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Straightforward Investing Since 1969

The investment advisory firm of O’Brien Greene & Co. provides independent investment management to a diverse clientele. Individuals, families, and corporate retirement plans make up the majority of clients, although longtime clients also include trusts, insurance companies, and charitable endowments. We seek the preservation and growth of capital through good and bad markets, and our investment strategy emphasizes several themes: simple, transparent, separate accounts; direct ownership of high-quality stocks and investment-grade bonds; diversification across the market; customized portfolios with a high degree of personal attention. The firm has more than $270 million under management and its offices are located in suburban Philadelphia in the borough of Media, Pennsylvania.

Review & Outlook

Our take on the investing, financial, & economic themes of the day

Thoughts on Our ‘Tranquil’ Markets

19 May, 2017 by Mark O'Brien in Commentary
“Investor fear gauge lowest since 1993,” said a recent Wall Street Journal headline (5.8.17). While I am a tad skeptical about trying to quantify sentiment (what is an “investor fear gauge” anyway?), I am prepared to accept the central thesis that investors feel pretty good right now.  There was a momentarily blip when the market sold off on Thursday of this week, apparently in response to worries about President Trump.  But on Friday the sell-off reversed itself, and in any case,  corporate earnings for the first quarter 2017 are coming in at around 14% above the year-earlier period, which is respectable and certainly more than expected. Employment continues to tick up; the government sets the statistic at 95.6%, which is close to “full employment.” To be sure, the government measures employment in funny ways (some would say phony ways), but there’s no denying the jobs picture is improving. As for stocks, they are not cheap, but neither ... read more...

2016 Year-End Market Review

9 January, 2017 by Matthew O'Brien, Ph.D. in Commentary
Below is a review of market sectors in the fourth quarter of 2016 jointly written by our investment team. Energy Energy stocks were the best performers for the year, posting gains of 25%.  In the fourth quarter, the energy sector was up 8%.  Over 100 oil and gas produces have declared bankruptcy since the beginning of the downturn in the energy sector, but prices appeared to have bottomed out in 2016 and are expected to be stable or higher in 2017.  Oil prices closed the year at $54/barrel; up from around $29/barrel at the beginning of the year, the biggest annual gain since 2009.  In September, OPEC announced plans to put a ceiling on production to reverse the decline in oil prices.  The coming year could be a good one for energy stocks, the companies who survived the downturn put dramatic cost reductions into place, so they are well-positioned for the recovery.  EOG Resources (EOG) is one of our best performing stocks for the year, up 42.47%.  It was up about 5% in the quarter. ... read more...

Predicting the Staying-Power of the Trump Rally

13 December, 2016 by Matthew O'Brien, Ph.D. in Commentary
Broken clocks have the virtue of being right twice a day.  What about broken stock market strategists?  They’re usually worse than broken clocks, because most of them change their predictions after they fail to materialize.  Thus I read today this snippet in the Wall Street Journal: “We believe that the Trump rally will continue as long as the economy continues to reflate, and the market views higher inflation expectations and rates positively,” Jonathan Golub, the chief U.S. market strategist at RBC Capital Markets, wrote on Tuesday. The rally since election day looks like a “classic pro-cyclical, early-stage, reflationary market,” he said, with money flowing into financials, “deep” cyclicals, and small caps. Stocks that are more domestically focused are also benefiting, a bet on the expected new policies from the new administration. This is all something Golub expects will continue in 2017. Indeed.  Here was Mr. Golub in the Journal just ... read more...

Post-Election Reflections

10 November, 2016 by Mark O'Brien in Commentary
What If Trump wins which, we are told, is more likely than the polls would suggest?  The result could be a bit like the aftermath of the Brexit vote:  a sharp selloff, and then a rebound as investors rediscover that the president is part of a much larger system of overlapping and competing majorities, and that he alone is not all that powerful.  Speaking of federalism, the stock market prefers the president and Congress to be from different parties, which is, the polls say, what we will get. The above is what I wrote clients in my most recent appraisal letter.  With these conclusions in mind, I dragged myself out of bed yesterday morning and got to the office thinking I would snap up some bargains at the open, which I expected to be down 1,000 points, maybe more. With computer at the ready, I sat and waited, and waited some more.  You know the rest: The stock market did not collapse.  Instead it went up at the open and continued to go up all day long. The stocks that went up the ... read more...

Why We Sold Wells Fargo

19 October, 2016 by Matthew O'Brien, Ph.D. in Commentary
Below is an excerpt from our sell report for Wells Fargo.  Many commentators have missed the real significance of the bank scandal, we think, which is about managerial negligence and a weak commitment to its fiduciary obligations to the shareholder owners of the bank.  Wells Fargo’s management imposed unreasonable sales targets on employees and then failed to grasp the consequence, which was the widespread opening of fake accounts, even as management pocketed “performance” compensation for (falsely) reaching cross-selling goals.      On September 8 enforcement actions against Wells Fargo was were made public by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Los Angeles City Attorney, which collectively fined the bank $185m.  The government agencies alleged that Wells Fargo engaged in “widespread illegal activity” and said that employees had opened as many as two million checking, savings and credit card accounts ... read more...