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

What Mattered This Week? Economy Slows, Markets Cheer

November 3, 2023

This was the week that the economy showed real signs of slowing down—and markets cheered! All right, it wasn’t quite that simple. But that captures pretty much what happened, so let’s look at the details.

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Market Thoughts for November 2023 [Video]

November 2, 2023

U.S. indices were down for the third consecutive month, with the Nasdaq doing the worst. International markets also pulled back, and fixed income was down. Despite the market performance, job growth remained healthy, consumer income and spending grew, and retail sales increased.

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What Mattered This Week? Markets Kept Dropping

October 27, 2023

This week was about the markets, which kept dropping even as the economic news continued to be good. Growth last quarter was well above expectations, at almost 5 percent, and personal spending increased for the sixth month in a row. Despite that good news, markets pulled back again, with the S&P 500 looking like it will slide into a correction, down more than 10 percent from the most recent peak in August.

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What Mattered This Week? Interest Rates Jump

October 20, 2023

When I look at what mattered each week, there are often multiple candidates. What usually gets the nod for more discussion is what changed that week. That is certainly the case this week. Lots of things mattered, including the war in Israel, and I don’t want to minimize that ongoing tragedy. But what changed this week—and what mattered most in economic terms—was the sudden jump in interest rates.

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What Mattered This Week: Hamas Invasion of Israel

October 13, 2023

This week, there is one thing that mattered: the Hamas invasion of Israel. As an act of war and an act of evil, it is obviously worth taking note of. This is a tragedy beyond words, and my heart goes out to the victims. But it is also a sign that things have changed in the Middle East.

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Looking Back at the Markets in Q3 and Ahead to Q4 2023

October 10, 2023

Stock markets dropped for the second month in a row in September, closing out a weak quarter for financial markets. The U.S. indices were down in the mid-single digits, which brought markets to low-single-digit losses for the quarter and took the Dow below its 200-day moving average. International markets also pulled back for the month and quarter by roughly the same amounts. Even fixed income was down, with a substantial increase in interest rates. Financial markets were clearly in a risk-off mode.

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What Mattered This Week? Interest Rates and the Jobs Report

October 6, 2023

There were two stories that mattered this week: interest rates and the jobs report for September. For the week as a whole, rate increases seem to have taken away from markets, as they tanked on an increase in the U.S. 10-year yield from about 4.6 percent to 4.8 percent. Clearly, higher rates meant a recession—and that’s bad for the market, right? But then this morning’s jobs report came in much stronger than expected, with 336,000 new jobs, about twice as many as anticipated. With prior months also being revised up substantially, clearly the economy is doing much better than we thought—even with the higher interest rates—and a recession is still some ways off.

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Market Thoughts for October 2023 [Video]

October 3, 2023

U.S. indices were down for the second consecutive month, with the Nasdaq doing the worst. International markets pulled back, and fixed income was also down. That said, job growth remained healthy, consumer confidence and spending grew, and business investment came in strong. 

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What Mattered This Week? The Real Economy

September 29, 2023

Last week was all about financial factors, primarily interest rates. But this week was all about the real economy, notably the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike and the pending government shutdown. Indeed, worries about a recession rose on those two risks. And while interest rates ticked up a bit, it was much less than last week and generally within a range. The same applies to financial markets as well.

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Considering the Consequences of a Government Shutdown

September 28, 2023

We are getting close to the decision point on whether large parts of the government will shut down again because Congress has not passed a budget. While the Senate has come up with a plan, the House has not even been able to start considering one, which means the government will lack funding and will largely shut down, as of October 1. Given the dysfunction in Washington DC, at this point that shutdown looks likely, which means we must think through the consequences.

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