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Why Neil Hennessy Thinks Stock, Economic Growth Will Continue Into 2016

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The chairman, CIO and, still, portfolio manager of Hennessy Funds remains bullish about the stock market and the economy not just in the United States, but in Japan as well.

“Last year,” Neil Hennessy said in New York on Dec. 3, “I spoke about the lack of leadership in the executive branch of government and said the industry needs clarity from the government on health care, taxes and regulation.” That lack of clarity still exists today, Hennessy said (before the Federal Open Market Committee announced its much-anticipated rate hike decision on Dec.16), which means “we’ll be stuck with 2% growth.”

He characterized the U.S. stock market as experiencing a full year of a sideways correction, noting that since Dec. 31, 2014, “we’ve moved 27,763 points through all this volatility,” but the Dow Jones industrial average is “ending up where it started,” down just 89 points through the end of November. In the 224 trading days up to Dec. 3 when he spoke, there were 115 negative days for the Dow.

Howe-to-earnings and price-to-sales ratios are “reasonable,” and that each American consumer is saving “$700 per year” due to the sharp decline in oil and gasoline prices.

Hennessy Funds gets 85% of its sales from advisors, Hennessy said.

Hennessy Funds slide.

He argued that we shouldn’t “count out corporate America yet,” noting that corporate profits are high, and while there’s “lots of cash still on the sidelines,” that cash is getting “ready to move.”

Where will it move? It’s harder for companies to find M&A targets, he said, and those that are in play are “so much more expensive,” leading him to predict that corporate mergers and acquisitions will “slow down” in 2016. However, he expects corporate capital expenditures to pick up next year as growth remains “low but consistent.” That in turn will lead to increased hiring by American companies.

He downplayed two boogeymen of the markets: rising interest rates and the strong dollar. The Fed’s “small rate increases won’t cripple” American companies’ “ingenuity,” he said, and while the strong dollar will hurt U.S. multinationals, he pointed out that “95% to 97% of U.S. corporations are domestic-only enterprises.” Consumer confidence remains high, he said, with consumer spending forecasted to top inflation and overall U.S. economic growth, at 2.9% in 2016.

Looking overseas, Hennessy argued that “Abenomics is working” in Japan with one indicator of economic growth supplied by the big jump in tourism to Japan.

Hennessy Funds slide on Japan economy.

The government had a goal of attracting 20 million foreign tourists a year by 2020, when Japan hosts the Olympics, and it’s well on its way to achieving that goal, saying that this year 16.6 million foreign tourists visited Japan just through October. And once the Olympics are held, and foreign visitors see the “beauty of Japan” and the “friendliness of the Japanese people,” along with a lack of crime, tourism will continue its growth.

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