Good Afternoon Valued Clients, Friends and Family,

I hope this email finds you all safe and well. My trip to Africa was amazing but it feels good to be back on U.S. soil. After two years of cancellations, due to the coronavirus pandemic, I finally got to take my dream trip. My family and I set out on a safari throughout South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. However, it did not come without obstacles, primarily due to COVID and some political controversy. People in the local villages there are dealing with so much worse than here in America, from air travel and public transportation to hospitality and vaccinations.

As we traveled through the local villages, we learned that less than 5% of Africa has received the COVID-19 vaccination and is spreading very fast. This is a stark contrast to the United States and the rollout efforts here versus there. In a two-week period, we each had five COVID tests, luckily, they were all negative. It is very difficult for locals to get tested, so the virus is easily transmitted. Like the U.S., over the past two years, South Africa is also experiencing political unrest. In Johannesburg, South Africa, they are dealing with the worst political violence the country has seen since the end of the racist apartheid regime decades ago. After 5 days of violent riots and looting, sparked by the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma, the death toll reached 72. Our hearts go out to the communities that have been affected.

Seeing the animals in their natural habitat was incredible and the highlight of our trip. My family and I were fortunate enough to see the “Big Five Game” animals, the lion, elephant, leopard, Cape buffalo and the rhinoceros. We saw many more animals during our trip, including giraffes, zebras, baboons, monkeys, etc. Of all the wonderful things we saw, the sunsets are what I will miss the most. I am so grateful that I was able to experience this trip of a lifetime with my husband and children. We will never forget it and we want to give back to these countries that have far less than we do. We were thankful to be out of Africa on a plane leaving Johannesburg this past Tuesday and I look forward to returning there again someday.

Markets are having difficulty staying at record highs. Inflation data released on Tuesday came above expectations but Fed Chairman Powell reassured markets that the central bank would not scale back its monthly asset purchases. However, he noted that they would be prepared to adjust monetary policy if inflation and inflation expectations remained materially high. While no rate increases are expected to occur during their next meeting, investors will surely be on the lookout for more data releases. Retail sales data and earnings for Intel, Snap-on, AT&T, and Johnson & Johnson will be released tomorrow and next week.

Your 2nd quarter reports have been posted to your client portal and mailed for you to review. Please call our office at (888) 253-0288 or email to schedule a review with your Wealth Manager.

Lastly, I would like to thank Shawn, Lindsay, and Matthew from my office for stepping in and sending the weekly updates on my behalf while I was away. My entire team at Apriem are the best and they truly care about our clients to ensure they are getting the information they need in a timely manner. I am blessed to have them, and they allowed me to enjoy this time with my family with no worries back at the office.

Have a wonderful weekend, and as always, please let me know if you need anything or have any questions.

Rhonda Ducote