Where to put your money in 2017? There's no easy answer.
The Brexit vote, unexpected U.S. presidential election results, a surging Dow, rising oil prices … 2016 certainly finished with some surprising financial results for many people. And 2017 is a question mark in many areas, particularly with some new personal and corporate tax rules and other changes expected to affect consumer finances and investments.
Where should people put their money in 2017 to find the best opportunity to increase their wealth and also to protect against unwanted financial surprises? There is no simple answer.
The suggestions that financial consultants give are general in nature. Each person's financial situation is different, so they tailor their financial advice for individual (or family) clients. The advice given to a millennial will be far different from that given to a retiring Baby Boomer. Similarly, advice given to a millennial with only a little money to invest will be different from that given to a millennial with a large amount of disposable income who can afford to take some risk.
Michael Dexter, broker with Edward Jones in Crown Point, says the tailoring of advice and recommendations will become even more of a factor for investment recommendations in 2017, as new Department of Labor (DOL) rules come into effect that eliminate many of the commission differences between investment offerings for IRAs and ERISA accounts. Edward Jones in August announced plans to end mutual-fund access for retirement account holders for funds that charge commissions and cut investment minimums on others. All financial advisors will be required to follow the DOL rules, so some higher-commission type investments could be slashed across the industry.
Again stressing that the investment advice for each client needs to be different, Dexter says Edward Jones has a basic weighting of stocks as follows:
* Technology, 19 percent
* Financial services, 17 percent
* Health care, 15 percent
* Consumer discretionary, 11 percent
* Consumer staples, 10 percent
* Industrials, 10 percent
* Energy, 9 percent
* Communications, 3 percent
* Utilities, 3 percent
Greg Farrall, CEO and president of Farrall Wealth in Valparaiso, points out that 2016 was a much more volatile financial year than 2015, a period with nearly unchanged interest rates and relatively little happening to drive markets significantly one way or another.
After increasing rates one-quarter point at the end of 2016, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said the Fed could increase interest rates up to three times in 2017. Of course, unexpected economic market moves, such as a better than expected economy or some catastrophe, would prompt the Fed to delay increases.
A rising interest rate market is generally seen as good for banks because they can earn more on net interest margin. They can charge more for many types of loans without a corresponding increase in their expenses. Higher borrowing costs also make it more difficult for some startups, including financial technology (fintech) companies, to enter the market and take business away from banks.
However, rising interest rates tend to hurt higher dividend-paying instruments: bonds and bond-equivalent stocks, such as utilities; and real estate investment trusts (REITs).
Though there were some gyrations at the beginning of 2016 when the stock market dropped, the rest of the year was relatively stable until the Brexit vote. After polls indicated it was unlikely to happen, the markets dropped sharply, but recovered a week later.
Similarly, after Donald Trump won the presidential election in November after nearly all polls indicated he would lose, the markets tanked overnight but the equity markets bounced back by the end of the next day, and they moved solidly upward through mid-December. Farrall, of Farrall Wealth Management, says he looks for opportunities for his clients in which potential investments have become greatly undervalued, as well as looking at when they become overheated–when he would move investors into cash.
In anticipation of lower taxes in 2017, most economists expect stocks that have risen in 2016 to remain high because capital gains could be less in the new year. So selling a “winning” stock would result in lower taxes if the owner waited to sell.
If there is a tax exemption for companies to move business back to the United States, investors in those firms could benefit, Farrall says. He also expects equity markets to do well in general because there is no apparent overheating of the markets. Though there's more confidence than at the beginning of 2016, it's nowhere near as high as it was during the last market boom, according to Farrall.
“Just because it's been going on for a long time is no reason for the bull market to end,” Farrall adds. He recommends overweighting energy and U.S.-based financial services stocks.
Farrall predicts small-cap stocks should do well because regulations are expected to be rolled back, which should lessen compliance costs for these firms.
Mitch Zacks, principal and senior portfolio manager at Zacks Investment Management, points out that small cap stocks tend to be those that benefit the most from “the January effect,” a theory that year-end tax loss selling drives many losing stocks even lower, making them attractive in January, so they spike back up early in the following year.
Zacks adds, “The theory goes that the annual combination of lower prices and fresh new capital were driving stock prices higher, or at least creating conditions conducive to rising prices. Small-caps historically emerged as the category that benefited the most from this effect.”
However, Zacks cautions, the January effect is far from a reliable indicator. He says, “Over time it will probably work just as many times as it doesn't. In fact, 2016 was an example of its shortcomings. The market underwent a fairly steep correction that spanned just about the entire month, and hit all categories of stocks. Betting on the January effect this year would have been as disappointing as it gets.”
Zacks adds that the environment could be shifting back in favor of small- and mid-cap stocks, as the proposed lower corporate tax rates and infrastructure spending plans could help profitability in domestic and cyclical categories, where small-caps tend to thrive. Zacks advises investors who want growth and equity exposure in their portfolios to include small-cap stocks as part of a broadly diversified portfolio. Additionally, he advises investors to keep their risk tolerance in mind when evaluating exposure to the small-cap category.
The January effect theory is similar to the “dogs of the Dow” theory of investing that entails buying the 10 Dow stocks with the highest dividends and holding onto them for a year. This investment theory has outperformed the general market in many of the last 30 years. The highest-yielding stocks at the top of the Dow Jones at the end of 2015–Verizon, Chevron, Caterpillar, ExxonMobil and IBM–yielded an 18 percent return as of mid-December 2016, according to financial analysts reporting for CNBC. That strategy topped the 14 percent performance of the Dow itself.
According to the CNBC report, an equal weight portfolio of the dogs of the Dow beat the return of the S&P 500 over the last 20 to 30 years.