Investors are hoping that 2016 will show a marked difference from 2015 for the better. The S&P 500 ended the year basically flat – down less than a tenth of a percent. Oil was a major factor for most of the year, while a stagnant global economy did little to bolster investor confidence. The Fed delayed raising interest rates until December and while the news was taken as a positive sign when the announcement was made, overall disappointing economic data quickly stifled any building momentum going into 2016.
As the new year kicks off, fund managers are making predictions for what 2016 will bring, and the overall sentiment is somewhat mixed. Some sectors are expected to outperform this year while others should suffer. It’ll be another year that favors selective stock picking and careful movements in order to stay ahead of any volatility and steer clear of economic doldrums.
Economic Expectations Vary Depending on Region and Sector
According to a BofA survey, 58% of investors expect the federal Reserve to raise rates at least three times over the next 12 months. Interestingly, the end of the Fed cycle will likely bring about the next bull market, meaning that 2016 could be a repeat performance of last year with relatively little movement up or down. Corporate earnings growth expectations have fallen to the 0% to 10% range as opposed to the 10% to 15% range previously predicted.
Mid-cap stocks are the preference of most fund managers this year with energy, transportation, construction and financials leading the way. Further, 65% of investors said high-quality earnings stocks would outperform low-quality earnings ones, and fund managers seem to agree with a greater weight in stronger blue chip companies.
Overall risk-taking by investors in the market is falling with cash holdings growing to an average of 5.2% in portfolio weight. 29% of asset allocators are underweight on commodities – up from 23% back in November, suggesting a further separation from commodities and commodity-based trades.
Nearly half of all fund managers surveyed (43%), expect China’s economy to weaken even more in the next 12 months, while weighted GDP growth expectations fell from 5.9% in November to 5.5%. Additionally, the U.S. is underweighted by the majority of fund managers, while European and Japanese markets are slowly being overweighted. For emerging markets, India is being looked at as the biggest upside surprise for the year.
The U.S. dollar is expected to remain stubbornly strong for the majority of 2016 as well unless the Fed becomes overly dovish or corporate earnings come in much weaker than expected. As the safe haven asset of choice around the globe, a weak economic outlook means the the U.S. will have to disappoint on a much larger scale to negatively affect the dollar.
The Bottom Line
One particularly bright spot most fund managers saw were the developments in Europe. Despite the ECB’s disappointing decision not to strengthen quantitative easing, many are taking it as a positive sign that the economy overseas is picking up momentum faster than expected. While U.S. markets face a tough start to the year with little positive momentum off of which to build, other developments in Europe as well as Japan could come back to help lift expectations for domestic stocks later in 2016.