The Ten Surprises of 2019 worked out plenty well. While we don't go through this process with the objective of getting a high score, knowing that you have been able to anticipate some of the generally unexpected events that are going to influence the financial markets during the coming year is gratifying.
Every summer for the past several decades I have organized a series of Friday lunches in eastern Long Island for serious investors. More than 100 people attend the four sessions, with 25–30 at each one. The participants include hedge fund, private equity and real estate billionaires, venture capitalists, an academic and some corporate leaders.
We all complain that so much is happening so fast these days it’s hard to keep up. The plethora of events that could have a negative impact on the financial markets is being ignored in the United States, however, and investors seem to be assuming that everything going on will somehow be resolved favorably.
The process of creating The Ten Surprises begins in the summer when I organize four lunches in the Hamptons for serious investors. About 100 people attend including hedge fund managers, private equity titans and even some academics. One of the benefits of this is that it gives me some clarity on where the consensus is, and that is essential before the Surprises can be determined.
In September, this year looked like it was going to be one of the great years for the Ten Surprises. Oil was at $75 (West Texas Intermediate) and the S&P 500 was at 2,940. The Surprises had oil at $80 and the S&P at 3,000. The Ten Surprises are judged on whether they work out at some point during the year, not where they are at year-end.
By the end of the summer I became convinced that the United States equity market was setting itself up for a powerful post mid-term election rally. The economic fundamentals were strong: unemployment was at a 40-year low and real growth was better than 3%; the Federal Reserve was raising rates...
When the February market correction ended, I had the lingering feeling that not enough damage had been done to investor complacency to provide for a sustained move higher. In spite of that, the major indexes continued to plow ahead.
Economic progress continues in the United States, making the current expansion likely to be the longest since World War II. While investors might be expecting signs that the economy’s momentum is losing its mojo because of its duration, the data coming in is some of the strongest we have seen in this cycle.
Every summer for the past several decades, I have been organizing lunches for serious investors who spend at least part of their vacation time in eastern Long Island. Those attending include hedge fund wizards, real estate titans, corporate chiefs, thoughtful academics and a few others.
There are a number of changes taking place in the investment environment and they are likely to have an influence on the returns on financial assets for some time to come. When the world’s leading economy, with more than a fifth of global GDP, does not participate in major alliances dealing with matters of security and the environment, this has longer-term investment implications.
For our third quarter webinar, we’re pleased to offer a discussion on ‘The Market Implications of Global Disarray’ with Vice Chairman Byron Wien and recently hired Investment Strategist Joe Zidle.
This business expansion has gone on for nine years and most investors think we have to be near the end. In baseball parlance you hear talk that we are in the seventh or eighth inning; nobody seems to believe we are in the second or third. Jamie Dimon of J.P. Morgan has said at a conference we’re in the sixth, which got a lot of attention.
Blackstone is pleased to offer the following Market Commentary by Byron Wien which shares his thinking on global economic developments, market insights and other factors that may influence investment opportunities and strategies.
We are growing accustomed to wide daily swings in the Standard & Poor’s 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Triple-digit moves in the latter and double-digit changes in the former are no longer reasons for elation or alarm. The volatility can result from an unexpected economic report or a tweet from the White House.
Many investors think that this bull market and economic expansion have gone on long enough and a bear market and a recession will take place soon. In my view, we have at least a year or two before the next major downturn in either the market or the economy, barring a major geopolitical conflict such as a shooting war with North Korea, Russia or Iran.
There could always be an exogenous event like military conflict with North Korea, strife in the Middle East that cuts off oil flow or Russian aggression in the Baltics that unsettles markets. The market is assuming none of that will happen, and if the market is right, we have at least one to two years to go before we get into serious trouble. My overall conclusion is that there are significant investment opportunities outside the United States and many portfolio managers are under-weighted globally.
In my conversations with institutional investors I find a surprising lack of optimism about the outlook for equities. The capitalization-weighted Standard & Poor’s 500 was up over 11% year-to-date, excluding dividends, on September 18. Some would argue that only a few stocks are accounting for the rise, but the equal-weighted S&P 500 was up over 8% year-to-date as well.
Every year in August I organize four lunches for serious investors on successive Fridays in eastern Long Island. There are different groups of 25—30 people at each one and many of the great names of the hedge fund, real estate and private equity world attend, along with some academics and government folk.
I continue to believe that the two most important issues receiving inadequate investor attention are productivity and the role of central bank liquidity in the performance of financial markets. Productivity is critical to both earnings improvement and a rising standard of living.
The mood among investors in Europe is generally positive in spite of mixed cyclical and secular factors influencing the economies and the markets there. The cyclical forces are dominated by a better business tone across the continent.
At the beginning of the year, most market strategists were in agreement that interest rates were going to rise in 2017. The reasons varied: some saw inflation climbing, pushing yields higher; others worried about bigger budget deficits; a few blamed the Federal Reserve, which was thought to be planning to raise short-term interest rates two or three times and shrink its balance sheet. Whatever the reason, interest rates were expected to head higher, so seeing the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield here at 2.3% is a surprise.
Donald Trump swept into office on a populist wave. His promise of greater growth for the United States economy resonated with a large part of those disappointed with stagnant wages and a lack of opportunity. He said he would bring manufacturing jobs back and provide better healthcare coverage at a lower cost.
There has rarely been a new presidential administration in the history of the United States that has tried to get so much done in its first ten days as the current one.
The Ten Surprises of 2017 have a generally constructive tone. President Trump campaigned promising significant change to the American people. He raised expectations, and that’s why he won.
Each year I make a practice of reviewing The Ten Surprises of the year that has passed. Last year’s list was on its way to being one of my best and then Donald Trump won the presidential election and everything changed.
Like many others, I was surprised by the results of the election. I guess I was persuaded by the polls that indicated that Hillary Clinton would win, even though the spread had shrunk to something within the margin for error.
When the presidential election is over, investors can focus on what is going on in the world economy and what future investment opportunities are lurking out there.
With all that is happening in the world – the U.S. election, the Brexit vote, various terrorist incidents, speculation about will she or won’t she raise rates at the Fed and other concerns – oil seems to have been pushed down the priority scale of market-influencing issues.