January 2, 2018
Before looking forward to the New Year, let’s look back at the last twelve months. As you know, 2017 was a terrific year for equities, with substantial price increases in almost every market. Including reinvested dividends, the S&P 500 closed up 21.8%, the DJIA up 28.1%, and the NASDAQ up 29.6%. The overseas markets were pretty good too, with the developed world up about 25% and emerging markets producing a return of around 37%!
2017 was also yet another year when almost every forecaster proved just how wrong they could be. The year started with the S&P 500 at 2239, and the following forecasts for 2017 year end:
Firm & Prediction (End 2017)
BOA/Merrill, Goldman, Credit Suisse, UBS: 2300
In fact the S&P 500 closed at 2674!
So 2017 is in the books, and a lot of us have benefited. However, investors should not live in the past. So here are the end of 2018 S&P 500 forecasts from our “experts”:
Firm & Prediction (End 2018 )
Credit Suisse: 3000
Deutsche, Goldman: 2850
BOA/Merrill, Citicorp: 2800
Clearly 2018 is predicted to be a much more modest year, with the most optimistic forecast being for a rise of 12.2% – but does anyone really trust these figures? For all the computing power, expertise and time that goes into these predictions, they are likely no more reliable than consulting a fortune teller equipped with a crystal ball. So what are some of events that might affect the markets this year?
The Fed: Our Fed will almost certainly raise interest rates further. The current prediction is for three rate increases in 2018 – which is the same as the Fed’s actions in 2017.
US Economy: Our nation’s GDP is improving and, for the first time in years, some forecasters are saying a 3% growth rate is possible. Jobs are plentiful and inflation is in check.
Volatility/Uncertainty: Last year saw market volatility at all time lows as measured by the VIX index. 2018 is very likely to be more volatile according to the experts.
US Housing: Low mortgage rates, willing lenders, low employment rates, a low housing inventory, and a plentiful job markets should make for a good housing market.
Washington Politics: 2017 could hardly have been a more unpredictable political year, enlivened by a tweeting president and sexual misconducts a plenty, but it just did not faze the market. What mattered was the passage of the tax bill, especially because of the impact on corporations, which will be positively affected by a reduction in tax rate from 35% to 21%. It remains to be seen whether the markets will remain unmoved by political shenanigans as we move into the 2018 election cycle.
There is no escaping the fact that the market is at an all-time high, and consequently putting money to work is challenging. While we should always be on the lookout for red flags, and black swans, there are still some positive forces in play as we start 2018.
Happy New Year!