Foundation holds community forum

Published 10:25 pm Wednesday, November 11, 2015

About 200 people at the Suffolk Foundation community forum and luncheon Wednesday heard from Suffolk’s Dennis Gartman, a global capital markets expert.

Gartman peppered plenty of humor into his speech, which gave an overview of his career, his thoughts on the banking system and trading, world economies, how technology is changing the world and who the Republican nominee for president will be.

Dennis Gartman spoke during the Suffolk Foundation community forum and luncheon Wednesday at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.

Dennis Gartman spoke during the Suffolk Foundation community forum and luncheon Wednesday at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.

The Suffolk Foundation’s fifth annual community forum and luncheon was held at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts. Guests enjoyed a meal and learned a little about the foundation’s assets and grantees before hearing from Gartman.

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Board President Jay Butler said the foundation is doing well and went over ways participants can give. About half of its assets are unrestricted, which are typically difficult for community foundations to get, Butler said.

Donors can also give in their field of interest, make recommendations as to how the income from the fund is spent, support a specific nonprofit or establish scholarships for students.

When the microphone passed to Gartman, he said it was more difficult to speak in his adopted hometown than in another city.

“Too many of you know me and realize, ‘He ain’t that smart,’” Gartman said.

Gartman has worked in the capital markets since 1974. He started his career analyzing cotton supply and demand for the U.S. textile industry. He moved on to NCNB National Bank, where he traded foreign exchange and money market instruments. He later became the chief financial futures analyst for A.G. Becker & Company in Chicago. In 1984, he moved to Virginia to run the futures brokerage operation for Sovran Bank until 1987, when he began producing The Gartman Letter full-time. The Gartman Letter, containing his outlooks on the markets, is delivered daily to many leading banks, broking firms, mutual funds, hedge funds and trading companies.

Locally, Gartman is a former member of the Economic Development Authority, then called the Industrial Development Authority.

Gartman said he often tells people who want to get into his line of work not to study accounting, economics or business.

“If I could do it again, I’d study more literature … more philosophy … art history,” Gartman said. The reason: they teach their students about the human condition.

But another topic seems to be even more useful for traders, he said, recalling his stressful days on the trading floor.

“The thing that used to be the most useful was religion, because there seemed to be 50 people saying, ‘Oh, dear God, let it come back up,’” he said.

Gartman said he believes America’s economy is fine, thanks in part to Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve.

“We’re doing fine, thank you very much,” he said. “Nothing scared me as much as what was happening in 2007, 2008 and 2009. If it hadn’t been for Bernanke in 2008 and 2009, this country might have slipped off the edge into a depression, and we have avoided that.”

Gartman said the economies in the world currently doing the best are the English-speaking ones.

“We’re doing fine, Canada’s doing fine, Australia’s doing fine, New Zealand’s doing fine,” he said. He compared these to other world economies, which are suffering because of cultural differences and lack of population growth.

“Europe is not going to get out of its own way for a long period of time,” he said. “Japan is doomed” because its population is expected to fall by half in the next 25 years. “Worse for Japan, it is the most racist society the world has ever seen. If Russia has a problem, it’s that it cannot keep its men away from the bottle of vodka.”

Gartman said Vladimir Putin is what keeps him up at night.

Gartman also expressed support for fracking and genetically modified organisms.

“Technology changes the world, and it’s changing it and finding energy and it’s changing it and finding food,” he said.

He predicted the Federal Reserve will tighten interest rates by January, which will benefit bankers and the housing market.

Gartman also gave a small bit of investing advice.

“In life and in trading, try to do more of that which is working, and try to do less of that which is not,” he said.

He gave his thoughts on the Republican candidates, saying he was originally a supporter of John Kasich.

Jeb Bush, he said, “clearly didn’t have the fire in the belly.” He called Donald Trump “a lunatic … who knows absolutely nothing about economics.”

“He’s a dangerous man,” Gartman said. “I don’t want him anywhere near the black box.”

Gartman predicted Marco Rubio will win the nomination. And in response to a question from the audience about Ben Carson, he said, “If it wasn’t for Rubio, I’d probably be a Carson supporter.”