The global equity markets are off to a red hot start and optimism is at an extreme following the tax reform bill to close out 2017. In Davos, billionaire hedge fund manager called it "stupid to own cash." Last week saw a record inflow of $33.2 billion into stock ETFs and mutual funds according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Is this a sign of euphoria and potential warning sign for the market?
On Thursday, I had the pleasure of returning to the New York Stock Exchange for the second time in a week. Last Tuesday was for opening bell and this time it was closing bell with the Aussies ringing the bell for Australia Day. Thanks to Goldman Sachs Asset Management (GSAM) for the invite and their insights on their market outlook for 2018. Their tag line for this year is "Pro-growth, Pro-equity, Pro-reality." They share our view that global growth will continue in 2018 and given the low interest rate environment that means investors should favor stocks over bonds.
This week, the global elite are gathered in Davos for the annual World Economic Forum. Headlines are already being made from fears of protectionism/tariffs to support of a weak US Dollar. Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio has been making the rounds on CNBC and Bloomberg and he's making it clear that he believes that the tax cut could lead to a big surge, which he is calling it "a market blowoff" rally, for the US stock market.
All the headlines for the past few days have been focusing on the potential government shutdown which takes place at midnight tonight. It doesn't appear that either side is willing to back down at this point and the best case to avoid a shutdown may be another short term deal. But I'm not here to talk about politics and the politicians inability to compromise and find middle ground. We have to consider what the shutdown means to our clients' investment portfolios.
Back in 2013, China's President Xi Jinping announced the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative to modernize infrastructure along the ancient Silk Road trading routes. This policy is poised to reshaped the 21st century economy. The project is a potential win win for China and its surrounding neighbors. For China, it seeks to create trade and investment opportunity in infrastructure and construction providing China with a new channel to broaden its export market. For its neighbors, they will benefit from modernized roads and power plants which will help their economies flourish and grow. This rising tide should lift all boats!
Warren Buffett believes that the corporate tax reform is very bullish for the US stock market, and more importantly, isn't fully priced in to stock prices.
"The tax act is a huge factor in valuation," he said on CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Wednesday. "You had this major change in the silent stock holder in American business who has been content with 35 percent... and now instead of getting 35 percent interest in the earnings they get a 21 percent and that makes the remaining stock more valuable."
Over the last few days, I've been listening to Wall Street firms talk about their expectations for the year ahead. Almost all of them have a positive view but it is the same standard presentation over and over. Most of them conclude that they prefer international stocks over US stocks because of valuation. While Europe is certainly trading at a lower multiple than the US, their growth is also expected to slow in 2018. Also note that European markets significantly underperformed US markets in the 2nd half of last year.
For Runnymede, we are certainly intrigued by the long-term opportunities in emerging markets because they have better fundamentals and lower valuations. In terms of the developed markets, we believe that investors aren't bullish enough on US markets. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, Wall Street strategists have a target of 2848 for the S&P which I believe will be too conservative especially if interest rates stay low. Here are a couple of reasons why investors aren't bullish enough.
This is one of my favorite posts to write every year as we get to look back on Wall Street predictions and see how they panned out. We have done this in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 so it is becoming a tradition to see which strategists did well and which missed the mark.
Last year, the strategists predicted a bull market for 2017 with an average target of +5% for the S&P 500. Needless to say, they badly missed the mark as the S&P 500 has returned over 20% and blew all predictions out of the water. The most bullish was John Stoltzfus but his target was for just 2450 and today the S&P is 2682. The worst miss was the surprisingly bearish Tom Lee who historically was the most bullish on the street almost year in and year out -- he picked a bad year to lose his bullish mojo. He expected the market to have a bad first half and basically end flat at 2275. Now let's take a look at their thoughts on 2018...
Starbucks is opening its biggest outlet ever on Wednesday in Shanghai and the company is expecting huge crowds to experience the 30,000 square foot store. The "Starbucks Reserve Roastery" is on Nanjing Road West, the city's most famous shopping street and has been heavily promoted for months on social media. Starbucks has big ambitions in China and this puts the exclamation point on its intentions.
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