By Raymond Fazzi, Financial Advisor
How many 2019 forecasts have you seen that include no further rate increases, robust market growth, no recession
One prominent economic forecaster sure can, and that’s just some of what he says is in store for this year in his annual list of “surprises.”
Byron R. Wien, vice chairman in the Private Wealth Solutions group at Blackstone, issued his list of “Ten Surprises for 2019”, and it paints a rosier picture than some investors might expect, considering recent market volatility and economic signals.
This is the 34th year Byron has released his list, which contains his views on economic, financial and political events for the coming year. Byron defines a “surprise” as an event that the average investor would give a one-in-three chance of happening, but which he believes has a better than 50-50 chance of becoming a reality.
If he’s correct, Washington, D.C., may get a little quieter this year: He predicts that the Mueller investigation will draw to a close, and that Democrats and Republican will work together to enact an infrastructure spending bill.
If you go by Wien’s 2018 predictions, his forecast for this year may turn out to contain more hits than misses. In 2018, for example, he predicted that populism would continue to spread globally, which it did. He was also right about the 2018 economy doing better than in 2017 and the Fed increasing rates four times in 2018.
Wien was partly right on the S&P 500 — he predicted a 10 percent drop, when the drop ended up slightly lower — and he predicted the GOP would lose both the House and the Senate in the mid-terms. The party ended up losing only the House. He also predicted China would cut off food and fuel shipments to North Korea to force the nation to end its nuclear program, which did not come close to happening.
Wien’s surprises for 2019, are as follows:
1. Fed ends rate increases
The weakening world economy encourages the Federal Reserve to stop raising the federal funds rate during the year. Inflation remains subdued and the 10-year Treasury yield stays below 3.5 percent. The yield curve remains positive.
2. S&P gains 15% in 2019
Partly because of no further rate increases by the Federal Reserve and more attractive valuations as a result of the market decline at the end of 2018, the S&P 500 gains 15 percent for the year. Rallies and corrections occur but improved earnings enable equities to move higher in a reasonably benign interest-rate environment.
3. U.S. economic expansion continues
Traditional drivers of GDP growth, capital spending and housing, make only modest gains in 2019. The expansion continues, however, because of consumer and government spending. A recession before 2021 seems unlikely.
4. Gold falls
The better tone in the financial markets discourages precious metal investors. Gold drops to $1,000 as the equity markets in the United States and elsewhere improve.
5. Emerging markets surge
The profit outlook for emerging markets brightens and investor interest intensifies because the price-earnings ratio is attractive compared with developed markets and historical levels. Continuous expansion of the middle class in the emerging markets provides the consumer buying thrust for earnings growth. China leads and the Shanghai composite rises 25 percent. The Brazil equity market also comes to life under the country’s new conservative leadership.
6. No Brexit deal
March 29 comes and goes and there is no Brexit deal. Parliament fails to approve one, and Theresa May, arguing that a change in leadership won’t help the situation, remains in office. A second referendum is held and the U.K. votes to remain.
7. Dollar stabilizes
The dollar stabilizes at year-end 2018 levels and stays there throughout the year. Because of concern about the economy, the Federal Reserve stops shrinking its balance sheet, which is interpreted negatively by currency traders. The flow of foreign capital into U.S. assets slows because of a softer monetary policy and a lack of need for new capital for business expansion.
8. Trump administration chaos
The Mueller investigation results in indictments against members of the Trump Organization closest to the president but the evidence doesn’t support any direct action against Trump himself. Nevertheless, an exodus of Trump’s most trusted advisors results in a crisis in confidence that the administration has the people and the process to accomplish important goals.
9. Productive Congress
Congress, however, with a Democratic majority, gets more done than expected, particularly on trade policy. Progress is made in preserving important parts of the Affordable Care Act and immigration policy. A federal infrastructure program to be implemented in 2020 is announced.
10. Growth stocks lead
Growth stocks continue to provide leadership in the U.S. equity market. Technology and biotech do well as a result of continued strong earnings. Value stocks other than energy-related businesses disappoint because of the slowing economy.
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