At present, world stock markets appear to me to be obsessively focused on the smallest details of the here and now. This may be fine for short-term traders, but getting caught up in this mindset is the surest recipe for trouble for us as long-term investors. Our biggest advantage against professional traders is taking a longer view.
So it makes sense that we should be shifting our focus toward the new year, even though (actually, because) I think the markets have yet to do so.
My thoughts (which will be presented in more detail in my yearly strategy posts in a few weeks):
Rates will be somewhat higher a year from now than today. The Fed, however, has made it clear that the journey back from emergency-low rates to normal–that is to say, from zero to perhaps 2% for overnight money–will take years. In theory, higher rates make fixed income relatively more attractive to investors than stocks, mimplying that the stock market suffers price-earning multiple contraction. I’ve written a number of times, and I still believe, that virtually all of this contraction has long since been factored into today’s stock prices. Even if this is incorrect, next year’s rise is going to be quite small. Absent a crazy panic, the potential headwind from PE contraction is likely to be extremely small.
–the US will continue to be strong
–the EU has bottomed and will gradually strengthen, so next year will be better than this
–China ‘s transition from export-oriented growth to expansion led by domestic consumer spending is happening at a satisfactory pace. While traditional economic indicators, which are generally speaking all focused on exports (the wrong place to look), continue to be ugly, overall economic growth next year will be at least as good as in 2015
–natural resource-producing emerging countries will continue to have troubles. The main issue will not be lower commodity prices. It will be dealing with excessive debt taken on when companies/governments believed in a perpetual commodities boom, and adjusting private/government spending downward to deal with lower levels of commodity income.