Tags: byron wien | predictions | 2020

Byron Wien Predicts S&P 500 Will Surpass 3,500 as Fed Cuts Rates

Byron Wien Predicts S&P 500 Will Surpass 3,500 as Fed Cuts Rates

Tuesday, 07 January 2020 09:07 AM

U.S. stocks will extend their record-setting rally in 2020 as subdued economic growth prompts the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates, according to Byron Wien’s annual list of surprises.

The S&P 500 will climb above 3,500 at some point this year, Wien, vice chairman of Blackstone Group Inc.’s private wealth solutions business, wrote in a statement along with Chief Investment Strategist Joe Zidle. Economic growth will trail forecasts and the Fed will lower its benchmark rate to 1%, they predict.

“The economy disappoints the consensus forecast, but a recession is avoided,” they wrote. “S&P 500 multiples remain elevated because monetary policy is easy and investors become more comfortable that intermediate interest rates will rise slowly.”

Wien, 86, a former Morgan Stanley strategist who’s put out his “surprises” list since 1986, is one of the most widely followed on Wall Street. A year ago, he predicted the S&P 500 would climb 15%, with the economy continuing to expand and the Federal Reserve refraining from raising interest rates. The benchmark index rallied 29% and the central bank cut rates three times.

Some of his forecasts for last year proved prescient, including a rally in Chinese shares and a flat U.S. dollar. His optimism for a U.S.-China trade deal to be reached in the first quarter, however, turned out to be misplaced. He also misjudged the chances for the U.K. to stay in the European Union and Theresa May to remain as prime minister.

Zidle and Wien's 10 Surprises for 2020 are as follows:

  1. The economy disappoints the consensus forecast, but a recession is avoided. Federal Reserve Chair Powell lowers the Fed funds rate to 1%. Without a comprehensive trade deal in hand, President Trump exercises every executive authority he has to stimulate growth and ward off recession. He cuts payroll taxes to put more money in the hands of consumers.
  2. Concepts of inequality and climate change become important election themes, but centrist ideas prevail. The House of Representatives sends articles of impeachment to the Senate, but Donald Trump is not convicted or removed from office. Enough information is revealed in the proceedings to cause some of his supporters, as well as many independents, to throw their support to liberal candidates in 2020 state races. The Democrats take the Senate in November.
  3. There is no comprehensive Phase Two trade deal that limits China’s ability to acquire intellectual property. National interests result in the balkanization of technology. The development of separate standards for 5G and other tech hardware proves to be bad news for the future of world economies. The move toward “decoupling” gains traction in negotiations with China. US economic co-dependence with China erodes. Both China and the US keep their hands off Hong Kong and let the protest settle down by itself.
  4. The prospect of a self-driving car is pushed further into the future. A series of accidents with experimental vehicles causes a major manufacturer or technology company to issue a statement that they’re no longer developing self-driving technology.
  5. Emboldened by the pain of economic sanctions, Iran capitalizes on a lack of American leadership abroad by stepping up acts of hostility against Israel and Saudi Arabia. The straits of Hormuz are closed and the price of oil (West Texas Intermediate) soars to over $70/barrel.
  6. Even though some observers believe valuations are stretched, a surge in investor enthusiasm pushes the Standard and Poor’s 500 above 3500 at some point during the year. Earnings only increase 5%, and S&P 500 multiples remain elevated because monetary policy is easy and investors become more comfortable that intermediate interest rates will rise slowly. Volatility increases and there are several market corrections greater than 5% throughout the year.
  7. Big tech companies face growing political scrutiny and social blowback. Once the market leaders, certain FAANG stocks underperform and the equal-weighted S&P 500 outperforms. There are popular plans proposed to break up the largest social media platforms and increase regulation and government oversight. This has greater success than prior government efforts against Apple, Microsoft and IBM, because it has widespread support from the American people. A millennial in New York City puts their phone down and makes eye contact with another human and finds it non-threatening and refreshing.
  8. Having secured a workable Brexit deal, the United Kingdom turns out to be the winner in its divorce from the European Union. The equity market rises and the pound rallies. The U.K. benefits from a long transition period and growth exceeds 2% as foreign direct investment resumes now that the outlook is clarified. The EU economy remains soft, and European markets other than the UK underperform the US and Asia.
  9. The bond bubble starts to leak, but negative rates continue abroad. Even though the U.S. economy is slowing, the 10-year Treasury yield approaches 2.5% and the yield curve steepens. Japan and China pull away from the Treasury auctions. Rather than economic fundamentals or inflation, supply and demand drive yields higher.
  10. The problems with Boeing’s 737 Max are fixed and deliveries begin. The plane becomes a fixture around the world, enabling airlines to operate more efficiently and increase profits. The stocks become market leaders.

“Also Rans”

Every year there are always a few surprises that do not make the 10, because we either do not think they are as relevant as those on the basic list or we are not comfortable with the idea that they are “probable.”

  • Fears of an economic crisis in India ameliorate. The emerging markets continue to have uneven performance but India recovers from decelerating growth. The Modi government continues business friendly growth reforms, the economy grows at 6% and the market rises 20%.
  • Artificial intelligence begins to be viewed as a paper tiger. The AI jobs apocalypse fails to materialize, much like the Y2K bug failed to undermine the US economy 20 years earlier. Manufacturing jobs have already been automated and it proves harder to eliminate service jobs by using computer-based applications.
  • Economic problems in Russia intensify even though the price of oil rises. As a result, social unrest begins to spread. Putin’s cozy relationship with his circle of oligarchs becomes an issue and his influence as a world leader diminishes. He becomes closer to China to maintain his stature on the world stage. In spite of serious differences, China and Russia appear prepared to face off against Europe and the United States.
  • Populism and inward-thinking continue to spread globally, particularly in emerging markets. Anarchy and disharmony spread throughout the world, creating turbulence in financial markets everywhere. Investors turn away from emerging market local currency debt, forcing spreads higher.
  • North Korea agrees to suspend its nuclear development program after another meeting with President Trump, but does not give up its existing stockpile. Kim Jong-un halts work on a long-range missile capable of reaching the United States. North Korea continues to be a threat, but not an imminent danger.

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U.S. stocks will extend their record-setting rally in 2020 as subdued economic growth prompts the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates, according to Byron Wien's annual list of surprises.
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Tuesday, 07 January 2020 09:07 AM
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