The Independent Market Observer

Brad McMillan, CFA®, CFP®

Brad McMillan, CFA®, CFP®, is the chief investment officer and a managing principal at Commonwealth. As CIO, Brad chairs the investment committee and is the primary spokesperson for Commonwealth’s investment divisions. Brad received his BA from Dartmouth College, an MS from MIT, and an MS from Boston College. He has worked as a real estate developer, consultant, and lender; as an investment analyst, manager, and consultant; and as a start-up executive. His professional qualifications include designated membership in the Appraisal Institute, the CFA Institute, and the CAIA Association. He also is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner. Brad speaks around the country on investment issues and writes for industry publications, as well as for this blog.
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Recent Posts

Market Thoughts for May 2024 [Video]

May 2, 2024

Rising interest rates pressured stock and bond prices in April. U.S. markets were down in the low-single digits, marking the first monthly decline for U.S. stocks this year. The combination of faster hiring and still-hot inflation complicated the Fed’s efforts to cut interest rates.

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Market Thoughts for April 2024 [Video]

April 2, 2024

U.S. and developed markets set new price records on economic and earnings growth, but fixed income lagged as interest rates rose during the quarter. Income, spending, and business investment stayed positive, but headline and core inflation remained above the Fed’s target levels.

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What’s Worrying Investors?

March 14, 2024

Every year or two, a new round of worries crops up. Some of them are real—the war in Ukraine, inflation, politics—but a surprising number are not. The challenge, of course, is telling which is which. 

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Looking Back at the Markets in February and Ahead to March 2024

March 5, 2024

February was a good month for stocks, with most markets up in the low- to mid-single digits on positive economic and earnings news. The riskiest indices, the Nasdaq and emerging markets, performed especially well as investors stayed risk-on. Fixed income, on the other hand, generally declined as interest rates rose significantly during the month on fading hopes for Fed rate cuts. These results reflected the broader economy in different ways. But, where growth continues, so does inflation.

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Market Thoughts for March 2024 [Video]

March 4, 2024

Stocks performed well in February, with most markets up in the low- to mid-single digits. The Nasdaq and emerging markets did especially well, but fixed income declined as interest rates rose. Job, income, and spending growth remained positive, but these results kept inflation up.

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Looking Back at the Markets in January and Ahead to February 2024

February 6, 2024

In general, markets edged up last month. U.S. markets continued their rally at a slower pace as interest rates bounced around, which also constrained fixed income returns. International markets were more mixed, with developed international markets roughly even and emerging markets down, primarily due to weak performance in China.

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Market Thoughts for February 2024 [Video]

February 2, 2024

The U.S. stock market reported lower-single-digit gains in January, while international and emerging markets lagged behind. The economy performed well, as strong retail sales, a healthy jobs market, and consumer confidence drove the fourth-quarter growth.

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Looking Back at the Markets in December and Ahead to January 2024

January 5, 2024

Markets rose last month, continuing November’s rally as interest rates pulled back even more on expectations of Fed rate cuts in 2024. Markets in the U.S. were up by mid-single digits, finishing a solid quarter and a very strong year. International markets were also up substantially for the month, quarter, and year. And while stocks were hot, even fixed income posted enough gains to close out the year in the black. 2023 ended with a bang.

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Market Thoughts for January 2024 [Video]

January 3, 2024

Markets around the world were up from 3 percent to 6 percent last month and up by double digits across the board for the year. The lack of a recession drove these positive results, with job growth and consumer confidence remaining healthy.

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Merry Christmas to All

December 22, 2023

I’ve always loved Christmas, but I think I’ve lost much of the spirit as I’ve gotten older. Now that I have a young son—who enjoys baking cookies with his mom and eyeing presents under the tree, while struggling to behave under the eye of the “Elf on the Shelf"—I find myself recovering much of what I’ve lost. This is wonderful, but, as a father, I also find myself reaching deeper into the meaning of the holiday.

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The information on this website is intended for informational/educational purposes only and should not be construed as investment advice, a solicitation, or a recommendation to buy or sell any security or investment product. Please contact your financial professional for more information specific to your situation.

Certain sections of this commentary contain forward-looking statements that are based on our reasonable expectations, estimates, projections, and assumptions. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve certain risks and uncertainties, which are difficult to predict. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Diversification does not assure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets.

The S&P 500 Index is a broad-based measurement of changes in stock market conditions based on the average performance of 500 widely held common stocks. All indices are unmanaged and investors cannot invest directly in an index.

The MSCI EAFE (Europe, Australia, Far East) Index is a free float‐adjusted market capitalization index that is designed to measure the equity market performance of developed markets, excluding the U.S. and Canada. The MSCI EAFE Index consists of 21 developed market country indices.

One basis point (bp) is equal to 1/100th of 1 percent, or 0.01 percent.

The VIX (CBOE Volatility Index) measures the market’s expectation of 30-day volatility across a wide range of S&P 500 options.

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