Q1 2020 Quarterly Outlook

In a year during which many investors fled to safe-haven assets such as cash, the S&P 500 generated a return of 31.5% in 2019, placing the year in the 85th percentile of annual equity market returns since 1926. Given the weak economic data and the impeachment of a president, it is also surprising that the advance of the S&P 500 was entirely driven by expansion of the multiple – not growth in corporate profits. Offsetting the challenges, the Federal Reserve reigned supreme and three interest rate cuts were the catalyst for investors to look through the big worries of the year and gain confidence in risk assets. To quantify the confidence boost, the Fed’s balance sheet expanded by 30% in 2019 – the largest lift in monetary capital since 2014! Looking ahead, we are not expecting additional Fed assistance in 2020 and believe market returns will be more dependent on earnings growth which we do believe will materialize in 2020. Two keys to the year are the U.S. election (Trump’s reelection will be bullish for stocks) and the Fed remaining on the sidelines – especially given that the valuation framework supporting higher equity prices (the equity risk premium) from current levels is a relative one. Away from the U.S., we encourage investors to consider international and emerging market equities in 2020. While U.S. equities are off to a strong start in 2020, we believe U.S. markets will slow considerably once we get closer to the election, and we think it probable that the odds of President Trump being reelected will be challenged at some time in 2020. Valuations away from the U.S. remain compelling on traditional metrics and emerging markets, after a challenging multiyear period, could benefit from stable trade relations and lower U.S. interest rates. A weaker dollar, which began to materialize in the fourth quarter, supports holding foreign-denominated assets as well. Inside the attached Outlook we provide a summary of what occurred in 2019, as well as, our forward views by asset class and what to expect in the year ahead.

Please click here to read our Q1 2020 Outlook