The Independent Market Observer

Brad McMillan, CFA, CAIA, MAI

Brad McMillan, CFA®, CAIA, MAI, is chief investment officer at Commonwealth Financial Network®, member FINRA/SIPC, the nation's largest privately held Registered Investment Adviser–independent broker/dealer. 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 (MAI), the CFA Institute, and the CAIA Association. 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

Medical and Economic News Continues to Demonstrate Improvements

April 9, 2021

Two weeks ago, after several weeks of significant improvement, the medical news started to worsen as case growth and positive test rates ticked back up. Whether this situation might signal the start of another wave of infection growth was an open question. The good news is that the answer looks to be no. Case growth, while slightly above recent lows, has stayed steady despite the continued reopening of the economy and the increasing spread of more contagious variants of COVID-19. While the battle against the pandemic continues, vaccinations are also continuing. They should end up choking the virus off before it gets to a significant fourth wave. The medical risks are still real, but they are lower than they were two weeks ago, and they’re dropping every week.

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Looking Back at the Markets in Q1 and Ahead to Q2 2021

April 7, 2021

The first quarter looks to be the turning point, both for the pandemic here in the U.S. and for the economic damage it has caused. While risks still remain, especially in the short term, the significant progress we made in the first two months of the year started coming to fruition in March, signaling that we are through the worst of it.

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Market Thoughts for April 2021 [Video]

April 5, 2021

In March, we saw a strong end to a healthy first quarter for stock markets. Both the Dow and S&P 500 here in the U.S. showed gains, while developed markets abroad showed lower but still positive returns. We also had good news on the economic front. Hiring rebounded, layoffs dropped, and consumer confidence rose to post-pandemic highs.

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Coronavirus Update: April 1, 2021 [Video]

April 1, 2021

Today, I'd like to provide an update on the coronavirus, including the economic and market implications. After several weeks of improvement on the medical front, we’re starting to see modest deterioration as the country reopens. Case counts and positive test rates are back to early March levels, while hospitalizations and death rates have stabilized. While the short-term risks are real, we do have a better outlook for the next two to three months. At that point, between vaccinations and existing exposure, we should be at or close to herd immunity.

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It’s All About Jobs

March 31, 2021

We have had a lot of good economic news recently, including the significant bounce in consumer confidence reported by the Conference Board. Consumer confidence rose by more than 20 percent last month, to the highest level since September, before the third wave. According to that increase, people are feeling much better about the economy and their place in it.

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What Does the Archegos Blowup Mean for the Markets?

March 30, 2021

I wanted to use the title “Leverage, Margin Calls, and Stock Prices, Oh My” here. But I decided to go with the more specific title so readers would actually know what I was taking about. Those are the real themes, though, as the hedge fund/private family office Archegos is simply the latest iteration of an old and sad story.

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Economic Improvement Continues Despite Rising Medical Risks

March 26, 2021

For the first time in several weeks, the big picture on the medical front has gotten worse. Case growth and positive test rates have ticked back up as the economy has reopened. While the change is relatively small so far, it is a reversal of previous improvements and signals that both reopening and the spread of more contagious variants are outpacing the positive effects of vaccinations. Faster spread has therefore moved from a potential risk to an actual one.

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