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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.

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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.