We head into 2017 facing a great deal of uncertainty. The Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, finally released in April 2016 after six long years of theorizing what it could hold for advisors, is once again an unknown entity as policymakers and industry organizations continue their fight to delay or dismantle it. President-elect Donald Trump, who will take office Jan. 20, 2017, with a Republican majority in Congress, is untested as a politician, and his mercurial public persona makes it difficult to predict how he will finally act on issues that are important to advisors and their clients.
Washington Bureau Chief Melanie Waddell breaks down some of these political and regulatory uncertainties in the cover story beginning on page 20. To attempt to divine how these factors might influence the economy, we turned to our monthly Asset Allocation panelists.
Each month, we ask our panelists to provide their financial and economic outlooks for the next six months, as well as their recommended portfolio allocations. This month, we asked them to expand these outlooks to all of 2017, and to share their top concerns for investors and for the economy.
Politics: Fears of Populism
The new political environment can’t be untangled from the markets.
Continued trouble in the eurozone and the global rise of populism are the top two geopolitical concerns for Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial Network. When asked about his biggest economic concerns for the United States in 2017, he cited executive actions by President-elect Trump, followed by increasing inflation and political dysfunction in Congress (see Election Is ‘Start of the Show, Not the End’: Commonwealth’s McMillan).
Gary Shilling, founder and president of A. Gary Shilling & Co., cited the rise of populism as the top geopolitical concern for 2017, followed by increased incidences of terrorism. He agrees that executive actions from Trump are the top economic concern for the U.S. in 2017, and adds a potential equity bubble and political dysfunction in Congress as additional concerns.
Sam Stovall also cites the rise of populism as the top geopolitical concern, and worries Congressional dysfunction will be the biggest issue impacting the economy in 2017. He also worries about executive actions by Trump and a potential equity bubble. Stovall was chief equity strategist for S&P Capital IQ until it was acquired in October 2016 by CFRA Research, where he is chief investment strategist.
Mark Balasa, co-founder and CIO of Balasa Dinverno Foltz, who reports monthly on the consensus of fellow advisor members of The Alpha Group, believes the rise of populism is the greatest geopolitical factor investors and markets are facing. He cites an equity bubble as the most significant economic worry, followed by the potential for more interest rate increases from the Fed.
Economic Outlook: Dow at 20,000+
McMillan predicts the Dow Jones Industrial Average will reach 21,000 by the end of 2017, up slightly from 19,756 on Dec. 9. He predicts similar mild increases for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite indexes: 2,400 and 5,700, up from 2,259 and 5,444, respectively.
McMillan believes the financials, energy and industrials sectors will perform best in 2017, while health care and utilities will struggle.
Stovall was less bullish about the energy sector. He believes the coal and consumable fuels sectors will have the worst performance in 2017, along with construction materials, metals and mining, and security and alarm services. His picks for sectors that will outperform include biotechnology, food retail, footwear, health care distributors and real estate services.
He predicts the DJIA will close at 20,550 on Dec. 31, 2017, and the S&P 500 will close at 2,335.
Balasa is more optimistic. He estimates the DJIA will reach 22,100; the S&P 500 will reach 2,530 and the Nasdaq Composite will close at 6,175. He also has high hopes for the financials sector, which he predicts will show the greatest appreciation in 2017.
Shilling has a more negative outlook. He believes the major indexes will decline in 2017, predicting the DJIA will close the year at 16,000, the S&P 500 at 1,900 and the Nasdaq Composite at 4,300. He believes infrastructure and the military will benefit the most in 2017, while multinational companies will suffer.
Our panelists predict an average 2.47% growth rate in GDP. Balasa was the most bullish on GDP in 2017, predicting 2.9%, compared to Shilling’s 2%.