‘Sure Things’ to Watch for in 2017

Every year, I like to keep track of the predictions “gurus” and other market observers make for the upcoming year, specifically the ones they say are “sure things.” It seems like no one in the financial media holds them accountable (which is a shame, since the evidence shows there are no good forecasters), so I will. Today, we will look at some common predictions I’ve been hearing from gurus and investors for 2017.

First Sure Thing

The Federal Reserve will continue to raise interest rates in 2017. That leads many to recommend that investors limit their bond holdings to the shortest maturities. Economist Jeremy Siegel even warned that bonds are “dangerous.”

Second Sure Thing

With the large amount of fiscal and monetary stimulus we have experienced, and with the anticipation of a large infrastructure spending program, the inflation rate will rise significantly.

Third Sure Thing

With the aforementioned stimulus, anticipated tax cuts and a reduction in regulatory burdens, the growth rate of real GNP will accelerate, hitting 2.2% this year.

Fourth Sure Thing

This one follows from the first two. With the Fed tightening monetary policy and our economy improving—and with the economies of European and other developed nations still struggling to generate growth, and with their central banks still pursuing very easy monetary policies—the dollar will strengthen. The dollar index ended 2016 at 102.38.

Fifth Sure Thing

With concern mounting over the potential for trade wars, emerging markets should be avoided.

Sixth Sure Thing

With the Shiller cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings (CAPE) ratio at 27.7 as we entered the year (66% above its long-term average), domestic stocks are overvalued. Compounding the issue with valuations is that rising interest rates make bonds more competitive with stocks. Thus, U.S. stocks are likely to have mediocre returns in 2017. A group of 15 Wall Street strategists expect the S&P 500, on average, to close the year at 2,356. That’s good for a total return of about 7%.

Seventh Sure Thing

Given their relative valuations, U.S. small-cap stocks will underperform U.S. large-cap stocks this year. Morningstar data showed that, at the end of 2016, the prospective price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of the Vanguard Small Cap Index Fund (VB) stood at 21.4, while the P/E ratio of its Vanguard 500 Index Fund (VOO) stood at 19.4.

Eighth Sure Thing

With the non-U.S. developed and emerging market economies generally growing at a slower pace than the U.S. economy (and with many emerging markets hurt by weak commodity prices, slower growth in China’s economy, the Fed tightening monetary policy and a rising dollar), international developed-market stocks will underperform U.S. stocks this year.

That’s my list. Keep in mind that, if these truly are sure things, most (if not all) should happen. We’ll report back to you with a score at the end of each quarter.

This commentary originally appeared February 1 on ETF.com

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Larry Swedroe

Larry Swedroe is the Director of Research for Buckingham Strategic Wealth. He has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books and is regularly published on ETF.com and Advisor Perspectives. He has made appearances on national television shows airing on NBC, CNBC, CNN and Bloomberg Personal Finance. Larry holds an MBA in finance and investment from New York University, and a bachelor's degree in finance from Baruch College in New York.

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