2016 Review

“If you want to see the sunshine you have to weather the storm.” In its first 3 weeks, 2016 delivered investors more than a 10 percent loss–the worst start in 80 years. Our natural human instinct at such moments is to feel that it will continue, but predicting the markets is extremely difficult.

In a dramatic turnaround, the U.S. stock market rose in February and March–recording the best recovery in 83 years.

(1) Fed will move slowly. The Federal Reserve planned to raise rates 4 times in 2016. This aggressive forecast in combination with falling oil prices spooked investors. Then came the uncertainty of Brexit and the U.S. elections. By year end, the Fed raised rates just once (in December).

(2) Election years are not recession years. I expected the economy to grow and for the market to continue to rise as our bull market entered its 8th year.

This positive outlook proved beneficial in the early days of 2016 when the resolve of many investors was tested. The market turned positive and remained there for most of the year.

(3) United States grows and the dollar slows. A strong U.S. dollar is not as good as it sounds. Sure, it’s great for Americans traveling overseas, but it presents challenges for large U.S. companies and investors.

The year began with too much strength: From July 2014 to January 2016, our dollar rose against every major currency around the globe! It gained 20 percent versus the euro and 54 percent versus the Russian ruble!

Fortunately, the U.S. dollar spent 9 of the last 12 months below January 2016 levels. That gave investors more opportunity as we invested globally.

This international diversification helped a great deal until a great divide formed in November.

These investments have taken a break as U.S. stocks rose in November, but I believe the worldwide economy still looks positive and may offer benefits to investors again in 2017.

Election Impact

President-elect Donald Trump made a lot of promises to Americans on the campaign trail. Yes, he proposed building a wall on the Mexican border and blocking certain groups from immigrating to the United States, but none were more important to voters than how the candidate would impact their money.

Trump believes his economic plans will double U.S. growth, which is currently at 2.9 percent. He plans to focus on cutting taxes for the rich, increasing government spending, and negotiate better trade deals with foreign countries. If necessary, he has even suggested imposing tariffs on imports of goods to the United States.

Republicans will control the Senate and House of Representatives, so the next president may find it easier to get things done, especially at first. Here are a few of the promises made during Trump’s campaign.

Jobs

The foundation of the United States is firm and its economy is strengthening. Unemployment numbers cannot get much better than current levels. Wage growth may be a more valuable measure of economic health. Infrastructure spending of $500 billion may help by boosting productivity of Americans in the long-term.

Education and Family

  • Require paid maternity leave for 6 weeks.
  • Make child care expenses tax deductible.
  • Allow “dependent care savings accounts.”

Healthcare

    When it comes to healthcare, any president faces an aging population and rising costs of new medical technology. Trump plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something different.
  • Make health insurance premiums tax deductible.
  • Encourage health insurance to be sold across state lines (something already allowed by federal law).
  • Allow imports of foreign drugs where prices are cheaper.

Taxes

    Trump has proposed many changes to the tax code. The greatest impact will be on the top one percent of earners who are estimated to save about $100,000 in taxes every year.
  • Increase the standard deduction to $30,000 for joint filers from its current level of $12,600.
  • Eliminate the personal exemption of $4,050 per dependent that parents use.
  • Eliminate estate tax.
  • Eliminate alternative minimum tax.
  • Lower corporate tax to 15 percent.

Investments

In the coming months very little should change. Increased government spending on infrastructure combined with tax cuts roughly the same size could boost growth in the coming year or two. It would also increase the national debt significantly. This could depress the value of existing bonds as interest rates rise on U.S. debt.

If we raise tariffs and other countries do the same then global trade could decrease and the cost of goods could rise. Less trade would also decrease profitability for U.S. exporters. This could even cost workers their jobs.

Our advice? Vote with your ballot, not your portfolio. Think of all the missed opportunity if one withdrew whenever there was uncertainty. Whether your favored candidates were elected or not, we want to reinforce the importance of sticking to your long-term plans.

Stocks Predict Elections

Yes, stocks can help predict who will be the next President of the United States. While this particular election season has been filled with an unusual amount of conflict, the stock market has been surprisingly calm.

What does this calm predict? Very little, so far. Direction of the market in the final 90 days is what matters.

election-prediction

In 19 of the 22 presidential elections the change in the stock market in the 90 days preceding the election has correctly revealed the winner.

When the market rises during these 90 days then the incumbent’s political party wins. When the market falls then the opposite occurs.

In August, the market was flat, which means that this election may be closer than some polls currently predict. Of course, there are no guarantees.