor.  Fixed Insurance Products offered through National Insurance Corporation.

FIRST QUARTER, 2018

MY COMMENTS AND OPINIONS

Mr. Market is the imaginary investor devised by Columbia University Professor Benjamin Graham and introduced in his 1949 book The Intelligent Investor.  In his book Mr. Market is driven by panic, euphoria and apathy on any given day.  Really, not much has changed since Graham was writing and teaching in the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s.  This scholar is considered the founder of Value Investing.  Warren Buffet was one of his students.  Sir John Templeton and numerous other money managers have studied and followed Graham’s teachings over the years.  Benjamin Graham is still considered one of the great thinkers and leaders among investors and their advisors.

Professor Graham earned a scholarship to Columbia University after his family lost most of their money in the Great Panic of 1907.  ‘Panic’ is what they called market crashes in the early years of our public stock market.  After graduation he was offered a job by one of the firms then active on Wall Street.  By the age of 25 he was already earning about $500,000 annually.  In the Stock Market Crash of 1929 Graham lost almost all of his investments.  This painful event taught him some valuable lessons about the investing world.  His observations after the crash inspired him to write a research book with David Dodd, called Security Analysis, which was published in 1934.  It’s still in print, many editions later, and used as a basic text for those who want to learn how to analyze securities.   SOURCE: INVESTOPEDIA

Value Investing, which was Graham’s specialty, is the discipline that seeks to discover companies whose share prices are lower than their intrinsic value.  Sir John Templeton often referred to “replacement book value” as a reference point in valuing a company.  He asked himself and his team what it would cost to replace a given company in today’s dollars.  In other words, to build it from the ground up.  If he were considering a certain company to add to his holdings he would only buy it if he considered it a bargain.  He often said that he would sell a stock if he found “a better bargain.”  Stocks on his short list of possible buys – 1) Had a history of steady earnings growth; 2) Were in an industry that provided goods and services that people needed and wanted; 3) Were run by honorable managers; 4) Had a price to earnings ratio that was low relative to the market.  Templeton also pioneered international investing for Americans in the 1940s and 1950s.  He believed that he had to look all over the globe to find the best bargains.  -SOURCE: THE TEMPLETON PRIZES by WILLIAM PROCTOR, 1983 Doubleday & Co.

Over many decades the popular price to earnings ratio (P/E) metric has been above or below 15 when measuring the Standard and Poor’s 500 largest US stocks. A  Price/Earnings of 15 is the median over many years.  In other words, half the time the S&P 500 has been above 15 times earnings and half the time it was below 15.  For example – If a stock earns $1.00 profit per share per year, and if the market will pay $15.00 per share, its P/E, expressed as a whole number, is 15.  Historically the higher the P/E, the riskier the stock.  And conversely the lower the P/E, the less risky the stock.  Again, P/E is the stock price divided by the earnings per share.        SOURCE:  S&P 500 DATA 1880 TO 2017

During the great DOT.COM Boom of the late 1990s, up to March, 2000, some companies were trading at anywhere from 100 to 200 times what they were earning.  This was a classic BUBBLE.  I managed to avoid most of these excesses, but not all, by staying with mostly large, well-established securities which were not over-priced as were so many high-flying high-tech ideas during those years.  But even the high quality stocks tumbled down the hill with the goofy high tech ideas, junk bonds and companies which never even earned a dime.

Currently there’s one group of investments that’s climbing up the popularity charts – the socially responsible stocks and mutual funds.  This group of investments has proven that it can perform well over time.  Their theme is Doing Well by Doing Good.  They follow disciplines that focus on environmental impact, strong

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performance, in-depth research, and active engagement with the management of the companies selected for inclusion in these funds.  These fund managers go beyond shunning tobacco, alcohol, firearms and polluters.  The corporations that embrace environmental, social and governance (ESG) best practices have discovered that it’s good business.  ESG firms seem to have fewer legal problems because they avoid company behaviors that could be faulted.

“Corporations that avoid problems tend to enjoy competitive returns for their shareholders.  ESG investing, which evaluates companies based in part on their environmental, social and governance policies, is a fast-growing segment of the financial landscape.  Importantly, socially-responsible investing is not just a strategy to feel good about how your money is invested.  Many experts argue that an ESG strategy also leads to better returns. SOURCE: FORBES INVESTING #StockWatch Aug 16, 2017

Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) in the United States can be traced back over 200 years to the money management practices of the Methodists.  Their founder, John Wesley, urged his followers to avoid profiting at their neighbors’ expense.  They avoided doing business with those who earned their money through alcohol, tobacco, weapons, or gambling.  We can follow the development of SRI through more recent decades.  The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970.  Nuclear power became a concern with the Three Mile Island partial meltdown.  The Love Canal chemical dump disaster was uncovered in 1977.  Also, Ralph Nader began working for consumers and against corporations who were engaged in environmental and safety practices that were objectionable.  In the 1980s Socially Responsible Investing was a major force in ending Apartheid in South Africa.  In 1976 Calvert Investments was the first to launch a socially responsible mutual fund that boycotted companies that did business in apartheid-era South Africa.  Individuals and institutions pulled their investment dollars from companies that operated in and profited from doing business in South Africa, eventually helping to force change within the South African government.  Also in the 1980s mutual funds that screened corporations for weapons, tobacco, gambling, nuclear power, pollution and employee welfare were introduced by companies such as Calvert and Domini.

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As Socially Responsible Investing grew in popularity during the 1990s, the Domini 400 Social Index, now named the MSCI  KLD 400 Social Index, was established to follow the top 400 US companies with outstanding Environmental, Social, and

Corporate Governance ratings.  The Index screening excludes those companies whose products have negative social or environmental impacts.  Mutual funds which select environmental, social and governance best practice stocks frequently employ from three to five disciplines, often called pillars, to screen candidates for their portfolios.

Socially responsible money managers actively engage with companies that have excellent reputations: Who treat their employees, customers and suppliers honorably; who advance women and minorities at the management and Board of Directors level; who promote clean water and renewable energy; who are working to protect the public from the scourge of opioid abuse and cyber-crime.

Investing in socially/environmentally responsible securities does not mean giving up on investment returns.  A number of SRI mutual funds have earned four and five star ratings from Morningstar.

At Brimmer Financial/National Securities we feel the better informed you are the more responsible your investment choices will be.  Learn how your investments can reflect your values.  Please call our office to set an appointment to discuss how Socially Responsible Investments may become a positive addition to your portfolio.

DISCLOSURES – The views expressed contain certain forward-looking statements. Although they are forecasts, actual results may be meaningfully different. The material represents an assessment of the market and conditions at a particular time and is not a guarantee of future results. This information should not be relied upon by the reader as research or investment advice regarding any security in particular. The opinions expressed here are the author’s and do not reflect any opinion of National Securities Corporation, member FINRA/SIPC, my Broker/Dealer, or any of its Affiliates. Source material for this letter include quotations from Investopedia; The Templeton Prizes by William Proctor, 1983; S&P 500 data from 1880 to 2017; Forbes Investing #Stock Watch, Aug. 16, 2017; and the Domini 400 Socially Responsible Index, now called MSCI  KLD 400 Social Index.

Securities offered through National Securities, Member FINRA/SIPC – Financial Planning and Asset        Management offered through National Asset Management, Inc. – Life and Health Insurance and Annuities offered through National Insurance Corp.

Fourth Quarter, 2017

My Comments and Opinions  

Before we review the final quarter of 2017, let’s take a look at the recent spate of market volatility, which is likely caused by computerized sell programs, institutional sellers and panicked TRADERS.  Traders are fast-paced ‘in-and-out’ opportunistic profit hunters. In my opinion INVESTORS are different. They take the long view. Investors look for good quality investments and hang on through good times and bad.  Think Warren Buffett. Now as it turns out, this recent course-correction may be quite short-lived. Of course nobody on this side of Eternity knows the future of the markets, the future prices of putty in Egypt, or the population of paramecia in Portugal.  But it is a little easier to guesstimate the movements of asset prices if we know the factors that can influence their price movements. Generally, high inflation, high interest rates and high taxes are a drag on economic activity and stock market performance.  When inflation, interest rates and taxes are lower, stocks tend to do well. High and low are relative measurements. Higher than what? Lower than what? Can we agree that U.S. inflation and interest rates have been relatively low for a number of years?

When I entered the financial services industry in the summer of 1975 the Dow Jones Industrial Average was trading at around 800.  As I’m writing this, the Dow opened today at 25,052. In a little over 40 years the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained over 24,000 points.  The Dow is only an approximation of the market’s value because it’s built of only 30 big company stocks. And these are not the original 30 stocks.  Over the years certain companies were dropped and others took their place using a complicated formula.

Stock markets can be explained in many ways.  Here’s one: Ecology, which is defined as the scientific analysis and study of interactions among organisms and their environments.  A forest is an environment of large and small plants and animals that interact. A stock market is an environment of large and small stocks [the shares of companies] and the humans who interact with the market.  Just as a mighty Sequoia starts as a seed, massively large companies often start out as small seed companies. The largest trees in the forest can crowd out the smaller plants under their canopy.  Very large companies can absorb smaller companies into themselves. General Motors is such a company. Since its founding in 1908, GM has acquired a number of auto makers. Mighty GM nearly fell down when it was 100 years old during the Recession of 2008.  It was rescued by American, Canadian and Ontarian governments with loans. For a while GM was nicknamed ‘Government Motors.’ Great recessions are like large hurricanes. Even the biggest tree can fall over when the environment turns nasty. Healthy forests have adequate sunlight, rain and nutrition.  They are relatively free of pests. Healthy stock markets thrive when the companies whose stocks are in the market are profitable, when they enjoy a favorable regulatory environment and when these individual stocks enjoy popularity and are bought by investors. During droughts, plagues of disease and pests, and over-harvesting, forests can take a while to recover.  Markets also take time to recover after recessions.

But stock markets differ from forests in that they tend to move in anticipation of what might happen in 6 to 9 months.  They are forward-looking. Forests grow in place. So, if there’s a grim sounding announcement from some agency of government or chest-thumping threats from a foreign entity, stocks, like so many prairie dogs, will scurry off down into their burrows.  When the threat is forgotten (prairie dogs have short memories) they resume foraging for opportunities to feed and prosper. So it is with stocks short term. When the worry du jour never comes to pass, shares return to popularity.  

Long term movements are different.  US stock markets have followed a course from 1929 to present defined by periods of growth and periods of stagnation.  From 1929 to 1944 markets were often stagnant. From 1944 to about 1968 markets grew nicely. From ’68 to ’82 the markets didn’t go up a whole lot.  Then in 1982 the markets took off (I remember it well) until about the year 2000. After 2000 there were 9 more flattish years until 2009. Since ’09 the markets have been moving up.  All along these long-term trends markets formed smaller zig-zag patterns, moving up and then down and back up almost every 5 or 6 years. So, even during up-trending times the markets did their dipsy-doodle dance.  The famous Ibbottson chart of stocks, bonds, bills and inflation illustrates this data in detail from 1926 to present. Source: Morningstar.

Today many companies are growing, hiring more workers and paying bonuses based on the recent Tax Law enacted by Congress and signed by the President.  Money that had been parked off-shore is returning to America to take advantage of a one-time tax break for companies that repatriate their foreign- held profits.  On January 2, 2018, the Dow Jones Industrials closed at 24,824. On January 26, 2018, the Dow closed at 26,616, up 1,792 Dow points. On March 5, 2018, it closed at 24,824, exactly where it started on the first day of January this year.  The short round trip amounted to about a 7% swing during the first two months of 2018. 1,792 points looks gigantic, but it isn’t relative to the Dow’s current point status. This is called Volatility. It’s not always fun.

FOURTH QUARTER OF 2017

STOCKS    The Dow Jones began 2017 at 19,881, and closed on Dec. 29th at 24,719.  This was a gain of 4,838 Dow points, or about 24 percent.  2017 was an unusual year because we don’t often experience a 20% or more gain in any year.  You could make the argument that the DOW was catching up on its poor prior performance from September of 2008 through January of 2013.  

‘The market will do everything it has to do to confuse the greatest number of people.’ – Source: something I heard once.  I think this is an honest assessment of market behavior.  

And if this wraith-like movement of the market is so unpredictable, why do we try to predict its future?  Perhaps because people are uncomfortable with the unknown. We humans take comfort in the dependable, the regular and the stable.  But life is not so dependable, predictable or stable, including the prices of just about everything.

‘Economists were invented to make Weathermen look good.  – An old Wall Street saw.

    “The professionalization of economics, reflected in academia, has been described as the main change in economics since around 1900.  Economists debate the path they believe their profession should take. It is, primarily, a debate between a scholastic orientation, focused on mathematical techniques, and a public discourse orientation, which is more focused on communicating to lay people pertinent economic principles as they relate to public policy.  Surveys among economists indicate a preference for a shift toward the latter.” Source: Investopedia.

In economics, a Goldilocks Economy sustains moderate economic growth and low inflation, which allows a market-friendly monetary policy.  Not too hot. Not too cold.  But just right.

THE FED   Very recently the Chairmanship of our Federal Reserve Bank changed hands.  Replacing Janet Yellen is Jerome H. Powell, an attorney who briefly served as Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance under President George H. W. Bush in 1992.  More recently, he was a visiting scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center from 2010 to 2012.  He has served as a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors since 2012.  Source: Wikipedia.  

REBALANCING YOUR PORTFOLIO is the process of reviewing your personal financial goals, current circumstances, and adjusting your investments to reflect your needs and goals.  It’s always a question of your risk/reward suitability. Do you feel more comfortable taking higher risks or more comfortable taking less risk? Do you need more or less income now?  Will you need more or less income later, say at retirement? Draw a triangle. At each point of the triangle write one of these investment characteristics: SAFETY; INCOME; GROWTH. All three of these are mutually exclusive.  We can’t maximize any one of these features without minimizing the other two. This is one of the primary reasons financial advisors recommend some of each in client portfolios. For those who want more income, income is increased.  If you want more growth, the growth component of your portfolio is increased. In many cases younger clients want to stress growth and older clients like more income.

Would you like to review how well diversified your investments are right now?  Has anything important changed in your life? Would you like to begin preparing an estate plan for your family?    Do you have financial questions that need answering? I’ve been a Certified Financial Planner™ professional since 1982.  I’m here to help you.

FIDUCIARIES

Sue, and I are both fiduciaries.  As Investment Advisor Representatives (IAR) with National Asset Management, Inc., Sue and I are held to a higher professional and ethical standard than salespeople who are not fiduciaries.  Our primary obligation is to our clients. We must hold your interests higher than our own at all times. Not only is this the moral and ethical requirement for our profession, it’s the law.  Fiduciaries cannot guarantee investment results, but are required to act in the client’s best interests. CFPs, CPAs, attorneys and trust officers are fiduciaries.

SOCIALLY AND ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE INVESTING  is at the heart of good stewardship.  More investment firms are embracing the principles of responsible investing.  Behind this movement is the belief that being a good citizen is the corporate equivalent of doing well by doing good.  Responsible investors avoid companies that pollute, or are human rights violators and/or display unethical management. Responsible investors look for companies who embrace environmental sustainability and resource efficiency.  Companies who practice respect for human rights, diversity and the health and wellbeing of their employees and customers are candidates for these asset managers. Also, accountable governance and transparency which supports all aspects of responsible investing is the hallmark of good citizen companies.

YOU ARE INVITED

Brimmer Financial will be holding various meetings during 2018 to discuss the features and benefits of RESPONSIBLE SUSTAINABLE INVESTING.  The first meeting will be held at the Provincetown Inn on Thursday, May 10th.  We’ll have a meeting at Noon with a buffet lunch.  We’ll repeat this meeting at 3 PM with refreshments – same place, same date.  If you would like to attend, please call our office at 508-240-0320 so we can reserve your place.

DISCLOSURES – The views expressed contain certain forward-looking statements.  Although they are forecasts, actual results may be meaningfully different.  The material represents an assessment of the market and conditions at a particular time and is not a guarantee of future results.  This information should not be relied upon by the reader as research or investment advice regarding any security in particular. The opinions expressed here are the author’s and do not reflect any opinion of National Securities Corporation, member FINRA/SIPC, my Broker/Dealer, or any of its Affiliates.  

Securities offered through National Securities Corp., Member FINRA/SIPC – Financial Planning and Asset Management offered through National Asset Management, Inc. – Life and Health Insurance and Annuities offered through National Insurance Corp.