Just like the Christmas season, forecast season rolls around this time of year with investment advisors predicting what the new year holds and where we should all be putting our investment dollars. Ahead of us looms the fiscal cliff, a combination of tax increases and large government spending cuts that could chop as much as 4% out of the gross domestic product. Should the fiscal cliff go into effect it could put the current tepid economic recovery into jeopardy.
In a press briefing at ING’s offices Tuesday, Paul Zemsky, ING Investment Management’s chief investment officer of multi-asset strategies, said he expects the fiscal cliff to be resolved by the end of this year, with a negative impact of just 1% to 1.5% to GDP. He expects to see an end to the payroll tax holiday and the Bush tax cuts for the highest-income brackets. He also expects capital gains taxes to rise to 20% and dividend taxes to revert back to taxpayers’ regular rate from 15% now. Should the Congress wait until after the new year, Zemsky expects to see a major sell off in the equity markets. “It could be as much as a 10% drop, but we would expect this to be a V-shape bounce because the government would have to fix the problem. We would consider this a buying opportunity should it happen.”
Stocks remain cheap relative to bonds, said Zemsky, and both U.S. and global equities are attractive investments right now with price-to-earnings ratios around 15. Zemsky said the housing market has bottomed and is poised to rise, however investors have not yet realized this. As housing prices bottom, this makes collateral stronger, said Zemsky, adding now is the time to increase investments in U.S. financial stocks.
Overall, ING expects 2013 will bring modest growth in the U.S., continued growth in emerging markets and the end of the European recession. Zemsky’s overall forecast predicts U.S. GDP to see 2% to 3% growth next year, which will lead to 5% to 7% earnings growth in the S&P 500. He expects the S&P 500 to grow 8% to 10% next year with a year-end target price between 1550 and 1600. U.S. value stocks and emerging market equities look especially attractive in 2013.
The most popular ETFs tracking these areas of the market are the SPDR S&P 500 (SPY), the Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF) and the Vanguard MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (VWO). Click here for a list of ETFs that track U.S. value stocks.
Zemsky added that it might be time to begin overweighting European equities. He said people are too negative on Europe. While there is still risk in there, he said the Euro Zone is beginning to stabilize and this could lead to higher equity prices. Click here for a list of ETFs that track European stocks.
As for the bond market, Christine Hurtsellers, ING’s chief investment officer of fixed income and proprietary investments, said the U.S. market is not pricing in any changes in policy from the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank. She says it’s time to underweight U.S. Treasury bonds and high quality investment grade U.S. credit. She recommends moving into emerging market debt, especially high-grade sovereign debt. The PowerShares Emerging Markets Sovereign Debt Portfolio (PCY) covers this market.